t-shirt tote bag

096: Make a tote bag out of an old T-shirt

Cost of taking action: £/$/€ FREE

Reuse an old t-shirt by making it into a tote bag

Today’s action is a good example of how a little creativity can turn something destined for the tip (landfill) into something that reduces the use of plastic, and all for free. That’s a win-win-win!

You can easily turn a favourite old T-shirt into a bag you can use for your shopping, gym kit, or anything else.

  • your favourite T-shirt gets a new look and stays in your life
  • the discarded fabric doesn’t end up in landfill
  • your bag can be reused and reused, saving perhaps hundreds of single use plastic carrier bags
  • your bag is completely washable
  • reducing the use of plastic is massively important (see this article from National Geographic)

Take action

Here are some simple instructions for re-purposing an unwanted T-shirt as a re-usable tote bag.

The project takes just two quick seams and some simple cutting, and the resulting totes are strong and washable, ideal for groceries, books, gym clothes … or for anything you need to carry!

You will need

  • unwanted cotton T-shirt (any size works, adult medium is about the same as a carrier bag)
  • straight pins
  • pencil
  • dinner plate
  • scissors
  • sewing machine and thread


  1. t-shirt step 4Take your T-shirt and smooth it flat on a table.
  2. Use scissors to remove the sleeves, leaving the seams in place.
  3. Place your dinner plate about halfway over the neck opening of the shirt and trace the curve with your pencil.
  4. This is the cutting line for the opening for your tote bag; cut along the traced line with the scissors (see pic)
  5. Turn the T-shirt inside out and pin the bottom of it closed, i.e. along the hem
  6. Use the sewing machine to sew the bottom of the T-shirt hem closed.
  7. Reinforce the bottom of your bag by sewing over this seam a second time!
  8. Turn the shirt-bag rightside out.
  9. Job done!
  10. Make another one for a friend of family member and tell them about Rotary World Savers as you give it to them
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