Reusable shopping bags have hit the mainstream, and with good reason - not only are they far better for the environment than plastic bags, but they hold more and are usually much more comfortable to carry. The problem is that they are either ugly or expensive.
Yes, your grocery store sells them for a dollar, but do you really want to carry around a cheap, flimsy bag with the store's logo? Sure, you can go online and order some very stylish, sturdy shopping bags that look like designer totes - for designer prices. Your bags should not cost more than your groceries - ever.
The solution: make your own. Seriously, even if you have zero sewing or crafting skills, you can make a whole batch of bags out of old T-shirts in a couple of hours. They're sturdy, roomy, and you can make them as pretty as you wish.
The larger the shirt, the larger the bag - men's Large shirts work best for groceries, but even kids' shirts work for smaller totes. The shirt can be plain or patterned - if you prefer plain, you can usually pick up some really cheap T-shirts at discount stores (like 10 for $10 cheap).
Carefully cut the sleeves off the shirt, following along the seam, then lay the shirt flat again - this is the trickiest part, right here: cut the collar out of the shirt, following the pattern of the sleeve-cuts.
In other words, the holes where the sleeves used to be come pretty low into the middle of the shirt, so instead of cutting the collar on the seam, cut it in a U-shaped pattern so the bottom of the U comes down as far as the sleeve holes, and the top of the U is right on the sides of the collar seam. These strappy-looking pieces left will be your handles.
Sewing It Up
The sewing goes much more quickly with a machine (obviously), but even hand-stitching won't take long here. In fact, hand-stitching allows you to use full-thickness embroidery floss if you want, making for a stronger seam.
Stitch straight across the bottom hem of the shirt, along the pin line. Then stitch a short seam at either end of the first seam, at a 45-degree angle. The angled seams add shape to the bag - the longer the seam, the more U-shaped the bag.
If you don't mind a square bag, don't even bother with the angled seams, just do a few extra stitches at each end of your first seam to reinforce the corners.
Turn the bag right side out and make sure the seam is secure. For an even stronger bag, edge-stitch the bottom edge and around the handle edges - this limits the material's stretch, which may be better for heavier loads. Cut off any excess material around the seams and finish the seams if you like, but it isn't even necessary.
This is the fun part - decorate! Paint with fabric paints, use iron-on transfers, draw with permanent marker. It's up to you. Go crazy with glitter, sequins and feathers if that's your thing. Try drawing on dark colors with a bleach pen. When planning decorations, remember that the bag is going to stretch - use stretch-friendly, flexible glue and iron-ons.
Once you are done, you have a shopping that is not only pretty, but environment friendly as well. And you have not spent half your money buying it. Isn't that great! So what are you waiting for, dig out those old t-shirts and get busy making bags!