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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

Snapdragon social

The hazel tree on the back lawn was the only tree when we moved here 16 years ago. 
Over the summer, when Euan was repairing the shed floor, he found thousands and thousands of empty hazel nuts under it, all neatly gnawed open by tiny, tiny teeth. 
Imagine those field mouse parties, the hazelnuts held up between tiny paws.

We tend to just pick the easy to reach nuts, tonight I’ll make a carrot and green hazelnut salad and I shall feel nicely smug at eating from the garden! 
I’ll leave the windfalls for the mice and the high ups for the red squirrels. They were here before us. 
Hazel trees fruit at a fairly young age. The ones we planted as tiny whips in the hedge 10 years ago are fruiting this year and I’m sure they would have been faster if they hadn’t been growing in long grass, part of a deliberately neglected wild area. 
I’ll put the recipe up on stories later.
When I was on holiday last month I messaged a number of close friends with a three point 'priority list' that I wanted them to hold me to. ⁠⠀
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It read-⁠⠀
1. Simplify things so that people actually know what the Studio Membership is.⁠⠀
2. Make amazing things for my members.⁠⠀
3. Talk about what I do to lots of people in lots of ways.⁠⠀
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The point was for the to stop me doing other things as a distraction from my main job, a job that is feeling more and more important, helping people being more small joyful things into their lives.⁠⠀
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I've been working on 1 and 2 since getting home - the website now has 1/4 of the categories that it had, the link to the membership is now actually on the home page, I've been finalising new products and working on next month's members e-course (about how to wrap beautiful natural seasonal inspired gifts without the Pinterest fuss).⁠⠀
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The third - the talking - is always a struggle for me and I suspect it may always be. There is too much conditioning there, too much being a nicely quiet, head down, work hard, Scottish girl at heart. ⁠⠀
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But I am trying hard . . . . and have resolved too email some people this afternoon and tell them what I do.⁠⠀
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I love bracken at this fleeting time of year - the burst of bright gold before it blends back into the forest floor. ⁠⠀
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An unusual photo for me perhaps but over in the Snapdragon Studio Bee we have been having a really interesting and honest conversation about what people look for when they are buying things - whether it is eco packaging or organic contents or everything made in the UK.⁠⠀
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It was such an interesting topic that it made me realise that I have really not done enough to show the thought and reasoning behind all the things in our products.  I think I felt it was a bit eco-smug at the time. ⠀
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Anyway . . . I have begun with the calendula balm kit and you can see the result above - making a flat lay of all the contents and a key as to what everything is, where it comes from and whether it can be recycled.⁠⠀
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If you want to join the Facebook group it is completely free and open to all - just google Snapdragon Studio Bee and let me know what makes you smile.⁠⠀
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And the balm kit now has all its info in place and you can see it on the website www.snapdragonlife.com
Natural dyeing.⁠⠀
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I think that the most amazing thing about my little foray into natural dyeing is how adding a modifier, in this case a little bit of rust, can transform a colour.⁠⠀
⁠⠀ Both of these were dyed in the same pot.  I chopped up willow leaves and bark and soaked them in water for two days, before simmering for an hour and leaving to steep overnight. ⁠⠀
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I then removed the willow and simmered my 2 hanks of silk yarn for an hour and let the liquid cool.  One hank was removed - which is the gorgeous pale pink - and I added some rusty metal to the pot and watched the silk turn dark grey as though by magic.⁠⠀
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Natural dyeing has been something that I have meaning to try at home ever since I went on a course with @debbiethedyer years and years ago.  I'm so glad that I actually thought to make it into a little project and actually put it in my diary this year.
Since I got back from holiday the bottles on my bedroom windowsill have been empty.⁠⠀
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They looked pretty - like an art installation - but also sad.  There was so little left in the garden that it felt a shame to pick it and turn all views from the house into a sludge of frosted stems.⁠⠀
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Yesterday I decided enough was enough - that there must be some small things that I could pick and Dixie and I went for a walk along the road with a pair of secateurs.⁠⠀
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This was the result - a windowsill that Euan claims is overstuffed! - berries and leaves and seed heads all tucked under the long grass.⁠⠀
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It was a lesson in remembering to venture out and look.  What have you seen recently?
Sometimes it takes a long time to see things clearly, to actually see what it is that is the heart of what you want to do with that ‘one wild and precious life’. I finally feel I’m getting there and I’m tagging a whole bunch of amazing people who have helped me figure it out and winnow it down over the past couple of years.
Who else is dreaming of planting spring bulbs at the moment? 
I can’t think of another activity that sums up that Audrey Hepburn quote “to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” - the tucking up of smooth bulbs in the cold ground, the watching for shoots in spring. It feels miraculous. 
This month’s Studio Members e-course is about Spring bulbs, how to choose, how to plant, what I have learned here over the decades. 
It has been lovely hearing about what people are planting and why.
Overwhelm - I wrote a blog this week about how I fell prey to overwhelm and what I did to get over it - you can read it by clicking through my profile.⁠⠀
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I had actually always thought of myself as someone who didn't get overwhelmed, who had so many tactics in place to stay present, stay slow, stay engaged and take action.⁠⠀
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I thought I was immune to getting caught up, tangled up in overwhelm.⁠⠀
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Until that wasn't the case and I ended up weeping at the sheer difficulty of everything.  All I wanted was someone to breeze in and do all my adulting for me.⁠⠀
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It was a lesson in not taking things for granted and to stop and take stock more often.  To avoid drama, to sit still, to do meaningful things.⁠⠀
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I'd love to know your tips, in a comment here on on the blog, or as a direct message.⁠⠀
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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.

Learn more about why here

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