09 April 2011

Sewing of the green, Part 2

A few folks were interested in how I repurposed the pet food/bird seed bags into tote bags. Here's an illustrated step-by-step recap of the process:

1. I use "Dura Weave®" bags. Purina and Walmart/Sams's pet food uses this for their larger packaging.

2. From your empty bag, remove the bottom stitching or untape the folded edge. This will leave you a big 'tube' from which to work. Depending on how crumby or oily its contents, you may wash out the bag now or after you're finished.

3. Turn the bag tube inside out. This requires a bit of tugging, but keep at it. It was at this point that I used cleaning wipes to wipe down the inside of the bag to get rid of any food residue.

4. Flatten out the bag and 'square up' the open ends so they're perpendicular to the folded edge.

5. From the bottom (if you wish, mark the top and bottom of your bag to ensure proper orientation throughout the process) of the bag, cut one 'loop' 4" wide. This will make your handles. Don't worry if there are holes along the edge left by the pull string. They will be folded into the handle on assembly.

6. Determine how tall you'd like your bag. I generally cut another 3-4 inches off the 'top,' leaving the tube about 17-18 inches tall.

 7. Lay out your inside-out tube (hopefully the bag's original side folds will help it lay flat) and use a straight edge and a bone folder or other implement to score (making an indentation but not cutting the surface) a line 3" from the bottom; 2.50" from each side; and 1.25" from the top. Do this same scoring on the reverse side. These scores will give you the fold lines once your bag is turned right side out.

8. Mark placement for your handles 5.50" from each side fold. Do this on both sides. I usually just make a little 'snip' into the top edge. Your handles will later be sewn between these marks.

9. Sew a seam .50" from the bottom edge. I have used nylon filament thread for the project. It's see-through so I don't have to worry about matching colors. It's also a bit stronger than poly or cotton thread. You may also use a heavy duty conventional thread. I use a medium stitch length of 2.8mm or 9 stitches/inch.

10. Flatten corners into 45-degree triangles. Pin down the triangle so the pin aligns the seam and the side fold crease. Mark 2.50" from top of triangle across triangle. (I made a template for this because I was sewing many bags.) Stitch across marking. This determines the depth of your bag—in this instance, about 5".
11. Turn bag right side out. Poke your fingers or something like the handle of a wooden spoon into the corners to make corners. Again, more tugging and pulling.

12. Using your fingers or burnisher/bone folder, lay on a flat surface, sharpen the creases of the previously scored lines along the bottom and sides of bag. If you wish, you may also fold down the top 1.25" edge, but you will need to flatten this out to attach handles.

13. To make handles, from the 4" wide tube, cut or pull edge at seam to open out flat. Fold (or score and fold) in half lengthwise. Fold those edges in toward center. Using a bone folder or flat edge, crease the folds. Your handle will be approximately 1" wide.

14. Take folded handle strip and top stitch .25-.375" down center folded edge, then across, turn and down double-fold edge. I do this top stitching on whichever side I like better. This 'prettier' side is the one I'll attach on the front of the bag.

15. Cut the completed handle strip into two 17" long pieces.

16. Attach front handle. Lay end edge of handle at top of bag, aligning its outside edge with the snip made earlier. Stitch down (tack) about .25" from edge and continue until you can tack down other end of handle along the second snip. I sew it to where the double-fold edge is on the 'inside.' The photo better shows this. Repeat for back side.

17. Fold down top 1.25" edge to inside of bag. Starting on a 'side' panel, top stitch .25-.375" from folded edge all around the bag. Once you get back to where you started stitching, make a mark 1" from folded edge and stitch diagonally to that point then top stitch all around again.

18. Resharpen all your creases and you're done! If you wish, you can wash out your bag again with a little dishwashing detergent, like Dawn. Rinse and hang upside to dry.

19. And if you're very brave, you can use a COOL (nylon/silk) iron to better set the creases. If you're not sure about your iron's temperature, press through a dish towel.

Hope this is helpful. I've made a couple dozen lately but this is the first time I've really thought about it step-by-step. If you have any questions, just ask!


    1. Nice post! Who knew that pet food bags could have such a crafty second life. It is nice to see the process, though I know I will never follow the steps to make one. It is the pre-step of buying the pet food or the animal to consume said food.

    2. Very kewl idea and excellent tutorial. If I have to put up with the kids' leftover pet, I'm glad to know there will be some benefit from it. Keep the wonderful ideas coming!

    3. Do you know if other brands use the right material for this?

      1. You can use this pattern for any bag made of material that feels like something woven with plastic over it. You could also use canvas or other heavy duty fabric similarly, although the "stand on its own" quality makes the petfood or feed bags ideal, not to mention the idea of repurposing. --Christine J

    4. I've made them from bird seed bags, and from Beneful dog food bags. It is pretty easy to determine whether or not the bag is of the right material/weave. Thanks for the tutorial, I've been doing them for a couple of years now, and never thought of using the cut off strips for the handles!

    5. what size needle are you using ? & pressure , tension I'm getting really bad stiches. ended up haveing to use binding so I don't end with a mess :(

    6. great idea! thanks, i used blanket binding to cover the handles. and ironed on initials and sewn on flowers to the side of the bag to personalize. .

    7. I recently made some, and this time I embroidered my initials on before I started sewing the bag. I had to cut the bag in half at the sides to so this, then sew the sides back together. The reason I did that is because someone else liked my bags so much that they stole them from my grocery buggy!