Tuesday, June 22, 2010

T Shirt Bags - How-to!

Yesterday I posted about my T-Shirt bags adventures, and last night I whipped out another one for a Service Auction at church tonight, so I tried to write down what I did and take some pictures along the way.  I hesitate to call this a 'tutorial' because it is nowhere NEAR as good of instructions as most tutorials out there, but hey, its my first one!

So, here we go.

First off, you need to choose your T-Shirt.  This is my cheap Walmart 4th of July shirt from last year.  It says
2009 on it, so I figured I wouldnt be wearing it again much.  MY ADVICE: if you're following the measurements I give, you're probably going to want to use an Adult L or even bigger.  This was a Women's L, and I was scrounging for pieces.  I really like to use Men's XL shirts - you can get two smaller bags out of those pretty easily, or a bigger one but with a lot easier measuring and cutting. 

Next you need to cut your pieces.  I've done a number of sizes and styles, but here's the measurements for the bag I made last night:
-(2) Rectangles 12" by 14" You can't tell in the picture, but I cut the rectangles' short side (12") along the bottom hem of the shirt - try to do this if you can!  It saves time and looks kind of neat.
-(2) Handles 14" by 2"
-(2) Strips for Ruffles 2.5" by 24"

Some quick notes: the handles should be wider (and you'll see why in the next step) and I would have liked them a little longer, but you gotta work with what you've got! 
I wish I could show you exactly where from the T-Shirt I cut each piece out, but other than having the rectangles line up along the bottom hem, the pieces were kinda all over the place.  And each bag I've made has been cut out slightly differently - so I dont think there's a right or wrong way.  I just try to cut both ruffles the same (either running vertically on the shirt or horizontally on the shirt) and both handles the same; if you don't the pieces might sew different and look mismatched.

The easiest way to make the handles is to take one handle, fold it in half with the right sides together, sew the long end, then turn it right-side out.  But like I said above, I didn't have enough fabric to do very wide handles - I think you need them to be at least 3 " wide, although I prefer closer to 4".  Otherwise, its VERY difficult to turn them rightside out.
So here's how I made these handles, and I just want to say now that it was NOT a very easy way to do it.  I'm sure someone else out there has a better way to sew these things.

1. Press the bottom edge up so that it hits about the middle of the strip. 
2. Press the top down so that it hits just below the middle of the strip.  (It should overlap some.)
3. Stitch down the center.  Your goal is to be sewing both overlapped pieces, and hopefully still be in the center.  You may want to pin the flaps in place a bit before you start sewing, since it tends to move easily.

Like I said, definitely not the best way to sew handles, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

If you've ever ruffled before, you know what to do.  But in case you haven't here's what I did:
(sorry for the blurry pics!)

I moved my needle to the right, put the tension at the highest setting, and then chose the longest stitch length.  Now, each shirt sews a little differently; for some of my other bags the highest tension setting ruffled it just right so I didn't have to adjust it much when I was lining it up with the rectangles (you'll see in the next step).  For this one, it ruffled it just a bit too much, so I ended up turning the tension down to '8' and it worked great.  My advice is to make sure to leave long enough thread 'tails' to allow adjusting.

Okay, now just line up your foot along the long edge of the ruffle strip and start sewing!  The machine will do the gathering for you.  (You can't see it in this pic very well, but the needle is in the 'right' position setting; I did this to allow for a bigger ruffle.  I think it would be fine if you left it in the middle setting, too.)

Then, you flip it over and ruffle the other side in the same way.  (If you want it to look like this bag I showed you yesterday, you would just ruffle the one side.)

And here's your ruffle!
(Or caterpillar, as my 2 year old calls it.)


Pin your handles to the RIGHT SIDE of your rectangle; the side that will be the outside of your bag.  (If you were able to use the bottom hem of the T Shirt for your rectangle, that will make it easy to tell which is the right side.  Oh, if you couldn't/didn't use the hem, you might want to sew a quick hem on the 12" side of the rectangles at this point.  It looks nicer that way.)  The bottom edge of the handle should extend 3/4"-1" past the stitching of the hemline.
Stitch straight across the bottom of the handle.  (Make sure to change your tension and stitch length back to normal.)  I even backstitched over it, just to make sure.
Do this for both ends of both handles.

Okay, now comes the part that I may have trouble explaining, especially since I didn't take as good of pictures as I thought I had.  Bear with me.

Place your ruffle on top of the rectangle with the right sides together.  Line up the stitching where you ruffled just below the hem of the T Shirt.  Pin this ruffle in place; and don't go stingy on the pinning!  Its better to have a few too many than a few too...few.

Here's what it should look like pinned:

You can't really tell, but the ruffle extends above the hem, and also you're seeing the "wrong" side of the ruffle.  I know, they look pretty much the same, but up close there is a difference!
Also, try to let the ruffle extend over the side edges a bit; I didn't get a good pic of this, but when you sew your two rectangles together you want them to be long enough to 'catch' in the seam.  This is where having those thread 'tails' comes in handy, you can gently easy out the ruffle a bit to make it long enough.

Okay, now you're gonna sew this baby on!  I didn't take any pics of this, so I'll try to just explain.  You're going to sew along the bottom edge of the ruffle, just on the other side of the stitching you have from ruffling.

Confusing?  Hmmm, lets see if I can photoedit to show you what I mean...

See the white dotted line?  That's where you're going to sew.  And the gathering for the ruffle is right below that.

Okay, now you fold the ruffle down, so that the right side is now facing up.  You can press it down with an iron if you like, although I've done it without and it was okay too.

Stitch down the bottom of the ruffle.  (This stitch will be visible.  I can't figure out how to have both the top and bottom stitching hidden; if you know PLEASE let me know!)

In this pic I tucked the bottom edge underneath, so you won't see the rough edge or the gathering stitch.  It's faster and easier to not tuck it under and just sew right on top of the gathering stitch, but it gives it a different look, like this:

(Make sure to repeat these steps for the second rectangle too!)

Now comes the easy part: with right sides together, sew the two rectangles together, leaving the top (with the handles) open.  I used a large zig zag stitch.  The ends of the ruffle should overhang and 'catch' so that when you turn it right side out you shouldn't have a rough edge.  (You may need to trim the excess ruffle from the inside.)

Turn right side out, and you're done!  Unless of course you want to decorate it...then you're just getting started!

(I used some red and white scraps from other T-Shirts to make the stars, with a little help from Heat-N-Bond.)

Click here to see my post yesterday.  It shows a couple little variations, plus the lovely painting my two year old did!

MuralMaker and More

Join us Saturdays at tatertotsandjello.com for the weekend wrap up party!

(Okay, I also linked up to Craft Spot Challenge found here but I'm having issues getting that button to work!)


  1. Great tutorial! Especially the ruffles! Love all the pics and explanations.

    Would love for you to stop by Thursday & link this up to Fab Finds for the Fourth. It's be great for 4th of July, don't you think?

  2. Thanks for linking up today! Hope to see you next week too!

  3. Nice tutorial. Wish I didn't have to be in the "mood" to sew. I should so it more often, but just don't feel it.

  4. Fabulous tutorial!! This bag is so darling! Thanks for sharing!


  5. Very cute! I have a bunch of old shirt that would be perfect for this.

  6. Adorable take on the T-Shirt Bag.