Monday, December 27, 2010

Cloth Bulk Bags

I've been trying to reduce my use of plastic in the past few years.  I bring my own bag to the grocery store, but I still end up with a bunch of plastic bags holding bulk items and produce.  So, I did a little online research and discovered that it'd be fun and not too difficult to make cloth bulk bags. Luckily, I've also recently acquired my mother's sewing machine and have a great resource for used fabric.

I made these bulk bags actually as a gift, but I plan to make my own once the holiday chaos dies down.

You will need:
a sewing machine
new or used fabric (I used muslin because I found lots of it used)
good scissors
shoelaces or string

Disclaimer: I am not a big sewer, so I'm explaining things in the way that makes the most sense to me.  If you have questions, please ask!

You can make these bulks bags whatever size you want.  I made three different sizes, with my medium-sized bag about 11inches wide and 14 inches long. Just decide how your going to use the bag and what size makes the most sense for you. Keep in mind that you'll be going in about a 1/4 inch on each side when you sew and about 2 1/2 inches at the top for the draw string.

Step one
Iron your fabric.  Next fold the fabric (the folded edge will be the bottom of your bag).  Make your desired measurements and cut! I find that using a light pencil and a craft measuring tape works best to mark the fabric.

Step two
Unfold the fabric and lay it out flat.  I like to zigzag sew up the cut sides to reduce unraveling.  Zigzag across the top of the bag. You can skip this step, but sewing the edges will make your bag more durable.

Step three
(This is another step you can skip, but I highly recommend doing it).  Now fold over ONE SIDE of your bag at about 1/4 inch.  Iron to flatten, pin, and sew.  You will only do this to one side of the bag - the side that will have the string coming out at the top.  This way you will have a finished look where the string comes out.

Step four
 Fold your bag again, making sure that the side we sewed on step three with the finished edge is on the OUTSIDE.  Pin both sides, leaving about 2 inches of space at the top of the finished side.  This part depends on how thick your string is.  You want to be able to lay the string at the top and fold over with enough room to sew.  Now sew each side at about 1/4 inch. Again, make sure you stop at about 2 inches to the top on the side that has the finished edge. I decided to sew twice along the edges to ensure a strong hold. Once sewn, iron your seams flat  as best you can.

Step five
Now you're ready to sew the top with the string.  Lay the string around the top and fold over.  You can fold the edge of the fabric 1/2 inch under to have a finished edge.  This part will be seen on the inside of the bag, so again, if you're in a hurry, you don't have to worry about that. Pin the string up to the top of the folded edge so that you have less chance of sewing it to the bag. Now carefully sew around about 1/4 inch from the bottom fold.  I started at one of the points where the string came out to make sure they were lined up correctly.

Step six
You are basically done! Iron the seams and trim access thread.  I decided to just knot each end of the shoelace.  You could tie them together too.

Optional Embroider Step

I knew I wanted to embroider my bags, but I wasn't sure what to say.  I thought it'd be cool to embroider specific items like 'coffee' for the smallest bag.  In the end, I decided to just embroider 'bulk' on each bag.


If you have any questions, please ask!  Happy crafting.


I figured out how to do the wheat stitch so that I could have wheat stalks on my bulk bags. I thought it turned out pretty well.


  1. Brilliant idea! Bummer, I can't sew. What's the going rate for one of these cloth bags? Awesome blog! Very inspiring ideas. ~Ashley

  2. I love the blog. Great post. It is very true, people must learn how to learn before they can learn. lol i know it sounds funny but its very true. . . Bulk Bags

  3. Nice idea, I think its a great idea to make use out of old materials to create bulk bag.

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