Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to Make a Summer Beach Tote Bag from a T-Shirt

Transforming a t-shirt into a tote bag is an earth friendly way to recycle old clothing into a useful new item.
Clothing sent to landfills is often made from synthetic fibers that are not biodegradable, so finding ways to reuse old clothing is one eco-friendly way to help reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.

A few alterations will turn an unused t-shirt in a handy tote bag that is suitable for a day at the beach, or anywhere a tote bag is needed. Making a t-shirt tote is less expensive than buying a manufactured tote, so it saves money while doing a good thing for the planet.

Sewing Supplies Needed to Make Beach Bag Totes

Selecting the proper size t-shirt to hold a beach towel, bottled water, sunscreen, and other items needed for a day at the beach is the first step. Almost any size shirt will work for a t-shirt tote bag, but a medium will generally be the smallest size that accommodates a beach towel and other summer necessities. For best results, in addition to a suitable t-shirt, gather the following sewing supplies before beginning this project.

  • Ruler
  • Cutting scissors
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Ball point straight pins
  • Sewing machine with ball point needles installed
  • Lightweight nylon strap, about 4 feet for short straps or 2 yards for long straps
  • 1 foot Velcro hook and loop, optional
Steps to Follow When Making an Earth Friendly Beach Bag Tote

  1. Turn the t-shirt inside out.
  2. Insert the ball point needle in the sewing machine. Ball point needles and pins, are designed for use on knitted fabrics. Ball points do not cut the fabric fibers and cause runs, while sharp needles and pins will damage knits.
  3. Sew across the bottom hemmed edge of the t-shirt, using a sewing machine set to make a tight zigzag or other stretch stitch.
  4. With the t-shirt still wrong side out, measure 4 inches up from the bottom seam and make a small tailor's chalk mark on each side.
  5. Turn the t-shirt right side out, and tuck the bottom seam up, into the body of the shirt. Look inside, and align the folds with the tailor's chalk dots. Pin the folds in place with straight pins.
  6. Tack the fold in place by sewing over the side seams, catching the fold in the anchoring stitches. This will give the bottom a boxed edge that will sit flat when the bag is filled.
  7. Use the cutting scissors to cut the sleeves off and open the shoulders. Begin cutting the underarm area of the shirt, and continue cutting right on top of the seam. Follow the shoulder seam across to the neckline. Leave the ribbing intact, but finish opening the seam.
  8. Cut the nylon strap in half. Place the raw ends of the strap against the raw edge of the fabric, then making a 1 inch overlap, pin one piece to the front of the shirt, at each edge of the neck ribbing. Pin the other half to the back of the shirt at each edge of the neck ribbing.
  9. Stitch over the end of the strap, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance the first time and a 1/2 inch seam allowance the second time.
  10. Fold the raw edges of the fabric under, and sew the folded edge with a zigzag or other finishing stitch to finish the seam. Make sure the top-stitching goes over the strap ends to add an extra layer of strength.
Adding a Hook and Loop Closure to the T-Shirt Beach Tote

Adding a hook and loop closure to the beach tote will reduce the likelihood of lost items. Cut the hook and loop to the same length as the neck ribbing between the handles. Position the Velcro 1/2 inch down from the top edge. Then, using a long, straight stitch, sew over the hook section, and then the loop.

Copyright Laure Justice. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication. Originally published on

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