Friday, March 21, 2014

Eco Friendly Produce Bags - an upcycle tutorial

I've been using a set of bags like these for the past couple of years every week at the local market when we buy our fruit and vegetables. Over time, as our kids have grown and our eating habits have changed, the amount of fruit and vegetables we buy has increased, and at the same time some of my lovely little bags have disappeared. So it was time to make some more bags and I thought I'd post a little tutorial to show how easily you can make your own produce bags and never have to use plastic bags at the market - or supermarket again!

All you need is:
an old net curtain and some cord.

Here's how to make a simple drawstring produce bag.

1. Fold over the edge of the curtain to the width you'd like your bag. 
Mine are around 28 cm (11")

2.Cut where you have folded to, and also to the length of the bags you want. 
Again, mine are around 33 cm (13").

You can use the top of the curtain - or also the hem at the base as the casing for your drawstring. 

3.So now just pin 2 edges of your bag - the side opposite the fold, and what will be the base:

4. Stitch where you have pinned - but remember to leave the casing open at the top.
Don't stitch across that or you'll have nowhere to push your drawstring through!

5. Now turn your bag right sides out, and cut some cord double the width of your bag:

6. Using a large safety pin, thread your cord all the way through the casing at the top of your bag. 

7. Tie the two ends of the cord together..

And there you have one finished drawstring produce bag!

Now if your net curtain is large and you cut pieces that don't have a ready made casing in the form of the top or hem of the curtain, all you have to do to make your own is fold over the top edge of your piece of curtain like this:
Pin then stitch before folding your fabric and finishing your bag.

Note: I've been using bags like this for 2 years now and the seams have never frayed. I did not overlock (serge) or finish off the seams in any way - the net curtain fabric just doesn't seem to fray at all!

My single (short) net curtain that cost me a couple of dollars from the charity shop, made me 14 bags!  So I shouldn't run out again any time soon.

Strong, durable and eco-friendly! What could be better!

Do you use plastic bags for your fruit and vegetables?  
Why not make some of these and keep them in your car for next time you shop!

For more of my upcycling tutorials, take a look here.

Or I even have a whole e-book of sewing tutorials to make eco-friendly shopping bags - including a stylish handbag to carry them all in so you never forget them when you're shopping!

Happy upcycling!


  1. I made jean bags to carry all groceries , etc. but have wanted to make produce bags . Brilliant idea. Thank you for sharing and will be making these soon, my blog is jerryandkay, - jean bags under sewing

    1. OOh- I'm coming right over to see your jean bags!!!!

  2. Wow such s good idea. I♥ this I will be trying this thanks for sharing.

  3. Awesome idea Jill, I made some for us but not quite as pretty as yours. Such a great idea using a semi transparent fabric I bet the checkout clerks can see what's inside without even having to use the drawstring. Wouldn't they also make great Lingerie bags for holidays or keeping delicates separate during washing?

    1. Thank Ruby! - That's a great idea to use them for delicates in the washing! I might have to snaffle that idea for myself!! :)

  4. Love this idea of making your own produce bags and being able to reuse them. Pinned.

  5. These bags are great and super easy. They would also be good for your daughter to use as her "dip bag" at Girl Scout camp.

  6. What a great and simple idea. I have some old curtains laying around and think this will be a project to work on this Fall. Thanks

    1. Thanks Cheryl! Hope you do give them a try. I use mine every week! so useful.

  7. I don't want to be a party pooper but I'm going to throw in there that choice of material also contributes to the label "eco-friendly". Polyester and acrylic fibers are listed in the US "Toxic Substances Control Act". They are considered inert until they come into contact with the digestive or respiratory tract. This means inhaling or ingesting even a few small fibers. Vinyl contains lead (some manufacturers have begun leaving out the lead but not many).

    The manufacture of these products is 100% toxic to workers and the air and water surrounding the factories. These fibers are made from highly toxic oil waste petrochemicals.

    I am all for reuse and that includes reuse of plastic fabrics. I just wanted to put it out there that anything made for food storage should be 100% food safe. Polyester fiber is not food safe. Vinyl is not food safe. According to the USDA, even the plastic produce bags aren't food safe, so go figure.

    Just another vote for using a natural cotton, hemp, flax (linen), or wool fiber. Thanks for letting me rant. I just really want people to know so we can all make informed choices.

    1. Hi Allison,
      Thank you for your comment and all that information. You are right, it is important people are informed so they can make their own choices.

      When I titled these bags eco-friendly, I was thinking in the sense that they are reusable and made from fabric that is already here, not specially made for this purpose. They are far better than using plastic bags. Personally I wash all of my fruit and vegetables anyway, regardless of how it's been packaged or carried from the shop or market.
      I try to reuse and recycle fabrics wherever possible rather than buy new fabrics, and that is the motivation behind these bags too. I bought the net curtains from a charity shops so I don't actually know what fabrics they are made from, but the light airiness of the fabric means the fruit can at least breathe while in transit and doesn't 'sweat' like in plastic bags!

    2. Nothing is perfect. :-) I also have a number of produce bags I repurposed from plastic net orange bags although now I simply stopped using my produce bags entirely (meaning no bags at all) except for green beans and cherries and small items. I certainly wouldn't judge anyone using what they can and especially creatively reusing. I simply think most people don't know and if they are going to make something in future, might want to check the fiber content in light of the knowledge. Thanks for being so welcoming!


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