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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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Between the plum trees and the studio is a sloping space that was created when we flattened a patch of land to build. It is a mix of subsoil, rocks and odd seams of rich pasture land. ⠀
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As grass began to grow there about 7 years ago,  I sowed a perennial meadow mix, I planted lots of random plants from the cutting beds, I worked without a plan, without knowing what would thrive and what would gently vanish. ⠀
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Now there is minimal gardening involvement - I try and keep the nettles from taking over, we dig out brambles - and in the autumn and winter I lure the chickens there to scratch out patches of bare soil for the wildflower seeds. ⠀
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It’s a patchy space, caught on the cusp of abandonment - but it is the most beautiful space in the garden, buzzing with insects, rustling with birds. ⠀
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Low light, bright petals, setting sun. ⠀
A couple of days ago I got a message from a friend asking what I thought about all the 'picking wild flowers' photos on here and the fact that a country style magazine was promoting it as a
My Gran had hangers like these.  Knitted from odds and ends of wool, hanging softly squashed together in the big dark wardrobe in her bedroom.⁠⠀
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My cousin and I would take the fancy silky 1960s dresses from them and transform ourselves into glamorous detectives, spying on passers-by from behind the net curtains, making notes.⁠⠀
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Now the hangers are my favourite things to make from wool scraps - each takes 37 grams of wool and you only need to be able to do a plain stitch to make it. ⁠⠀
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As well as being chock full of nostalgia for me, they are also the most practical kind of hanger, as the garter stitch keeps even the flimsiest of straps in place so clothes don’t end up on the floor.
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This week's business improvement was deciding to make the postcards that go in with orders more useful, getting Kate Stockwell to turn them into activity cards for me. ⁠⠀
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This is the first, going out with orders from today.⁠⠀
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I’m always amazed at how many plants from sunnier climes take to the garden. ⠀
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Sicilian honey garlic - Nectaroscordum siculum - is one of the plants that grow in rows in the orchard - ghosts of the flower field, buzzing with bees, happy in grass, a strong whiff of onion as I pass. ⠀
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This month I’ve been experimenting with solar dyeing- using plants and sunlight and a jar to dye wool on the windowsill. 
I was amazed at what bright shades were possible and at how easy and self contained it turned out to be. 
It was part of the Studio Membership mini “Introduction to plant dyes” course but I’ve also put together a kit in the shop with full instructions and everything you need to get started with solar dyeing wool (there are mini skeins in the kit). The photo is my drying rack on the dye deck - part of the studio where I used to prep flowers when I sold them. 
The wood rack used to be for shoes and wellies.
Inspired by @josephinepbrooks I’m still using this time for some serious decluttering of my business - looking hard at which parts have descended over the years into one of those drawers stuffed full of things.  Which bits are muddled, useless, impossible to open without everything falling out. 
Last week was the turn of the blog - so many out of date things, so many broken links, pretty much impossible to browse. 
Now it’s been sorted out - David and @fuzzyjill at Fuzzy Lime helped me divide it into sections and now it’s all easily accessible from the navigation bar.

So if you are looking for tutorials, nature notes, gardening, recipes or musings on life you can find them without scrolling through hundreds of pages. 
And - as always seems to happen when you  declutter - I’m suddenly full of ideas for things to write about, so that I can fit them nicely into my new space! 
The poppies are from Friday’s blog about how they make wonderful cut flowers.
Another week. Another new morning 
I was chatting to a friend yesterday about what was the best thing about running my own business - and I decided that it was probably being excited about each day and all the things I want to do. ⠀
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That I now rarely need to force myself. ⠀

Today it’s finishing off this week’s Studio Members lesson about solar dyeing and putting together these activity postcards which I am getting printed to go out with orders. ⠀
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What are you looking forward to doing today?
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About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we 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.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

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