Mooky Cow and Cheval posing in reusable produce bags
DIY, DOWNTIME DIYS

DOWNTIME DIYS #3: Reusable Veggie Bags

HI. TWO POSTS TODAY COS I WAS BAD LAST WEEK. Anyhoo. Here in Australia, our supermarkets have gone back and forth about plastic bags vs no plastic bags at checkouts. They seem to have settled on no plastic bags, and offer several types of reusable bags for sale for very little dollars indeed (we call these Coles bags or Green bags depending where you shop I guess). Some of the more pricey ones of these are really quite nice.

But despite this push for more sustainable, more aware shopping, they still package many things in excess plastic, AND they provide plastic bags for unpackaged fruit, veg, nuts, and bulbs/tubers (onions, garlic bulbs, ginger, potatoes etc). Now we do have a wide variety of stuff available in supermarkets here, and people do like the option of being able to buy exactly what they need and not waste produce. But these bags do not have handles, and are very thin, and therefore rarely get reused.

There has been a big push in both the DIY and eco-aware communities for reusable veggie bags made from a variety of fabrics/materials, and there are even commercial varieties available for sale. But today, I am here to show you that you can make your own (and even some for your friends!).

So. Let’s go!

MATERIALS:

  • 1m plain cotton/strongly woven mesh (I bought a remnant roll of 3m of mesh, and used less than 1m. So 1m should be plenty).
  • 5m (or more depending on the size and number of bags you make) of cord/string/rope – whatever you choose to tie your bags with. We are making drawstring bags
  • Sizeable safety pin
  • White thread and needle if sewing by hand
A pile of white mesh fabric, and a coil of white twisted rope

And that’s pretty much all you need. OK. Here we go.

STEP 1: Lay out your fabric on a flat space – a table or counter (if it’s big enough) or you can use the floor like me – and fold it in half (length or width ways doesn’t matter for this). May fabric was a remnant roll which means the edges weren’t perfect, and gave me a good place to start working out the size of the bags I wanted.

If you like, you can use old newspaper or magazines to mark out the size of the bags you want. Think of what sort of produce you usually buy. You can use a pencil or some blackboard chalk to mark it out (or tailor’s chalk if you have some). Remember to leave some space for seams if you don’t have an overlocker or are sewing by hand.

White mesh bag pieces
I literally just fold and cut. I rely on my overlocker/sewing skills to even out the edges.

STEP 2: Cut! Don’t be afraid. Cut out your bags. If you’ve been smart and cut as you’ve gone along, you should be able to get away with having a fold along one of your edges. This should be the bottom of your bag, as it is still woven and uncut and will provide the strongest edge (especially if you buy a lot of potatoes).

STEP 3 (OPTIONAL): As I am working with mesh, and I have an overlocker, I chose to overlock all the edges of my bags pieces before I start an actual joining of seams. You can do this by hand with blanket stitch, but it could be time-consuming. You can also do this with zig-zag stitch on a standard sewing machine. This is step is not necessary.

METHOD 1:

White mesh fabric pieces in an overlocker

STEP 4.1: Now we fold each piece in half (with any uncut folded edges being the bottom of the bags), and we close up each side. Now, those with overlockers can continue as normal, standard sewing machines can use either zig-zag stitch (if you have a loose weave/stretch fabric) or straight stitch, and hand sewers should use back stitch – it is very secure.

PLEASE NOTE: we have folded the fabric in half, right sides together, and we join them with the inside of the fabric facing outwards. This way, when we turn them right-sides out, it will look nice. For most of the fabric used for this type of project, it really doesn’t matter, but some plain coloured fabrics will have a more saturated and less saturated side.

White mesh bag shells

STEP 5.1: Still with right sides facing, we fold over a section on the top to create a hem (edging) that will go all the way around the top of the bag. Pin in place, and leave one seam area open/unpinned. This will create a tube that we will feed our rope/cord/string into to make the drawstring. Sew down, leaving a gap at the unpinned seam.

White mesh bag pieces with hem being sewn in sewing machine

METHOD 2:

STEP 4-2: Take your bag piece and fold in half, right sides together. One section may have an uncut fold and this will be the bag bottom. Or you may not have a fold in which case you can decide which will be the top – you should sew this bottom edge closed before continuing with this step. Pin one (only one) of the side seams together (this means one of the joins between two pieces of fabric that will create the side of the bag), and sew.

STEP 5-2: Lay your bag flat with the right side facing down. At the top of the bag, fold down a section to create a hem that will go across the top (this means both sections, including the join). This will make a casing for the drawstring! Pin down and sew a little line near to the very bottom of the fold where the raw edge meets the main bag fabric.

Now you may notice that the tube is open because we haven’t sewn up the second side. Sew up the second side, leaving the tube openings open.

STEP 6: OK, back to the main bit. The two above methods are just options for having the drawstrings inside the bag (Method 1), and outside the bag (Method 2). It really comes down to personal preference.

White mesh bag with cord draped across it

OK. Attaching the drawstrings. Lay down your bag flat and lay your cord across the top along the seam. For smaller bags, I cut four times this (see pic), but for most bags I cut three. You may add a little excess to account for the knot. Cut your drawstring to the desired length, and take your big safety pin and attach it to one end.

white cord with safety pin attached

Feed the pin into one tube opening, and push and scrunch, and release the fabric along until the pin comes out the other opening. Adjust your drawstring, and tie a knot at the very end of each end of the rope.

White mesh bag hem with safety pin and cord inserted
White mesh bag hem with cord and safety pin inside
whit emesh bag with drawstring fed through
white mesh bag with drawstring knot

NOTE: Be mindful with twisted rope that it begins to unravel as soon as you cut it, and it might get caught in your casing if your fabric is mesh or rough. Take it slow, and keep a pair of tweezers handy.

white mesh bag with drawstring
interior of white mesh bag with internal drawstring

STEP 7: REPEAT for each bag, or do each step in batches. Turn right side out and enjoy!

pile of finished white mesh bags
Mooky Cow and Cheval posing in reusable produce bags
Check out my toy children modelling these reusable bags

Hooray! An actual sewing Downtime DIY. This should take you about 30 minutes to an hour depending on your speed of sewing/confidence, or in my case the amount you flail around doing dumb things.

You can use these bags and this tutorial for many things, and you might have enough fabric left over to make some bags for your friends!

Save the planet, and live a more planet conscious life by doing simple things like taking your own bags to the supermarket to choose and weigh your fruit and veg. Check out your local fabric stores for remnants and scraps and the ends of rolls to use to make your bags, and look out for scrap rope/cord pieces too! You also don’t need to add the cord just yet if you don’t have it – rather you can add cord as you come by it – the bag should work just fine without closures.

Just remember to wash your bags to prevent any produce scraps from lingering, festering, and creating a new environment of their own. And when your bags are old and unusable, wash them and turn them into cushion stuffing!

Well. that’s enough yapping from me. Double update today cos I didn’t post last week. Share this one with your friends and try it out and tell me how it goes.