I thought I’d use my recent foray into sewing TEN shopping bags as an opportunity to supply a tutorial on these makes.
A project like this is ideal for a beginner Sewist. You don’t need to fit anything to your own body – bonus! Plus, from cutting out to final stitch this shouldn’t take much more than an hour.
You’ll also learn how to do a French seam – one of the simplest but most highly rated sewing techniques you can learn. I use it whenever possible and it’s often used in couture sewing. It’s a truly egalitarian technique, open to novices and experts alike. And it’s soooo neat.
You will need:
- Stiff cotton. I believe the fabric I used was curtain material, bought for £2.50 a metre from Saeed Fabrics, Walthamstow.
- Matching thread.
- A cute little label if you’d like one for your make. You can buy labels very reasonably here.
1. Cut yourself four pieces of fabric:
2 x shoulder straps 90x4cm
2 x bag sections 50x39cm
If you don’t want to follow these measurements exactly, you can use an existing bag as a template. I did!
2. Sew along three sides of the bag with a narrow seam, fabric wrong sides together. You should leave one of the narrow edges of the oblong open.
3. Trim the excess from the seam, turn bag inside out and press, ensuring that the corners are well trimmed. Then poke the end of a butter knife (or a point turner) into your corners to make them as defined as possible. More details on this technique here.
4. Sew along the folded edge of the fabric. Turn inside out and press again. You’ve just made a french seam! For a much more detailed on how to make a french seam, go here. Because of the French seam, it’s unlikely that you’ll now manage a perfect corner on this pressing of the bag but, hey, you can’t have everything.
5. Turn over the open edge of your oblong to the inside twice for a nice, deep hem. If you want to attach your label, do so before finishing the hem so that the stitching on your label doesn’t show on the exterior of your final make. Once this is added, sew your hem:
6. Now for your handles. Press over a fine seam on each long side of your strips of fabric:
7. Fold your strip of fabric over with long sides meeting and press. Please ignore the dreadful state of my table top ironing board cover!
Then sew closed:
8. Press the strap again, then put aside. Measure the top of your bag for even spacing of the straps when they’re sewn on. Note, my tape measure is running along the exterior of the bag, but I’m going to sew the straps in place on the interior of the bag.
9. Twice fold over the end of a strap.
10. Position on the interior of the bag hem and sew into place.
Repeat this step three more times, et voila! You have yourself a shopping bag. Repeat again and again, and your friends will have shopping bags, too!