Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bulk and Produce Bags

I’ve been buying a lot in the bulk section at Martin’s and Whole Foods, more and more over the last year, and I’m realizing what a money and packaging saver it is.  I got inspired by Bea from Zero Waste Home to make some cotton bulk bags for all my oats and what-have-you.  

One of my original set.
I happened to find a 100% cotton king-size white fitted sheet at Goodwill for $1.00, and I thought it would be perfect for this project (I also saved all the elastic, I’m sure it will come in handy someday!).  It’s lightweight, which is important in case the cashier forgets to tare the scale.  I made these a year ago, and they’re still holding up wonderfully after many washes!

Now, me being me, I did not realize I would have to re-make this project in order to make the tutorial.  I’m crazy like that.  When I went looking for my sewing materials, my sewing box was nowhere to be found, and the remainder of my sheet is MIA.  No problem, I have other cloth, and there was thread in the sewing machine.  It also made me remember that in a pinch you can rip cloth instead of neatly cutting it with a rotary blade like I usually do.  

Those edges are pretty raw, but they work!
You will need

1 piece 8 ½” x 13” cotton fabric ($1.00)

20” flat cotton webbing ($.79 per ft, $.79/12” = $.07 x 20” = $1.32)

Thread (free from other projects)

1.       With the fabric laying long-ways, fold over the top sides just enough to sew down 3” long.  Sew this 3” strip on each side.

These edges will become the ends of the drawstring tube.

2.       Fold that top edge over ¾” and iron flat, with the raw sewn-down edges facing each other.

3.       Fold over again, iron flat, then sew down as close to the fold as you feel comfortable.

4.       With the folded part facing out, sew along the two remaining sides. 

5.       Now go back over the two sides you have sewn with a zigzag stitch between the straight stitch and the edge of the cloth to prevent fraying.  

6.       Turn the bag right side in.

7.       Take a safety pin and stick it through the end of the webbing.  Inch the safety pin through the drawstring opening until the webbing is all the way through.  Tie a knot in the webbing.

8.       Take the bag to the customer service desk at the store you’ll be using these in.  Ask them to weight it.  Mark your bag with this weight so the cashier will know what tare to put on the scale.  I used my trusty sharpie, but you could get fancy and use freezer paper to ink them on!

9.       Remember to bring them in the store when you’re buying produce or bulk items!!
I have eight of these that I made all at once assembly-style.  They don’t take much time, and they’ve been really useful!  I made a few similarly sized produce bags out of tulle, but I decided I liked the cotton ones better for produce because they protect greens and other more delicate things in the fridge better.You can see in the first picture that I also included a spot to write the item number in.  I used a pencil to write this in.  It sometimes washed out, sometimes not so much.  If I were to make these again, I wouldn't bother.  I find it just as easy to write down all the item numbers on a piece of paper and read them out to the cashier as he or she scans them.   

Try It

$2.32 each if I never use (or find) the sheet again.

Buy It

$10.79 for 3 8.5” x 11” Ecobags, or $3.59 each.


This is the easiest sewing project next to diaper wipes that you can attempt.  Try It, you’ll like it. 

NEXT WEEK: Caramel Corn!


  1. Having just taken another load of plastic bags back for recycling, I really like this project. Many foods do better in a cloth bag in the fridge.

  2. I just realized I calculated for only one bag coming out of that sheet, instead of 8! That brings the price down to $1.45 per bag if I never find that sheet again. Nice.

  3. Where did you get the cotton webbing? I have looked everywhere for it.

  4. Just to add to above question...I have only been able to find the really thick stuff that belts are made out of.

    1. I found it in Joann by the ribbons, weird fringe stuff, and drapery weights. I couldn't find it on their website or I would have included a link! Ribbon or parachute cord would also work if you still can't find it. Good luck!

  5. Sounds like a good craft project. Have you tried using bulk bags for your next project?