Sam is the mother of two young boys, Juju and Blaze. Their family enjoys going on trips, crafting, learning, and exploring.
Upcycle Your Clothes Into Something New!
When I was a kid, I loved turning clothes I had outgrown or unwanted hand-me-downs into new things. One project I enjoyed was turning shirts into bags. I was actually inspired by a bag I bought from Hot Topic that looked like it had been made out of a lightweight kid's penguin hoodie. This bag opened my eyes to a whole new world of DIY possibilities—ever since then, I've been looking for DIY fashion inspiration in everything, everywhere I go.
Learn how to create your own bags from unwanted shirts, sweaters, hoodies, tank tops, and long-sleeved shirts. All of the designs I've drawn out are pretty basic and easily customizable with fabric paint, embellishments, or whatever else you'd like to add. However, I've also included links and resources to more elaborate tutorials if you're looking for more of a challenge or a different style.
Basic Tank Top Tote
This is the simplest way to convert a shirt into a bag.
- Take a tank top and turn it inside out.
- Cut off any excess material from the bottom if you think it is too long. Make sure to leave a seam allowance.
- Sew up the bottom of the bag.
- Turn it right side out. Decorate and embellish it any way you choose.
- The armholes act as the straps, and the neckline is the opening to the shirt.
If you have excess material, you can use it to make a strap or flap to close your bag. You could also add a snap or button to the inside to close it up. The excess material could also be used to create a small pocket on the inside or outside of your shirt.
If you want, try learning how to make a six-pocket tote bag!
How to Make a Reversible Tank Top Tote
Here's a way to make a tank top tote that you could use as a shirt again if you want to. This is a great DIY project if you need a bag at the beach or last minute. It's also great for those of you who are not so great for a no-sew method of making shirt totes or a kid's project.
What You'll Need
- Tank top
- Hair tie
- Rubber band
- Piece of string/ribbon.
- Take your tank top and turn it inside out.
- Take your hair tie or rubber band to secure it tightly at the bottom of your tank top.
- Turn your shirt right side out, and you have your tank top bag!
- If you ever need to use your shirt again, just take out the hair tie/rubber band, iron out the shirt and you're good to go!
As a side note, if you intend to reuse your tank top again, try not to carry heavy things in the bag. Otherwise, it will stretch out your shirt and warp the fit.
Basic T-Shirt Tote
This tote is similar to the tank top tote, except there is an extra step.
- When starting your t-shirt tote, cut off the sleeves and cut out the collar so the straps can stretch a bit.
- Then continue as you would with a tank tote.
- Turn the shirt inside out.
- Trim off excess length from the bottom.
- Sew up the bottom.
- Turn right side put and decorate.
You could finish the edges of the straps, if you want, or you could just stretch the material a bit so it curls and won't unravel.
- You could add pockets with material from the sleeves or excess.
- Add a flap, strap, button, or snap to keep your bag closed.
- Create a produce bag by cutting horizontal or vertical slits in a pattern across the bag.
Here are some other great ways you can create your t-shirt bags:
You could convert your long-sleeve shirt into a bag the same way you did your t-shirt, or you could try this way!
- Turn your long sleeve shirt inside out.
- Trim excess material from the bottom, if needed. Leave a seam allowance and stitch it shut.
- Turn it right side out.
- Using an invisible stitch, sew the openings of the sleeves together. This will be the strap, so if you think it'll be too long, trim it first.
- Add the finishing touches and enjoy!
Change up your bag by trying a few of these ideas:
- Use a long sleeve shirt with a hood for a flap to the bag.
- Use excess material to create a strap or flap to keep the bag shut.
- Add a snap or button to keep the bag closed.
- Use excess material to make pockets.
- Line bag with a t-shirt or fabric for extra strength.
Here are some other ways to create bags out of long sleeved shirts.
- Make a Bag Out of a Long-sleeved Kids Shirt
- Long Sleeve Shirt Bag V.2
- Men's Button Down & Tie to Cute Tote Bag
Sweater or Hoodie Bag
You can make hoodie and sweater bags the same way as you make t-shirt totes or long sleeve bags, or you can make them this way. For a diaper bag or large purse, use an adult-size sweater or hoodie. For a cosmetic bag or a smaller purse, use a child or baby-size sweater or hoodie.
Also, while hand sewing is fine when working with lightweight materials like cotton t-shirt fabric, it is much easier to make sweater bags with a sewing machine than to sew it by hand. This could be a good project for sewing machine novices to get some practice in.
- Take your sweater and cut out the bottom half, this is the section you will be using for the body of your bag.
- Trim off any excess length, leaving about an inch seam allowance. If you're using a wool or knitted sweater, I'd suggest using the bottom part of the sweater as the opening for your bag. If you are using a sweatshirt or hoodie, remove the band at the bottom or use it as the opening of your bag.
- Create straps out of the sleeves. If you want a messenger bag then cut sleeves into four equal rectangle strips. Stitch the short ends of two of the strips together and repeat with the other two. Then, Sew the strips on top of each other, wrong side facing out. Turn it inside out and you have a messenger bag strap.
- For handbag straps cut four evenly sized rectangles. Sew one strip on top of the other with the wrong side facing out, then turn inside out. Repeat with the other two strips and you have your handles.
- Alternatively, you can create straps by cutting strips from the sleeves and braiding the material.
- Turn your material inside out. Hem raw edges of the opening. Stitch straps or handles to the inside of the bag. Add lining and a zipper if desired, then stitch the bottom shut.
- Turn bag right side out and add any finishing touches.
A Few Things to Consider
- If your sweater was wool and you'd like a felted look, wash your bag in hot water, rinse it with cold water, and then put it in the dryer before adding your finishing touches. The bag will come out felted.
- Try using material from an old belt, a hip chain, jean or canvas material, or other materials to make bag straps instead of the sleeves for a more interesting look.
Other Ways to Turn Sweaters and Hoodies Into Bags
Other DIY Bag Tutorials
- Galaxy Fabric Bag: Learn how to make fabric that looks like outer space and how to make a cute pouch style bag.
- DIY Fold-up Tote: Fold up totes are awesome for trips, people who are out a lot, and mommies on the go. You can also easily bring a bunch of them with you to the supermarket and use them as needed in place of plastic bags.
Other Upcycled Shirt Projects
- DIY Braid Jewelry: Use the t-shirt yarn you made in the tutorial above and this tutorial to create cool braided jewelry pieces.
- 10 T-Shirt Scarf Tutorials: Really cute and sweet, easy to make, t-shirt scarf tutorials.
- Fitted Tee Tutorial: Have a large shirt you like but doesn't fit right? Use this tutorial to obtain the perfect fit.
Samantha Harris (author) from New York on June 25, 2013:
They're especially nice for the summer or for kids because you don't mind so much if they a little messed up and if they get dirty you can just throw them in the wash with your other clothes. :)
FullOfLoveSites from United States on June 25, 2013:
It's really cute! These old t-shirts will make fashionable eco bags. Thanks for posting followthestray! Will follow them. Up and useful, bookmarked. :)
Samantha Harris (author) from New York on March 16, 2013:
No problem and thank you too.
Saim from California on March 15, 2013:
Interesting tips and tricks to make the bags with old T-shirts. i really like your idea. thanks
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 24, 2013:
Cool! Will certainly come back to this hub. Thanks for sharing your creativity. Voted Up and Useful.
Ms. Immortal from NJ on January 23, 2013:
I love this idea. Will pass it on!
Faythe Payne from USA on January 22, 2013:
WOW..very cute and great idea..voting up and across the board.