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How To Make A No Sew T-Shirt Tote Bag In 10 Minutes

on August 11 | in Crafts | by | with 55 Comments

How to make an old t-shirt into a CUTE tote bag/ farmer's market bag in 10 minutes.

So, the other day . . .

Daddypotamus stopped by Whole Foods after picking up produce, meat and cheese from our local farmers market. The cashier took one look at our reusable bags and, um, insisted on giving us new ones. Apparently, they don’t like the look of them after they’ve been repeatedly dragged along the ground by children who “help” unload the groceries.

Anyway, I’ve been looking for an easy-to-carry, washable alternative for the kids to use, and over the weekend I came across the perfect solution. My local thrift shop was selling cute t-shirts for 99 cents apiece that were practically begging to be upcycled into a farmer’s market tote. They’re 100% washable, and when they’re no longer useful as bags I can cut them into rags to clean with.

There was just one problem: I can’t sew. At all.

Fortunately, I came across some no-sew ideas that Katie and I adapted to fit our style (which, if you’re curious, generally favors the color red and anything Snoopy). The took no more than 10 minutes from start to finish, and I love how they turned out.

How to make an old t-shirt into a CUTE tote bag/ farmer's market bag in 10 minutes.

How To Make A No Sew T-Shirt Tote Bag

Supplies

  • Old t-shirt – The thicker the fabric, the sturdier the bag
  • Sharp scissors
  • Washable marker (optional)

Directions

Step 1: Cut the sleeves off

How to make an old t-shirt into a CUTE tote bag/ farmer's market bag in 10 minutes.

If you’d like to fold the t-shirt in half you can cut both sleeves at once so that they are identical. Or, if your material is too thick to cut them both at once, you can cut one, then fold it in half and use the cut side as a guide for the next sleeve.

Step 2: Cut the neckline area

How to make an old t-shirt into a CUTE tote bag/ farmer's market bag in 10 minutes.

If you’d like, you can turn the shirt inside out and trace the outline of a bowl before cutting. I used both methods and personally, I like free-hand cutting better because I prefer a slightly oval shape to a perfectly round one. I ended up trimming this one a bit to make it more oval.

Step 3: Determine how deep you want the bag to be

How to make an old t-shirt into a CUTE tote bag/ farmer's market bag in 10 minutes.

If you haven’t already turned your t-shirt inside out, do it now. Determine where you want the bottom of the bag to be and trace a line across. Keep in mind that depending on the fabric used, your tote is likely stretch and become longer when it’s filled with stuff.

Step 4: Cut fringe

How to make an old t-shirt into a CUTE tote bag/ farmer's market bag in 10 minutes.

Now grab your scissors and cut slits from the bottom of the shirt up to the line marking the bottom of your bag. You’ll want to cut both the front and back layers together because they need to match up for the next step.

How to make an old t-shirt into a CUTE tote bag/ farmer's market bag in 10 minutes.

I cut my slits about 3/4 to 1 inch apart.

Step 5: Tie Fringe

How to make an old t-shirt into a CUTE tote bag/ farmer's market bag in 10 minutes.

Okay, this is going to sound really complicated, but it’s NOT, promise. Take your first pair of fringe and tie it into a knot, then tie two more pairs. Now if you lift your bag you’ll see that although the pairs are pulling the bag together, there’s a hole between each pair. This next step will close those holes.

In the photo above you see three sets of fringe that have been tied in knots. What I do next is grab one strand from the middle set (the one with the arrow pointing left) and tie it in a knot with one of the strands on the left set. Then I take the other strand from the middle set (the one with the arrow pointing right) and tie it in a knot with one of the strands on the right set.

How to make an old t-shirt into a CUTE tote bag/ farmer's market bag in 10 minutes.

Then I take the remaining strand on the right set and tie it to the next set of strands, and so on and so forth until all the strands are tied. Now turn your t-shirt right side out again and voila, you’re done!

A Couple Of Fun Variations . . .

Turn the bag right side out when tying the fringe. This is one I made for Katiepotamus.

How to make an old t-shirt into a CUTE tote bag/ farmer's market bag in 10 minutes.

Tie the straps in knots, or tie bits of t-shirt scrap to the top as embellishments

How to make an old t-shirt into a CUTE tote bag/ farmer's market bag in 10 minutes.

How to make an old t-shirt into a CUTE tote bag/ farmer's market bag in 10 minutes.

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55 Responses to How To Make A No Sew T-Shirt Tote Bag In 10 Minutes

  1. Sarah says:

    So cute!! Definitely going to try this… now for a trip to the thrift store ;) Thanks for the simple tutorial!

  2. Kathryn says:

    Super cute! Love the fact that you used the front of the shirt as a bit of personalization. I foresee a few of these in my future. Great job!

  3. Thanks! I have been looking for a no sew version of this idea. Woot! I know what we will be using at the library next week.

  4. denise says:

    Excellent! I too do not sew. I have made fleece no sew blankets so this up my alley! Thanks for the share!

  5. Leah G says:

    I can’t sew to save my life despite a family of professional seamstresses. Can’t wait to try this. On a side note. My Hubby came back from the butcher today giddy as a school boy. He had a bag of beef kidney suet with the kidneys still attached. I laughed. This from a former coca cola addict. I thought of you.

    • Heather says:

      Haha! My husband picked up part of a cow share recently and called to ask me if I wanted him to get some cow tongue as well. I was like, “Sorry, no.” I’m just not there yet :)

      • Ina says:

        Tongue is delicious! Moist and very tender.
        Scrub it under running water, put in the big slow cooker, cover with water. Add salt, garlic, an onion, some bay leaves, peppercorns, juniper berries if you have them, do on high for 2 hours, then on low for 5. Remove from heat, let cool a little, peel the outer skin off, your pets will love the skin.
        Slice, great on sandwiches or served with a raisin, mustard or horseradish sauce.

  6. Ellie says:

    I love this. I have many t-shirts that are so cool but can’t wear any more or have too many of so I have to thin out to make room in my draws:-)

  7. lyss says:

    Love it! I need to make some grocery bags. Most of mine are wearing out, too. I much prefer my fabric ones that I can throw in the wash, over the reusable ones you get for a dollar or two. I’d sew the bottom with a machine, but for those who don’t have one, this is awesome!
    Quick question…did you make the round rug? If so, is it made from t-shirts? I’ve seen some similar, and I just love it!

    • Lori Gearheart says:

      I’m insanely curious about the rug as well & would shout Woo Hoo if it was made from T-shirts & there was a tutorial!!! Love that rug!!

  8. Andrea says:

    My daughter (13) saw this post this afternoon and has spent the rest of the day going through her old t-shirts (and mine!) and making these bags. We now have several really cute shopping bags!

  9. Adorable idea! I think these will be stocking stuffers for my 14 grandkids this year.

  10. Sara says:

    Love this! My husband is always bringing me home event t-shirts that I’ll never wear (aside from pajamas) but wouldn’t mind using them as a shopping bag. I can totally see using concert or festival t-shirts for this! Thanks!

  11. Sheena says:

    Great stuff! If only I would remember to take the bags out of my car instead of filling my purse!

  12. […] Make A No Sew T-Shirt Tote Bag In 10 Minutes […]

    • Faith Bloome-Krupnik says:

      Brilliant!!! Thank you for this great and SO practical project, Mommypotomus! Got to run now and grab some T-shirts!
      Faith
      Netanya, Israel

  13. Sarah says:

    Thank you! My girls just got finished making this. So cute and very simple!

  14. Dawn says:

    Such a cute idea! I love the rug in the background too! ;) Would you mind sharing where that came from?

    • Heather says:

      Ha, I’ve gotten tons of questions about that rug since I posted photos of it as part of my son’s birth story. I bought it online, but unfortunately it’s no longer in stock :(

  15. Lark says:

    Where did you buy the your beautiful round braided wool rug in the last picture? Please tell me!
    {b.t.w thank you sooo much for your blog, such a blessing to so many mamas}

  16. Monica says:

    BEST idea, ever!!! Thank you! ❤

  17. Amy says:

    I am so happy to stumble across this tutorial! I have a million tshirts I can’t let go of but that I surely do not wear. And we looove bags in this house! I’m turning them into tote bags immediately! Thank you, thank you, thank you :)

  18. This is so cool! I have been wanting to do something like this for a while but didn’t know how to go a bout it. Thanks for the awesome tutorial!

  19. This is wonderful….. I always felt that some of the grocery bags that are sold as cloth bags do not last as long as they should and they are not too good in the wash…
    Our Girl’s Empowerment Program has recently opened a Thrift Store here on Guam and we have so many t-shirts we are selling them for 4 for $1….. I’d love to have the girls make these bag as a fundraiser for our arts & crafts programs.

  20. This is adorable! Love them so much! And so simple. Thanks for sharing! <3 <3

  21. Patricia says:

    Love this! So easy you could even do it with your kids. Thanks for sharing :)

  22. Val says:

    Its a great idea! I made it with my three kids and they love it! They decided to decorate it with ribbons made with the sleeve remains. Also, we put beads with hot silicone.

  23. Anything new sew is right up my alley. Love this idea!

  24. Shirley Cole says:

    Great way for bags for grocery store. Here where I shop at Krogers I get 5 cents back for each bag we bring in to carry out our grocerys. Win win. Give as gifts that way to friends without it being expensive but thoughtful. Get read for any gift giving time.

  25. Lynn says:

    I just made this and it is darling. The,t-shirt was an extra large and took me a lot longer than 10 minutes, but it turned out and my husband didnt believe I made it without sewing! Thank you.

  26. I love this idea! I think I’ll make a bunch of these but just sew a super quick stitch across the bottom instead of tying. It would seriously only take 4 minutes so it’s perfect!

  27. Mary says:

    I need to try that, looks so cool and easy!

  28. lillie says:

    Target has red snoopy shirts in the big boys clearance section for 3.88.l

  29. Very interesting. Going to make for my grandchildren.

  30. Patricia Hardman says:

    This is a great idea for putting books or anything else you want to use it for. Love it

  31. pam says:

    OK…maybe it’s just too early in the day for my little brain…

    On the red and white striped bag you show, where’s the fringe? In the Snoopy shirt example the fringe hangs down. In the striped shirt example it’s not there.

    Help! I prefer no fringe but I cannot sew either!

    • Heather says:

      Pam, when the fringe is not visible it’s because it’s inside the bag. When I made the Snoopy bag I turned it inside out, tied the fringe, and then turned it right side out again.

  32. Jearise says:

    I love this idea. I’ve seen other variations of it but none quite like this. I want to try it with some t-shirts we have that the kids have outgrown. I know they’ll love the idea especially my daughter. BTW someone posted your idea with a link to your blog on FACEBOOK so your idea is make the internet rounds. :)

  33. Che-Cheh says:

    Love the idea of tying the fringes. So glad no sewing is needed because I can’t really sew! I have a couple of old tees waiting for me to turn them into tote bags! Thanks. :)

  34. Andie says:

    I love this idea, I think it’s great.. but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do NOT go out and buy shirts from thrift stores (or bargain stores) specifically for the purpose of cutting them up to make bags. PLEASE use ones you already have at home.

    Some people have to rely on thrift stores for their every day wear because they cannot afford to buy brand-new clothes and every shirt that someone buys from a thrift store (same goes for the cheap shirts from Target) to make a bag means a shirt that someone who actually needs a shirt to wear rather than a cute shopping bag goes without.

    Upcycling is great, but not at the expense of people who need access to inexpensive clothing.

    • Pam Medlin says:

      We’re such a wasteful society that I highly doubt someone would end up going without because people buy a few t-shirts at a thrift store.

  35. Pamela says:

    So easy and really neat. Will be doing this with my grandchildren. Great project for just about any group to do.

  36. Kristina says:

    if you cut the shirt while it’s wet, then throw it in the dryer, the cut parts will roll under for a more “finished” look!

  37. Merri says:

    Oh boy…headed there RIGHT NOW to create my new bag!!! Excellent ideas! Thanks

  38. rosey_cheeks says:

    Love the idea of t shirt bags!!! For those of us who hang our laundry outside, it would make a great clothes pin holder also using a small t shirt. I was happy to come across your blog, thanks

  39. kari says:

    What size tshirt did you use? Do you have any idea what size tshirt makes what size bag? Thanks!

  40. Christine says:

    I’m wondering about the top when you’ve cut off the sleeves/collar… without hemming the fabric there does it curl/get messy/unravel at all? It seems a lot easier than the sewing versions, but that’s the difference I’m most curious about. Thanks for a no-sew option!!

  41. Toni says:

    I LOVE THIS IDEA. I collect tote bags, but sometimes they are kind of heavy. These will be great, I love that they are washable and they take up almost no room to store, when not in use. Thanks for sharing this idea!!!

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