Forget about “Paper or plastic?” It’s time to make your own canvas shopping bag.
Materials: We used unbleached cotton canvas, which you can buy or order at your local fabric store. Organic cotton would be even cooler. We used oil-based ink, because we wanted to make bags that people could machine-wash. Non-toxic ink would be even cooler.
- Cutting the cloth: The cloth comes folded in half. Cut a 23″ wide piece of the folded cloth. Cut a 4″x5.5″ rectangle out of each of the two corners of the cloth that are along the fold. The 5.5″ side of the rectangle is parallel to the fold.
Now, unfold the cloth.
- Printing your design: We used a linoleum block.
- After the printed image has dried, fold the cloth “inside out,” so that the image is not visible.
- Sew the edges together that will be the sides of the bag. Don’t sew the part where you cut out the little rectangles. I used a flat-felled seam (howto sew it) with a 1/2″ seam allowance.
- Turn the bag right-side out. There will be three holes: one at the top, and two in what should be the bottom. Pin the cloth of each bottom hole together and sew. I used a 1/4″ seam allowance. (In the first picture I’ve added some small pleats to make the two sides line up properly.)
- Turn the bag inside out. Push out the bottom as much as you can. Sew along what were the holes, again. I used a 3/8″ seam allowance. The raw edge will be hidden inside this seam.
- The top edge of the bag should be the finished edge of the cloth, so you don’t have to hem it. But I did. Fold the top over 1″, pin, and sew to make a simple hem.
- From your bolt of folded-over cloth, cut a 4″ width. Cut this in half by length to make two pieces, each 4″x?”.
- Fold each of these in half by width. Press the crease with your fingers. You could pin it, but you don’t have to. Sew the two edges together to make a tube. I used a 1/4″ seam allowance.
- Turn each tube inside-out. This may take a minute. Press flat with your fingers. Sew along the first seam. I used a 1/4″ seam allowance. This will keep the tube flat.
- The two tubes are the two handles of the bag. I folded one end of the tube about 1″, then sewed it inside the bag, stitching a big square with an X inside. Then I sewed on the other side of the handle. If you don’t like where you sewed on the handle, you can remove the stitches and try again.
Now you have a canvas bag.
Liberals say: “Hey! The homeless aren’t being fed. Let’s march on City Hall.” Radicals say, “The homeless aren’t being fed. Let’s feed them.”
Liberals say: There are too many plastic bags, so let’s tax them. Radicals say: There are too many plastic bags, so let’s make a bunch of cloth bags and give them away.
Our friends helped us make dozens of bags, and we held a bag giveaway at our local supermarket. We had to contact people up the store’s corporate ladder to get permission, but they were all enthusiastic about the idea. The local paper ran a short article annoucing the giveaway, and people showed up that morning brandishing the article.
Several people who took a bag told us: “Everyone in Europe uses cloth bags.” I look forward to the day that people can say the same thing about Worcester.
Customer Robert F. Kelly and Big Y employee Julianne Thomas display a bag.
See also: How to Knit a Plastic Bag
If you found part of this “howto” confusing, please post a comment, and I’ll clarify the step.