With more and more people raising backyard chickens each year, I bet that some of you out there have chicken feed bags leftover from your free-ranging egg machines. There is often some beautiful artwork on feed bags--no need to throw that plastic bag away! You can make a tote bag in a short period of time with a few simple sewing supplies.
Here is how I made this one for a friend.
First, cut the bottom off of your feed bag.
Cut two equal strips from the top of the feed bag. I cut 5" wide strips, but you can decide how thick your straps will be, as well as how much of the bag's graphics you want to sacrifice to the straps. Open up the 5" wide loop at one end so you have one long piece. I trimmed mine to a final strap length of 5" x 34" (I like to sling totes over my shoulder, and I find this length works well to do that).
Go back with a ruler and rotary cutter to even off the end, aligning with text or other graphics on the feed bag.
Fold the strip lengthwise in half, finger-pressing a crease in place.
Open up the piece, and fold the edges each in halfway, edges meeting at the center crease you just made.
Fold up the strap so that the raw edges of the long sides are now enclosed. DO NOT USE PINS. Clothespins or binder clips work really well to hold this material in place when you are ready to sew with it. Pins will leave irreparable holes.
Edge stitch both sides of the strap with a seam allowance between 1/8"--1/4". Repeat with the second strap. There is no need to finish the raw edges as it is plastic, and will not fray.
Sewing tip: you may need to gently tug on the material from the far side of your machine to get it to run smoothly. Pushing from the front doesn't seem as helpful, but maintaining even pressure (not too much!) from both sides will give you a smoother seam.
A machine needle used for garments or quilting cottons is not strong enough to handle this fabric. I recommend using a Denim needle, or a size of at least 16/100. The above photo is from a needle multi-pack--the needle shown is a heavy duty one, good for this project.
Turn the bag inside out. With a 1/2" seam allowance, sew the bottom closed. Then cut a 2.5" square notch from each of the two bottom corners to make a bottom box pleat (you may skip this step if you don't want a flat-bottom tote).
Open up the cut-away area and match the bottom seam with the side crease (not shown). Sew closed with a 1/2" seam allowance.
A finished box pleat.
Fold over the top edge of the bag by about 1/2" and sew a hem with a 1/4" seam allowance. You can make a bigger/smaller hem to preserve artwork on the front of your bag--it's completely up to you. No need for a double-roll hem because this is not going to fray.
Attach your handles wherever they are going to be most comfortable for you. I made a square that measures 1"x1" and went over it 2-3 times for durability. Placement of handles depends on the size of the bag. My finished tote is about 21" wide by 18" tall (32" tall with the handles), and I spaced my handles 4" in from the sides.
Congratulations! You saved a plastic bag from the trash, and have a handy new tote bag too. This is what I'm now calling Sustainable Sewing. Look for more sewing tutorials here soon. I would love to hear from you and see pictures if you make a feed bag tote using this tutorial!
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.