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Making produce bags for zero waste shopping

making zero waste produce bags

The product I get asked to make most are produce bags - the kind of bags that you take to zero waste shops to fill with beans and chickpeas, fruit, mushrooms, pasta.

However I'm very wary of eco awareness simply becoming another excuse to shop, produce bags becoming something to buy so that they will look pretty on Instagram perhaps, rather than a real, sustainable part of life. I'm very aware of it being an example of seeming (to be eco aware) rather than doing.

Making cloth produce bags is the perfect way to use up old cotton fabrics so I thought it would be much better to put together a tutorial than start selling them. The important qualities for a produce bag are that it should be relatively light weight, it should be possible to stand them open non a counter so that the cashier can see the contents and it should be possible to close the top for carrying home without spilling lentils all over the bus.

Any washable cotton/lightweight fabric is usable - if you have something that is already hemmed - such as a sheet - this is even better as it saves you a job. I have given instructions for hand sewing as not everyone has access to a sewing machine but obviously if you do then you can machine sew all seams instead.

Making Fabric Bags.

1. You need - cotton fabric, scissors, needle, thread, something to tie the neck (I use old hair bobbles, elastic bands, ribbon etc. also work)

2. Cut out a rectangle of fabric for your bag. I use an A4 piece of paper for the small bags for pulses etc. If I have a ready hemmed piece of fabric I put 2 pieces of A4 paper upright and next to each other with the top edges along the hem, draw around them and cut out (42 x 29 cm).

making a zero waste bag

3. If you have no hem then fold over one long edge or your fabric twice (about 1/2 a centimetre each time) and iron a good crease in it. Sew the folded over bit it flat with a running stitch to make a hem.

Then fold the fabric in two, wrong sides together, right sides outwards, so it is the size of an A4 piece of paper. Start at the hemmed edge (which will be the top) and sew a running stitch close to the edge down one edge and along the bottom.

how to make plastic free shopping bags

4. Trim the fabric very close to the stitching and then turn the bag inside out and flatten well. Use your hands flapping inside the bag to make sure that the seams are stretched out and not creased.

make your own produce bag

5. Carefully sew with running stitch right round the 3 sides of the bag - this technique is called French seams - and it makes the bag strong and neat with no raw edges. Make sure that your original fabric allowance is within this new seam (that is why you trim it).

tutorial make your own produce bag

6. Turn the bag the right way round. If you want to use a ribbon to tie it closed cut the ribbon to the right length, fold it in half and then stitch the fold to the bag at the correct height. This is simply so you don't lose it.

produce bag with elastic band closure

An alternative is a bit of elastic, an elastic band or a hair bobble.

Of course the main thing about bags for shopping is actually having the bags with you when you go shopping. This is why I suggest that you pack the bags and the ties into a good tote bag and either leave it in the car or packed into a handbag that you will remember to take. You can make these bags any size, but always make them taller than they are wide so that there is room to tie them shut. In your home they can be used for storing pulses, pasta, flour or shelves or the edges can be rolled down to make an attractive fruit/vegetable container.

Pinterest graphic make your own produce bags

Comments: 2 (Add)

Lesley on July 5 2019 at 11:16

Jane this is a fabulous tutorial! I don't have a machine so will definitely be making these. Thank you x

Gill Hook on July 12 2019 at 11:51

Brilliant! I had planned to make crochet bags out of leftover cotton yarn for thinks like apples, bananas, etc, but these will be great for smaller produce like pulses x

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If you don't like pinky purples, then I'm afraid that there isn't much at all in my garden for you at the moment.⁠⠀it’s a froth of cow parsley with bobbing purples flowers amongst the white. 
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The first growth of the bleeding hearts (dicentra) was all frosted to a mush at the beginning of last month and I thought that there would be no flowers this year.⁠⠀
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But here we are . . . . . a little late but like festoons of pink hearts strung out to celebrate. ⁠⠀
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Turn them upside down and tweak the petals and you definitely have 'nudie lady in a bath tub'
Before the 1950s there was no flower foam.⁠⠀
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Every single flower arrangement was held together behind the scenes with metal and wood and glass and rope and wire.  The towering pillars of flowers in Tudor pageants had complex hidden frames, the pared back displays of the high value specimen flowers of the same time were equally underpinned. Nothing is new.⁠⠀
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We have been clearing my in-laws house, going through cupboards and sorting out what to keep, what to pass on. On one of the wardrobe shelves I found all my Mother-in-law's floristry underpinnings - a selection of flower frogs in metal, plastic and glass along with balled up chicken wire, scrumpled to fit into specific bowls and vases.  There was a dried out, used and reused, piece of flower foam too - crumbling nastily and now in the bin.⁠⠀
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I mainly use metal pin holders - a type best known from the Japanese tradition Ikebana, where they are called Kenzans.  They were very popular in the UK in 1920s and 30s - giving a solid base to the fashionable top heavy arrangements and stopping the flowers from toppling out of their bowls. ⁠⠀
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Many were kept and passed down in a 'it'll come in useful' kind of way so they are easy to get second hand. I have a great collection picked up in charity shops for less than 50p each, each slightly different. ⁠⠀
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I especially love the way they allow cut flowers to look as though they are still growing. I used to make meadowy arrangements with them for weddings - lines of different sized pin holders arranged in a long shallow tray, tall grasses and cow parsley impaled upright on the pins, all the underpinnings hidden by a froth of ladies mantle and tiarella.
Poppies are beginning to permeate everything in the garden.⁠⠀
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They are, I think, my favourite cut flowers. ⁠⠀
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Cut and condition them properly and they will last a week, changing hour to hour as they unfurl themselves from their seed cases and spread their petals wide.⁠⠀
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I have a blog on the website front page showing you exactly how to get the best vase life.
Camassia and ribwort plantain.⁠⠀
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I would never think of it as a planting combination.⁠⠀
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And yet . . . .⁠⠀
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Nature knows best
Cow parsley and columbine.⁠⠀
The dark columbines fell over onto the studio path a week ago. I always seemed to have my arms full as I stepped over them, and kept forgetting to return and prop them back up. ⁠⠀
Their rest on the gravel has given them a wonderful crick and crinkle to their stems - much more interesting than straight stems.⁠⠀
This is one tiny corner of the Studio.⁠⠀
Piles of linen and sample of old cotton all neat.⁠⠀
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I decided to move all the furniture around in the rest of the room yesterday to make it easier to store things and see them at the same time.⁠⠀
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There are lots of piles.  But no neatness.
On Saturday - packing up the plant tables at our local Crop Swap - I met a woman mailing a postcard.⁠⠀
She was walking the West Highland Way.⁠⠀
The walking was partly as a memorial to her Mum who had died a couple of years ago, partly to prove friends wrong who had said that, at 76, she was too old to walk 90 miles.⁠⠀
We chatted about gardening and how it really is the BEST thing for making us happy and went on our ways, me carrying a table, her heading for a sit down and a cup of tea. ⁠⠀
I wish her a midge free walk across the moors, I have no doubt she will get there.
I love birds.⁠⠀
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Having the bedroom window feeder is one of the absolute joys of my life.⁠⠀
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Being surrounded by fluttering life outside the Studio is amazing.  Increasing the number of birds who live here is one of the garden's best achievements.⁠⠀
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However - out of the 18 apple trees I have planted here this is the only one with any blossom.  The rest have been picked off pre-bloom by the very bullfinches that I so admired in March.  I fear they will regret their greed when there are no windfalls come September.⁠⠀
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I have also taken to wearing earplugs in bed so that I can have the windows open without being woken up before 3 am by the first blackbird trilling out his territory
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

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