We'll show you 7 easy ways to make a no-sew t-shirt bag, starting from the very simple to the not-as-simple: not to worry, though, as we'll guide you through it with a video as well as step-by-step instructions. Time to dig through that pile of old or unused t-shirts and give them new life as shopping bags.
T-shirts are made of knit fabric that doesn’t fray easily (unlike woven or denim fabrics). Aside from that, they also have a lot of stretch, are lightweight, and long-wearing, making them the perfect material to make bags from.
Best of all? You get to ditch the plastic bags and save our oceans! Just remember to always wash your bags after your shopping trip, especially if you’ve used them while grocery shopping for wet goods like meat or fish.
Let's get started. Here are the step-by-step instructions to making your own no-sew t-shirt bag:
BAG #1: Tank top with drawstring bottom
Old tank tops and camisoles are the absolute easiest tops to make bags from, as the handles are already there! The best kind to use are tank tops that have similar front and back necklines, so no racer-backs. All you need to do is line up the armpit holes, as this will become the bag's handles.
First, we'll need to close up the bottom by snipping a hole in the bottom hem. For this bag, we snipped two holes, as there was a seam in the middle of the tank top.
Then take a medium-sized safety pin and attach it to the end of a piece of string, cord, or ribbon.
Insert the entire safety pin into the hole.
Now that it's inside, use your fingers to then pull the safety pin and the attached string and shimmy it through and all the way around inside the casing created by the t-shirts' bottom hem. If you run into any seams or spots where the safety pin won't go through, just snip holes before and after the spot in order to pull the drawstring through.
Pull the safety pin out of the exit hole and pull the cord to close up the bottom hem.
Pull the bottom hem shut.
Turn the bag inside out so the strings are on the inside. Tie the strings together and pull it tightly, finishing it off with another knot.
Lastly, turn it inside out, and lay it flat on its side, with the arm holes lined up, so that the tank top's sides now become the front of the bag.
Easy, right? Your no-sew t-shirt bag is now ready to use!
BAG #2: Tank top with tied fringe bottom
This method will create a bag with a roomier bottom. We used a strappy camisole for this one.
Turn the tank top inside out. Lay it flat on its side so that the armholes line up with each other.
Using a ruler and pen, draw a line to mark the bottom of your bag.
Cut off the extra cloth, leaving about 3 inches or 8 cm from the line you drew.
Using a sharp pair of scissors, snip a fringe along the bottom until the line you drew.
Tie together the strips.
Turn the top inside out, and you’re done!
BAG # 3: Cut-out handles with tied fringe bottom
Now it gets slightly trickier, as we'll be using an actual t-shirt instead of a tank top for your first no-sew t-shirt bag! We'll be doing some cutting, but just follow these steps and it will be a breeze.
Turn the t-shirt inside out. Fold the shirt in half, with the front of the shirt facing out. Using this red outline as a guide, draw a curved line from below the neckhole to the armpit corner. Then draw a half-circle to make the armhole.
Use sharp scissors to cut along the lines.
Open up the shirt. Use a ruler to mark a line about 3 inches from the bottom hem.
Cut a fringe along the bottom.
Tie the strips together.
Turn the shirt inside out, and you've got a bag!
BAG # 4: Cut-out handles with drawstring bottom
For this no-sew t-shirt bag, we used a kid's old t-shirt dress, with a cute print that was just begging to be repurposed into a bag!
First, turn it inside out and fold it in half, with the front facing out. Then copy the outline we made in red and trace it onto the bag.
Cut out on the lines.
Snip a hole in the bottom hem, then take a medium-sized safety pin and attach it to the end of a piece of string, cord, or ribbon. Insert the safety pin into the hole in the hem, and use it to thread the cord all the way around inside the casing created by the t-shirts' bottom hem, creating a drawstring.
Pull the bottom hem shut, and tie the ends together tightly.
Cut off any excess string, then turn inside-out. You're done!
BAG # 5: Drawstring top, backpack-style, with tied fringe bottom
With this style, we'll be using the shirt upside-down, so it's best to use a plain or solid-colored shirt, or one with a design like stripes, where the orientation won't matter. We'll also need two long pieces (around 1 meter/40 inches long) of string or cord to make the drawstring/backpack straps. We repurposed the laces from a pair of boots, so they're extra long.
Lay the shirt flat. Cut off the sleeves.
Mark a line across from armpit to armpit. This will be the bottom of the bag. Then cut off the excess, leaving about 3 inches/8 cm for your fringe.
Cut a fringe.
Knot up the fringe.
Turn the shirt inside out.
Now we'll make the drawstring backpack straps. First, we'll make the holes. We need to make two holes on both corners of the shirt, one on either side of the seam. See the marks in red? That's where we'll snip holes/short lines with our scissors. Be sure to cut holes only on the top layer of cloth and not all the way through.
Insert the end of the shoelace or string into a safety pin.
Insert it into the hole in one of the corners.
Use the safety pin to pull the cord inside and along the bottom hem, all the way through and around, coming out of the same side you started. Repeat, but this time on the opposite corner. You should end up with two pairs of loose ends coming out of each corner. Pull and adjust the strings until both ends are even.
Insert the end of the strings into the corner below it, through the holes between the knots (don't insert them into the same hole, but into two holes beside each other.)
Tie the strings together inside to secure.
Repeat this on the other side.
Pull the drawstrings in opposite directions to shut the bag, and pull apart to open.
Your no-sew t-shirt bag, and a backpack at that, is now ready to use!
BAG # 6: Long-sleeved t-shirt with tied fringe bottom
For this no-sew t-shirt bag, we'll be using the sleeves on a long-sleeved shirt to make the handle of the bag! Take a long-sleeved t-shirt and turn it inside out.
Mark a line about 3 inches/8 cm from the bottom hem.
Cut a fringe.
Knot the fringe ends together.
Turn it inside out. Gather up one shoulder, from the armpit to the neckline (see the red dotted line) and tie a knot.
Do the same for the other shoulder.
Tighten and adjust the knots. The excess fabric forms a sort of round cap, which you can use to cover the knot.
Tie the ends of the sleeves together in a double knot to make the handle.
The neck hole will be the opening of this bag. You're done!
BAG # 7: Rope handle with tied fringe bottom
For this last no-sew t-shirt bag, we're upping the game by making a rope handle. Your friends won't believe you made this one yourself! We used a t-shirt, with a cute floral design, that unfortunately is now too small to wear, so now it's going to be repurposed into a shopping bag.
We'll be using the shirt upside-down, so again, it's best to use a plain or solid-colored shirt, or one with a printed design where the orientation won't matter.
Lay the shirt flat. Cut across from armpit to armpit to create a rectangle.
Turn the shirt inside out, with the bottom hem at the top. Remember, the cut edge will be the bottom of the bag. Mark a line about 3 inches/8 cm from the cut edge.
Cut a fringe and knot together.
Turn the shirt right side out again, and lay flat.
Fold the top edge in half, then in half again. Mark the folds, this is where your handles will be. Unfold. In this picture we are pointing to where the marks are.
Cut through the bottom hem at all 4 points.
Take a long piece of rope or cord (about 1 meter) and stick a safety pin in one end, then secure it with some tape.
Thread the safety pin and cord into a hole going towards a corner. Use the safety pin, through the cloth, to pull the rope through the hem, then out the next hole, inside the next, and finally out the last hole. Pull and adjust the rope to make the handles the length you'd like, as well as making them even. When you're satisfied, tie the rope with a double knot, cut off the excess, then pull the knot into the hem, all the way into the corner of the bag, to hide it. Finally, pull and adjust the rope again until the handles are even.
And that's it! Your bag is now ready to rock.
Need a quick recap? Watch how we made these eco-friendly bags in the video below!
We hope you've enjoyed this step-by-step article as much as we enjoyed making these bags, and that you've been inspired to try make it yourself. If you do end up doing it, please do show us what you've made in the comments below!