Bountiful Trip to the Market: T-Shirt Turned Reusable Grocery Bag

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I started my teaching career at 21 years old, promptly after graduating college. Filled with optimism conjured from years of watching “Dangerous Minds” and “Stand and Deliver”, I set out on my journey to shape the leaders of the future. No amount of schooling, mentoring, or job shadowing, however, could have possibly prepared me for the overwhelming exhaustion of being a brand new teacher in an underprivileged school.

I cried everyday for sixth months. I worked 70 hours a week just to survive the 6½ hour school day. Amidst the fatigue, I remember the unparalleled relief I felt when that school bell rang at 3:00pm on Friday. I had survived another week and was duly rewarded with my weekend.

The Saturday morning Farmers’ Market was my weekly reprieve. The freshness of the produce, the vivacious atmosphere, and the bold colors all brought solace during the chaos of my first year of teaching. For that one hour on Saturday morning, I did not have to think about the student screaming obscenities from beneath his desk. I relished the opportunity to mindlessly consider the bell peppers.

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It is for this reason that Farmers’ Markets hold a special place in my heart. Many years later, I find myself living in California with a year-round, twice weekly Farmers’ Market. What more could a girl want?

My local Farmers’ Market adopted a zero waste initiative in 2010. All waste items generated from vendors, such as plates and utensils, are compostable. Leftover produce is donated to the local food bank. Additionally, the market eliminated the use of plastic bags. All this is to say we have quite a focus on reducing waste, and it would be mighty foolish to arrive without reusable grocery bags.

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For this week’s bountiful trip to the market, I decided to try out a No-Sew Bag made from an old T-shirt. Here’s how I made it:

I began by cutting the sleeves off of the T-shirt. Just like that, my bag had handles.

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I traced the neckline of the front of the shirt onto the fabric of the back of the shirt. I cut along the line to create an even oval shape between the handles of my bag. Men’s t-shirts are less likely to have a dropped neckline (unless you’re all about the Deep V…). In that case, just draw an oval shape onto the front of the shirt and cut both the front and back pieces of fabric simultaneously.

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I turned the T-shirt inside out. I then determined the desired length of the bag and marked the length by drawing a line across the T-shirt.

Cutting from the bottom of the shirt to the line, I created ¾ inch- 1 inch strips of fringe. I cut both the front and back pieces of fabric simultaneously to keep the strips of fabric aligned.

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I then began tying the front and back strips of fringe together to create the bottom of the bag. Now, I could have stopped here, but I noticed there were still some large holes between the knotted fringe. I was pretty sure my eggplant wasn’t going anywhere, but still, I prefer a solid bottom to my bags.

To close up the holes, I started with the first three knots. Using the middle knot, I tied the top piece of fabric to a piece of fringe on the left, and the bottom piece of fabric to a piece of fringe on the right. Using the picture below, I tied A to B (top piece of fabric tied to the left) and C to D (bottom piece of fabric tied to the right). I continued this pattern along the length of the bag. If this is a bit complicated and all else fails, just start tying fringe to other pieces of fringe. The holes will close up eventually.

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I trimmed down the length of the excess fabric on the fringe and turned the shirt right side out to reveal my finished bag.

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In less than 15 minutes, I repurposed an old shirt into a reusable bag. It’s eco-friendly enough for the market, yet strong enough to tote home my mindlessly considered bell peppers.

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