Bath towels are one of those items that really irk my wallet. They are very expensive, and the fibers used today break down way too soon. They just don’t hold up.
Okay. I’m off that soapbox for now, but you are still facing a pile of worn out, hole festooned, old bath towels that are starting to grow to the point of falling over. You love cutting them up and using them as cleaning rags, but you really don’t want to do that until the towel has reached its point of no other use. Plus, do you really need (or want for that matter) a gazillion rags cluttering your cabinet?
You can always use a tote, can’t you? Have you thought about using those towels as shopping bags? How about a beach or pool tote? Maybe it would be useful to carry your picnic items or do yard work? I know, I know…a bag for hauling in loads of firm produce (no tomatoes, please) from your garden this summer!
Great ideas, but not sure how to make them happen? The instructions below will help you create bags and totes for all types of uses and with very little effort, time, or work.
Once you use a bag to its full potential and it starts wearing out, then you can turn the once-upon-a-time bath towel into rags (or another project).
The greatest attribute to this project is that you can, but don’t have to, measure anything! Nothing here has to be precise for this to work. It is what I call an “Eyeballing” project.
NOTE: I did not measure anything for this project. My cut lines are not perfectly straight. My sewing lines are certainly not straight. I exaggerated folds for the purpose of this tutorial so you can see the detail easier (I will point this out in the appropriate section). Best of all, I still have a very usable bag that has been added to my shopping bag collection.
Equipment and Supplies
Sewing Machine – Use tight zigzag stitch if available.
Identify torn and weak places in your towel. You want to try to keep these out of the final product.
Fold the towel in half, matching short ends (this will be the opening of the bag and will be referred to as the Bag-Top) and aligning edges. The fold created will be referred to as the Bag-Bottom. Make sure holes and worn spots are visible, if possible.
Using “Eyeballing” technique, determine the width you want the bag to have. Place a straight pin at the Bag-Top (near the opening of the bag) and one directly across from it at the Bag-Bottom. Cut from the Bag-Bottom to the Bag-Top using the pins as guides. Set the small cut off portion aside.
NOTE: This next step is where I exaggerated the size of the folds for easier viewing.
Slide the bottom fold up between the layers of fabric just a small amount (about the size of a saltine or so) to create two folds at the Bag-Bottom. This step will create a flat bottom for the finished bag. All sides & the bottom folds should align fairly closely.
Slightly raise one side of the top fold and pin the two layers together. Be sure you don’t pin all four layers together and or pull the fabric in any direction to skew the matched edges. Repeat this step for the two layers of the bottom fold and the other side of Bag-Bottom.
Pin both sides of the bag, leaving Bag-Top open.
Sew one small section of Bag-Bottom (base of the bag) from fold area to where inner fold meets sides. Be sure you backstitch several times at the beginning and end, but also throughout the entire seam to give more strength. Repeat this step for the other small bottom section on the same side.
Working on the same side of the bag sew the side beginning at the Bag-Top down to crux where the side and inner fold meet. Repeat steps 7 and 8 for other side of bag. Set aside.
You have the base for your bag. Now you need to create a handle or strap to make carrying easier. This tutorial uses only one strap. If you would like two, use these same steps to make and attach two.
We are using the initial piece that was cut off the towel. Fold it in half, short ends matching up.
Using the “Eyeballing” technique again, determine the width wanted for the handle and mark the top and bottom with straight pins. Cut along the imaginary line from pin to pin. Move unwanted piece off to the side for later use if desired.
Sew both sided of handle, backstitching several times along the way to create strength.
Place one end of handle where you want it inside the bag. Pin in place.
Sew, backstitching many times, to attach the handle. I used the needle pivot method to create a box seam for strength. (Needle Pivot – Sew (backstitching well) to end of the line. Drop needle into the fabric so the fabric cannot slide out. Raise pressure foot. Pivot material. Drop pressure foot. Continue sewing (backstitching well at the beginning and end of the line).
Place the other end of the handle on the opposite side of the bag taking care to ensure handle is not twisted. Pin in place and sew as described above. Keep in mind that spacing may get a little cramped. Be sure another section of the bag or handle don’t get in your way or under the pressure foot and needle.
You can turn bag out or leave as in for that jersey – sewn look.