Episode 108: In the Bag

In the Bag by Susan Wasinger

Go green and recycle plastic bags to create fabric. Use the fabric to make a cute, colorful lunch bag to take to school or work.


  • 6 to 9 plastic shopping bags
  • 3 or more plastic newspaper bags in bright colors
  • Thread: all-purpose & heavyweight
  • Parchment paper
  • Scissors
  • Yardstick or ruler
  • Pencil
  • 2 coordinating buttons
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Elastic hair tie

Make It

Note: When making fabric from plastic, work in a well-ventilated room so you don't breathe excess fumes from the melted plastic. Open a window or door or use a fan to circulate the fumes away from the workroom.

  1. Cover the ironing surface with a piece of parchment paper. Cut off each shopping bag side and lower-edge seam. To make the bag panels, a 24"x38" plastic rectangle is needed. Since plastic shrinks when heat is applied, add several inches to the length and width dimensions. Test-press a piece of scrap plastic too see how much it shrinks; adjust the rectangle dimensions accordingly.
  2. Position a layer of plastic bags over the parchment paper until the required rectangle size is achieved, overlapping the bag edges 3" to 4".
  3. Position another layer of plastic bags over the rectangle, making sure the overlaps don't align. Position a piece of parchment paper over the plastic rectangle to protect the iron from sticky build-up.
  4. Using a dry iron on a medium-heat setting, press the rectangle center, moving the iron slowly over the area for 30 seconds. Lift up the parchment paper to check if the plastic bags are fused together. Continue pressing if the bags aren't fused. If the bags are fused, continue to press the rectangle, working in small sections. Let the plastic cool.
  5. Position another layer of plastic bags over the rectangle, making sure the overlaps don't align. Place a piece of parchment paper over the rectangle. Repeat to press the rectangle, following the previous instructions.
  6. Turn over the plastic rectangle and repeat to press the rectangle back where necessary to fuse the bags. Let the plastic cool. Lift up the plastic rectangle to make sure it's sturdy but not overly thick or inflexible.
  7. Cut the plastic newspaper bags along the side seams to make a long, narrow strip. Overlap the plastic strip edges to make a 5"x36" rectangle. Fuse the plastic strips together, following the previous instructions. Fuse two additional plastic rectangle layers, following the previous instructions. Alternate between bag colors to create a lovely hue, if desired. Let the plastic cool.

Cut It

  1. Download the cutting and assembly templates. Using the cutting template as reference, cut one front/back panel, one side panel, one pocket and one 1" square from the shopping bag rectangle.
  2. From the newspaper bag rectangle, cut three seam tapes and one handle, using the cutting template for reference. Fold each seam tape in half lengthwise.

Decorate It

  1. Cut out graphics, stripes, dots or other decorative shapes from the remaining shopping bags. Position the shapes on the front, back, side and pocket panels where desired, keeping in mind seam allowances and fabric overlaps. See the assembly template for reference. Overlap the shapes to create interest, if desired.
  2. Position one pattern piece over the parchment paper covered ironing surface. Place a piece of parchment paper over the pattern, and then press to fuse the decorative shapes. Don't use too much heat, as the plastic can become overly stiff, shrink or warp. Repeat to fuse the shapes to the remaining panels.

Sew It

  1. Position each pattern piece right side down on a flat work surface. Mark the front, back, base, sides, flap, handle placement and folds using a pencil and the assembly template for reference. Pin the pocket along the side panel as indicated by the assembly template. Edgestitch the pocket sides and lower edge.
  2. Position the side panel right side down vertically on a flat work surface. Position front/back panel right side down horizontally over the side panel, creating a T shape. Use the assembly template as a guide. Pin together the panels along the base. Stitch the base perimeter to secure the panels.
  3. Fold the front/back and side panels along the base to create creases. Fold up the panels along the creases and pin together the panels along the sides. Fold down the flap. Pin the handle along the flap right side along the placement marks. Fold the handle ends toward the wrong side.
  4. Beginning from one bag side-seam upper edge, position the seam tape over the seam, aligning the seam with the tape fold; pin. Remove the side-seam pins when applying the seam tape. Miter the corners by folding up the seam tape at a 90° angle and back down on itself at a 45° angle.
  5. Continue pinning seam tape to each side seam, mitering each corner. When more seam tape is needed, overlap one seam tape strip 1" over the previous seam tape and continue pinning. Pin the seam tape along the flap perimeter, catching the handle ends in the tape fold. Stitch the seam tape, ending the stitching 3/8" from the corners.

Finish It

  1. Center the plastic square 4" from the bag-front lower edge on the right side; pin. Position one button over the square. Hand-stitch the button using heavyweight thread.
  2. Center the remaining button ½" from the flap lower edge on the right side; stitch. Knot the hair tie along one end. Loop the hair tie over the flap button. To close the bag, loop the hair tie over the bag-front button.



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