How to Make T-Shirt Bags for Groceries (and More)

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Several years ago I made some reusable produce bags for when I’m at the grocery store or farmer’s market. While they’re great for smaller items I wanted something a little bigger. And they had to be easy to make! Here’s how to make T-shirt bags that you can use while grocery shopping, at the beach, or wherever.

The Problem With Reusable Shopping Bags

Reusable grocery bags have really gained in popularity the last several years. Especially as more states and stores quit using single-use plastic bags. While grocery tote bags are eco-friendly, not all of them are easily machine washable. And in one 2011 study, 97% of people admitted to not washing their grocery bags.

That can spell big problems when it comes to food safety, cross-contamination, and disease. In the same study, half of the bags tested had bacteria, including E. coli. Another 2013 study looked at what happened after plastic bag bans in Los Angeles. They reported a huge spike in emergency room E. coli infections. Plus there was a 46% increase in E. coli deaths in a 3-month period.

The moral of the story here is to wash your shopping tote bags. Most reusable grocery shopping bags though are made out of polypropylene plastic. So even if they are washed, they can pollute the water supply. There are tiny microfibers in our oceans and lakes that scientists have traced back to home washing machines. Reusable tote bags made from recycled material may keep trash out of the landfill, but they’re also made from plastic.

Then there are the collapsible cooler bags, insulated bags, and foldable insulated totes for cold foods. While these storage bags are water-resistant and keep food cold, the inside liner is mostly plastic. At least with these options, you can wipe down the interior with some all-purpose spray and a cloth.

The Best Reusable Grocery Bags

So what’s a health-conscious shopper to do? You can find cotton tote bags and environmentally friendly cotton canvas tote bags made from natural fibers. Some are even heavy-duty and stand up on their own for an easy way to carry your grocery items (and beach supplies!).

One downside is these can be a little bulky to store though. A solution is to make your own bag from an old T-shirt. It’s not hard to find one hiding in the back of the closet somewhere. Or you can purchase some with cute designs from your local thrift store. You can make a large tote bag with a big T-shirt, or opt for a smaller size bag with a smaller T-shirt.

How to Make T-shirt Bags

The design is really simple and you can not only choose your size, but you can do a sew or no-sew T-shirt bag. We’re basically cutting off the arms and neck and closing up the bottom of the shirt. If you have a sewing machine it’s fast and easy to sew the bottom of the T-shirt bag closed. Other options include using a drawstring or cutting and tieing the bottom closed.

This style of bag naturally has long handles, but the more you trim off the T-shirt neck, the longer your handles will be. You can line up the arm holes so the side seams of the T-shirt are in the middle. This creates a little more of a streamlined look and less like you turned a shirt into a bag. If you really want to showcase a design on the front though, you can skip this step.

Here’s how to make a drawstring bottom bag:

  • Cut the sleeves and neck off of the T-shirt.
  • Snip two small holes about 1/2 inch apart in the first layer of fabric in the bottom hem of the T-shirt. Make sure you don’t cut through both layers.
  • Thread a shoelace or other cord into one hole, all the way through the hem of the T-shirt and out the other hole.
  • Tighten and tie the cord.
tshirt bag
5 from 5 votes

How to Make T-Shirt Bags

Make your own reusable T-shirt bags for groceries, shopping, the beach, and more! Easily washable and eco-friendly
Prep Time5 minutes
Active Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Yield: 1 bag
Author: Katie Wells



  • 1 T-shirt


  • Turn the T-shirt inside out and fold it in half lengthwise so the sleeves are on top of each other.
  • Using sharp scissors cut the sleeves off of the T-shirt, then cut off the neck.
  • Line up the armhole handles so that the side seam of the T-shirt is now in the middle of the bag. If your T-shirt has a design on the front you can instead lay the t-shirt flat so the seams are both on the sides.

Sewn T-shirt Bag

  • Sew the bottom of the T-shirt closed using the zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine or with a needle and thread. You can also use a serger if you have one.

No Sew T-shirt Bag

  • If you don't want to sew the bottom, then place some pins along the bottom edge of the shirt about 4 inches above the hem. Pin all the way across.
  • Use sharp scissors to cut vertical slits across the bottom of the shirt.
  • Take one cut strip from the front of the shirt and the one directly behind it and tie them together. Continue tieing until you've tied all of the cut pieces and closed the bottom of the bag.
  • Enjoy your new T-shirt bag! And maybe make another one to go with it.


If you want a drawstring bottom bag, see the directions in the article above. 

Have you ever repurposed old clothes into something else before? Leave a comment and share below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


One response to “How to Make T-Shirt Bags for Groceries (and More)”

  1. Julien Cooper Avatar
    Julien Cooper

    One shirt that’s ready and has the hems that can stay are the sleeveless kind, I think just do a good strong bottom seam and it’s ready to go. And these tend to be stretchy with wide necklines. Sometimes the back and front of the neckline aren’t even but with both high enough, that gives a bigger front access point and it really doesn’t affect the carrying quality of the bag. These are also, as with T-shirt bags, compact and washable. Some T-shirts and some sleeveless shirts have no side seams, it’s a tube with only the handles and bottoms to consider sewing to beef up or connect with strength at seams and hems. Those are the best. Any good use of an old shirt is a good use, especially when it will stop you from having to hug your groceries in a paper bag and witness the bottom opening to let out the glass jars.

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