Sew a recycled tote bag out of juice bags

Practise the three Rs by sewing a stylish tote bag out of juice bags – an eco-friendly fashion statement for kids or adults.

By Gail Mitchell, Fredericton, NB

Sew a recycled tote bag out of juice bags
Geoff George
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You’ll need:

• 16 juice bags, rinsed and dried out
• 2.75 m of black double fold binding or other trim that finishes to approx 1/2 in (1 cm)
• 1 m strip of 3-1/2-in (9 cm) wide recycled denim
• 1.1 m of black 1-in (2.5 cm) webbing or other desired trim to make a handle
• Sewing machine, with a recycled needle that is dull, but not bent or broken
• Thread, pins, old or recycled scissors

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1. Position two juice bags together, overlapping sides by approximately 1/4 in (5 mm). Sew with a straight seam to the bottom of the juice bag. Move the needle over to the right by 1 stitch. Lift the pressure foot of your sewing machine; pivot, and sew back up beside the first seam (approx 1/8 in/3 mm). Prepare eight of these pairs. 

2. Position two of the pairs together, overlapping sides as before, and sew the double seam to make a 4-strip. Make three more 4-strips. Position one 4-strip over another, overlapping by 1/2 in (1 cm). Sew across the entire length of the strips close to the bottom of the juice bags, take a stitch to the right, pivot and sew back. You now have a front for your juice bag. Join two more strips to make the back of the juice bag.

3. To facilitate easier sewing around corners, with a pair of recycled scissors, cut the bottom two corners of the front and back sections to a rounded shape.

4. Take the juice bag front panel with the right side facing you. Place the denim strip, wrong sides together, under the upper left juice bag edge, extending the top by approx 1 in (2.5 cm). Sew approximately 1/8 in (3 mm) seam down the front, around the rounded corner, along the bottom, around the other corner, then up the other side. When sewing around the corner, sew a few stitches, and work the denim strip around the corner as you sew. You should not need to pin this first side.

5. Place and pin the back of the juice bag with wrong sides together against the opposite side of the denim strip. With the back of the juice bag now facing up, sew along the pinned edge, the same width as the front of the bag. 

6. Trim the excess denim from the top sides of the juice bag to be even with the top of the front and back.

7. Pin the binding or trim to the front of the bag. Sew using a zigzag or triple zigzag along the top of the trim. Now, the side seam of the juice bag and denim are enclosed. Repeat on the back side of the tote bag. When both sides are done, pin the trim around the top of the bag taking note to fold the side seams toward the center of the denim sides. (Using your free-arm will come in handy here.)

8. Handles: Cut the webbing into two pieces for the handles. To prevent fraying, lightly wave the cut edges of the webbing over a candle to seal the ends.

9. Apply each of the two handles to the front and back of the bag. Pin in place. Sew with a straight seam across the top, middle and bottom of 1 in (2.5 cm) overlap on each end of the handle.

Note: To make a child-size tote bag, use 6 juice bags on the front and 6 on the back.

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