I made this roll-up shopping bag earlier in the fall and had been meaning to make a tutorial for it, so the Sew Mama Sew Green Grocery Bag Challenge was a good excuse to finally get around to it. This bag is inspired by one my very talented friend Mandy made a year or two ago... I love the roll-up shopping bags that you take with you in your purse, so the idea of making my own was very exciting!
The bag is made with a single layer of quilting weight cotton (unlined). This helps to keep it lightweight and small enough to roll up easily. I have gotten a ton of use out of the first one I made (on the right in the photos) so I am excited to have another one! You can't see it in the top photo but you can sort of see in the photo below, the bag is constructed similarly to the plastic bags you get at the grocery store, with side gussets. This little bag can hold quite a good bit of stuff! Since it is only a single layer of fabric, I wouldn't advise using it to carry 2 gallons of milk home, but it has proven to be more sturdy than I expected and can carry quite a bit of weight. You can use the ties at the top of the bag to tie it closed when it is full to keep it secure.
So here is the tutorial - enjoy! Oh, and I will be posting more fun sewing tutorials over the next month or so, so be sure to come back and check them out - you can subscribe to or follow my blog using the links in the sidebar if you like. And if you make a bag with this tutorial I would love to see how it turned out - you can share a photo in the Needle and Spatula Flickr group.
What you will need:
- 32"x13" piece of main fabric color (for bottom part of bag body)
- Two 30"x3" pieces of main fabric color (for straps)
- 32"x5" piece of contrasting fabric color (for top part of bag body)
- Two 3/4"x30" pieces of lightweight fusible interfacing
- Two 10" long pieces of coordinating narrow ribbon or bias tape
- Thread in a color that looks nice with your fabrics
The bag construction uses french seams to keep things neat inside the bag (since it is unlined) and to add strength. If you have never done french seams before, don't worry, they aren't hard... it can be a bit counter-intuitive at first, but follow the directions and you will be fine!
First, take the fabric for the bottom of the bag and the top of the bag and pin them together along the long edge, wrong sides facing. If your fabric has a directional pattern, make sure that it is facing up (the top of lower fabric is the pinned edge, and the top of the upper fabric is the unpinned edge).
Sew along the pinned edge with a 3/16" seam. Snip any frayed edges along the seam and then fold the fabric along the seam so that the right sides face, and iron it flat. Pin this edge and sew with a 1/4"-5/16" seam (enclosing the first seam within this second seam).
Iron the seam to one side (I ironed mine down), and then top stitch along the edge - this is easier to do from the wrong side where the seam is showing.
Now, fold the bag body wrong sides together - you are taking the long rectangle and folding it in the middle to make the bag shape. Pin the side of the bag together, taking care to line up the seam you just sewed. Sew a 3/16" seam along just that one edge, then trim any loose threads or unevenness. After you sew the seam you will basically have a tube which is open on both the top and the bottom.
Turn this tube inside out so that the right sides face, and iron the side seam you just sewed flat. Pin and sew a 1/4"-5/16" seam, again enclosing the first seam inside the second seam.
Now, put aside the bag body. Before the next step you need to make the the handles and ties. You could also make these first if you prefer.
Iron each long handle strip in half lengthwise (wrong sides facing) to create a crease down the length of the strip. Open the strip and put interfacing on one side of the crease, then iron to fuse it to the fabric (see top strip in photo below). Then, iron the fabric edge below the interfacing up and over the interfacing strip (see bottom strip in photo below).
As shown in photo below, fold up on the original crease and iron in place (top strip shown), then fold one more time and iron again. You will basically have a roll of fabric ironed in place.
Open up the roll (as shown in the bottom strip below) and then tuck the last edge inside the fold (as shown in the top strip below).
Top stitch along both edges of the strips.
To make the ties, either use narrow ribbon, or sew a piece of bias tape shut to make a tie. Fold the ends under as shown below and sew them in place to make a neat end.
Back to the bag... with the bag still inside out, fold the top edge down 3/4" all the way around and iron in place.
Fold the edge over again (another 3/4") and iron in place. Measure 3 3/4" in from each side of the bag and mark with a pin. Turn over and place pins on the other side to match. Place the ends of your handles just inside these marker pins, tucked under the folded over edge, and pin in place, making sure to keep them perpendicular (at right angles) with the folded edge and making sure that handle is not twisted (see the two photos below). Pin the tie in place between the handles, and repeat for the other side. Then pin the rest of the edge in place.
Top stitch the bottom of the folded over edge (closer to the handles etc) all the way around the bag, and remove pins.
Iron the handles and ties to face up and pin them in place on the edging, as shown below, again making sure to keep them at right angles with the edge.
Top stitch the top edge of the bag, securing handles and ties as you sew all around the bag. I recommend sewing this seam on the right side of the bag as it will be easier to make it look nice that way.
Now, to make the bottom of the bag. First, you need to fold the fabric to create the gussets. Iron the bag flat so that you will have a clear crease on the side which doesn't have a seam to indicate where the side is. Starting on the side with a seam, fold the fabric in towards the middle of the bag until the gusset is 2.5" deep. Use a ruler to measure as shown below to ensure that you are not including the additional depth of the french seam. Make sure that the top and bottom folds are even and that the sides are straight, then iron in place. Repeat with the other side, making sure that the crease you ironed in place is correctly aligned at the back of the gusset.
Now, pin across the bottom edge of your bag, pinning the gussets into place. Don't worry if your bottom edge is frayed or isn't totally even, we will clean it up in a sec. Sew a 1/4" seam across the bottom (or more if needed to be sure you are catching all the layers), then trim off any frayed or uneven edges.
Turn the bag inside out. You will have to turn the gussets to one side or another, but it doesn't matter which, just pick one. Poke the corners all the way out, then pin in place and sew across the bottom with a 5/16" or greater seam.
Turn the bag rightside out, you are done!!
Here are quick instructions on how to fold the bag:
Lay the bag flat, lining up the edges and making sure the gussets are tucked in, then fold the handles down.
Fold the bag into thirds lengthwise, leaving the ties hanging out loose at the top.
Roll the bag up from the bottom, keeping it as tight as possible.
Wrap the ties around the bag and tie with a knot or a bow to secure!