After a lot of talk, and one lovely Instagram photo that people seemed excited about, I’m officially posting a tutorial to make these cloth produce bags! Whether you want to make your produce and bulk bags prettier or sew your own them, we’re going to explore both possibilities. I firmly believe that the best way to change a lifestyle practice is to make your new practice fun, and these bulk bags deliver.
First though, I feel like sharing that I’m currently sitting on my wife’s grandmother’s floor in an assisted living facility in Escondido, CA. Everyone told me, “They don’t have internet here, not sure how you’re going to work.” Folks, this is an assisted living facility in the 21st century. Not only do they have internet, but also they have a “gadget class” for residents who want help with their devices. These elderly folks all have iPads and smartphones, some of them probably read blogs. But one thing I notice every time we come here is that there is a lot of plastic. Plastic bags, plastic gloves, plastic cups, plastic bottles of water…
Plastic makes things easier, but it’s hard on the environment. And plastic bags are a leading cause of polluting our oceans. Not to mention, the production of plastic bags requires a lot of energy. We as consumers often don’t see the energy required to produce these disposable bags, nor do we see where they end up. We mindlessly grab a plastic bag, fill it with apples, pay, and then throw them in another plastic bag. Both bags end up in landfills.
But I’m here to inspire us in a new direction. You too can switch to reusable cloth produce bags. We all can! It’s actually pretty easy to throw a few of these bags in your car or your tote and just go about your day. They’re machine washable and easy to close up due to the drawstring. If you’re afraid of your bulk items slipping through, just use the drawstrings to tie off the top. The best part- you’ll never have another bag break and you’ll look pretty spiffy at the store filling your bags up.
So far, no one at my grocery store has thought it weird that I put my stuff in cloth bags. I’ve received some compliments and some side glances, people quietly trying to see them. They also feel a lot better than plastic bags to use.
I store all my dry goods in mason jars, so when I get home I just transfer my food into the jars and throw the dirty bags in the laundry. The produce, I take out of the bags and put in the fridge. Pretty simple. Easy a pie.
It’s completely fine with me if you buy your cloth produce bags, but I wanted to DIY my own to cut costs and reduce my carbon footprint. I live within walking distance to my local fabric store, so I really had no excuses. It was actually a really enjoyable project, especially because I ended up turning these produce bags into a printing project. I love printing on fabric, and I wanted really interesting bags that I would be inspired to use.
I ended up sewing about 8-10 drawstring cloth produce bags, and with the excess fabric, I made little spice bags. Not a ton of time was spent on the spice bags, I just serged them together and serged the ends. I’m thinking about (and tell me what you think in the comments) about making some reusable DIY PLU code tags. If you’re worried about the extra weight on the drawstring bags, you can write the code in colored chalk and then throw your bag in the wash.
If You Want To Print On Your Cloth Produce Bags
I chose to use linoleum block prints to make my cloth produce bags attractive. There are a ton of other options if you don’t have access to lino-cutting supplies and don’t want to buy it. You can make stamps from vegetables or use whatever rubber stamps you have hanging around. You can even finger paint.
- Paint: I used acrylic paint mixed with a textile medium. You could also use silkscreen ink or fabric paint.
- A foam brush (these are reusable if you wash them!)
- A stamp, or whatever you want to stamp with- get creative!
- Newspaper or something to put under the fabric so you don’t ruin your surfaces.
- Use your foam brush to brush some paint onto your stamp.
- Stamp away! I like to make a minimalist print, I think it looks most attractive.
- Let your paint dry and then heat set your design by running a hot iron over it for a minute or so. This part is really important if you plan to wash your bulk bags, otherwise, your paint will wash off.
How To Sew Your Cloth Produce Bags
- Enough fabric to make as many bags as you need. I used 1 yard of canvas for extra sturdy bags and 1.5 yards of muslin for regular bags. I made about 8 normal sized bags and small 10 spice bags.
- Sewing Machine
- Cotton Cording
- Optional: Plastic produce bag to use as a pattern
- Optional: Serger
1. Use your plastic bag as a pattern. Make sure to leave 1/2 inch seam allowance and add about 1.5 inches at the top to make the tube for the drawstring.Try to use all your fabric if you can to make your bags zero waste! Alternatively, you can just cut rectangles out in any size you want.
2. First, we have to make the tube for your drawstring. Fold the top of your rectangles 1.5 inches over, and snip about 1/2 inches at the fold on either side.
3. Fold over the outer edge of the 1.5 inches and press.
4. Now, fold your top piece in half, and press the edge in with your iron, like you would if you were hemming the top. Make sure the little piece you just pressed stays tucked under.
5. Sew the top down along the edge, leaving openings on either side open so you can slip your cording in later. Sew around the 3 other sides of your rectangles, right sides together. Now you have a bag.
6. To serge or not to serge: I chose to serge the edges of my bags because I was nervous about the seams breaking under pressure. I didn’t want beans to come flying out of my bags randomly. If you don’t have access to a serger, you can sew around the inside of the bag a few more times, and zig-zag stitch the edge so it doesn’t unravel. If you do have access to a serger, serge away.
7. You don’t technically have to add a draw string, but I wanted to because I planned to use my bags for bulk items as well. Unfold your bag. Measure two pieces of cotton cording about the circumference of your bag, plus 1 inch on each end.
8. Weave your first piece of cotton cording through the tubes at the top. Tie the ends together.
Weave your second piece of cotton cording through, the opposite direction, and tie the ends off on that side.
Now you have a super fancy drawstring for your cloth produce bag and your bags are finished! Celebrate! You’re on your way to being plastic free!
So, how do we feel about reuseable PLU tags? I’m so tired of collecting those pieces of paper with wire stuck in them. What do you think could be light enough to not add to much weight to the bag?
More Zero-Waste DIY Ideas: