Produce/Bulk Bin Bags

I feel somewhat bad that the first thing I’m posting after so long is a sewing tutorial instead of food, but this craft creates a bag for procuring food, and that’s a part of cooking, right?

I’m becoming interested in natural dyes and to that end recently set up an indigo vat. Indigo dye comes from a plant, but it’s interesting in that it’s actually fermented. And I’m a big fan of fermentation of all sorts. It traditionally takes a few days to create an indigo fermentation vat, but since I was just trying it out for the first time, I bought a kit that comes with pre-reduced indigo, which unlike non-reduced indigo, is water soluble, which eliminates all the time and hard work of the fermentation process. I then proceeded to dye everything in the house indigo. I dyed a white blanket, because neither Mark nor I should be trusted with anything white, and I dyed several garments I had that I didn’t love the colors of (I loved the results of this and am so glad to have several “new” pieces of clothing that I’ll wear much more often now). And then I decided to experiment with shibori, which is basically Japanese tie-dyeing.

I practiced on strips of muslin. Muslin is a light, inexpensive cotton often used by seamstresses to make mock-ups of sewn items. I tend to keep several yards of muslin on hand because it’s cheap, useful, and I do often make mockups (also referred to as muslins) when I’m drafting patterns for projects. (This makes me sound like I’m a “real” sewer…believe me, I’m not!) Anyway, these qualities made muslin the perfect fabric for me to do some practice shibori on, however, this left me with a bunch of shiboried (I’m not sure that is actually a word, but it is now) pieces of muslin with which I needed to find something to do. And it just so happened that I’d been meaning to make some drawstring bags to take to the farmers market for things like green beans and potatoes. Sooooo, while you certainly do not need to shibori your fabric to make these bags, it explains why mine are tie-dyed, and also shibori is really fun. The pre-reduced indigo kit I bought was a good value because I was able to dye quite a few garments, that blanket, a bunch of Smark towels, and a couple yards of muslin for these bags, and I really enjoyed doing all of it.

You don’t have to use muslin; any lightweight fabric will do, although if you are a novice sewer (like me), I strongly suggest you stick to 100% cotton with no stretch. Muslin is cheap, strong, and useful to have on hand. I weighed one of my bags and it was exactly one ounce, which I don’t expect to have much if any impact on the price I’m paying for my produce and bulk bin items.

Drawstring Produce Bags

You need:
cotton muslin (or other lightweight cotton) – the size you want your bag plus a couple inches for seam allowances and the drawstring casing
thin cording – at least twice the width you want your bag plus 6″
rotary cutter and mat, or fabric scissors
sewing machine
large safety pin
pinking shears (optional)

I made my bag by taking one long strip of fabric and folding it half so I only had to sew up the left and the right side; the bottom was the fold. The best way for you to cut your fabric may be to cut two pieces. You can make it whatever size you want, but when cutting, add 1″ to the width and 3″ to the length you want your final product. Here I’ve laid out my folded fabric on my rotary mat, which I also used to measure it.

I cut my fabric so it was 14.5″ wide and 16″ high (but remember, it’s folded, so really I have one piece of fabric that’s 14.5″ x 32″; if you are cutting two pieces instead of one long strip, cut them both the same size). You can use regular fabric scissors if you don’t have a rotary cutter and mat.

First we are going to make the casing for the drawstring. There are two ways to do this: what is probably the better way, and what is the lazy way. The better way involves pressing so I did it the lazy way. Place the fabric right side down (if your fabric has a front side; muslin doesn’t really) in front of you. You want to fold the top edge over by about 1/8″, then over again by another 1/8″, so the raw edge is hidden.

The best thing to do here would probably be to just press this, but I pin and stitch it. Pressing is better because it uses less thread and you only end up stitching once. Stitching is easier because I much prefer sewing to pressing.

If you have two pieces of fabric, repeat on the top edge of the second piece. If you have on long strip like me, repeat on the “other” top edge, making sure that you fold down on the same side of fabric.

The next step is to actually make the casing. All you have to do is fold the folded edge down one more time. How wide you make the casing depends on the cord you’ll be using, but 3/4″, as I’ve done here, should be more than large enough. Just make sure you’ll be able to get your large safety pin through it later. Pin.

Stitch the casing closed. If you stitched for the first step instead of pressing, stitch right over your first line of stitching. If you pressed for the first step, stitch near the bottom of the casing. Repeat this step for the other piece or other side of fabric.

Next we’ll sew the bag closed. We’re going to use french seams to do this, so although normally you would always sew seams with right sides of the fabric together, we are going to start by sewing the seams wrong sides together. Even if your fabric didn’t have a right and a wrong side to begin with, now that you’ve made the casing it does. The wrong side of the fabric is the side the casing is folded into. If you have two pieces of fabric, put one right side down and then place the other on top of it, right side up, lining the casings up at the top. If you have one piece of fabric, fold it so the casings are at the top and the right sides are facing out. Starting at the stitching of the casing, NOT the top of the fabric, sew the right side using a 1/8″ seam. For me, the right of my presser foot is 1/8″. Note in the picture that I’m starting at the bottom of the casing – if you start above the line of stitching you did, you’ll sew the casing shut.

If you are using one piece of fabric, sew to the bottom fold, then flip the bag over sew the other side up in exactly the same manner.

If you have two pieces of fabric, pivot 1/8″ from the the bottom fold and then continue sewing your seam along the bottom, then pivot and sew up the third side, stopping at the bottom of the casing.

Again, note that you need to leave the casing open on both sides.

Now for the magic of the french seam. Turn the bag inside out. We’re going to sew the side seams again, trapping the raw edges inside. I didn’t bother pinning the inside seams because bags like these are manageable sizes and cotton fabric isn’t going to slip around, but I do pin for the second pass just to sandwich everything together tightly. The better way would probably be to press the seams, which would eliminate the need to pin.

Again, starting at the bottom of the casing, stitch the side seams again, this time 3/8″ from the edge.

Finished seams.

Now here’s the rather unprofessional part of this drawstring bag. I’m just going to allow exposed edges here instead of getting all fancy, but it will help to use pinking shears if you have them. Snip off both corners of the casing at a diagonal as shown in this picture:

Turn the bag right side out.

See the “v” in the casing we have at the seams?

Stick your safety pin through one end of your cord …

… then start feeding it through the casing starting at one of the “v”s.

Keep pushing the cord through by pushing the pin through the casing.

When you come to the opening on the other side, stick the safety pin in and feed it through the second side of casing.

When you are finished, the cords will meet. Remove the safety pin and knot the cord ends together.

Finished bag:

With a couple others I made in different sizes:

Filled with goodies. These will be great for produce, both at the store and the farmers market, and for bulk bin buys.

For the farmers market, I love, love, love this basket, and it has a perfect pocket for stashing these produce bags.

Speaking of shibori, here I am at a local vineyard today (that sells boxed wine, yay!!!), sporting a shibori scarf I made. The scarf itself was no-sew because it’s knit and doesn’t ravel; it’s just a long length of a gauzy cotton knit that I shiboried in my indigo vat.

And guess what? The dress is one of the garments I dyed indigo. It was previously bright red, if you can believe that. It was pretty, and I wore it red a few times, but usually I’d put it on and take it back off again because it was so bright and I just don’t do bright colors. I LOVE it in its new color.

Aaaaaand, time for cat news! So, in early summer I noticed a cat hanging around our yard. In fact, she never seemed to leave. I have wildlife cams out there and I saw her on them 24 hours a day. She lived in the top of our overgrown arbor, in kind of a nest, which seemed really pathetic to me, especially in the rain. I started feeding her because I knew she wasn’t going to a home elsewhere and I didn’t want her deciding to eat my birds. She and I very quickly became friends once I starting showing up with food, and one day I took her to my vet and had them scan her for a microchip. That came back negative and inquiries with the animal shelter and various lost & found sites got me nowhere, so the week before a big heatwave, I brought her in. I got her shots, cured her of some ear mites, then a few weeks later started introducing her to Gomez and Torticia. She didn’t have a name for the longest time, because I wasn’t sure we were going to keep her and because I couldn’t think of one that really seemed to suit her. They had to enter something on her record at the vet, so they entered “No Name”, and we actually called her Noname for a couple of months. Sad, eh? Then last weekend I was driving down the road and saw the name Heidi on some horse show sign and that was it! Because she likes to hide! She’s Heidi! (Except Mark keeps calling her Meatwad, to my disapproval.)

So with no further ado, meet Heidi!

Yep, she’s a tortie like Torticia! The tortie twins don’t like each other much though. Gomez and Torticia have been AWESOME the entire time. They never expressed any concern when I was harboring her in her own room, even though they knew there was another cat in there, and when I started letting her out, Gomez in particular has just wanted to be friends with her. Heidi’s not having it, though. I think she’s just still really terrified of them so she gets all defensive and hisses at them, then Torticia hisses back. Mezzie just walks right up to Heidi and stares at her with his ginormous eyes, head cocked quizzically, like, “why don’t you want to be my friend?????” while she’s hissing in his face. I’m hoping all the hissing calms down eventually, but if months go by and I think Heidi is living in fear, I will try to find a one-cat home for her. She’s very sweet and affectionate when she’s on her own, although Mezzie and Tish are always wherever I am so it’s hard to spend alone time with Heidi. We’re trying to make it work, though, because she IS very sweet, and she does seem super grateful to be here. I was worried she’d cry to go back outside, but she has shown no inclination to return to the great outdoors whatsoever. I really don’t think she was happy out there. I wish I knew who abandoned her.

A food post soon, I swear! It’s just that I spent so much of my kitchen time canning over last several weeks that I didn’t have time for blogging, or making blog-worthy meals. Canning is dwindling down a bit, and half of our raccoons are released, so I’m starting to have more time and I expect to get back into the swing of things soon.


  1. Josiane Said,

    September 15, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

    Your “new” dress looks fabulous on you! Without having seen it in red, I easily can imagine that dying it truly did a fabulous job of making it more *you* – it’s really great as it is right now, and it suits you perfectly.

  2. susan Said,

    September 16, 2013 @ 6:06 am

    I love it when you say you don’t “sew”. I wish I could not sew some of those bags!

  3. Nikki Said,

    September 16, 2013 @ 8:08 am

    Your efforts into tie dying is so much more pretty than mine was. One time, I had this great idea of recycling white wife beater shirts from the thrift store by turning them into reusable grocery sacks by stitch witching the bottom hems together. (See, you really are a seamstress!) I was going planning on tie dying my new tshirt bags for a finishing touch. It was a messy process and not much fun, but I got it done. The baggers and cashiers at the supermarket were clueless as to my bags of many colors and usually held them up like they were uncertain of them being clean underwear. My bags were quickly retired due to mass confusion. Louisiana isn’t very green, nor has much vision for such items, to my dismay.

  4. Becky Said,

    September 23, 2013 @ 10:06 am

    I am so excited for you and the new cat! I have been through that myself (trying to introduce another cat to, two buddy cats) and it went the same way you describe. Here’s how it played out for me. My two buddy cats who grew up together, continued to love each other, groom each other and romp and play fight together and grew to accept the other cat. The hissing died down to almost never and they lived together in a peaceful co-existance where they just gave the new cat a wide birth, so to speak, and she did the same with them. They would literally walk a wide circle around each other but would eat and drink from the same bowls and use the same litter box and sleep in the same room, maybe always just about a foot apart. So as long as they had their space, everyone was very happy and there were never any fights. We lived together for many years and they all eventually died at old ages. Then i got two new young buddy cats and the same thing happend again when I adopted a new stray! It may take a couple months but hopefully you will have the same peaceful resolution soon.

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