a black bag with the slogan: stand tall, be strong, wear a crown and be kind

Make your own recycled, reusable bag!

Need a bag to carry your library books, or to tote home your shopping? Here’s a way to turn an old t-shirt into a new bag, no sewing needed, during Plastic Free July.

You will need

  • Old t-shirt
  • Good sewing scissors
  • Sewing chalk pencil or coloured pencils
  • Ruler

What to do

  1. a tshirt on a tableLay your t-shirt flat.
  2. someone drawing on a tshirt with a white pencilTest pencils on the t-shirt sleeve to find one you can see.
  3. First, plan the cuts. You’ll cut off each sleeve, cut off the collar and extend the neckline down. Then the shoulders will become handles to hold the bag with!
  4. someone is drawing around the sleeve of a tshirtDraw a line just inside the seam (sewing line) of each sleeve of the t-shirt.
  5. someoen is extending the neckline of a tshirt with a pencilDraw a line extending the neckline down to the level of the bottom of the sleeves.
  6. someone is cutting into a tshirtCarefully cut along the lines, through the front and back of the shirt. It can be tricky to cut through fabric, so younger readers might need an adult to help.
  7. Your bag now has handles, but there’s a big hole in the bottom! Time to fix that.
  8. Lay your t-shirt flat.
  9. someone is ruling a line acoss the bottom of a tshirtMeasure 7 centimetres from the bottom of the shirt on both sides, and then rule a line across.
  10. someone is cutting the bottom of a tshirt into stripsEvery 2 to 3 centimetres, cut up from the bottom of the shirt until you reach the line. You’ll end up with lots and lots of strips hanging from the bottom edge.
  11. a strip with a knot in itTie a knot in the leftmost strip.
  12. someone tying a knot into some strips of fabricNext to that, there will be 2 strips – one coming from the front of the shirt and one from the back. Tie these together securely with a double knot.
  13. many stips hanging from the bottom of a tshirt and some of them are tied together in knotsWork across the shirt, tying pairs of strips together.
  14. a tote bagWhen you get to the last strip, tie a knot in it, and then you’re done!
  15. This bag has dangly tassels on the bottom. If you don’t want them hanging, turn your shirt inside-out before you start cutting. When you finish tying knots, turn it right-side out again to hide the tassels.


What’s happening?

Plastic is really useful stuff. It’s cheap to make, strong, flexible and it doesn’t break down easily. That makes it great for all kinds of uses. For example, a thin plastic bag is much lighter and cheaper to make than a paper bag, and it won’t get ruined if it gets wet.

There are also plenty of downsides. Plastic straws, bags and bottles are so cheap that we can throw them out after only using them once. That’s one reason for the huge amount of plastic rubbish we make every year. Each Australian makes an average of 101 kilograms of plastic waste per year, including 59 kilograms of single-use plastic waste.

If you want to produce less waste, the slogan ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ is a great guide. It’s ordered from best to worst. The best thing to do is avoid making rubbish! When you do have rubbish, you should try to find another use for it. And if you can’t find a new use, try to recycle it properly.

Your handmade bag reuses an old t-shirt. Plus, it can reduce the number of new plastic bags you’d get from the shops too. That’s the 2 most important steps!

It’s important to think about the next life for your new bag. When it’s no good for carrying things, maybe you could cut it up to make rags for cleaning windows. If it’s made of 100% cotton, you might be able to compost it, or even get it recycled at a fibre recycling company.

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