Turn a T-Shirt into a Cloth Tote Bag

Making a cloth tote bag out of an old t-shirt is a great way to reuse an item you'd otherwise throw away or to keep using a souvenir t-shirt that no no longer fits. Follow the simple steps below to make your own bag out of any t-shirt.

Tools and Material

  • Old t-shirt
  • Sewing machine or thread and needle
  • Cloth scissors
  • Pins
  • Cloth marker
  • Ruler

Step 1- Turn the Shirt Inside Out

Turn your t-shirt inside out and lay it flat on your work table. Make sure the t-shirt is completely flat and even.

Step 2 - Pin the Bottom and Then Sew

Pin the two sides of the bottom of the t-shirt together to hold them in place. Then sew the bottom together using a sewing machine or a thread and needle. Sew along the top of the hem of the shirt and remove the pins once you're finished. This will form the bottom of your cloth tote bag.

Step 3 - Measure to Make the Corners More Angular

Lay the t-shirt down flat with the newly-sewn bottom seam vertically in the middle of your work station. The material should come together in a triangular shape at the top of your work station. Use your ruler to measure a horizontal line 3 inches from the top of the triangle. Repeat with the opposite edge of the bottom seam.

Step 4 - Sew Along the Lines

In order to make your cloth tote bag bottom corners more angular, you'll need to sew along the lines you just drew. You can also elect to skip steps three and four if you prefer your cloth tote bag to look more like a t-shirt when it's finished.

Step 5 - Cut the Sleeves Off

Lay the t-shirt (still inside out) flat again on your work station, with the collar at the top. Use your cloth scissors to cut off the sleeves of the t-shirt following the seam. This will give you the outer edge of the handles of your cloth tote bag.

Step 6 - Measure Where to Cut Along the Neck

Adjust the t-shirt (still inside out) so that it's taut and flat on your work station again. Use your ruler and cloth marker to mark a line parallel to the neck of the t-shirt that's about ½-inch below the collar. This line should resemble half of a circle and will provide you with the top of your cloth tote bag.

Step 5 - Pin the Neck and Then Cut

Pin the 2 sides of the material together slightly above your drawn line. You want these pins to hold the two sides of the material together. Then use  your cloth scissors to cut along the line to remove the collar of the t-shirt.

Step 7 - Hem Along the Cut Lines

Use your sewing machine or the thread and needle to hem the areas you just cut. This means that you'll hem along where the sleeves and the collar once were. If your t-shirt is made from a knit material, you may be able to skip this step, although choosing to hem all of the surfaces will give you additional reinforcement. Other materials not woven into knit will unravel if you don't hem the edges.

Step 8 - Turn the T-Shirt Right-Side Out

Turn the t-shirt right-side out and it will now function as a cloth tote bag.