Upcycled Bags!

20140703_1714111-e1404665282233-150x150If you’re like me and have big dogs who eat dry dog food, you’re going to end up with a collection of very large, very sturdy bags. What do you do with yours when the food is gone? Toss them? Recycle them? Our area doesn’t have a recycling program that accepts the food bags. So there you are. Stuck with a pile of bags that are too nice to toss out.

I started thinking about the bags from Costco they sell for your grocery items. They’re not made to last. At least it seems like that to me.  The handles dig into my hands if there’s much weight in the bags at all and…I just can’t bring myself to pay for them.

Now here I have several dog food bags I’ve saved and I turned them into some darn fine grocery tote bags. I made a dozen out of bird seed bags, too, but those are just the right size for a gazillion uses so the kids and grandkids have pilfered them all! I’ll have to make more bird seed bag totes before long. But for today, I want to make the larger bags.

The first second thing you should do is cut off the bottom end. The very FIRST thing you should do is make sure all the food or seeds are out of the bag. Hitting a sunflower seed or piece of dog food with your scissors while you’re trying to cut a straight line doesn’t work well. Once you have both ends open, take the bag to the bathtub and wash all the sticky residue and crumbs from the inside of the bag. You’ll find out later why this step is important. Dry the inside and outside of the bag well with and old towel or rag or hang it outside to drip dry if it’s warm out. This makes the bag more of a tube. You’ll want to either wipe the inside down with a rag with soap and water or take them to the bathtub and give them a nice soak to remove the slippery, sticky film the dog food creates. It also removes the crumbs. I’ll tell you why later that it’s an important step in case you haven’t figured that out yet.20140703_1552491-150x150

Once your bag is nice and clean inside and out and dried well, you can cut a nice straight line across the bottom of the bag. Just smash it flat and use a straightedge to mark a line. You can use scissors to cut along this line or you can do what I did. I use a rotary cutter and a quilting ruler to make a nice straight edge like I would do with fabric.

Measure up from that bottom edge and place a mark at about 30 inches. This will give you enough to make a nice size bag bottom and turn the top edge over where your handles will go. Cut along your new line. The large section is going to be your bag. Out of the smaller section, cut a strip that’s 5 inches wide. Cut straight across the bag. You’ll have a very short tube now. Cut the section from the top to the bottom of your new tube where the heat bonded seam is on the bag. This will turn your tube into a strip. Now hold the cut ends together and fold in half. Cut the strip across to make two strip sections the same size. These will be your handles.

Fold the handle section in half lengthways and use your finger or a wooden pressing stick to make a nice center crease in the strip. Fold the long side cut edge to meet this fold line in the center. Or as close as you can get. Again, press this new folded edge with a pressing stick. Do the same with the other side. Then fold that together and you’ll have a nice edge on both sides (easier on the fingers when you carry it). It’ll almost look like folded bias tape. Sew along each side 1/8 inch from the edge and one more time down the center of the strip.

20140703_1643461-150x150Now it’s time for the tricky part. Sewing the top of the bag over and attaching the handles in the same process. It’s slippery. You can’t use pins.


20140703_1656441-150x150I’m sure you technically could use pins but why put holes in the bag on purpose? I use binder clips to hold the handles in the position I’ve marked ahead of time. The binder clips work as a general third hand but don’t even try to sew near them.  They do not budge when budging is needed. When you get close to the clips, remove them before sewing past the handle. Before you can do this, you have to turn the bag inside out so the pretty side is inside. Did you remember to wash and dry the bag first? If not, you probably now have a mouthful of dog food crumbs. And your hands are sticky. I told you to wash it first! Don’t ask me how I learned how important it was. I’ll admit to nothing. Ever.

Once you get past this challenge, it’s time to form the bottom of the bag. I do this by squishing the corners flat so the end makes a triangle. Try to match both corners up the same. 20140703_1739311-150x150When you’re sure you have the measurements correct, it’s time to sew across the corners. Turn the bag inside out so the right side is showing, press those corners with your fingertips so you get a nice sharp corner. The excess folded triangle corner parts can be cut off or do as I do and leave them in, press them to the center of the bag and forget they’re there. I like to pretend they add a bit more substance to the bottom seam, making the bag stronger. Regardless if that’s true or not, we tested the first bag I made by having a willing adult female step inside the bag while her strong he-man lifted her up in the bag and carried her though the kitchen. No fails!! If the bag can carry a young woman, it’ll hold your groceries without worrying about dumping them in the driveway. And here ya go! A bag that will last a long time and will carry more than you want to lift in the first place!