DIY Tote Bag – Supplies Needed:
- 10-12 coffee bags
- 4 feet of 1 1/2″ webbing for handle
- Measuring tape
- Sewing machine
- Scotch tape
- 2 yards of 7/8” black twill tape (Optional side trimming)
Coffee Bag Preparation
- Gather your empty Equal Exchange and Level Ground fair trade coffee bags and remove the bag closures and loose tape.
- Open the bags and carefully peel off the vacuum button from the center front (cover the hole with a square of tape on the silver side of the bag).
- Wash and dry bags.
- Trim the edges of each bag so all the sides fit together.
Helpful starter tips
Before beginning to sew bags together to create fabric, sew scraps together to adjust the stitch length on your machine and get used to how your machine will operate. You’ll want a longer stitch that attaches the pieces firmly. Expect slippage and uneven seams – that’s all part of the charm. Depending on your presser foot traction, you may need to pull from the back of the “fabric” as you feed from the front.
Since you aren’t able to pin the pieces together, it might be helpful to mark your sewing allowances on the back side with a marker. Another option is to use small pieces of tape to hold the pieces together. Use around a ½” seam allowance or more to sew the pieces together and 2 rows of stitching, but don’t worry about keeping the seams straight.
You can sew your bags together and cut out what you need from the large pieces or only sew together as many bags as you need to make each piece. The tote is made from 4 pieces of coffee bag “fabric.”
- 14 1/2″ wide by 13 1/4″ tall (the front and back)
- 4 pieces that measure 13 1/4″ tall by 7 1/4 ” wide (the 2 sides)
- 2 pieces that are 14 1/2″ by 7 1/4″ for the bottom. The bag is constructed with a matching lining.
Assembling the lining
Sort through your pieces and decide which ones will be the lining. Mark a 1/2″ seam allowance on the wrong side all the way around.
Create a cross shape by arranging the bags length wise and end-wise. Make sure that the text on all 4 sides will be right side up (unless you want it be upside down!) Then you can assemble an identical cross that will be the outside of the bag.
Putting it all together
After the 2 crosses are sewn, it’s time to assemble the bag by sewing up the sides. Put the pieces wrong sides together to create the lining as you assemble. If you’ve managed to keep the seam allowances fairly consistent, the pieces should match up okay. Don’t worry if they are off by a bit.
It may be helpful to use a few small pieces of tape rolled up and placed between the lining and the outside to help stabilize each piece. Fold the sides towards the center and crease the bottom edges firmly. By this time, you’ll be sewing through 4 layers of bags so there will be some slippage. The best way to manage this is to sew just an inch or two of each side seam about 2 inches from each bottom corner. This will help hold the bag together while you sew the top edge and complete the sides.
To sew the top edge, check the 4 corners to see if they will match up with each other. Decide how much the upper seam allowance should be. This seam will be easier to sew if you trim away some of the lining first. Just be sure not to trim too much since you don’t want an accidental pocket! Once the top seam is finished, you should completely sew up each side.
If you want a more finished look after the sides are sewn, add some trim. Cut a piece of trim long enough plus an inch at either end. As you near the top edge, tuck the extra under and complete.
To attach the handles, cut 2 lengths of webbing 24” long each. Measure about 3” from each outside edge and attach the handles so there’s about 1 ½” of overlap for each end. The handles will be about 21” long, which is a nice over-the-shoulder length.
Enjoy your tote bag and be ready to have lots of fair trade coffee conversations!
Many Ten Thousand Villages products are created using recycled post-consumer materials. Artisans reuse materials where resources are scarce and create new, eco-friendly products: Woven Wrapper Handbags, Newspaper Necklaces, the popular Trash Stash Wastebasket and so much more… Stop by your local store and ask about our recycled products (you might be surprised what is and isn’t recycled!) and shop online anytime!