The Perfect Summer Tote: How to Make a T Shirt Bag
Turns out, it’s a cinch to make summer accessories from recently retired tees. Upcycling t-shirts into purses and totes isn’t a new concept, but with this particular no-sew bag, you get two looks for the price of one by using a little t-shirt yarn. Plus, with this shirt-to-bag design, you end up with a sack that can store a LOT. Any way you slice it, this quick and stylish satchel will be your new favorite go-to for those beach trips, farmer’s market outings, and outdoor music festivals.
1 short sleeved t-shirt
T-shirt yarn or a few additional t-shirts to cut your own yarn from
About an hour and a half
I started with a ball of t-shirt yarn I’d purchased off etsy (it’s available at major fabric, craft and hobby shops too). I have made my own in the past, but I’m at an age now where I don’t seem to have the abundance of old shirts I once did, and buying my own pre-made jersey yarn, allowed me to be picky about the colors I wanted. (Check out the CreativeLive class on making your own yarn from sweaters!)
From my ball, I cut three strips of yarn that were each roughly a yard long. I tied the three cut ends together, secured the knot to my table with Washi tape, and tightly braided the pieces until I came to the end of the yarn lengths, where I knotted that end together.
I set aside the braided strap, and next, I cut about 30, 20-inch strips of the same jersey yarn, and set them aside. I laid my shirt out on my work surface, and smoothed out the wrinkles, so that the bottom hem pieces (front of shirt and back of shirt) were exactly on top of each other.
I used my sharp scissors to make tiny,1-cm snips along the base of the shirt, piercing BOTH layers of fabric as I worked. The tiny 1-cm slits were about 1cm apart. My shirt ended up with about 30 cuts. Yours may vary, depending on the size of the shirt. (Mine was a size large.)
To close the bottom of my bag, I strung one piece of t-shirt yarn through the first set of cuts in my shirt’s hem. I made sure the t-shirt yarn threaded the pair of slits in both the top and bottom fabric pieces. I pulled the yarn through until the fringe on both side of the holes was of equal length, then I double knotted the yarn tightly together at the shirt hem. I continued stringing and knotting t-shirt yarn strips until every set of the matching cuts in my shirt hem was knotted closed with a piece of t-shirt yarn.
Now that my shirt was closed at the bottom, it was time to cut off the sleeves, and deepen the neck to create wearable purse straps. I cut cautiously, and only deepened the arm and neck holes by about 2-3 inches. Depending on the length of your shirt, you may want to make your cuts deeper or more shallow.
At this point, you COULD be done with your t-shirt bag. But, remember that long braid we made before doing anything else? Grab that baby, loop it through one of your just-cut shoulder straps, go stand in front of the mirror to find the appropriate length of braided strap that works best for your height, then knot the braid ends together at the second shoulder strap, letting the excess braided bits hang down as a design element.
I knotted together, then braided three more lengths of t-shirt yarn (about half a yard each) together to make a “third” braided purse strap (your first long piece is now doubled up from one t-shirt shoulder to the second, right?) I knotted the newest braided strap to the first braided shoulder strap. The braided bits make for a really comfortable shoulder strap that can be worn across the chest or over the shoulder, or, pushed down along the cut straps of the shirt itself as a nautical inspired design accent.
Both are equally comfy and cute! And for a no-sew bag, it’s pretty great that it can actually be stylish too. Oh, and like any t-shirt in your closet, if your bag gets a little dirty, toss it in the wash as you would with your other clothes.
If after reading this tutorial, you raided all of the closets and/or thrift stores in your neighborhood for cute t-shirts to craft with, be sure to check out Diane Gilleland’s t-shirt quilting class as well as Susan Beal’s super accessible and ridiculously cute class on simple sewing projects.
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