So, the other day my husband stopped by Whole Foods after picking up produce, meat and cheese from our local farmers market. The cashier took one look at our reusable bags and, um, insisted on giving us new ones. Apparently, they don’t like the look of them after they’ve been repeatedly dragged along the ground by children who “help” unload the groceries.
Anyway, I’ve been looking for an easy-to-carry, washable alternative for the kids to use, and over the weekend I came across the perfect solution. My local thrift shop was selling cute t-shirts for 99 cents apiece that were practically begging to be upcycled into a farmer’s market tote. They’re 100% washable, and when they’re no longer useful as bags I can cut them into rags to clean with.
There was just one problem: I can’t sew. At all.
Fortunately, I came across some no-sew ideas that Katie and I adapted to fit our style (which, if you’re curious, generally favors the color red and anything Snoopy). The took no more than 10 minutes from start to finish, and I love how they turned out.
How To Make A No Sew T-Shirt Tote Bag
- Old t-shirt – The thicker the fabric, the sturdier the bag
- Sharp scissors, preferably fabric scissors
- Washable marker (optional)
Step 1: Cut the sleeves off
If you’d like to fold the t-shirt in half you can cut both sleeves at once so that they are identical. Or, if your material is too thick to cut them both at once, you can cut one, then fold it in half and use the cut side as a guide for the next sleeve.
Step 2: Cut the neckline area
If you’d like, you can turn the shirt inside out and trace the outline of a bowl before cutting. I used both methods and personally, I like free-hand cutting better because I prefer a slightly oval shape to a perfectly round one. I ended up trimming this one a bit to make it more oval.
Step 3: Determine how deep you want the bag to be
If you haven’t already turned your t-shirt inside out, do it now. Determine where you want the bottom of the bag to be and trace a line across. Keep in mind that depending on the fabric used, your tote is likely stretch and become longer when it’s filled with stuff.
Step 4: Cut fringe
Now grab your scissors and cut slits from the bottom of the shirt up to the line marking the bottom of your bag. You’ll want to cut both the front and back layers together because they need to match up for the next step.
I cut my slits about 3/4 to 1 inch apart.
Step 5: Tie Fringe
Okay, this is going to sound really complicated, but it’s NOT, promise. Take your first pair of fringe and tie it into a knot, then tie two more pairs. Now if you lift your bag you’ll see that although the pairs are pulling the bag together, there’s a hole between each pair. This next step will close those holes.
In the photo above you see three sets of fringe that have been tied in knots. What I do next is grab one strand from the middle set (the one with the arrow pointing left) and tie it in a knot with one of the strands on the left set. Then I take the other strand from the middle set (the one with the arrow pointing right) and tie it in a knot with one of the strands on the right set.
Then I take the remaining strand on the right set and tie it to the next set of strands, and so on and so forth until all the strands are tied. Now turn your t-shirt right side out again and voila, you’re done!
A Couple Of Fun Variations . . .
Turn the bag right side out when tying the fringe. This is one I made for Katiepotamus.
Tie the straps in knots, or tie bits of t-shirt scrap to the top as embellishments
Wondering what to do with your leftover scraps?
I usually use larger pieces as cleaning rags, or use them to make the recycled t-shirt potholders pictured below.