Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Green bags

I hope that, by this stage in human evolution, everyone is aware of the importance of avoiding plastic bags (whether we do it is another matter). Of course, corporate evolution is never far behind human evolution (or is it one step ahead?)—so they sell reusable bags for about $1 each, always plastered with brand names.

Those mass-produced bags are good because they’re sturdy, plus their shape is perfect for packing groceries. But what if I don’t want to be a walking advertisement for one of the two major supermarket chains in Australia? Or what if I just don’t want to look like everyone else in the shopping centre?

Well, I have two choices. I can pay a bit more for bags with cool messages that I want to promote. Or, I can make my own. Then I can personalise them with different fabric prints (or just buy the cheap off-cuts, whichever), alter the size if I want, and I can choose materials that aren't made with plastics, like the mass-produced bags are.

So here is my step-by-step pictorial guide for making your own green bags....

What you need (for one bag):

2 squares – 30 cm x 30 cm
3 rectangles – 30 cm x 22 cm
2 handles – 10 cm x 60 cm
A bit of cardboard or stiff plastic - 28 cm x 20 cm
Optional: pins, iron, and/or sewing machine. These will make the process much, much quicker. But, even sewing by hand doesn’t take long for these simple bags.

What you do:

Cut your fabric (good luck doing this if you have a playful cat!) and decide which side you want to face out. Mark the OPPOSITE side with pencil or chalk to remind yourself later.

Take two rectangles. Place them together with both outsides facing in—you should be able to see the pencil marks. Line up the edges and sew about ½ a centimetre in along one of the short sides. Use a fairly strong stitch so the bag doesn’t fall apart when it’s loaded full of canned food or soy milk. Do the same thing with the other rectangle, and then with the two squares. Once you’ve sewn all four sides, you should have something that looks like this (forgive my uneven stitches, I was sewing by hand):

Next, hem the tops of each side panel. I didn’t do this on these yellow bags because I lined up the cutting just right and had un-cut sides of fabric along the tops.

Take two adjacent side panels and line them up, then sew them together. Repeat for the other four corners.

For the handles—Fold each 10x60cm strip of fabric in half (outsides in). Iron or press down with a ruler to make a crease. Sew both sides together along the length. Use your fingers or a pencil to turn the straps inside out.

Attach the straps to the bag—on the square sides, 2 to 4 centimetres from the corner, and 5 centimetres from the top. Sew these on strongly so the handles don’t break off when you’re walking home from the grocery store. Make sure the handles aren’t twisted before you attach the other end.

Once both handles are attached, you’re basically done. Stick the cardboard or plastic down in the bottom to make the bag sturdier, and go buy some veggies!

As you can see, we’ve been on a bit of a self-sufficiency kick lately, especially with the new bread maker, and with a few other things that I will reveal to you all shortly.

Multigrain bread baking in the bread machine.

In addition to continually reducing my reliance on corporations, I’ve also just been to a day and a half seminar on finishing my PhD on time... and spending so much time blogging isn’t the way to do it! So I’ll have to apologise in advance because I’m fully intending to get cracking on my work so my presence on other blogs will be noticeably declined, and my posting here may well become a bit more sporadic. I will still be around, just not as constantly. So keep your fingers crossed that the next 18 months go smoothly and I’m one of the few people who actually submits her PhD without extending beyond three years.


Vegetation said...

Good luck with your PhD!

And you're way more talented than I am. My sewing is so bad I made my sewing teacher cry in Grade 10 (and that was with a machine so you can imagine just how bad my hand sewing is). Your bag looks awesome.

Those bags you linked to on the other hand...funnily enough, I found about 3 days ago (great minds and all :P) and was very much interested.

I won't lie, I'll miss your regular updates (but I'll be here waiting when you get back to more regular blogging again :) )

CeciLiA said...

OH MY ... your enviro bag beats woolies ones by 10000000 times!! Heh, I suck at crafty things so I normally just buy them from the shops :0/

Is that you in the pic?! *WAVES* and yum yum yum ... can't wait for the multigrain bread post

Monika K said...

You are so clever! I've just used the cheap cloth grocery bags that I got in Germany, but I love the idea of making my own bags. I think it's nice that more stores are having alternative bags available for purchase, but if you really want to stand out, making your own bags is probably the way to go. 3 cheers for Theresa and her sustainability schemes!

just me said...

I totally have one of those enviro bags, along with a few from coles and target. everyone here in the states at the stores I go to ask where I get those bags...and I tell them they have to fly 12+ hrs to get them. LOL.

But your enviro bag is so much better! are you planning on decorating it?!

Erin said...

Nice job! I haven't sewn anything in so long, this is a nice easy project to get back into it.

Pink Theory said...

awesome homemade bag! your hand sewing looks really good. I'm planning to knit some grocery bags too with some leftover yarn. And good luck with all the will be grand when you're finally PhinisheD!

the little one said...

You are so self-reliant! Great kick to be on.

Finishing -- Did the seminar tell you to make sure you write every day? That's probably the best advice I got. Nevertheless, major progress does come in fits and spurts and you kind of just have to be okay with that. I have tons of confidence in you!

Theresa said...

just me--I have a few more to make, but once I finish them all I think I will decorate with patches or something. Got any ideas?

TLO--Nail your feet to the floor and do a set amount of uninterrupted writing every day was the most important message I got from the seminar! And I also learned that the world will not stop if I don't check my email first thing in the morning...

David J said...

Great post. Those green bags are handy but possibly not so environmentally friendly I suspect. I really like your hand made bag that is cool! One practical thing about the green ones is the firm base plate. I reckon you could improvise something like that.

The Vegan Snorkeler said...

Best of luck on your PhD! That is so exciting! I LOVE your homemade, eco-friendly bag idea. It's even more green when you can make it out of old fabric from clothes you don't want anymore. You've inspired me to break out my bread maker!

Bianca said...

Aw, Nacho's tryin' to help! Too bad he can't sew. And neither can I. Guess I'll have to keep using the brand name kinds...but I don't mind.

Sam said...

Super cute!!

Vaala said...

Cool! I had been meaning to make my own bags too but I never got around to it. Thanks for the kick start.

Good to see the bread maker in operation. I feel like I can smell it from here (or maybe it's just lunchtime and I'm hungry!).

Vegan_Noodle said...

I love your homemade shopping bags!! I try to carry ones with a vegan message and made by vegan companies, but homemade is even better!

Best of luck with the finishing up your dissertation. You can do it!

just me said...

ohhh...i like to take old shirts that don't fit anymore and cut the designs/picture out of them and stitch them to stuff. i have a comforter that is covered with pictures from a bunch of shirts i've had since freshman year of college (5+ years ago!)

Alice (in Veganland) said...

I'll miss your regular posts, but I understand you very well... I have a very demanding job for the next too years, and I'm also going to post a little less than usual... Anyway, I wish you luck with your PhD!
I bought a cheap bag with no message, so I can spare the world my bad sewing ;-)

Liz² said...

this is so cool! I wish I didn't already have a green bag so I could sew myself a new one. And good luck with your Phd, I know you can do it!

Vivacious Vegan said...

Your pattern definitely sounds simple enough and there's always a bunch of fabric cheap at the thrift store I like to go to. I may just have to give this a try. Thanks for sharing!