How to Turn Bed Sheets into Shopping Totes

comments (39) May 4th, 2016     

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erika_kern Erika Kern, contributor
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Reusable shopping bags are all the rage, but the ones you find at the store are oh so boring. The thrifts (or your grandmas linen closet) are full of fun vintage pattern sheets. Why not use them to make your own unique bags?
Since these bags are fully lined, theyre superstrong and reversible! Hmm, how am I feeling today? Chewbacca or Darth Vader?
What a blast from the past! I found these two top sheets at one of my local Goodwill stores for $2.50 each.
Reusable shopping bags are all the rage, but the ones you find at the store are oh so boring. The thrifts (or your grandmas linen closet) are full of fun vintage pattern sheets. Why not use them to make your own unique bags?

Reusable shopping bags are all the rage, but the ones you find at the store are oh so boring. The thrifts (or your grandma's linen closet) are full of fun vintage pattern sheets. Why not use them to make your own unique bags?

Photo: Erika Kern
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I hate plastic shopping bags. I try my best not to use them, so I have a slew of reusable bags in my house and car. The ones you find in the store are fine in a pinch, but the ones I make myself are bigger, sturdier, and just more fun. Here I've used a pair of old top sheets to make some fun bags sure to be used over and over. 

Wanna make some, too? Here's what you'll need:

  • Sheets (I used two twin top sheets, which yielded four shopping totes)
  • Large sheet of paper (I used leftover Christmas wrap, but you can piece together something or use brown craft paper)
  • Pen
  • Paper scissors
  • Pins
  • Fabric scissors
  • Measuring tools (I used a 24-inch by 6-inch quilting grid to measure the straps)
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron and ironing board

The pattern. Here are the measurements: Cut a rectangle 20 inches by 17-1/8 inches. Cut two 3-inch by 2-1/2-inch rectangles at the corners of one of the 20-inch sides. This will yield a 14-inch by 14-inch by 5-inch bag.


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posted in: tote bag, sheets, shopping bag, star wars, May the Force be with You, May the 4th be with you

Comments (39)

yellowrabbit141 writes: Thanks to you my son has a new backpack to school!
Posted: 1:28 pm on May 9th
WilliamEtheridge97 writes: It's so amazing. I will try to do it tomorrow with my kids. We will have a lot of fun!
Posted: 10:18 am on May 7th
rainbow77 writes: What is the size of the bag itself?


Posted: 5:21 pm on August 22nd
Aisles writes: It's nice to know I'm not the only person that does this. I also use old curtains from the charity shop. I've been doing it for the past 30 years as I to detest plastic bags.

In fact I've found there is a group how make bags and give them to shopper for free to encourage people not to use plastic bags any more.

Posted: 6:37 am on July 27th
cornelia1 writes: Hi,(forgive my bad english writing ;( ) in Holland, every housekeeping has a own bag. Sometimes you get a plastic bad, but you need to pay that. so, we Hollanders don't want that, and that is the reason we have a bag of our own.
Now you can make one of youre own and use plastic table fabric.
I hope that you will understand this. The fabric is heavier so you can transport heavy bottles etc.
Posted: 2:24 am on May 8th
Cheriezel writes: Oh, and I've heard the method you've used for the corners as "Boxing the Corners"
Posted: 6:44 pm on May 4th
Cheriezel writes: As a Star Wars fan and an avid sewer, I've collected Star Wars bedsheets for years with no project in mind until my daughter was born and decided to go through my collection and use up the damaged/stained sheets.

I've made a bowling style shirt out of the classic 'Blue' and a pinafore dress out of a Return of the Jedi Ewoks one. Most sheets I've seen hold up because it's a poly/cotton, even if threadbare but I would use a sturdy lining fabric to take most of the weight of whatever you are going to carry in the bag - like a twill or broadcloth (and it saves more of the sheet for more bags!)

While I do agree if the sheets in question are 'Mint' or 'Rare' you may want to see if there's someone out there that would like to buy them from you (and use to $ to buy more fabric) BUT I also have a perverse sense of humor to see a fellow fan go "WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO xxxx???" :)

Posted: 6:42 pm on May 4th
irmawilliamson writes: Should step one say cut two 2 1/12 x 2 1/2 squares or two 2 1/2 x 3 inch rectangles? At the moment it does not match the picture if you are using a fold.
Posted: 6:31 pm on May 13th
dragonlover66 writes: haven't made the bag yet but I upcycle sheets into scrub tops, I worked as a pediatric nurse and the sheets turned into scrubs brought lots of I had those as a kid and todays kids get a kick out of them as well. I now work as a geriatric nurse & the big prints are great for the older eyes............
Posted: 9:42 pm on May 9th
CleverPussRevolution writes: D'oh...I'm sorry I'm still confused about the corners. Mostly about the part that says to pull the sides down to the bottom. Does that mean to line up the side seam with the bottom seam as in one on top of the other or are you pulling it down for the side seam to be perpendicular to the bottom seam...?

I guess I sound like I've never sewn before. That's the thing I have! I made my wedding dress! But for some reason your simple, and I'm sure quite good, instructions just aren't kicking in.

Thanks for helping out the confused ones! :^D
Posted: 11:59 am on May 9th
Mimi310 writes: Love the bags. I read all of the posts and I do understand the misgiving about cutting the sheets up. At thrift stores, I have purchased old flour and feed sacks. I started collecting with the intention of making a quilt or something from them. However, now that I have a nice collection, I cannot bring myself to cut them. I keep them in a drawer, never taking them out, only thinking about them. I suppose some day, my children will donate them back to a thrift store. Wow, won't that be a find for a thrifter!
Posted: 11:51 am on May 9th
surfpa writes: I love homemade patterns. Thanks! I've used old 100% cotton sheets for window treatments and easily made drawstring bags to store my seasonal comforters. They breathe in 100 cotton and it's so much cheaper to buy sheets on sale vs. bolted fabric! I use long shoelaces for the drawstrings. Voila!

I've also made the same type of cotton bag to store in my pantry my large board for kneading bread and rolling out pastry and cookie dough.
Posted: 10:49 am on May 9th
snugglebug4tm writes: I make purses and birthday gifts from old curtains and bed sheets. All bought from the thrift stores. I like to mix and match prints and solids, and make the bags reversible. I also put zipper and magnetic snaps in them.
Posted: 10:47 pm on September 2nd
jansonmc writes: oh brother on the collecter thing but to each his own just makeing the straps and putting them on old pillow cases would work i got a bunch of old pillow cases from a motel i worked at they were just going to throw them away i took them home dyeed them so there looked better and made book totes out of them for my friends that are readers and need something to bring home there books
Posted: 1:24 pm on August 13th
limonene writes: I'm a beginning sewer so this may be a stupid question... why are the straps pinned to the top with a 1" overhang? (Photo 8: "Pin the straps onto the exterior of your bag 4 inches in from each side, leaving a 1-inch overhang on top.") I can't figure out what the overhang does. Could the straps be pinned level with the top of the bag and yield the same results?
Posted: 10:52 am on June 20th
TupperwareQueen writes: Love the idea of using old sheets! I JUST threw out my childhood sheets after years and years of sitting on the shelf. They were useless because they were twin sized (I now use Queen size sheets). Even though they were threadbare (far from mint), I could double the layers. If I knew about this idea, I would have used my nostalgic sheets to make bags. This idea isn't only for Star Wars sheets! Smile. Thanks for sharing the idea with all of us out here.
Posted: 10:45 am on June 20th
PassiFlora_magazine writes: These are SO cool!!! I will link your tutorial at PassiFlora magazine ( Thanks for sharing the idea!
Posted: 10:28 pm on April 16th
stitchintime23 writes: great pattern, I have been able to get into thrift shops more lately and have grabbed up some cute sheets without a plan - yet!

I would like to offer this great tip that I got for making patterns - use interfacing. It's cheap, and is easier to use than the paper, roll it up with a sheet of paper to avoid creases and use it forever. (though I used to write all my sewing notes on the paper, can't do that with the interfacing!)
Posted: 7:07 pm on February 26th
Pinkilicious writes: OMG, this are awesome! I actually just yesterday started making totes from sheets, and I also have old "star wars" sheets!, I swear I'm not copying, but I guess us crafty folks know a good set of sheets at the thrift store when we see them. Very nice, way to go!
Posted: 12:19 pm on February 2nd
OrahLee writes: Hey to Erica! Cut out those sleeves in the 50's blouse and wear it under an open blazer to show it off! If it is kinda fragile, "tack" the front to a piece of sheer silk and then make a whole blouse with using just the 50's front that is now sturdier and other "new" parts.
Posted: 3:09 pm on February 1st
gardenpartynyc writes: holy crap these are cute.

i always feel like a soccer mom (no offense to soccer moms) when i whip out my boring sack. this is too cute.

thanks for the inspiration.

Posted: 9:35 pm on January 25th
shannon_mk writes: I found the Star Wars sheet at the Thrift Store and made my hubby lounge pants from them. Now, I wish I had of made something for ME!!! I had no issue whatsoever with cutting into the sheet. Before I rescued them the sheet had probably ben languishing in somebody's linen closet for YEARS. It's a wonder the sheet hadn't dry rotted. Now, it is used everyday (and probably will continue to be used until it is threadbear). Now, I want to bo back and buy the batman sheets I saw last week. Hope they are still there.

Great idea. Thanks.
Posted: 10:18 am on January 24th
darcie writes: Ha, how cool! I have the blue Return of the Jedi sheets stashed away, courtesy of my little brother! Really would be torn about cutting into them though. But that is a great use for those fun prints!
Posted: 2:37 am on January 24th
erika_kern writes: Miba: No problem! I love a fan's passion!!!
Posted: 8:02 pm on January 23rd
susanstars writes: those are awesome, Erika. I love Star Wars too, and now you can enjoy those super cool graphics while you're shopping!

I also hesitate about cutting up vintage treasures (like Vera textiles or barkcloth or Star Wars sheets) and the stained --> new life rule works for me, too. I keep some things precious and mint but when something cool has already seen some good living, it's fun to rework it, that's for sure.
Posted: 5:06 pm on January 23rd
Miba writes: Oh, well, stained is quite a different story. I'm sorry, I didn't even think about that before I posted way down there. In that case, forget what I said and good job on finding a way to use them and make them into something great. :)
Posted: 4:58 pm on January 23rd
erika_kern writes: Miba: Yeah, I get what you're saying and if these were mint, I think I would have let them be. I appreciate the collectibility of mint items. But usually when people are using collectible linens in crafts these linens are not mint. . . far from it! Both the sheets I used had big stains on them. If watching Antiques Roadshow has taught me anything it's condition counts. If you have something that's, for lack of a better word, ruined why not make it into something, dare I say better?

Tina: I love reconstructed vintage! But I also completely get the "too precious" argument too. I've often bought things to reconstruct that end up left as is because I just can't cut into them. I find that if they're damaged in some way it makes it easier. I found this super cute 50's blouse the other day at the Salvation Army, the sleeves are all torn up but the front has the most amazing pleating! Now I just need to figure out what to make with it.
Posted: 12:52 pm on January 23rd
TinaSparkles writes: These bags are so cool! The discussion regarding cutting up collector's items reminds me of the other day when I was at the City Wide Garage Sale in Austin with a friend. I was on the hunt for dresses that I could cut up and reconstruct (my obsession) and happened upon a vintage silk number that had tons of potential. After musing for a few moments on what I would do to it, my friend suggested that it was too precious and old to cut up. It made me wonder, where do we draw the line between fair game and too vintage? I guess it is ultimately a personal choice.

Susan's joke about the dog coats made me crack up.
Posted: 11:04 am on January 23rd
susanbrownknitting writes: Excellent Erika - not only are you a great designer but a flexible teacher - and that is real class! I officially award you an 'Obama' - the Oscar of creativity and generosity.
Posted: 5:44 pm on January 22nd
Miba writes: Oh, making money off it isn't really important. I more meant that it was worth something. I'm not saying the bags aren't worth something, cause there is enjoyment value too. And, yeah, I see these sheets made into clothes and stuff too, and it makes me sick every time. I keep my collection mint, in the package, and display them and that's how I enjoy it. I suppose if this is what you want to do with your collection, go ahead, the bags are pretty awesome looking. If everyone was a crazy "it has got to be mint!!!1oneone" collector like me that wouldn't be good and nothing would be worth anything, even enjoyment value.

Posted: 5:18 pm on January 22nd
erika_kern writes: Okay! I added more info on the bottom corners. Thanks again!
Posted: 1:03 pm on January 22nd
erika_kern writes: Thanks for the heads up on the corners thing. I don't have another picture (since the bags are already made) but I'll try to explain the corner better.
Posted: 12:51 pm on January 22nd
ohnoshesews writes: My mom lovingly saved my 'Josie and the Pussycats' sheets and I can't wait to make these bags from them!
I do agree with susanbrownknitting about the corners; I understand how to do them but an inexperienced sewer may have some trouble. It still takes me a minute or two to "get" things when I make a project for the first time. Maybe one more pic and a few lines would clear it up.
I really love this. Thanks for the cool idea.
Posted: 11:56 pm on January 21st
susanbrownknitting writes: This is a great idea and clever pattern. Hard to decide on the 'collector' issue as I think it depends on what you really love. But I would have sacrificed them as you did!

Just one thought. I came across my teenage daughter looking at this and getting confused about the corners. She wanted to know how you could stitch air together. She understood when I explained you needed to join the seams and you were getting rid of bulk etc. However, I wonder if other inexperienced sewers might need a sentence or two more. Think it over.

Meanwhile, I am about to cut into some 1920s William Morris Liberty Linen to make dog coats - just joking!

Thanks for a really great posting Erika!
Posted: 11:20 pm on January 21st
erika_kern writes: One more thing. . . why is making money off something more important than making something cool and different from it?

This is just a question and in no way meant as an attack. It's just, I did pay good money (not a lot of money, but it was still as good as anything) and I used them in the best way I saw fit. I've seen clothes and bags and quilts made from these sheets all the time. I think it's a great thing to reuses something and make it one's own.

I guess I'd understand your point if I'd open a sealed up deadstock item but these were somewhat stained sheets from the thrift that were very well loved.

Posted: 6:11 pm on January 21st
erika_kern writes: Well, they weren't in perfect condition and were just the top sheets. Plus, I don't understand the point of having something just to have it, which is what would happen if I just kept the sheets as is. This way I can appreciate them more. And isn't appreciating the true idea of fandom?
Posted: 6:05 pm on January 21st
Miba writes: I'm torn. These are truly awesome and a great idea. But by cutting those sheets (especially the REVENGE of the Jedi ones!!!!!) you have destroyed collectibles that any fan would pay good money for (especially the REVENGE of the Jedi ones!!!!!). In my collecting wanderings I've only seen the ANH sheets for sale ones and have never laid eyes on the Revenge ones. Otherwise, great idea, I myself was going to see if I could find SW fabric to make totes with, as I already make totes of my own.
Posted: 5:18 pm on January 21st
erika_kern writes: Aw, thanks! I got mad props at the grocery store too.
Posted: 3:54 pm on January 21st
Jen_W writes: I can't tell you how much I love, love, love these.
Posted: 3:34 pm on January 21st
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