The other night, Zhara and I found a few posts on reusing plastic shopping bags. We try and use reusable often, but sometimes an occasional plastic bag cannot be avoided, and so, during the year, we save them for various things. This year we are making reusable shopping bags and purses to give gifts in.
Here is a tutorial :
The first thing you need to do is fuse the bags. We found this tutorial that was pretty helpful. My suggestions is to fuse 8 layers of bag at a time. This means that you should cut off the handles, and then fuse either 4 bags without cutting them open, or 8 bags cut open. This basically just depends upon the size of bag that you want to finish with, as the cut open sections will create larger fused sheets to work with later. Try and put the printed sides to the inside to prevent the ink from running. That can mean turning the bags inside out, or opening them up and putting two printed sides towards each other.
I put a towel on our tile counter top, and placed the bags on that, and covered them in a piece of parchment paper that was slightly larger than the bags to be fused. Apply an iron that is on the permanent press of cotton setting to the parchment paper. You will be able to lift up the paper and see the plastic fusing. Make sure to get the edges. Turn over and do the other side. When it is completely fused, you can decorate.
Zhara wanted to make them especially awesome by cutting out sayings or pictures or letters to create new words, sayings, or pictures on the finished bags. My suggestion is to apply these at the very end, lest you melt the lettering. Place them on the bag, cover with the parchment paper, and fuse those briefly until they are completely adhered. Let your sheets cool.
I went ahead and did like 20 sheets of bags with all of our old bags, then took them to my sewing room when cooled, and used them like fabric to make multiple bags.
I sewed around the bottom to make it sit easier. I also zig-zagged around the top seam to make it more durable.
I think this size would be great as a small produce bag, for light shopping, like the pharmacy, or as an everyday purse. I plan on giving this one with a bottle of my husband's homemade wine and some homemade chocolates, or a pair of homemade flannel pj pants for a lovely holiday gift.
The other size I've made so far is larger. It has two wide identical rectangles for the front and back, and two narrow identical rectangles for the sides, and another rectangle for the bottom. My tip is to sew the four sides, inside out first. Then size the final rectangle after those are sewn. Pin it to the bottom, and sew all the way around. Turn it right side out, reinforce where you'd like, I sewed about three inches down the top of each side to make it naturally turn in instead of out. I also zig-zagged the top, added fabric handles, an inside pocket, and a velcro closure.
I think this one would be a great size for a regular shopping bag, a larger purse, or a diaper bag. You could fit most gifts in this bag.
The smaller bag contains about 8 former plastic bags. The larger one around 16-20. You can make them as large or small as you'd like. My daughter has already requested small purse sizes for her friends for Xmas.
Make something from the heart, reuse an item that has major ecological implications for our planet, and perhaps pass along a love for the planet and taking care of it, to someone who might not otherwise use something recycled. Perfect!