OK, I just finished making – and putting to use – my next grocery bag, complete with  .  .  .  wait for it  .  .  .

I N S T R U C T I O N S ! ! !

Yes, that’s right, folks, I actually attempted to record the process. So, without further adieu (… or … is it … without further ado??? adoo??? a dew??? I do???), let the sewing frenzy begin!!

I used a bag from our grocery store as my pattern. It measured almost 12 inches wide by 21 1/2 inches tall.

how big is my bag?

The pleats added almost 3 1/2 inches to each side. I rounded up, and added enough seam allowance to make each panel (front and back) 20 inches wide by 22 1/2 inches tall.

how deep is my pleat?

The material was from an old dress in a box of material I’d found at a yard sale. It was torn and beat up looking, not really good for anything other than experimental projects and grocery sacks, so it was a good candidate for this job.

ain't it purdy

ain’t it purdy

After cutting and ironing the panels, I folded each one in half lengthwise, right sides facing, and measured 6 inches from the fold. That marked the 12-inch width of the bag, and indicated where the pleats began. I folded the pleats under on the raw edges.

folded wrong side out, measured 6 inches in. white line is where pleats get folded

folded wrong side out, measured 6 inches in. white line is where pleats get folded

The handles measured about 2 1/2 inches wide and about 6 inches tall. I rounded the width to 2 1/2 and the length to 6, and marked those dimensions off on the tops of each panel, after folding the pleats in. I needed something to curve the cutting line, so I used a large spool as my guide. Then, I cut the top to make the handle shapes.

After cutting the handles, I laid the two panels out flat again. Now the pieces look very much like a tank top.

ready to sew the two panels together

ready to sew the two panels together

As this material was a bit flimsy, and I wasn’t in the mood to line it, I decided to use french seams (like on my last bag). Lay the pieces wrong sides together. Sew a 1/4-inch seam up each side, leaving the bottom open.  Turn the bag with right sides together and iron the seams very well.  Sew a 3/8-inch seam down the sides, encasing the ones just sewn. The purpose of this is to encase all the raw edges. Plus, it makes the seams stronger.

Turn bag right side out. Fold the pleats in towards the center of the bag, and press well.  Measure to make sure the main body is 12 inches across. Once the pleats are folded and pinned in place, sew the bottom edge, wrong sides together, just like on the side seams. Turn bag inside out and iron the seam, making sure to pull the corners out straight. Now run another 3/8-inch seam to encase that one (like on the sides). Turn right side out and iron again. That finishes the bottom.

I decided to use bias tape to finish the top and handles, instead of turning the edges under and hemming. I found a wonderful ruler at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics for making my own bias tape (some folks call it bias binding). This ruler has an angled end (to place on the straight edge of fabric) and is about 2 inches wide. I had an abundance of that dress left, plenty enough for the bias tape. After cutting strips for the tape, I folded and ironed them in half lengthwise, making them 1 inch, then folded the edges in toward the center and ironed again, making the final measurement 1/2-inch wide. Purrrrrfect!

just lay the angled end on the straight edge of material - perfect angle for bias tape

just lay the angled end on the straight edge of material – perfect angle for bias tape

Now, pin the tape onto the backside of one panel. I used the fold of the tape as the sewing line (which made it a 1/2-inch seam), then turned the tape to the front, ironed it so it would lie flat, and sewed from the front side. I repeated this process on the back of the bag and on the two sides. Not bad for an amateur, I thought. 😆

I used french seams again for the tops of the handles. Line up the edges, wrong sides together, of each handle. Make sure the bias tapes match up on each end. Use that 1/4-inch measurement again for this seam; turn, iron, and  sew the 3/8-inch seam. At this point you should have every raw edge that bag ever even THOUGHT about sporting totally encased and hidden away! On to the buttonholes!!

The holes on the pattern bag measured about 1 inch down from the top and 1/2 inch in from the inside edges.

That would have been great, had I hemmed this instead of using bias tape. I decided to make them go in about an inch instead. I like some wiggle room on those bag bars, so the buttonholes needed to be about an inch long. So that made it fairly easy: go down from the top one inch, in from the inside edge one inch, and make the hole one inch. You will end up with four buttonholes per handle. We’ll get to that part in a minute. Be patient.

Again, this is pretty lightweight material, so it needed something to make the holes easier to sew. I am a die-hard scrapper. That iron-on interfacing is EXPENSIVE!!! So I save all the little scraps for just such an emergency as this. Does anybody remember Julia Child? She was always encouraging people on her cooking show to, “Save the livers. Don’t throw away the livers.” Well, I am the Julia Child of the sewing world – my motto, as written below: save the slivers! don’t throw away the slivers! And they sure came in handy here! I had just enough of one long, otherwise useless, strip to use for this project.

save the slivers!

May I just say, right here, how much I love my buttonhole attachment? OK, I’ll say it. I love my buttonhole attachment!! I didn’t have a button the right size for this project, but I found something that worked just as well; here’s my nickel’s worth of knowledge:


After you have sewn the buttonholes in, carefully use a craft knife to open them. Then fold the handles to the inside again. Line up the buttonholes on each handle.

Across the top of the handle, where it’s folded in on itself, stitch along the original seam so it doesn’t open out flat any more. This will give the handle a whole lot more strength. This step is optional  – I just did it this way because the plastic ones are fused at the top that way.

I didn't think I had one to show the last seam - here it is!!

I didn’t think I had one to show the last seam – here it is!!

Now stand back, point to your accomplishment, and admire your handiwork. You have just completed your very own beautiful, personal, and very well-made, grocery bag. Now, go shopping and show the grocery world what you can do. And bring me something to eat – I’m starvin’!!

OH! I am SEW impressed!!

OH! I am SEW proud of you!!

21 thoughts on “IT’S IN THE BAG!

  1. Thanks I saved this page and will try it. Hopefully at the end of the month I will make for myself a sewing weekend…


  2. My poor sewing students are either going to love you or want to send you anonymous emails that ping off from cell towers in foreign countries as I am going to present this to them for their next homework assignment so they have something to carry their work in… Thank You so much for the inspiration. As it is they are having to use material that is from old table cloths and drapes or what ever they can find from the second hand stores and not spend over a certain amount of money for so we are recycling… lol…Perhaps it is I who should worry about the emails as I finish this note lol… Thank You for a Fabulous Blog. 🙂


    • You teach sewing? What a wonderful thing to do – I am self-taught (can’t count high school home ec, too long ago :lol:), with the help of a LOT of blogs I frequent, including allfreesewing. I’ve made three of these bags so far, and I have to say, they can hold the weight. I think it’s because of those pleated bottoms spreading the weight out a little more. I experimented with another way to make them the other day, using only one piece of material. Please let me know if your students can follow these instructions. I am a fledgling when it comes to posting how-to stuff, but that was my original dream when I started this blog. Finally getting around to doing it…not that I’m…you know…s-l-o-w…or anything. Jes sayin’ 😆


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