Plastic bags. Those two words evoke fear and loathing in people all over our planet. I personally wish they were banned and paper or reusable shopping bags were your only choices. Sometimes I remember to bring my reusable shopping bags to the store. Sometimes I do not. On the occasions that I forget I choose paper bags if available. That being said I have quite a collection of reusable shopping bags. Some I bought and some I got for free. As great as reusable shopping bags are sometimes you just have too many of them. Unless I was shopping for the entire northern hemisphere I just won’t use all those reusable shopping bags I have. So they sit quietly in the closet, patiently waiting, waiting, waiting for the day they’ll be used. Sometimes I am sure I can hear their wailing from down the hallway, “For the love of all mankind puhleeeeaze use me!!”. It is very sad, indeed.
When my son was home from college over Christmas he wanted to make some gifts for his friends. Being a college student means not having much money. Thankfully my son is pretty resourceful on solving problems. He has this fabric bag he bought at the bicycle shop that holds his tools for his fixed gear bike. It’s kind of like a roll up pouch type bag that ties closed. He wanted to make one for his friend but wasn’t sure about the material to use. I didn’t have any canvas or heavier material here so we were stumped on what to use without making a trip to the fabric store and spending money. He looked around his bedroom and came downstairs with this fabric bag that came with a pair of shoes he had bought. He cut the bag up and sewed it into a pouch just like the one he had bought. He sewed patches on the pouch for decoration as well as some zig zag stitches for contrast. I have to say it looked pretty darned good and I was impressed at his ingenuity! After the first bag he wanted to sew more but he only had that one bag. I thought about it for a few minutes and remembered all the reusable shopping bags loitering in the hall closet. I brought them out and showed them to him. They were perfect and off he went to the sewing machine. This time he sewed a roll up artist’s pouch. He’s an artist studying at an art university so he has plenty of pens, pencils, paintbrushes, etc. that he uses. He cut the bag up to the size he wanted, sewed elastic to hold the pens and then sewed ties on the ends. What an awesome repurpose of a reusable shopping bag that’s not being used. The pictures below just show how he made the bag. There are no measurements as he didn’t have any in mind when he was sewing it–he literally just winged all of it. I hope this inspires you to repurpose your unused reusable shopping bags into something great. Better to be put to use than to live a lonely life in the closet!
Cut your reusable shopping bag to the size you need for the project you are doing. This bag was repurposed into an artist’s roll up pouch to hold pens and pencils. An X-ACTO knife (like this) was used to cut the bag on a self healing mat like this. If you’ve never used a self healing cutting mat before then you don’t know what you’re missing. They are wonderful!
A running stitch was sewn all round the edges of the fabric. Since this is a roll up pouch to hold pens and pencils elastic (like this) was used. A pen was used to gauge how far to space the loops apart. Different sizes of pens and pencils needed to be stored in this pouch so different sized loops were sewn. The elastic loop was sewn from one end of the bag to the other. (I have to give a shout out to the Brother sewing machine I have. It’s totally dummy proof and is numbered to show where to thread the machine. It even has a needle threader so I don’t have to use a magnifying glass to see the eye of the needle. How utterly cool is that!)
Here’s a closer view of how the elastic loops were sewn. You can see how the elastic was pushed up to allow the pen to fit snugly. Don’t make the loops too tight or loose or your pens won’t fit.
The elastic is sewn all across for a variety of pens and pencils. To make your life SO much easier you should use a good pair of fabric shears (like these) that you can see in the upper right corner of this picture. Just make sure that no one uses your fabric scissors for anything but fabric. The people at my house know this rule and it is enforced under penalty of DEATH if they use my fabric scissors to cut anything other than fabric!
After the elastic is sewn with the appropriate spacing you need to fold the edges over and sewn them. A contrasting thread was used to make it interesting. Random stitches were also sewn here and there just to add more visual contrast. Two thin pieces of fabric were folded over and sewn and then sewed to one end of the pouch. These are used to tie the pouch up after it’s rolled up. (On a side note I have to tell you that the pens in the picture are not ones that students at a serious art university are using for their work. It’s just the ones we had here in my desk to use for measurement. I’m sure my son would want people to know he uses REAL artist writing tools!)
And here is the finished product! A tag was folded over and sewn on the edge for decoration as well as another piece of contrasting fabric. I love that my son picked this reusable shopping bag for his project. The green color is very eye catching and the words on this bag (if you can read them) say “I am not just a BAG”. I think his repurpose of a reusable shopping bag proves just that!
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