I live near The Merc, 901 Iowa, so the grocer’s recent decision to stop offering plastic bags got me thinking. There are a few types of items I prefer to put in plastic bags because they may leak or get condensation on the outside. I decided a reusable, vinyl-lined bag would suit my grocery-shopping needs and be easy to clean.
To make mine, I used a yard of fabric from my stash and an unused shower curtain liner that I had from a previous project. The shower curtain liner I used is lightweight and easy to sew, and a French seam stops leaks through the lining.
• 1 yard fabric
• yard shower curtain liner
• Iron/ironing board
• Coordinating thread
• Hand-sewing needle
• Cut the pieces from the fabric: two 18-inch by 24-inch rectangles for the outside of the bag, two 2-inch by 24-inch strips for facings, and two 4-inch by 24-inch strips for straps. From the shower curtain liner, cut two 26-inch by 24-inch rectangles.
• Take the strips for the handles. Fold in half lengthwise and press. Unfold. Fold up the raw edges to the center crease and press. Fold the strip in half along the center crease and press again. You should have a 1-inch by 24-inch strip. Sew a 1/4-inch seam down the outer edge of the strip. Repeat for the second strap.
• Align one facing strip with the long edge of a lining piece, right sides together. Attach with a 1/2-inch seam. Since you can’t press the shower curtain liner (without making a big, melted mess, that is), fold the facing up and topstitch it to the seam allowance. This will keep it flat. Repeat with the other facing and lining pieces.
• Lay the lining pieces wrong sides together and sew a narrow seam along three edges — not the facings edge, which is the top. Turn inside out and press down the seams with your fingers. Sew a 1/4- to 1/2-inch French seam along the same three edges — the first seam allowance will be inside of this seam allowance. It should help prevent leaks. It’s also a strong seam.
• Lay the outer pieces right sides together and sew along three edges, leaving the top open as well as a 4-inch hole open along the bottom long edge for turning. Usually the turning hole goes on the lining, but this will be the opposite because the lining has the French seam.
• Leaving the outer shell inside out, drop the lining inside so right sides are together, aligning the side seams. Put the handle strips between the two layers — the ends should be 5 inches in from each side seam. Pin the handles in place, one on each side of the bag. Pin the lining facing to the outer shell. Stitch a 1/2 inch seam along the top edge. You can backstitch over the handles for extra strength.
• Pull the lining and handles through the turning hole in the bottom of the outer layer. Then push the lining inside the outer layer. The bag is now right-side out.
• Press along the edge of the facing and outer layer (don’t touch the lining with the iron), then top stitch along the edge, 1/8 to 1/4 inch in.
• Sew the turning hole closed by hand using a slipstitch.
Now you’re ready to go to the store or the Farmers’ Market and stock up.