I'm so excited to bring you this free reusable market bag tutorial for a few reasons. The first reason is that it is so cute! Many times in the craft world a cute project means it's a time consuming, difficult project, but that leads me to reasons two and three as to why I love this tutorial...
This reusable market bag is not only FAST to make, I'm talking make a few in an afternoon fast, it's also beautifully simple and easy. Aside from hemming the shoulder strap (which you already know how to do from making envelope fold pillows), this pattern only uses French seams.
French seams may sound intimidating because they are French, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Unlike macarons and meringues, these seams do not require a delicate hand from a master. All they truly are is a seam inside another seam so that speedy crafters, such as you and me, can avoid sewing lining. French seams are a quick and clever way to encase raw edges.
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How to Sew a Reusable Market Bag
Above I mentioned that this reusable market bag is cute, fast and easy to make, but I didn't tell you that it's also a wonderful project for kids just learning to sew. This bag pattern allows for lots of margin for flubs and mistakes. The only thing you've got to remember to do every time you sit down at your machine is backstitch.
Backstitch. Backstitch. Backstich.
These bags will be getting filled with heavy things like cans, bags of flour and whatever other food items you like to purchase, so lock in each and every stitch by sewing backwards over it and then forwards again.
Reusable Market Bag Supplies
Honestly, this short supplies list is quite thrilling because you probably already have everything and can make one of these bags RIGHT NOW! Yay!
- 4 *fat quarters (My fabric is from the Kaleidoscope collection by Alison Glass. It is reversible, so try not to let that confuse you when I talk about wrong and right sides of fabric.)
- Marking tool (I'm using this water-soluble disappearing ink pen)
- Ruler, rotary cutter and cutting mat
- Basic sewing machine and thread (When you hem the shoulder strap your thread will be visible. Keep that in mind if you want it to match it to the fabric.)
* A fat quarter, or FQ, is a pre-cut of fabric measuring 18" x 21". You can make your own fat quarter from yardage by first cutting a yard in half, rotating it 90-degrees, and then cutting it in half again.
NOTE: This bag can be made with one yard of fabric, just skip to Step 3.
Step 1: Trim your fabric.
Stack your FQs on top of each other (I stacked all four, but you can stack them two and two.) Trim all of the FQs so they measure 17" x 20".
Step 2: Pair the fat quarters together and sew.
It's time to sew our first French seams! Are you excited!? I hope so because we do this a few times during this reusable market bag tutorial.
1. Lay out your FQs as you would like them to look in the bag.
2. Pair the FQ on top with the one on bottom.
3. For each pair, place one FQ on top of its partner WRONG sides together. This is opposite what you typically do when sewing. When placing the fabrics wrong sides together that means on both sides the right sides of the fabric are facing out.
4. Pin and sew a 1/4" seam on both units. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam.
5. Press the seams towards the dark fabric then flip the fabric so the right sides are together. (That means you will see the wrong side or back of the fabric.) Press the fabric one more time so that it lays flat. Pin the seam in place.
6. Now sew a 1/2" seam over the 1/4" seam on both units, backstitching at the beginning and end.
7. Press the seams of the two units in opposite directions so that eventually they can nest together. You have just completed your first French seams!
Step 3: Mark and cut both units.
1. Fold both units in half down the length of the unit. You can press this fold if that helps you stay accurate.
2. Lay one unit down so that the fold is on your left. With your marking tool, place a guidemark 4" from the fold on the top. Place a second guidemark on the right side of the fabric 17" down.
3. With a rotary cutter, cut from one mark to the other.
Step 4: Hem the shoulder strap.
1. Open up one unit so that the wrong side is facing up. It should look like this...
2. Once you have admired your French seam again, make sure that the 17" guidemarks are still visible on both sides. If they aren't, mark them again.
3. Fold and press the raw edge in a 1/4", then in again another 1/4". At the 17" guidemark, curve the fold in slightly so that it will be able to tuck into a 1/2" future French seam.
4. Pin and sew a finishing stitch as close to the fold of the hem as possible while still catching it. Don't forget to backstitch at the beginning and end. Your top and bobbin thread will be visible in this hem, so you may want to match your thread to the fabric.
5. Hem the other three sides of the shoulder strap just like you did the first one. Press all of the hemmed edges once you're finished.
Step 5: Sew French seams along the sides.
Now that we're finished with those hems, let's get back to our lovely French seams!
1. Place one unit on top of the other unit wrong sides together and right sides facing up. Line up the edges and nest the center French seams where you previously sewed.
2. Pin along both edges and sew 1/4" seams, backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam. This is the part that always feels strange because we are used to sewing with right sides together. Just keep reminding yourself that for a French seam, you have to sew the same seam twice, so eventually we'll end up sewing a seam with right sides together, just not at first.
3. Once you've sewn your initial seam, you know the drill – press your seams to the side, flip the fabric, pin and sew a 1/2" seam to encase the first seam. Just don't forget to backstitch. 😉
Flip the fabric again so that the right sides of the fabric are facing out. Press your seam a final time to the side. If you need more details than that, revisit Step 2.
Step 6: Sew the shoulder strap together with a French seam.
The sides of your bag are sewn, now it's time to connect the shoulder strap with another French seam. Can you guess what the first step is?
1. Place wrong sides together and sew a 1/4" seam, backstitching at the beginning and end.
2. Press the seam, flip the fabric, pin and sew a 1/2" seam. Flip the fabric one more time and press the French seam to the side. Your shoulder strap is complete!
Step 7: Decide on a desired length for your bag.
Throw the bag over a shoulder and decide how long you would like it to be. I'm pretty tall (5'8") and this is what the bag looks like untrimmed. A good test is to reach inside and see where your hand comfortably falls. You need to be able to reach the bottom of the bag.
This next bag has been trimmed by 7". It looks and feels more like a casual shopping bag rather than a fit-all-my-groceries-in-it bag.
Step 8: Trim and sew a final French seam along the bottom of the bag.
1. Once you have the right length to your bag, lay it out so that you can see all four fabrics. The connecting seam should be running vertically down the center.
2. Sew a final French seam along the bottom of the bag. To do this, pin the bottom of the bag just like this with wrong sides together and the right sides of the fabric facing up. Then sew a 1/4" seam. Looks weird, right? That's ok!
Press the 1/4" seam so it lays flat, then flip the bag inside out and sew a 1/2" at the bottom of the bag – encasing the first 1/4" seam. Flip the bag one more time, give it a final press, and you're finished! For a more detailed refresher on French seams, wich pictures, look back at Step 2.
Voila! Très bien, mon petit chou! You are now fancy and French and ready to sew lots and lots of reusable market bags! One fun idea is to scrap the wrapping paper this holiday season and use these scrappy reusable bags instead! Double presents for all!