How to Make a Grocery Bag Holder Out of Fabric

January 06, 2011 The Provident Princess 0 Comments

I have been so excited to post this tutorial. I had to wait until after Christmas because this is what I gave to all my sisters/ sisters-in-law for Christmas this year and didn't want to give away the surprise. 

Provident living isn't just about building up food storage. It is about making use of what you have. I don't know about you, but I always save the plastic grocery bags from the store. I use them for small garbage can liners and anytime I need to bag up something. Lately, I've discovered that they are perfect to throw stinky diapers in before tossing outside. I used to use a diaper pail but man, the stink of week old diapers about knocks me out when I have to open the lid to change the bag.

So I've been using my saved up plastic grocery bags to get rid of my daughter's diapers more frequently. It started getting really annoying having to go to the kitchen where I keep my bags to get one every time I needed one for a diaper though. I couldn't just keep a stack of them in her room. I mean I could, but it would be ugly to have this massive stack on her changing table so I decided to make a cute holder for them.

Growing up, my mom always had this fabric bag in our pantry that she could stuff all her plastic bags in and just pull one out at a time when she needed one. It's a great way to make something ordinary look pretty and brighten your pantry or room.

This is so easy to make. I am not a seamstress by any means so don't think it is too hard to try. I didn't even have a pattern for this. I just got my mom's out and used it as a template.

What you'll need:
25 inch long cut of cute fabric 
9 inch piece of 1/4" elastic
sewing machine
measuring stick/ ruler
rotary cutter or fabric scissors 

Lay out your fabric, it will already be folded in half lengthwise from the way it lays on the bolt at the store. Keep it folded on that line but make sure to line up your finished edges opposite the fold. Usually, it will have the brand or a white band running across one of them. See the white strip on mine? That edge looks good. It won't fray like the raw edges where they cut your fabric and aren't evenly cut. That doesn't matter, that's what we are going to take care of next. Just make sure the edges that are across from the fold line up. I did mine on a cutting mat so I could easily line everything up. If you don't have one of those, just use the edge of a table/ bar.

Now it's time to even out the side edges. Take your measuring stick/ ruler and put it as close to the edge of the fabric as you can get while maintaining a straight line of fabric from the fold to the finished edge. This is where you will make your cut and have a perfectly straight edge. Cut and repeat on the other side.

So right now if you took a yardstick and measured your fabric it should be folded over to be around 25"x22". It could be closer to 24 1/2. That is fine.

Now we need to make another cut. This time only 3 inches. Line up your ruler on the left or right side of your now perfectly straight fabric. Count out 2 inches and cut all the way down. Save this 2" strip for later. (The store cut me more than 25" so I had about 4" to cut off.)

Take your ruler and place it as close to the folded edge as you can get while leaving enough room to cut. Cut all the way down the fold separating the layers. You should now have 2 pieces of fabric exactly the same size. Save this little strip for later.

That was the hardest part. All the rest is super easy.

Serge or zigzag stitch all the way around your 3 raw edges. This is just to keep them from fraying, you won't see them when the bag is finished. Great, now set it aside for a minute. 

Remember that 3 inch strip of fabric we cut earlier? Now we are going to make it into the strap that loops around your doorknob or hook to hang your bag on. You don't need all of it. We just need about 7 inches. Zigzag stitch or serge down the length of the fabric with the right-sides together. That means that the back of the fabric should be facing out. I wasn't too precise about this. I just serged until it looked like about 7 inches then I cut off from the rest of the fabric.

Now, turn it right side out. Start by folding the top over and pulling as you go. We don't want the side where we stitched along to show.

You should have a tube that looks like this when you are done.

Grab your big piece of fabric again and fold it in half with right-sides together. Make sure that you folded it hotdog style so that it is 23"x11". The long side of your bag should have 2 of the serged edges together. 

 This is where you can start to see your bag coming together. Use straight pins to pin your fabric together on the 2 sides where you have already serged or zigzag stitched. (Across from the fold lengthwise and down one side.) We want to leave the side with the finished edges open  because this is going to be the opening of your bag. When you get to about 3 inches from the fold, stop.

It's time to stick out little strip of fabric in to make the loop. Fold the strap in half so the open raw edges are together. Stick it right along the fold of your big piece of fabric coming out the end where you are pinning it shut. Line up the raw edges of the strap with the serged edges of the bag. Finish pinning your bag together.
Now it's time to sew. A normal seam allowance is about 1/2 inch. Line up your fabric with the line on your sewing machine for 1/2 inch. Sew all the way around the pinned sections of your bag making sure to pull the pins out as you go so you don't run any over.

When you get to the end where your strap is make sure to backstitch over it a few times to reinforce that seam and make the strap able to stand up to a little wear and tear.

If you're too excited to wait to see what your bag is going to look like and want to flip it right-side out now to look feel free. I always like to look.

Your loop should look like this. 

OK, that's enough, flip it inside out again.

It's time to make the casing for your elastic. Grab your fabric at the side that is still open. I think it is easiest to start where your long seam that you just made is. Make sure the sides are pressed open like this and fold your fabric under about 3/4 of and inch.

Once you have it folded down all the way around, pin it.


Still using the 1/2" marker on your machine as a guide, sew almost all the way around your folded over strip. You want to leave about 1 1/2 inches open so you have room to stick your elastic through.

Cut your elastic to about 8 inches. I did quite a few bags and this was the weirdest part. I had two different kinds of elastic and one of them was totally stretchier than the other. You will need more elastic if yours is less stretchy. The way I decided was by holding 2 ends together so it formed a circle and stretched. I wanted the stretched circle to measure 11 inches. So for one elastic I used 7 inches and the other I used closer to 9. Basically, you just want to make sure your opening will be big enough to be able to stuff your grocery bags through but not so big that they fall out, or more than one can come out at a time when you pull.

Put a safety pin through the end of your elastic and thread through your casing. 


Your fabric should bunch together as you pull your pin through. When you get to the beginning pull the safety pin out the same place it went in.

Almost done.

Using a needle and thread, sew the two pieces of elastic together forming a loop. Make sure it is good and tight. This will be getting a lot of tugging and pulling on it. When it's together, take your bag and stretch open the top of the bag. This will pull your elastic up into the casing.

Close of the opening where the elastic went through. Make sure to backstitch so it doesn't come loose and also not to sew over your elastic.

Woohoo! Turn that baby right-side out and take a look at your finished project.

The opening should look like this.

Remember that tiny strip of fabric you cut off when we separated the two layers of fabric? At quilt stores they use those to tie up fat quarters and make them look pretty. I used that same idea to wrap around my grocery bag holders before I gave them away. I think it just adds a little something extra. 

Good  Job! Now you can relax and go find somewhere to display your cute fabric grocery bag holder or you can start making another one with the extra piece of fabric you have. J/K

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