How to sew the perfect bulk aisle produce bag

Shopping in the bulk aisle is a great way to reduce waste. Of course there is still the big bag the bulk food came in before being put in the bulk bin, but it sill uses less packaging and we could imagine that with the push for circular economy, they could actually be delivered in reusable containers as well. The most accessible option to buy bulk is to reuse the paper bags from the shop until they need to go to the compost, but fabric produce bags are much more convenient, both to fill at the shop and to transfer in glass containers at home.

How to sew the perfect bulk aisle produce bag

Produce bags can be bought, but they are easy to make with basic sewing skills. It took a  few trial and error to make a produce bag that is convenient for bulk groceries. I originally made a few by cutting in 4 an old pillow case, sewing on 2 of the open sides and putting a casing for a string on the fourth side or using the pillow case slap to close. Those bags work well for fruit and vegetable, but are not completely convenient for cereals and other small stuff:

  • They don’t close very well so things like rice spread in the bag.
  • Some grains stay stuck in the seams and I end up spilling them everywhere while transferring in the glass jar.
  • Fabric of the seam was frying despite the (bad) zigzag stitch and fibres would end up mixed in the food from time to time.

Since my sewing skills have improved a bit, I came up with a few tricks to solve those problems. It is a bit more difficult to make, but even if they didn’t come out as neat as I would have liked, they are much more convenient to use.

Tutorial: Drawstring bag for the bulk aisle

1 – Cutting the fabric

I made two sizes of bags based on the ones of the paper bags from my organic shop: 15 x 25 cm, and 20 x 35 cm, but you can use the size you want. The small one is nice for stuff like rice and the big one for stuff like pasta.

In a light and ironed fabric, cut a rectangle of:

(width + 4 cm) x (2*length + 6 cm)

In my case, 19 x 56 cm for the small bag and 24 x 76 cm for the big bag.

2 – Double-turn hemming the long sides

Perfect drawstring bags for the bulk aisle

Fold 2 cm on the long sides of the rectangle (up on the photo). Press and then fold the seam in two towards the inside of the seam (down on the photo). Press. You now have a 1 cm seam and all the loose ends inside.

If your fabric has a right side, it should be up while doing this. All the seams will be on the outside to avoid the food to stay stuck.

Sew as close as possible from the edge.

3 – The casing

Fold 1 cm on the small sides of the rectangle. Press and fold another 2 cm. Again the right side is up. Pin, press and sew along the edge of the casing.

4 – Side seams

Perfect drawstring bag for the bulk aisle

Fold the rectangle in two, right side inside. Press from the top for the two casings to align as well as possible. Starting just above the casing stitch (the casing stitch needs to be covered, but not much of the casing opening obstructed), sew as close as possible from the previous seam on both sides. It is important to start from the casing side and not the bottom of the bag as this will hide small dimension mistakes.

5 – Strings

For the stings, I use some yarn I had, because it is very light, but you can use any sting you have lying around. Eyeball the length for it to be just a bit longer on each side when folded in two. Using a safety pin, put 2 pieces of string through both sides of the casing. Tie the end of each string on a different side. This will enable to tie the two pieces together to close the bag well and prevent grains to escape during transport.

Have fun making your own bulk aisle produce bags. If you have any doubts on the instructions, feel free to ask in the comments.

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