How to Sew a Durable, Reusable Grocery Bag

Sew a Durable DIY Grocery Bag
Mollie Johanson
Overview
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Reusable Grocery Totes

Instead of choosing paper or plastic next time you're shopping, use your own DIY cloth grocery bags. They're easy to sew, eco-friendly, and they last for years—plus you can make them in your own style. This is a durable bag, but as with any kind of grocery bag, try not to overload it with too many heavy items all at once. Make several bags so you can carry the weight evenly.

Now, get ready to sew some eco-friendly totes!

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron

Materials

  • 3/4 yard 45"-wide durable fabric such as canvas or denim
  • 3/4 yard 45"-wide cotton fabric for the lining
  • 1 1/3 yards 1"-wide webbing

Instructions

  1. Gather Materials

    Strong utility fabrics, such as canvas or denim, work best for a grocery tote, but that doesn't mean they have to be boring. Look for bold prints -online or from a variety of fabric stores- so you have lots of choices. 

    Note: Always preshrink the fabric so it doesn't shrink the first time you need to wash the bag. 

    You can use a regular ruler, any marking tool, and scissors, but it's faster and easier to use a rotary cutter with a special ruler and mat designed to work together.

    Reusable Grocery Bag Materials
    Mollie Johanson
  2. Cutting and Marking

    Make the following cuts from the corresponding material:

    • 1 rectangle 37" x 14" of both the outer and lining fabrics for the body
    • 2 rectangles 15" x 8" of both the outer and lining fabrics for the sides
    • 2 pieces of webbing 24"-long for the straps

    Fold in half and crease to mark the centers of both 37" edges on the body of the bag and the centers of one 8" edge on each side piece.

    Grocery Bag Cutting Guide
    Mollie Johanson
  3. Sew the Body/Sides

    Pin one exterior side piece to one exterior bag piece right sides together, matching the center markings on both. Using a 3/8" seam allowance and backstitching at beginning and end, sew down one side, pivot at the bottom corner, sew across the base, pivot, and sew up to the top of the bag. Repeat on the other side of the bag. For extra strength, backstitch the bottom corners. Trim the corners to reduce bulk.

    Repeat the same process to sew the lining together, this time using a 1/2" seam allowance. 

    Sew the Sides of the Bag
    Mollie Johanson
  4. Finish the Seam Allowances

    If needed, apply a seam finish to the outer bag piece to prevent the raw edges from fraying. If you see any fabric fraying as you work, take the time to complete this step because it will help your bag last longer.

    Trimming with pinking shears is a fast and easy way to do this. You could also zig-zag the edges, use a serger, or apply a seam sealant. Press the seams.

    Finish the Seams With Pinking or Zig Zag
    Mollie Johanson
  5. Attach the Straps

    Measure in 3" from the side seams along the top edge of one wide side of the bag body. Pin one piece of webbing at the marks, leaving an inch of the webbing extending above the top of the bag. Sew across each end of the straps three or four times 1/4" from the edge of the fabric. This acts as basting, but it also helps keep the straps secure. Repeat on the opposite side.

  6. Attach the Lining

    With the outer bag turned wrong side out and the lining turned right side out, nest the lining inside the outer bag. Pin around the upper edge. Using a 3/8" seam allowance, sew the outer bag and lining together, leaving a 5" opening on one side.

    Finish the top seam as you did the others, making sure not to close the opening. Turn the bag right side out through the opening.

    Sew the Lining Into the Bag
    Mollie Johanson
  7. Top Stitch to Finish

    Push the lining into the bag and press the top seam, folding the seam allowances of the opening inside, even with the sewn edge. Topstitch around the top of the bag 1/8"  from the seam, closing the opening, and again 5/8" from the seam. Sew a box with an X through each strap end to securely hold the straps in place.

    Take your new bag to the market on your next shopping trip and load it up with groceries! 

    Top Stitch the Bag and Straps
    Mollie Johanson