Shopping Bag Satchel

How many of you have approximately 12 gazillion plastic shopping bags wasting space in your home? It’s okay… I do too. It seems that whenever I remember to bring my reusable shopping bags to the store I buy one item and I forget them when I do a whole week’s worth of grocery shopping. And of course we insist on keeping them because we use them in trash bags for some of our trashcans that rarely get full. Needless to say I have a huge bag full of them and they were making me crazy. So I decided to do something about it and upcycle the bags. My friend Seth uses plastic bags as his lunch box everyday so I wanted to design and make an upcycled lunchbox for him (can’t get too far out of his comfort zone!) So here’s what you’ll need and what to do, complete with pictures.

Start with your plastic bag. Cut off the handles and the bottom. Smooth it out so there’s just two layers of plastic (instead of 4 in the corners)

Once you have enough bags cut out (I’d suggest about 8 layers of bags per sheet of plastic you want to make) lay out a piece of wax paper on your ironing board.

Layer all your plastic bags on top of the wax paper and then cover with another sheet of wax paper. Iron the whole thing, ironing slowly but not letting the iron linger anywhere for too long. Iron for a minute or two then put the plastic aside to cool. Do this for as many pieces of plastic as you’ll want (in this pattern, I did 3– two for the sides and one for the bottom/flap) 

Take your two pieces that you want as the sides and cut them so they’re the same size. Punch holes along the sides and stitch them up with yarn.

I’d suggest a stitch like this (go one direction doing a whip stitch and then reverse directions once you’ve done the whole row)

Decide what shape you want the bottom to be and cut it out. For this, I wanted an oval so I folded the bottom piece on itself and cut a symmetrical oval. Hole punch the edges of this along with the corresponding edges of the two square pieces you already sewed together. Stitch them up!

Decide what size you want the flap to be and cut it out also. I just made mine a rectangle. For this, only hole punch and stitch one side (otherwise you will just have a box and won’t be able to get your lunch in or out!)


I chose to do a braided strap because I thought it would be easiest. Cut strips of un-ironed bag that are about an inch wide and insert them into the already punched holes like shown above. Tie another piece on so you’ll have your three strands to braid with.

Braid away!

Make the strap whatever length you’d like. Tie it securely on the other side.

Now for the final touch– figuring out how you can close the sack so the contents don’t go spewing everywhere when it’s knocked over (I’m not guaranteeing the stability of these…) I wanted to make a toggle-esque closure of some sort and was poking around my apartment to try to find something appropriate when I came across an empty milk jug in my recycling bin! I used the top of it and used a corkscrew to punch the holes in it. Punch corresponding holes in your bag where you want the “button” to go.

Sew the “button” on just as you would any other button.

Come up with some way to make a loop that goes around the satchel. I thought about braiding this again but I couldn’t figure out how to get it to loop properly, so if you come up with a better way leave it in a comment!

Ta-da! All done. Now go give yourself a pat on the bat for being crafty and environmentally friendly!

Good luck! If you want a more detailed pattern let me know! Also, if you have better ways to do these leave a comment so you can share with others!

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