recycle your birdseed or pet food bag into a terrific tote

Go Green!  I first made these terrific totes when my sister gave me a bunch of chicken feed bags.  My sister Lisa lives out in the country in Nebraska, and she raises chickens as a hobby.  She had all these giant heavy duty bags made of some kind of super plastic weave.  Lisa said that some folks were recycling them and she gave me several to play with.

I came up with my own pattern and way to sew together a heavy duty tote made of them.  The material is so sturdy, and everyone who sees them loves the idea.  All winter I have been saving all sizes of bird seed and pet food bags made of the same material to make more totes.  Here is my tutorial on how to make them yourself.   What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with a little recycling?

what you will need:

  • Plastic weave pet feed or bird seed bag (14 to 40 lb bags all work fine)
  • Large sewing needle 14 or 16  (I recommend a jeans needle)
  • Polyester thread (I  used topstitch thread)
  • 10-12 Medium Binder clips (large enough to clip the seams together on the tote)
  • Walking foot, if you have it.

what you will need to do:

Note: Use a stitch length of 4.0 mm

I am going to start with one of the 40 lb bags, dimensions before sewing are approximately 16 to 18 inches wide by 25 to 28 inches long.


Remove any stitching from the top and bottom of the bag and open it up.  Wipe it out if it is not clean.


Trim the top and bottom evenly across.


Cut 4” off the bottom for the handles.


Cut out the hard seam from the handle closely on each side of the seam.
Cut the strip in half so you have two 4 inch wide handle strips.


Fold the strip in half and crease it.


Then fold each of the sides into the center crease.


Finally, fold the whole thing in half to enclose the raw edges inside the handle and use the binder clips to hold the strip closed.


Aren’t these cute binder clips?  They were a gift from my friend, Ann.


T0p stitch both sides.


Turn the bag inside out.  You may have to wrestle it a bit.  Fold it flat using the side seam creases.


Stitch a large seam stitch of 4.0 mm, sew a ½ inch seam across the bottom.
Stitch again ¼ inch away to reinforce it.


Measure 6 to 7 inches triangle sew on bottom seam.  Mark with pencil or marker.  This will make a boxy bag.  If you want it more rectangular, make the triangle smaller.


Stitch across the marking.


Turn bag right side out, wrestle it again.  Fold triangles flat to bottom of bag.


Fold down top of bag 2 inches twice.  Use binder clips to hold it in place.

Arrange handles 6 – 7 inches from both sides.  Handle will span about 5-6 inches from each end.



Slide about 1 inch of the bottom of the handle into the hem fold to hide the raw edge.


Then flip it up to the top.


Hold the handle with a binder clip.  Insert the other end of the handle the same way, making sure the handle is not twisted funny.


This is where the walking foot can really help with all those layers of bag to keep things from moving around.  Stitch around bag  on the folded edge, stitching right across the handles.


Top stitch around top of bag, catching the handles a second time.


Voila!  You have a strong, attractive, GREEN tote bag a little larger than a grocery bag.


Make a Smaller Recycled Tote bag


Here are some adjustments for a smaller bag like a small birdseed bag.

Dimensions of bag before sewing are approximately 15 inches wide by 22 inches high.

Cut two – 3 inch strips across the bag.  Since the bag width is smaller, you need 2 strips to get handles that are long enough.  I trimmed them at 18 inches long. I cut a strip from the top and the bottom, but look at the picture on your bag and decide where you want to take the strips to keep the prettiest picture.

For the triangle bottoms, I only used a 4 inch measurement so the small bag is more of a rectangle.

For the top of the bag, I only folded down  1 inch twice.

You need to adjust where the handles go, I did mine about 5 inches from each side.

Once you get the hang of the method, you can adjust the sizes and measurements to fit the bag.

Let me know what cute bags you decided to recycle!  I have a cat food bag all ready to sew up for a friend who had kitties.  Don’t forget dog food bags too!


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