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Sewing Reusable Eco-Friendly Produce Bags

You’re standing in front of that huge roll of flimsy plastic bags. You’ve licked your fingers, you’ve savagely clawed at the roll, and you finally resort to grabbing the roll and viciously yanking off the stretchy bag…only to discover that in your zeal to acquire the bag – you ripped it. Sigh! And even if you’re lucky enough to get the desired bag off the roll and your produce into the bag – what are the odds you’ll make it all the way home without an apple or onion rolling from the top or bursting the bag?

In today’s environmentally conscious society, we want to reduce the pollution caused by manufacturing plastics and other disposable products. In addition to reducing pollution, consumers are eager to also reduce the litter and waste that these products create. How many plastic bags are buried in landfills? According to the Clean Air Council, Americans use 60,000 plastic bags every 5 SECONDS. 1 billion bags a year. 30,000 tons of plastic bag waste in landfills annually that will take about 500-1000 YEARS to completely degrade. That’s a lot of plastic.

People have been shopping for centuries without the use of plastic bags and have survived just fine. Leather or fabric bags, baskets, and wood crates have carried groceries and products from one spot to another. Plastic bags were introduced as a “convenience” for the shopper – but with the rise of floating bags littering our towns and cities, and the cost of burying these bags in landfills – how much is that convenience really costing us?

You can sew environmentally friendly produce bags on a simple sewing machine using a straight stitch. You don’t need a fancy machine to create a nice looking bag. The bag can be simple or you can add a casing for a drawstring. Adding a plastic toggle can add the security of a “lock” to keep your drawstring closed so your produce stays inside.


What you need:

Muslin or mesh apprx 2 rectangles, 13-inches wide x 18-inches long
Thread
Straight pins
Scissors
Iron & Ironing board
Cotton cord or twill tape - 30-inches long
2- Safety pins
Plastic/metal spring toggle

Place the 2 muslin or mesh rectangles together. Since both sides are identical, you don’t have to worry about an “inside out” side. Pin.

Using a straight stitch with a ¼-inch seam allowance, sew the right and left sides and one end. The end not sewn will be the “top” of the bag where the opening will be.

Turn bag right side out. If you want you can stop here and you have sewn a reusable bag. Or you can continue on with this article to create a more durable, long-lasting bag. Don’t want to make your own bags but really really really WANT the bags? Click here to buy a set in my Ebay Store (Farmhouse Favorites).



Iron your bag. You are going to “French Seam” your bag so the inside will look as nice as the outside and the double seaming will make your bag stronger. Your bag should be right side out but this will soon be the inside of the bag after you’ve finished sewing the seams again.



Using a straight stitch, and a 1/4 to ½ seam allowance (I find that wider seams sometimes are stronger) sew the left, right and bottom of the bag along the seams.

Iron the bag. Once again, you can stop here and have a stronger, finished reusable produce bag. Or you can continue on to sew a casing and insert a drawstring.

Fold over the top edge of the bag’s opening ¼-inch. Pin and sew using zig zag or straight stitch. (The photo shows a christmas fabric bag -- same step however). This is the hem.  Fold the hemmed top edge over 1-inch and pin the edge to the bag fabric. This will be the casing for the drawstring. After sewing, you will insert the drawstring through the “tunnel” you will be sewing.


Using a straight stitch and a ¾-inch seam allowance, sew the pinned edge, removing pins as you sew.  Leave a ½-inch “gap” or opening unsewn for insertion of the drawstring.



Iron the casing to set the seams and create a crisp finish to the bag’s top.  In the photos I sewed a second decorative seam to add to the aesthetic value of the produce bag.



Fasten a safety pin to one end of your cord or twill tape and attach it to the outside of the opening you left in the casing (this will keep your cord from disappearing into the casing while you’re feeding it through). Fasten a safety pin to the other end of the cord.



Insert the free end of the cord/safety pin into the casing and feed it through until it re-emerges from the opening. Pull the cord ends and adjust the casing/bag so the cord ends are even. The photo shows a christmas bag with the same step.


You can tie a knot to the cord ends or you can insert the ends through a plastic toggle, and then tie the knot. The knot will keep your cord from coming out of your produce bag. Toggles can be purchased from craft, sewing and most fabric stores.  I buy mine on ebay in bulk.


Voila! You have a finished produce bag. The instructions sound more complicated than it really is. Everyone knows what a simple bag is – and that’s all you’re making. It can be as easy or advanced as you wish to make it. Either way, you have an environmentally friendly, reusable bag that you can bring your produce home from the store in and know you are not contributing to the pollution of our planet.



Look for other useful tips and projects in my journal index! http://angelinehawkes.livejournal.com/180046.html

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