Make your own t-shirt bag

T-shirt upcycle: Make your own T-shirt bag

T-shirt upcycle: how to make a T bag

Welcome to the second sewing project between myself and Singer.

Whilst the summer didn’t exactly bless us with a balmy tropical heat, I really hope some of you had the chance to make the girls summer playsuit, Evie wore hers every day when the sun was out….so that was about 4 times!!!

I’ve had lots of people ask me over the months, how on earth did we manage to come up with an idea on the spot for the refashioning task on the sewing bee. The truth is that on the show the time limits were absolute and you just had to hope an idea struck quickly, then try your best to turn it into reality.

To take the stress out of thinking through a project, I’m here to help show you a practical and speedy alteration that you can do at home. I would like to introduce you to the T-Bag, my favourite way to upcycle a t-shirt. In under 30 minutes we’re going to refashion a t-shirt (old or new) into a trendy market style shopping bag.

You don’t need anything fancy for this sewing project, a machine that does a simple straight stitch is perfect. I’m using the Singer Talent which is one of the entry level machines and capable of doing pretty much everything you’ll need for day to day sewing and dressmaking projects.

You can download the full project as a PDF on

To make a t-shirt bag you’re going to need the following;

  • A T-shirt (large or small, old or new), pressed to allow a precise cut.
  • Ruler or straight edge
  • A circular bowl or plate (it’ll become clear in a minute!)
  • Chalk or fabric pen
  • Scissors and pins
  • Sewing machine with matching thread

Step 1. Lay the pressed T-shirt out on a flat surface.  Begin by making the opening of the bag, to do this you need to trim away the neckline.  Mark out the cutline with chalk or fabric pen, you can do this either free hand or with the help of a curved ruler, bowl, plate etc.

Step 2. Openings are also needed on the sides of the bag, mark out a slightly elongated oval shape over the arms, with the use of a curved edge and also a straight edge. The key is to make the two sides as equal as possible.

Step 3. Once the bag straps are all marked out, pin well and carefully cut along the line, do this for both the front and back portions.  You’ll see that what used to be the shoulders of the t-shirt now resembles the bag straps.

Step 4. Now, this bag won’t hold much shopping in it if there is a big hole in the bottom, so we’re going to fix that.

Turn the t-shirt inside out and lay it out flat on the table.  Decide on how deep you’d like the bag to be and with some chalk or fabric pen, mark across the width of the waistline. This will become the base of the bag.

Step 5. Pin this well and take to your sewing machine.  Straight stitch along the line, back stitching at the beginning and end.

Tip: Jersey and t-shirting have a great knack of getting caught up in the machine, for this reason I begin stitching just a centimetre or so from the side seam. I do a few forward stitches and then backstitch to the side seam then continue stitching normally.

Step 6. Now trim off any excess fabric below the seam and neaten any thread ends.

Step 7. To make sure the bag lasts, it’s important to strengthen the straps. This is easy to do, by straight stitching across the existing shoulder seams, tying off and trimming the thread ends.

Turn the bag through, add any accessories which you might fancy and thats it….off to market we go.

If you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous you can try some of these options:

Option 1: To give your bag extra strength and give a neat finish you could use a french seam on the base of the bag, to do this instead of turning the bag through at Step 4 above, you stitch straight across on the right side, trim off any excess, then turn through and continue from Step 5 encapsulating the raw edge inside the 2nd seam.

Option 2: Another option is to create a curved base, all you need to do here is round off the marked line on step 4 above, ensure both sides are equal and stitch along the line making sure you tie off or back stitch well on the side seams. (Image below)

Option 3: You may like to use a vest top like I have in the image above, in which case it’s even easier as they tend to have a binding on the neck and armholes, so you can start at step 4. (you’ve got no excuses of being late to market if you choose this option!)

Option 4: The straps may lengthen over time, if you’re worried about this I’d suggest doing a zig-zag stitch around the cut edges. You could even do this in a contrasting thread to make it a bit more fun.

I hope you have fun getting the machine out and having a go. Hopefully it’ll cost nothing more than an old t-shirt, some thread and 30 minutes of your time, what could be better than that?

Remember you can download the T-shirt bag project here at

Happy stitching

Matt Chapple, winner of the Great British Sewing BeeMatt

The stitcher. A magnet for foolery & prankster at heart. Loves being creative, whether with some wood and a saw or with a needle and thread. Attempts to disguise his past time activities as manly pursuits, but is actually pretty handy at sewing!


  1. Lovely idea! I’m recycling few tees right this weekend. My girl will love these. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Author
      Matt 4 years ago

      Hope your bags turned out well Marian? Personally I think they are essential now that we have to pay for plastic bags :-)

  2. Helen 4 years ago

    Not thought about usung old t-shirts for this before, I have a stash so will try soon

    • Author
      Matt 4 years ago

      Once you have tried this you will never have an old t-shirt again, but instead a fantastic range of bags!

Leave a reply