"Cornishware" Ruffled Shopping Bag

Update an old shopping tote bag with scraps of fabric to give it a pretty cornishware look.

an old shopping tote bag with stripes of blue and white fabric sewn in ruffles, resembling cornishware pottery

I love reusable shopping bags, I simultaneously have loads and never enough - how does that work?

Sometimes we get lucky and are given promotional bags at open days and events and though it's nice to have another bag they are not always the prettiest things on the planet. To fix this I have a cunning plan and a stash of fabric scraps.

Ideas to decorating a fabric tote with fabric scraps

In the past I have just covered the fronts of promotional tote bags with a piece of fabric or two.

plain shopping bags embellished with scraps of colourful fabric

See how the fabric covers the writing and logos on the outside, I feel like the inside doesn’t matter so much.

inside bag.jpg

Just let me point out now that I would never cover something promoting a charity or the like, if a bag was sold to raise money and awareness I would use it with pride as it is of course. Government departments I’m afraid I’m not so bothered about.

The bag upcycle I have had most compliments on is this one with the ruffles.

frill detail.jpg

So when this bag came my way (and obviously I have nothing against the Centre for the History of Medicine at Warwick Uni but do I want it on my shopping bag?) I thought I could given it a makeover and redo the ruffle idea with photos and a tutorial to share with you.

old bag.jpg

To make your own Stripy Ruffled Tote Bag you will need:

  • A plain or unexciting shopping/tote bag

  • Scraps of fabric, you’ll need long strips

  • Sewing machine

  • Thread

  • About 30 minutes

First rip the fabric into long strips each about 1.5" wide. Ripping the strips of fabric will mean the pieces are straight and the fraying will add to a lovely shabby chic look. You can cut your fabric with a rotary cutter or scissors if you prefer of course.

strips of fabric.jpg

Make a straight line horizontally on your bag where you want to ruffles to start from. Pencil is fine, or use an erasable fabric pen. No one is going to see it anyway so it doesn’t matter too much. Mine had the box round the writing so I used that as a guide and didn't need to draw a line.

Before you start sewing you need to get the handles out of the way so they don’t get caught up. Pin them up close to the top of the bag with safety pins.

pin handles.jpg

Slide the flat bed cover off your sewing machine (if it has one) to reveal the free arm. Slide the bag over the free arm and under the sewing machine needle, right side up, starting at a side seam. Line up with your pencil line, grab one of your strips of fabric, pop it under and do just a few stitches to hold it in place.

adding ruffles to a tote bag

Now stitch the strip of fabric using the line you drew to keep it straight and then just pleat it as you go, the photos show it best.

starting ruffle.jpg

Fold a pleat under about 1/4 inch every inch or so. You can do more or less pleating, it's up to you. The more you fold the more strips of fabric you will need, and the more frilly the bag will end up.

When you get to the end of a strip, just pop another one under with a bit of an overlap and carry on, no need to join them first.

adding ruffles to a shopping bag

When you get back to the beginning, just cut off any of the fabric strip remaining and get ready to join the next strip of fabric right along side the first.

start new colour.jpg

I overlapped the strips very slightly as you can see, just to make sure none of the graphic from the bag would show through. I alternated blue strips of fabric with white strips but I kept the same thread colour throughout, for speed and because I think it looks quite nice!

That's it, just keep going round and round as many times as you want. I stopped when all the writing on my tote bag was covered.

ruffle tote bag

It was completely unintentional but when it was finished I thought this bag had a bit of a "Cornishware" look to it.


Are you familiar with Cornishware pottery? I love it, so much that I have a pinterest board dedicated to it! When I was little we went to Cornwall most years on holiday and I remember visiting a pottery factory, maybe that's why I like it so much.

I had a few strips of fabric left and had just seen a lovely little flower by Emily from Jones Design Company so decided to give it a go. 

rolled flower brooch

I doubled up my blue and cream fabric strips, tied a knot and just started twisting and glueing, following Emily's tutorial. This is pretty easy and fun but if you try it please do be careful as the glue from a glue gun gets REALLY hot - obvious I know, but when you are concentrating on the twisting apparently it's easy to forget! Ops and Ouch!

flower back.jpg

I attached a safety pin on the back and now have a removable flower to add more shabby chic charm to my shopping experience!

cornishware effect ruffled shopping tote

The bag was a freebie, the blue fabric was from an old shirt and the white fabric was a old duvet cover that had trim which had gone all bobbly. My lovely new bag didn't cost me anything but time and a bit of sewing thread, whoop whoop!

Do you have an old promotional shopping tote that could do with a little ruffled glow up?


I'll be sharing this idea at these link ups

I love fabric projects like this one that use up little scraps. If you have lots of small pieces of fabric to use you might like some of these ideas that use them up.