About 3 or 4 years ago my lovely sister in law gave me some tea towels. Lovely thick fabric, great vibrant colours - unfortunately our kitchen is lilac and white! I thought they would make great bags though and they did. 3 years later, they've been used and used, been though the washing machine loads of times and are still holding up well.
As I made them a while ago I can't show you photos of the steps as I go, but they really are dead simple (because it's a tea towel all the edges are already done for you) I will show you how I made them as best I can with a few little drawings where photos would be!
Fold your tea towel in half, right sides together. The short sides of the tea towel are together at the top and will form the top of your bag.
Pin the sides then stitch down the both sides (one at a time!) from the top edge to the folded bottom with a seam allowance of about 2cm. When I got the the bottom I turned the fabric round and zoomed back up again so the stitching is double. This makes it nice and strong - I wanted a heavy duty bag!
This next step is as complicated as it gets (but don't worry - it's harder to describe than to do) so you can miss it out if you just want a flat "book bag" type tote. I wanted my bag to have a bit of width to it. This means I can put loaves of sliced bread in without them getting all squashed.
Take one of the bottom corners and fold the fabric so that the side seam you have just stitched is lying right on top of the folded bottom edge.
Make sure it's nice and straight and flat.Then stitch straight across the corner about 5cm/2" down from the corner.
If your line of stitching is closer to the corner your bag will be thinner, if you stitch further away it will be fatter.
Nearly done! You just need to add handles. For one of my bags I used some webbing that I had rescued form an old bag, for the other I cut up my 3rd tea towel.
I cut a strip 8cm/3.5" from the short edge of my "spare" tea towel. It was 45cm wide so that's how long my handles are, which turned out just about right.
Fold the bottom 1/3 of the fabric strip up tp the middle then the top 1/3 down. Stitch along the centre (the drawing above hopefully shows this clearly) in half. I found this much easier than sewing a tube then struggling turn it through.
Pin the handles in place, mine are 14cm in from the edge, then stitch round in a square. The photo shows it better than I can explain. This makes sure they are really secure.
My tea towel had the loop already (you could add one if you like) so I added a button from my button box on the other sides top edge so I can fasten it.
I use one for shopping and the other for my knitting.
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