I read an article this morning that reminded me I’ve been meaning to get some reusable grocery bags made.
After watching an episode of Vet Adventures when Luke cuts open a cow and pulls out about 35 lbs of plastic bags, the kiddoes and I decided we really wanted to change our habits!
I went ahead and started getting some supplies together but haven’t found a tote pattern I really like yet. So, in the meantime as I was researching I found this post about fusing together plastic bags to make a new “fabric” that can be sewn together.
What a cool idea! I had to try it.
So I just jumped in and did it. I folded out 8 bags, and used my rotary tool to quickly cut off the bottoms and tops. Then I individually slit the middles to make each one a long rectangle.
I laid them all flat together and put parchment paper under and on top. I grabbed my iron, set it to the highest heat setting under the steam ones and then gave it a go. I kept the iron moving and checked as I went to see if it was fusing. It was!
Now, it was also shrinking, so I may have my temp set too high, but I wasn’t worried about how it would look. It was kinda shriveled and melty in places, but the layers were fusing.
Once I finished the top, I flipped it over and repeated the efforts on the bottom. And then I had a long single piece of “fabric” to work with. As I looked at it, I folded it in half and it kind of resembled a mailing envelope. And that’s where I got my idea:
I was going to use it to make a removable sleeve for my frozen groceries!
I just fused the sides and then trimmed off the edges. Then I sewed a quick seam up each edge and around the top to reinforce it.
For the cover, I cut some cotton from an old sheet I use for projects like this, and then I did the same thing: Cut it on the fold, then sewed a seam up each side. At the top, I flipped the edge down a little to make a small cuff and then sewed a seam to hold it. Turned it inside out and put the plastic sleeve inside:
Now, for the closure, I poked a little hole in the top cuff and used my yarn needle to pull through a piece of cotton yarn. I tied it in a knot and put one in the end. Then I added a little button on the front of the cover so I could just wind the yarn around it to close it.
This one looks pretty plain, I agree. But you could easily make it fancier by using this tutorial for printing on fabric. I did a test piece using this same old sheet using a graphic the hubs is fond of:
And it turned out to be really easy. (The hardest part was finding the freezer paper. I think I found it at walmart for about $7~.) The colors weren’t super saturated, but I can easily see that if I planned ahead, I could print “FROZEN” or “ICE CREAM” in a novelty font, or a cute graphic on the fabric before I sewed it up. (Another great idea is to use a novel print fabric.)
Next up, I will tackle actually making the grocery totes!
I used several decorative stitches, but you can make this set even if you don’t have a sewing machine.
Several things would be nice to have to make this project faster, and some things are necessary. I note in the materials list below with an * what is nice to have, but not necessary. What you don’t need though, is a printer! (I hate printing)
Flattened Cereal Box or other sturdy paper
Scissors (one for fabric and one for cutting paper)
Rotary blade and sewing mat*
Flannel fabric remnant
Cotton fabric 1/4 yard
Plush fabric remnant
Thread (matched color)
Sewing Machine (or needle for hand sewing)
Poly-Resin Snaps/Plier/awl* (you can also use sew-on snaps or hook/eye.)
Step 1: The Templates
Make the templates from the cereal box.
Here’s a slideshow of how to make the template for the pad pieces:
Now you’ll make the template for the wrapper:
Step 2: The Wrapper
Now you’ll use the wrapper template to cut out the patterned cotton fabric:
If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can sew the edge by hand.
I use a contrasting light pink thread in my demo so you can see the stitches, but you can use a shade of thread close to the same color as the flannel you choose and the stitches will blend in. This will matter because the thread will usually stain first.
My idea for stitches is to attract the flow inward and keep leaks from going beyond the edges. Plus, it looks pretty. 🙂
The way I put this pad together was to create a base that snaps to the wrapper, and is covered by a layer so that the snap never comes into contact with the body.
Step 4: The Base
The base is the next part:
Now to attach the snaps to the base:
Now we’ll make the pocket:
So you will make the center rectangle by stitching 3 sides using the contour piece only. Then you’ll put the contour and the base together and you’ll make the horizontal bottom part of the center rectangle by sewing through both the contour and the base. And you’ll sew just the sides of the contour to the base. This gives you the 3 sides that make the pocket.
Step 5: The Inserts
So now we will make the inserts:
And now you can make a few more inserts and then you can make the pad more absorbent as needed without the whole thing being bulky.
Here’s a couple photos of the finished system:
Folded down contour showing insert in pocket, with second insert to the right.
The contour+base pad with both snaps covered and center pocket stitched. Wrapper with plush fabric heart applique, sides snapped together underneath.
I chose to use the plush fabric as the center applique because I did several tests on different materials to see how fast they absorb liquid. The pink plush fabric basically didn’t absorb any liquid at all. So, I thought it’d be a good layer to repel fluid, and push back up to the absorbent flannel.
Some other fabrics that are good include PUL, which gives a leak-resistant backing. This could go on the bottom layer of the base, the wrapper, or even as the bottom of the inserts or contour. PUL is somewhat expensive, so I might see if I can just have it as my insert.
Other ideas include using a thick felt for the insert, or a wool. Lots of options for improvisation! And it’s easy to use something you already have, for low-cost, like a micro-fiber towel, cut into small pieces or folded into a small rectangle.
I did several tests and found that once washed, the one that the Dollar Tree sells was very absorbent, and after several washes, more so. It also dries very fast, making it a great insert because it can be washed and re-used quickly.
However, the white chamois is not at all absorbent — but would make a great plush applique for the wrapper. Also, I tested the orange “sham-wow” type of fabric, and it’s so-so on absorbing, but it doesn’t dry fast. I also tested the dark blue flocked chamois and a yellow puckered one. Fail and fail on both absorbent and fast-drying.
I’m happy and excited to try this system out and see how it performs. I hope it does make me feel more snuggly, cozy and “pampered” during that time. Like warm fuzzy pajamas that I get to wear all day, but no one else knows!
If you get inspired and make it, please let me know in the comments! Oh and do be careful: