Completed: Shopping bag

140713_shoppingbag2My brain has been a little fried this week due to working too much and sleep deprivation caused by mosquitos in our bedroom (ok, and working at 2 am one night but that was for a good cause). I wanted to work on a simple project and decided to tackle something I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

I used to have a shopping bag that I could attach to my bike. Sadly it got a large tear in one of the sides when I, one time too many, overloaded it. I missed using it. It made grocery shopping a lot more enjoyable because I didn’t have to carry a heavy backpack on the way home but could simply click the bag onto my bike instead. The clips of this bag still looked pretty good so the thought occurred to me that perhaps I could salvage these and use them to make myself a new shopping bag.


If you now think that this doesn’t really sound like a simple project you should take into account that I have been making bags for ages and to me they’re just a couple of rectangles and straight lines of stitches with a little bit of easy maths involved to get the proportions right. Also, if your stitching is off by a couple of millimetres that’s usually not a big deal when you’re making a bag. In garment sewing a dart that is off by a couple of millimetres can already look really weird. I intended to match the pattern at the seams on the outside of this bag but it didn’t really work out that way and I don’t really care because it’s just a shopping bag.


I started by taking the old bag apart (I can’t find the pictures that I thought I had taken before deconstruction) and it turned out the clips are attached to a large firm plate that was sewn to the back of the bag. There was absolutely no way I was going to use my sewing machine to stitch it in place in my new bag. Really, it feels like plastic and I think you’d need a really sturdy industrial machine to make that work. Fortunately, the old stitching had left holes so I used those to attach the plate to the new bag with a running stitch (after I had made a couple of buttonholes to fit the clips through).


For the outside I used a piece of upholstery fabric I’ve had for years. I’m really curious whether someone has actually used this fabric to upholster their couch. Originally I had bought it to make a bag as well but thought it was probably a bit too much when I got home and only used a small piece to add an accent to that bag. Leaving me with a huge piece of left-over fabric that took up a lot of space. I already considered getting rid of it at some point because I couldn’t see what I would ever use it for. After making this bag I still have a huge piece left…


The top of the bag was made with black canvas left over from this bag. For the lining I used black Kona cotton and two fat quarters from Jane Sassaman’s Wild Child collection for Free Spirit. If I had had enough black fabric I’d probably have used only black for the lining but I think the print is a nice surprise when you open the bag. Everything was interfaced with a fusible woven interfacing.


I used a separating zipper for the top because I thought that would be easier during the construction and turned it into a non-separating one by adding a fabric tab at the end. The fabric tab actually caused me the most trouble. My first attempt at a different shape didn’t work at all. My second attempt was sewn wrong sides together and I didn’t even notice this until after I had trimmed the seams and tried to turn it right side out and surprisingly was met by the interfaced side… Luckily the third attempt worked out fine.


The bottom of the bag contains a gridded bag bottom that is held in place by four metal bag feet and some hand stitches across the bottom seam. The plate that was already sewn in at the start did make the construction more difficult because it made the bag less flexible than it otherwise would have been. When I was trying to manoeuvre the bag so I could top stitch the top edge by machine I quickly realised that this really wasn’t going to work and used a hand sewn running stitch instead.

inside shopping bag

Bag bottom before it was attached.

I am really happy with my new bag, although I still need to actually use it to transport groceries. It already wins from my old bag in the looks department and I only used materials I already had on hand, which means I saved at least 20-30 euros that I might otherwise have spent on a new bag.


22 comments on “Completed: Shopping bag

  1. Chris says:

    This is a very clever make! I am especially curious about the mesh-grid in the bottom. Do you get this especially for making bags or were you re-purposing a material for something else?

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for the tip, Emmely. That looks like a useful shop! Just as well I don’t go in for stash diets ;-)

  3. katechiconi says:

    I thought when I first saw the photo that this was an open top pannier with a black laptop case inside it, but once I’d read through I realised the black top part was sewn to the sides. It’s a good design because it opens right up – worth all the problems making it.

    • Emmely says:

      I need a closure at the top or everything will just jump out with every bump in the road. When I fill it to the rim the black top becomes flat so it can still close and cover everything.

  4. Ruthie says:

    Wow. How lucky you had everything on hand. It looks amazing. While I won’t be making any heavy duty bags this summer, you had a great tip: use a separating zipper for construction and then just bar tacking it later. Genius.

    • Emmely says:

      That I had everything on hand does say something about the size of my stash… The separating zipper really did make things easier so I will probably use that trick again.

  5. onedabbles says:

    A great touch of luxury for everyday chores. Love hearing how you solve the problems as you go along.

    • Emmely says:

      Oh yes, it does make me smile everytime I look at it. The old one was a really boring black and grey and the fabric had a lot of synthetics in it so it didn’t feel nice either.

  6. CurlsnSkirls says:

    Great bag! Congratulations on staying with it and figuring out as you went along!! Don’t know as I’d have had that much courage or energy. ;-)

    • Emmely says:

      It helps when you’re using fabric that isn’t precious or special. If I had messed up or it hadn’t worked out I’d just have a lost a couple of hours of work, nothing more.

  7. Seriously brilliant! I love the remake. It’s fascinating to see how to use firm plastic within a bag, isn’t it?

  8. Carolyn says:

    This bag looks fantastic! I LOVE that upholstery fabric. It’s so bright and unique. I mean, who else is going to have such a beautiful bike bag? :) It was great that the hardware from your old bag was still in good shape, because the new bag looks pretty indestructible!

    • Emmely says:

      I am going to use it for the first time today! Probably a bit more excited about that than is normal. I was quite suprised how sturdy and solid it felt after I had sewn the plate in place. I think the plate also helps to distribute the weight more evenly.

  9. Kathy Lynch says:

    Hello from Brisbane, Australia. Just discovered your blog Emmely & smiled when I saw the bag. My husband & I “ran away from home” for 2013 & lived in Blaricum for 3 months (we house swapped). Of all the trillions of bicycle bags I saw whilst in the Netherlands, I think this one is the CUTEST – gorgeous fabric! Do you ever frequent the Utrecht fabric market? Apart from being a lovely city, that market is awesome!

    • Emmely says:

      Thank you! You chose a very nice location to stay in the Netherlands! I’ve never been to the Utrecht fabric market but I do want to go someday, I’ve heard from more people that it’s great. Right now I really need to use up some more stash fabric…

  10. Duffle says:

    Gorgeous bag, I am totally adoring the fabric :)

  11. ShereeSews says:

    This is simply fabulous! I enjoy many of your blog articles!

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