Ambassador DIY: Upcycled T-Shirt Bag
I joined Noonday Collection as an Independent Ambassador in August 2018 because I loved the product, and I really resonated with the mission: to provide meaningful opportunities and jobs around the world. Since then, I have not only learned about how Noonday’s ethical business model, but how I can adapt my lifestyle to emulate the ethical standard I value.
I’ve been slowly starting to change different aspects of my life—like the types of clothing, food, or jewelry I buy— to more accurately represent what I believe: that every person’s life should be cherished, and nothing I have is worth compromising a person’s freedom. In the realm of clothing, I have begun trying to buy less, buy better (ethically sourced), and learn how to use and love what I have!
Today, I want to focus on that last point. The first week of college, I was probably handed 20 t-shirts by various on-campus organizations, and I can honestly say I haven’t worn more than three of them in the last two years! No matter what season of life you’re in, you likely have a similar t-shirt collection that does nothing but collect dust. Rather than throw all these t-shirts away, I decided to try and create something new and useful with them!
Let’s get to upcycling!
Upcycle projects are great because they involve giving new life to something old. On a larger scale, finding new uses for the things you have keeps them out of the landfill and is therefore better for the environment. And you can save a little money in the process!
It was hard to choose just one project to feature, but I decided to go with a t-shirt bag. This DIY is one of my favorites due to its practicality and simplicity, plus it’s super customizable. Take it to the grocery store, farmer’s market, or the beach; it’s an awesome catch-all. I’m showing you just one type of bag you can make, but the possibilities are endless.
What you’ll need:
- One T-shirt (Any size works, including children’s clothes – it just depends on how big you want your bag! For reference, I used an adult small in this tutorial.)
- Fabric scissors
- Needle and thread or sewing machine
- A pen to mark fabric
Here’s how to make it:
1. Lay your shirt on a hard, smooth surface, making sure the edges are even and there are no creases in the fabric. At this point, decide if you want to hide any t-shirt graphics or use them. I chose to hide the graphics for this bag, but if you want to work them into the design, go for it! The side you’re looking at will become the interior of the bag (we’re flipping it later), so plan accordingly.
2. Carefully cut the sleeves off the shirt. Start right below the sleeve and cut across to the other side, arching up towards the neckline and then down again as you go. This line forms the bottom of your bag, so I chose to make it wide with a little slope, but you can choose any line you want! For example, if you’re looking for a bag with a narrower bottom, cut this line at a sharper angle, moving towards the neckline quicker.
3. The next step is to sew the bottom of the bag. As I don’t have much experience sewing, I chose to keep this step simple. I’ll explain what I did, but any method will work, including the use of a sewing machine. First, double thread your needle to create a sturdier stitch. Rather than threading the needle, doubling the thread over, and tying it together at the end, I started by threading two strands and ended up with a cord four strands thick. Starting ¼ – ½ inch above the edge of the shirt you just cut, begin stitching along the entire line.
I chose to sew loose stitches and then double back and stitch in between my original work. This proved quicker for me than trying to do a neat line of tight stitches all at once. However, depending on your sewing abilities, this step can really be done any way. Don’t worry if your stitches are messy! When we flip the bag, you won’t be able to see them.
4. The next step is to cut holes into your bag. I like the way it looks with holes, but if you’d prefer none or are choosing to work a graphic into your design, skip this step. It’s best to lightly draw lines where you plan to cut. I marked out two-inch wide holes spaced two inches apart. The holes began about an inch above the bottom of the bag and stopped 4-5 inches from the top (to leave room for a handle later). Make sure you are drawing staggered lines; none of the holes should be directly above or below each other.
Once you’ve drawn any guidelines you might need, begin cutting. I found the easiest way to cut holes was by pinching the fabric at the center of the line I wanted to cut and then cutting outward from the crease. This kept me from having to poke holes in the fabric (and probably poking myself in the process)!
5. Once you’ve cut your holes, go back to the top of the bag (which should be the natural hem of the shirt). Cut a 4-5 inch long slit in the middle of the area you left untouched to form the handle. I also chose to cut off the natural hem and create a curve to the top of my bag. This step is optional as leaving the original hem on will make the handles stronger, but I liked the way it looked better with a cut hem.
That’s it! Flip your new bag out, and it’s ready to use!
This project was really fun for me and I hope you enjoyed it too! If you like upcycle projects like this one, continue exploring all the things you can make with old t-shirts! For inspiration, check out a couple of the other projects I tried below:
Meet Ashley Crunk
A student at Clemson University, Ashley is passionate about improving global economies and labor standards – when she discovered Noonday, she knew becoming an Ambassador would be the perfect platform for making the change she wants to see. Ashley’s also your girl if you’re looking for affordable ways to dress sustainably or DIY projects anyone can do!