T-Shirts to Shopping Bags

I like to give my boys opportunities to try all manner of activities. Even sewing, for many reasons:  It helps them develop hand-eye coordination; they practice concentrating and paying close attention; they experience the satisfaction of both starting and finishing a task. Plus, the more frequently they do it, the more they get to observe their own improvement. Which I believe is empowering and confidence-boosting.

I’m not trying to mold my boys into tailors or designers, but I do value giving them “hand work” projects that result in something real. “Tools, not toys,” is the advice of a home-school coach I admire.

Our recent production? T-shirts “upcycled” into reusable shopping bags. At the beginning of Lent, I set us a great big goal not only to finish these creations (which we had started in March) but to give them away to a shopper at a grocery store–generous giving, that was my intention. But I quickly saw that my sons were motivated to keep working on their t-shirt projects when they understood that they could choose to keep the finished products themselves.

We missed my Lent goal, but just this week, both boys completed their t-shirt shopping bags and then used them to carry stuff to our end-of-year home-school co-op water party yesterday. (Sorry for excessive use of hyphens there, folks.) Towel, change of clothes, water bottle…it all fit, and the boys were proud (I could tell) to haul their things in bags of their own making.

I purchased some tapestry needles–metal ones; the reviews for plastic ones caused me to think they’d snap fairly easily–so that any finger pricks would be a bit less painful. At times, these needles were a little difficult to push through the two layers of t-shirt (since they were not as sharp as ‘regular’ sewing needles), but we managed fine. The boys did the majority of the work themselves–and they did all the actual sewing themselves. They even threaded their needles several times on their own.

T-shirt totes (empty).
T-shirt totes (empty).

Here are the finished products:

Big boy with his big t-shirt bag.
Big boy with his big t-shirt bag.

And the supplies: XXL t-shirts (for younger kids, I think XL is plenty big enough); scissors; tapestry needles; thread.

Here is the set of instructions that we used, which recommends a French seam. Sounds fancy, but it’s really just doubling up the seam so that it’s reinforced and, therefore, stronger.

Have totes, will travel.
Have totes, will travel.

Have you ever created your own t-shirt tote bag? I have one extra t-shirt set aside for this purpose; if you live in Orlando and want this shirt to make a bag yourself, let me know.


2 thoughts on “T-Shirts to Shopping Bags

  1. I love that you gave your finished product away the first time and that the boys got so involved in this one. Way to teach the boys important life skills! I know I am always impressed to watch my husband sew a button or mend when needed.


  2. Katherine~yes, I hope that this is a life skill that they can use in their own lives and to serve others if possible. 🙂


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