How to Make a Tote Bag From a T-Shirt

We love this upcycling fashion project!

How to Make a Tote Bag From a T-Shirt


Clothing can be one of the harder items to recycle, so upcycle instead! Make a t-shirt bag and turn your old clothes into something new.


T-Shirt Bag Introduction


Figuring out ways to reuse household items can be tricky, especially when an item was made with one specific function in mind, like clothing. Reusing clothing might sound just like wearing something over and over again. But what if you could turn your clothes into something that can replace a disposable, one-time use item? Not only would you extend the life of your clothes, but you can also reduce waste. Double points for the environment!


In this activity, you will turn an old t-shirt into a reusable bag. This bag can replace paper or plastic shopping bags. Using this method also means you never have to buy a new reusable bag again! Since the bag is made out of a t-shirt, it’s easy to wash.


In preparation for this activity, you will need to find an old t-shirt at home that you would like to turn into a bag. The shirt size doesn’t matter, but the bigger the shirt, the bigger the t-shirt bag will be.


Next Generation Science Standards Tie-Ins


Grades K-2 K-ESS3-3: Use this activity to start a dialogue on ways to reduce negative human impact on the environment.


Grades 6-8 MS-ESS3-3: Use this, and other activities, that “include examining human environmental impacts, assessing the kinds of solutions that are feasible, and designing and evaluating solutions that could reduce that impact.”


T-Shirt Bag Materials

  • Old t-shirt
  • (Fabric) Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Paper plate (optional)
  • Chalk or marker

How To Make a T-Shirt Bag


Illustrated steps of making a t-shirt bag


1. Turn the shirt inside out so any logos/designs stay inside.


2. Lay shirt out on a flat surface. Try to smooth wrinkles out of the fabric.


3. Take a ruler and measure about three inches up from the bottom of the shirt. Using chalk or a marker, draw a straight line across the shirt, three inches up.


4. Use scissors to cut strips equal distances apart from the bottom of the shirt, up to the line. When cutting, make sure to cut both the front and the back of the shirt at the same time. Be careful not to cut the strips off the shirt. Make sure the strips are at least an inch and a half wide.


5. Cut off the sleeves of the shirt, just outside of the seam. Leave the seam that connects the body of the shirt to the sleeve intact. This seam will make your handles stronger.


6. Cut a deeper neck into the shirt so your bag has a bigger opening. Either free-hand cut or trace half of a paper plate around the neck to guide your cutting.


7. To seal the bottom of your bag, you will need to tie all those strips into knots. Take one strip from the back and one from the front. Tie the two together. Make a few tight knots before moving on to the next pair of strips.


8. Once the bottom of the shirt has been tied up, it will be a little scrunched up. Gently tug on both sides of the shirt to stretch the bottom back out.


9. Turn the shirt right-side out. Your knots will be hidden inside the bag.


10. Enjoy your new t-shirt bag!


Enjoyed this how-to? Check out 15 Creative Ways to Make Art By Reusing Materials!

Upcycled T-Shirt Bag Activity

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