The city of Bellingham has a well-earned reputation as a “crunchy” town. Last fall the city passed a plastic bag ban, which prohibits businesses from using plastic bags for groceries or shopping. Some folks were cranky about it, but I’m a supporter. Plastic bags are horrible for the environment, a waste of fossil fuels, and there are many other ways to get your groceries from the store to the car to the house.
As a result of the ban, my city has embraced the reusable tote. Whether begrudgingly or gratefully, everyone keeps a few in the car, and it’s the top SWAG giveaway item at raffles and corporate events. I’ve also seen all sorts of DIY totes pop up in the past months, including these adorable upcycled feed bags.
These totes are my idea of a perfect rainy day project. They required NO planning, used stuff I already had laying around, and required almost no measuring or exactitude. Quick ‘n dirty, my favorite sort of crafty thing.
Stuff you’ll need:
- A feed bag. Could be dog food, horse treats, chicken feed. I think the matte finish looks a little nicer than super glossy.
- Some fabric or burlap to create a facing.
- Thread and a sewing machine with a heavyweight denim needle.
Cut out the middle portion of the bag to the approximate size you want, plus about 3 extra inches on the bottom and an extra 1/2 in. on top.
Flip the bag inside out (the hardest part, since the plastic is very stiff) and stitch the bottom seam together.
Open the bag, still inside out, and pinch a triangle on the corner, perpendicular to the bottom seam you just stitched. You’ll be able to see a crease from where the feed bag was folded on either side of center; stitch this triangle from crease to crease. This will give your tote a flat bottom to stand upright, and your grocer will thank you.
Measure (or eyeball, if you really don’t want to find your measuring tape) the width of the bag. Cut the facing out of a strip of fabric or burlap approximately 4 in. wide by the width of the grain sack x 2. My feed sack measured 19 in., so I cut out two pieces of 20 in. fabric and seamed them together to create a strip 39 x 4 in. I love working with plaid or checked fabric, because I don’t have to pull out a straight edge to cut a straight line!
Roll one of the raw edges and sew it for a finished edge. Align the right side of the facing against the wrong side of the top edge of the feed bag (e.g., outside of the facing against inside of feedbag), stitch, and flip the edging over the top of the feedbag to the outside. Topstitch along the bottom of the facing to secure.
Cut out the handles from the excess pieces of feedback. The circumference of this loop is enough for two handles, so cut the loop exactly in half to create 2 pieces. The strip should be about 3 in. wide. Fold outer edges toward center, then fold together again, and stitch along the edge to create a sturdy thick handle.
Measure (and I do recommend using some rudimentary measurement stick, even if it’s a pencil stub) to determine even placement for the handles. I found that 4 in. from the edge was about right. Pin, then sew securely with a reinforced box.
If you’re feeling fancy, you could attach an inside pocket. I’ll use the blue bag below as my lunch sack for work, and the inside pocket will hold my silverware. If you’re really feeling fancy, you could sew in a lining at the same time that you attach the facing strip of fabric. You could also go cutesy with buttons and ruffles. Since this was a quick ‘n dirty project for me, I kept it simple.
Then throw it in the trunk of your car and save a few plastic bags next time you head to the market.