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How To Make A Purse From Plastic Shopping Bags
I made this bag from plastic shopping bags and three old t-shirts. You can make any color you want but I made mine patriotic with red white and blue colors.
You should probably crochet on a medium level to attempt this project. It’s pretty easy for me but I’ve crocheted practically my whole life.
Finding colors is the hard part because most shopping bags are white. Home Depot and Lowes have beige and gray but most everyone else has gone to plain white.
Yellow is another color you can find here in Oklahoma, Dollar General has them and the people who deliver our telephone books use them.
The blue bags came from Best Buy and the red ones came from bags our newspaper was delivered in for a while. They’ve since switched to clear bags so no more pretty colors. I had one from a trendy teen clothing shop called Vanity but not sure if they still have red bags, you could check and see if you want a patriotic bag.
Ideally, you should use what you have on hand for the sake of recycling but if you want certain colors you can try to get your friends and family to help save colors for you. You know you’ve got it bad when you get excited over a hard to find color.
I didn’t go to the store for anything, not even the notions although I did run short of one blue bag and had to go buy something at Best Buy so I could get another bag. After buying three movies and a CD I could have probably bought a raffia purse but that would take the fun out of it.
My finished bag is 10” wide across the bottom, about 6” deep and 11” tall before stretching. The handles are 32” long and if I did it over I’d make them a bit shorter. They tend to stretch once you have all your stuff inside so take that into consideration when making yours.
About twenty plastic shopping bags: six blue, four red and ten white if you want to make a red, white and blue one like in the picture.
Size K crochet hook
Matching thread. I used red for the t-shirt lining and blue to stitch the lining to the purse because it was on a blue stripe.
Tiny snaps for the pockets and one big snap for the main closure.
One old size medium men’s t-shirt for lining and handles. I used red.
Two more contrasting t-shirts same size (you can make your lining and handles all one color and if so you will only need one shirt for the entire project.)
Doesn’t matter if your t-shirts have a picture or words on the front it will still work.
Start by cutting your plastic shopping bags into usable plarn. There are two ways to cut them, one by cutting a bunch of loops and connecting them (don’t use that method) and the other is one continuous long strip with less waste and knots. It’s much easier to learn watching this nice British lady’s instruction than for me to post pictures.
It will take about twenty shopping bags more if you make a larger purse. I didn’t want a really large one but I know bigger handbags are in style so you might want to increase this pattern.
Plastic shopping bags vary in size so you may need extras if yours are on the tiny size. Keep in mind these bags will stretch a bit between the crocheted plastic and the t-shirt knit you have some give.
Chain 15 and double crochet in the third chain. Double crochet to the end and then around to the other side increasing as needed to keep your work flat until you have four rows of stitches on each side, more if you are making a larger bag. You can still start with that initial 15 chain and just add a few more rows for a bigger purse.
I used white on the bottom because it’s the most common color and what I have the most of. I wanted to save my pretty colors for the sides that will be showing. You use whatever color you want.
After you get your bottom made add on your next color, which in my case was blue so that the colors would be red, white and blue in descending order. As you can tell by the picture my reds aren’t all the same and that’s okay it gives it that patchwork look. Some are even a bit on the pink side. It’s difficult to get dark colors in plastic bags because it takes a lot of dye to get the deep colors.
Make two rows of double crochet around decreasing so it will start to stand up in purse form. Switch colors and double crochet until you have 14 rows of colors two of each if you are changing as you go.
When you get to the top, I added two rows of white and left a two-stitch gap where my handles would go. I use four big safety pins to mark it. So you’ll double crochet around, chain two and skip two spots with the first row. You should end up with four holes for handles.
The second row you will double crochet around and when you get to those holes or chain twos you’ll double crochet two times in the gap.
I hope I’ve explained this well enough, if you have any questions feel free to leave me a comment below.
For your handles, I took three t-shirts, one white, one red and one blue. Cut off the hems of your shirts and throw them away unless you can figure out a use for them in another project. Then cut two, two-inch (I just eyeballed it, no need to measure or mark unless you cut really crooked) strips from the bottom of each shirt.
Cut these loops open, take a safety pin and hold one of each of the three colors together. This is where the help of a friend, husband or child comes in handy. Have someone hold one end while you braid the strips together. No need to finish off the edges, they won’t unravel.
After braiding fasten with another safety pin until you are ready to sew them to your bag. Measure first by holding them over your shoulder to see how long you want them. Cut them straight at both ends.
I just hand stitched the handles on. I have four sewing machines but prefer hand sewing. You do it however you choose just be aware that this will be bulky and might be a challenge to sew through.
I cut an oval from the top front of a red t-shirt that had a picture on the front. The graphics was put facing the inside of the purse so no one sees it anyway. As you can tell by the picture it’s not noticeable. Make sure you cut as close to the neckline as possible so you leave enough for the side lining.
Use the bottom of your bag as your pattern for cutting your bottom lining piece giving about a ¼” seam allowance. Again, no need to finish off the edges, the beauty of working with t-shirts is that they don’t unravel.
I cut around the bottom portion of the t-shirt from what was left after cutting my handles and oval to make the side lining leaving ¼” seam allowance. Measure your bag to see how much you need. Everyone’s crochet stitches are different so I’m not giving measurements for this. Stitch the side panel closed and to the bottom.
Personally, I like pockets. Nothing more frustrating then to dig around in a bottomless pit for my car keys or cell phone so if you also like pockets follow the next set of instructions. If you don’t want to mess with pockets you can skip the next section.
Pockets from sleeves
If you use both sleeves you’ll have four pockets. You can use just one sleeve if you don’t want or need that many pockets but it doesn’t take that much more time to go ahead and add the other one and then you have more places to put a pen, fingernail file, Hot Wheel car, screw your husband is replacing at the hardware store or whatever other treasures you and your family put in the family purse.
Cut off both sleeves like you see in the picture, cut open at the seam and square up the sides and top leaving a rectangle. The sleeve hem will become your finished top edge. Turn under the raw seems on the sides and bottom attaching to your lining with pins.
I sewed this by hand but if you prefer by all means use a sewing machine. Machinery and me don’t get a long so I sew by hand when I can. I can watch television while working on a project without the noise of a motor.
Be sure to leave room at the top of your lining to turn under when you attach it to your bag.
I eyeballed this but you can be more precise if you desire. No one is going to get out their tape measure to make sure you got it perfect and if they do swat their hand.
After you sew the rectangle down make another stitch down the center so you make two pockets. I found there was a natural line where the sleeve was folded making it easy. You should have two small square compartments from your rectangle one.
I noticed the pockets gapped open a bit and was afraid they might get in the way of the bigger opening so I sewed little snaps to help keep them closed. You don’t have to do this unless you want but it’s nice to have them.
Attaching your lining and handles
I took scraps to sew around the handle seams, about 2 ½” wide and 4” long. Fold in the sides covering the raw edges, overlap the length and fold in that raw edge as well. Slip-stitch the whole thing down stitching to the handle itself to avoid gaps.
Slip-stitch your lining to the top of the bag leaving the top two rows uncovered. Make sure your seams are toward the bag so they don’t show even though they will be inside.
Add the big snap in the middle for the main closure like the picture shows and you are all done.
It took me a few hours, probably a weekend to finish. If I didn’t have to feed people or have interruptions I could have done it in a day but my family has a habit of liking to eat.
I'm a big recycle nut and believe in reusing as much as we can. The less we put in the landfill the better. I have also made shopping bags from plastic bags knitting a long rectangle, slip stitch the sides and add old denim scraps from discarded blue jeans for a handle. I like fabric handles because they are less scratchy.
I keep a stack of bags in the back of my car and use them when I can so I get less plastic bags these days. Many stores will give you credit for bringing in your own bag so you get a few cents off your total as well as helping the environment.
I hope you understood my instructions; I should have taken pictures while assembling it but that would have taken me even longer to finish. Hopefully you can make sense of it. Feel free to ask any questions in the box below and happy crocheting.