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Easy DIY Reusable Produce Bags

by Dawn
easy DIY produce bags

Making your Own Produce Bags is Quick and Easy

If you’ve read my last few posts (Sustainable Home & Sustainable Garden), you’ve noticed I’ve been talking a lot about sustainability in the home and garden.

Making your own produce bags to take to the grocery store or the farmers’ market is a quick and easy step you can take to reduce your plastics use and become a bit more sustainable in everyday life. They make great gifts too!

And, best of all, you only need basic sewing skills to create them!

Materials Needed

Fabrics

I tried 2 different materials for these bags. You can see them in the pic below. The one is a mesh-type material and the other is a decorator fabric from Waverly. I didn’t notice until after I bought it that the Waverly fabric is “dry clean recommended”, so I altered my plans a little with that one, which I’ll explain as I go.

fabric for reusable shopping bags
Tazzy is making sure the fabric for the bags is acceptable!

This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase through one of these links, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your purchase price.

I got both materials at Joann Fabrics, but any craft store that carries fabrics should have something suitable. If you would rather order the mesh fabric, this one looks like a good choice.

As for the other fabric, I wouldn’t recommend the one I got. The weave is too loose and it frays very easily. I’d suggest more of a canvas or even a cotton quilting fabric if you want something with this look.

Handles

You’ll also need something to make the handles. For some reason now unknown to me, I bought a whole bunch of clothesline years ago and stored the packages in my sewing desk. I’m guessing I had a project in mind, but…..

Anywho, if you’d like to use clothesline like I did, you can order some here. In all honesty, you can most likely pick some up at Walmart or even your local hardware store just as easily and cheaply, but if you’re like me and would rather order, there you go.

Other Materials

As with my other projects, having access to a cutting board, rotary cutter and ruler will make your life easier, although you can certainly get away with a pair of sewing scissors if you need to. This cutting set is a good deal and I like it because the rotary cutter is from Fiskars, a very good brand. If you’d prefer using sewing scissors, check these out. They’re a good basic pair for not a lot of money.

Instructions

As I mentioned, the bags are very simple to make and only require basic sewing skills (although a sewing machine will certainly make life easier, I don’t think I’d want to sew these by hand). You can make your bags any size you’d like and I did create different ones, but a good basic size for produce is about 12″ x 12″.

Establish the size of your bag and cut your fabric

When I cut my fabric, I cut it a bit longer than 12″ to account for hemming at the top for the handles, so approximately 14″ high. The beauty of this project is that precise measurements are absolutely not necessary.

Create the pockets for the handles

After I made one bag, I discovered that it’s much easier to create the pocket at the top for the handles before you sew the bag together. I know, DUH! Yup, didn’t think that one through very well.

handle pocket explanation-reusable bag
You can see I had already sewed the bag together before I thought to fold and sew the top pocket. Not good planning on my part, it made life more complicated than it had to be!

Just fold it over as in the pic above and sew across the bottom of the pocket. I did find that my sewing machine kept trying to suck the mesh fabric in under the needle and knot everything up, so you may want to pin your seam before you sew it.

Whether or not you pin, you definitely want to go a little slow on the sewing to help keep your machine from “eating” the fabric. I also found that using a zig zag stitch worked better than a straight stitch for both fabrics.

Finish your bottom and side seams

After the pockets are sewn, place your pieces wrong sides together and sew the bottom and side seams. Because the top remains open, it’s easy to turn when you’re done.

sewing side seam of bag

Note: As I mentioned, the heavier fabric had a tendency to fray (badly!), so I actually hemmed the side seams (as shown above) first before sewing the pockets at the top for the handles so I didn’t have any raw edges anywhere.

Threading the Handle

threading reusable bag handle
A safety pin makes threading the handle quick and easy

After your sides and bottom are sewn, turn your bag right side out and thread your handle through the top pockets. The easiest way to do this is to attach a large safety pin to the end of the clothesline and use that for grip as you pull it through.

With the smaller produce bags, I threaded the clothesline through one side, then continued on and threaded it through the other side as well, so I had just one continuous handle.

Once you finish threading the handle through, tie the two ends together and, voila!, you’re finished!

See how easy that was??

A Bigger Farmer’s Market Bag

If you remember, I mentioned that I decided to do something different with the heavier fabric once I realized I couldn’t wash it. I ended up making a much larger bag that I plan to take to farmer’s markets to hold all of my purchases. That way, I can use the smaller bags to hold my produce and just put them in the bigger bag to carry everything at once.

finished large reusable bag

This bag is closer to 24″ high by 18″ wide, but again, you can just choose whatever size you like. The one thing I did differently with this bag was to create 2 separate handles instead of 1 continuous one. I also made the handles long enough to put over my shoulder. Again, that’s totally up to you. Short, long, big, small, you have lots and lots of choices!

I’m thinking that the knots in the handles might be irritating on my shoulder, especially if the bag is full. But, the nice thing is that I can just pull the handles through so that the knots end up down at the top of the bag where they won’t bother me.

Final Notes

I really liked the way the mesh bags turned out, not as thrilled with the heavier fabric. I think, given the experience, I would use cotton quilting fabric for the heavier bag in the future. The nice thing about cotton is that it’s easily washable and looks good even after numerous washings.

Also, I would suggest making your bag a little bigger than you think you’ll want. Just trust me on this, it works better that way.

However, I did think of something that hadn’t occurred to me to start. I don’t know about you, but my grocery store has an app that allows me to scan all of my groceries as I go so I can just pay and leave at the end. This makes it easy to weigh my produce and then put it right into my bags.

However, if you shop the traditional way, you’ll have put your produce into your bags before getting to the register. What about the weight of the bag? I mean, you pay enough for groceries, you don’t want to pay more for the weight of the bag, amiright??

Never fear! I weighed my 12″ x 12″ mesh bag on my postal scale (I suppose I could have weighed it on my food scale, but I didn’t think of it, so there you go). It weighed less than 1 oz, even with the clothesline handle.

You can, of course, take your produce out of the bag to be weighed (and you should if you use heavier fabric, even cotton), but I don’t think it’s necessary with the mesh bags.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my post and see how easy it is to make your own reusable produce bags. You can use them in the grocery store, the farmer’s market and probably lots of other places too. If you use heavier fabrics, you can even make large bags suitable for holding lots of items at home or away.

HINT: These also make great gifts, especially if you find some pretty or fun fabrics!

Last but not least, I hope you’re already an email subscriber but if not, why not? No spam, ever, but you’ll get instant access to my Subscribers Only Resource Library with ALL the goodies. Head on over here to sign up and join the fun!

Posts Related to DIY Produce Bags

Ok, I lied, this is the last thing. The 2 pics below are pinnable, so if you happen to have an appropriate board on Pinterest, I’d really appreciate a pin! Thanks!

reusable produce bags
reusable produce bags + my cat!

Making your Own Produce Bags is Quick and Easy

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8 comments

Shanna Fahrenkrog 02/22/2019 - 4:59 pm

I love this idea. I have tons of fabric pieces that I have collected from Interior Design books (former employer) and have been using them for different things. This is a great idea. Will have to make some up for friends and family. Thanks for the idea…kudos to you!!!

Warm regards,
Shanna

Reply
Dawn 02/22/2019 - 6:03 pm

You’re welcome! Please share your pics when you make some (maybe in our Facebook group). I’d love to see them!

Reply
Linda Carlson 02/18/2019 - 11:38 am

A novel idea and I love the Farmers Market Bags..

Reply
Dawn 02/18/2019 - 2:33 pm

Thank you!

Reply
Nikki L Gwin 02/14/2019 - 3:57 pm

Great project! I love bags of all kinds and these are so much prettier than a lot of the ones that I have. I have not actually used them at the store yet though. I just use mine for travel and such. But you’ve got me thinking it might be a good time to start.
🙂 gwingal

Reply
Dawn 02/14/2019 - 4:09 pm

It’s just nicer than all those plastic bags that then get thrown out as soon as you get home. As I said, though, make sure not to weigh your produce for sale in them unless you have the really lightweight mesh ones or you’ll be paying for the weight of the bag, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to do that!

Reply
Sarita 02/12/2019 - 7:30 pm

Great idea! You know, when we lived in northern Alberta and now here in the Northwest Territories, plastic bags are rarely seen at the supermarket. I think you used to be able to buy plastic bags at Walmart for a nickel apiece, but I think that was phased out last year. You either buy a cloth shopping bag right in the store, use one of the empty boxes they stack at the front of the store, or bring your own cloth bags. The trick is to keep your vehicle stocked with the cloth bags so you don’t forget and have to buy more -else you’ll end up like us with a closet FULL of storebought cloth bags!

Reply
Dawn 02/13/2019 - 9:22 am

Hahahaha! Well then you’ll never have to worry about making any. LOL A lot of places here are starting to phase out plastic bags, and I know some places on Cape Cod have actually made them illegal, so these will get more and more important.

Reply

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