Tutorial: Produce Bags

I like to pretend I’m eco-friendly and I do what I can to reduce waste (I hate to throw things away–I’d much rather just not bring them into my house in the first place.)

Several years ago, I made myself some fantastic canvas grocery bags, and I use them faithfully whenever I go shopping–but I still found myself bringing home way too many plastic bags.

Why? Because I still had to use those little produce bags for my produce and my purchases from the bulk bins. Never mind that the first thing I do when I get them home is transfer everything from the bags to bowls or storage containers–I still end up with all those little bags in my house. What’s more, these bags are doubly annoying because they can’t really be reused (except in a really tiny trashcan.)

I’ve seen half a dozen hundred little tutorials for produce bags online–and have quite a few of them bookmarked. But then, rather than using one of those, I just whipped up a modified version of my own in an afternoon. (I was able to make a dozen bags in under 2 hours using this technique.)

Several produce bags full of stuff

Here’s how I did it:

Step 1: Select fabric

I used a sheer fabric that I already had on hand–and an old sheer curtain. You could also use netting or tulle (tulle can be purchased very inexpensively.)

Step 2: Cut to appropriate size

There are a few options for cutting.

  1. You can cut two rectangles approximately the size of your finished bag (so for a 12″ wide by 15″ long bag, you would need two pieces of fabric approximately 12″ by 15″)
  2. You can cut one rectangle so that the “fold” will be along a side of the bag (so for a 12″ wide by 15″ long bag, you would need one rectangle 15″ long and 24″ wide)
  3. You can cut one rectangle so that the “fold” will be along the bottom of the bag (so for a 12″ wide by 15″ long bag, you would need one rectangle 30″ long and 12″ wide)

I used all three of these methods at different times in order to best use the fabric lengths I had. You can, of course, adjust the dimensions to make bags of different sizes.

Cutting sheer fabric for produce bag

Step 3: Overlock stitch a two inch length in the top corner of your fabric.

Stitching produce bags

I have prepared a little diagram that shows where to stitch (in red) based on the cutting method you chose in step 2.

Stitching diagram

Step 4: Sew side and bottom seams.

Now you will want to align your already stitched edges so that they overlap, with the right side of the fabric together.

Stitched edges aligned

The following diagram shows where folds should take place with each cutting method (folds are indicated by dotted lines and arrows).

Folding diagram

Now you will want to sew together the sides and/or bottom using overlock stitch. The sides you will stitch are indicated using blue in the diagram above. (Note that you will not restitch over the area stitched in the previous step.)

Step 5: Fold down top casing and press.

You should fold down approximately one inch (or one half of the approximately two inch length you stitched in Step 3) of fabric and press it into place

Pressed casing

Step 6: Sew casing down along bottom edge using overlock stitch.

Casing sewn down

You can see how this leaves a nice casing with a finished edge at a corner.

Step 7: Turn bag inside out and thread ribbon through casing.

Completed produce bag

I used leftover ribbon from my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding. You can use ribbon, twine, yarn, whatever you’ve got. Tie or sew ribbon together at the end to make a loop and you’re done!

The finished result:

Produce bag on grocery scale

It’s difficult to see, but I weighed this bag at my grocery store to see if it would be adding too much weight to my produce or bulk purchases. This bag weighed .02 lbs. I don’t think I’m too concerned! (Of course, if you used string or lighter weight ribbon, you could probably reduce that weight.)