Thursday, January 14, 2016

DIY Produce Bag (full tutorial)

Greetings fellow foodie's! I have an awesome, quick, fun sew for you today!

Shop at the farmers market often? Buy a ton of produce and HATE the plastic bags you end up throwing away? Recycling and reusing enthusiast? If you answered yes to any of the above I have the perfect project for you!

DIY produce bags!

These bags are great! Your produce looks so stylish in your grocery cart when it's put into a super cute bag of it's own (and we all know how important that is). You won't have any thin, plastic bags that you have to properly dispose of when you get home, and your produce won't get slimy on the trip from the grocery store to the fridge!

Ready to jump in? I know I am!

To make your own reusable produce bag you will need:

1 yard of fine mesh tulle 
1/2 yard of utility mesh fabric 

1/3 yd 44" cotton woven fabric 
approx. 20-30" machine washable ribbon (I suggest grosgrain)

I personally bought a yard of my tulle and a yard of my print and had my utility fabric on hand. I plan to make a few of these bags, so if you plan on making more than one, double up (or triple up) on your materials just to be safe!

Now before we get all crazy and jump into sewing, lets talk mesh for a minute.

*THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR* is how heavy your fabric is. How much it weighs, by itself. The thing to keep in mind is however much your bag weighs on it's own, will add onto the overall weight of your produce when it's weighed at the grocery store check out. If your bag is heavy on it's own you'll be paying more for your produce. This means you'll want to use fabrics that are lighter, but durable. Also, make sure you can see through the bag mesh. A solid cotton bag means the checker will have to open each produce bag to see what's inside. Let's make it easy on them, and us, and make it so they can see the contents! Now: onto comparing mesh! 

I have used two options for my bags:

Double layer fine mesh tulle.
Tulle can be found with costume fabrics and satin at your local fabric store
If you're using fine mesh tulle, it will work well for things like leaf lettuce, radishes, and other light weight vegetables. It is HAND WASH only. This means it needs to be washed gently and air dried. Tulle WILL melt if put in the dryer. This limits your washing abilities slightly, but it will still work.

Another option is utility mesh. 

Utility mesh will be found in the utility fabrics at your local fabric store

Utility mesh is often used for things like swim bags, soccer bags, and lingerie washing bags. Utility mesh will be better suited for heavier produce like apples, lemons, and peppers. Most utility mesh (make sure to read the bolt label) is 100% polyester and therefore machine washable with line dry directions which makes cleaning of your bags a bit easier.

Which mesh you choose is completely up to you, just make sure you read the care labels when purchasing your fabrics!

Now get to measuring your materials!

You'll need to cut 2 strips from your print fabric:

your top piece: 3 inches x 25 inches
your bottom piece: 4 inches by 24 inches

If you're using tulle, you are going to want it double layered. Double layering your tulle will make your bag stronger and less likely to rip.

Cut your tulle or utility mesh 24 inches wide by 15 inches long.

Next up! Make your casing for your tie, and your bottom fabric panel. Pull out the iron and turn it on!

Start by taking your 3 inch wide piece and fold a long edge over 1/4" and press.

Fold over the opposite long edge 1/4" and press.

Fold one short edge over 1/2" and press, repeat folding the opposite short end over 1/2" and press.

Now- to the machine!

Stitch your short ends using a 1/4" seam allowance. This will give you a finished edge after you attach your casing. 

Go back to the iron, and fold your entire piece in half width wise and press.

Take your bottom strip and fold over one long edge 1/4" and press.

Now onto the construction of your bag!

Take your bottom strip and line it up with one of the long raw edges of your tulle and pin. Your pressed edge will be towards the center of the bag.

Stitch this piece onto your tulle using a 1/8" seam allowance from your fold edge.

Now you're going to attach your casing. 

At the top of your bag you're going to fold your casing over your tulle and pin (or clip in my case) it in place.

Stitch your casing on using a 1/8" seam allowance from the BOTTOM of your casing (the side attached to the bag).

When you're done, it should look like this. You'll have your bottom strip on one side, raw edges towards the bottom and your casing on the other side. If you're a little off in measurements (because let's be honest, tulle is difficult to cut!) simply trim the excess and match up your edges at this step. (Just make sure you don't cut off the edges of your casing, they're nice and finished!)

Next you're going to stitch up your side and bottom seam!

Fold your bag in half right sides together (your print will be towards the inside on the bottom portion), you will have one solid side and one side with a seam, along with a seam along the bottom.

*ADDED TIP & OPTIONAL STEP!* If you would like to reinforce your side seam to make it a bit sturdier I suggest using grosgrain ribbon. Cut your ribbon to the 15 inch height of the side seam of your bag and pin or clip it along the edge. Sew 1/4 inch from the edge over your ribbon, and both layers of your mesh. 

This will strengthen your side seam. It's not mandatory but may give your bag a longer life! Use the same sewing instructions on how to assemble your side seam after you've pinned on your ribbon.

 Starting at the bottom of your casing (you don't want to stitch it closed or you won't be able to get your string in there), stitch down the side seam using a 1/4" seam allowance from where all of your layers of tulle line up.

When you get to the corner, drop your needle, lift your foot, turn your bag and sew along the bottom raw edge using a 1/4" seam allowance.

Now we're going to stitch over your seam again for some added durability. Line your needle up with your straight stitch and zig zag right over it. When your'e done your seam should look like this:

If you've used ribbon on your side seam it should look like this:

Now it's time to thread your tie. I used plain grosgrain ribbon. It's easy and washable. Stick a safety pin on one end of your ribbon. Use the safety pin to feed your ribbon through the casing at the top of the bag starting at one opening and working your way around the bag to the other opening.

Knot the ends of your ribbon to keep them from unraveling and to give you something to grab onto when you want to cinch your bag closed.

And there you have it! Super cute, reusable, food safe, ditch the plastic bags, produce bag!

My blue bag is made with blue utility mesh, cotton woven fruit print, and a grosgrain ribbon, reinforced side seam. My green bag is made with fine mesh tulle (doubled) with cotton woven fruit print and a straight stitch topped with zig zag side seam.

Have some fun with your prints and with your bags!