Something that I have noticed since signing up for one small change is that a number of people are taking this opportunity to give up using plastic shopping bags. I have tried not to use plastic shopping bags for about five years now and have found that a huge supply of bags, that fold up very small and fit in my handbag has been invaluable in achieving this end. I had promised Valarie that I would let her have my pattern for making re-usable bags from an old pillowcase and I think the easiest way to do that is to share it with all of you as a tutorial.
Start with your pillowcase, ironed and laid out flat. I picked up a whole load of vintage pillowcases in a charity (Thrift) shop but I have also bought new ones from IKEA which are cheap enough to cut up and use to make bags.
Lay a ruler side to side across your pillowcase, just below where the flap ends inside (where the fabric is in three layers) and draw a straight line onto the fabric. I used one of my kids felt tips, it really doesn't matter what type you use as it will be covered over when you sew the hems.
Open out the flap and you should end up with one oblong shape and one square piece. I use the square piece to make the handles and discard the oblong (well not really discard of course - it ends up in my scrap bag waiting to be made into something else!) Using your ruler and felt tip, mark the half way point of your square piece and draw a line.
Cut along the line, so that you end up with two equal pieces. Sometimes the flap is very small and you may find that you don't have enough fabric to use, in this case you can use the oblong piece as one handle and cut the square down to the same size to make the other.
Then iron a similar amount over on the long sides. Do this to both your handles and then fold in half again along the length and iron into place. None of the measurements here need to be accurately done and they change for each bag dependant on how much fabric you find you have. All that matters is that you make the two handles as close to the same as possible (although even that is not too much of a problem as you can adjust it again when you attach them to the body of the bag).
Before we start stitching and while the iron is still hot, turn the body of your bag inside out and fold over approx. 1 cm around the open edge. Iron this in place and then fold and iron again (this turns in all the rough edges). We are now ready to start sewing.
Using your machine (or a running stitch if you prefer to hand sew), sew around the top open edge of the bag, close to the edge of the turn down. You can use a thread that matches your fabric at this point or it can look nice on a plain bag to use a contrast thread for interest.
For fun at this stage, using a rubber stamp, fabric ink and a scrap of old linen, I make a happy re-cycling label, reminding me to re-use my bag. This is obviously optional but I thought I would show you as this is a perfect place to personalise your bag further - your name, a flower, a contents label - the possibilities are endless!
Using the pattern below, attach your handles to the bag. The extra stitching gives added strength to this stress point and ensures that your handles don't give way.
Your bag is complete! This is the simplest version that I make and it can easily be completed from start to finish in well under an hour. Of course it is possible to make much more sophisticated versions using the same materials (there are some stunning creations if you search the web) but this is perfectly adequate for the job and after all that is all you need.
I hope you enjoy making and using this bag as much as I do. Once I started making them I found it hard to stop and two years ago all my friends and family had re-usable shopping bags as Christmas gift wrap!
Please tell me if you do make them - as I would love to see what individual designs you come up with.