How to Make a T-shirt Tote Bag

Transform an old T-shirt into something new with this tutorial for how to make a tote bag.

Earth Day 2016 falls on Friday, April 22. Celebrating Earth Day is always a great time to think about how our families can reuse what we can and extend the life of items that might be headed for the trash can. T-shirts tend to be one of those items that can live a great second life. If a shirt isn’t going to be donated to local charity or resale shop, why not turn it into a useful tote bag? Your child can practice simple sewing skills with this project.

A youth-sized small T-shirt is just the right size to act as a library book bag. What will your child use their upcycle T-shirt tote for?


  • Child-sized T-shirt
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Wonder Clips or pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Decorating embellishments


The size of your child’s used shirt will determine the size bag your finished tote ends up being. I used a child’s small T-shirt for this week’s project. Before starting the project, it’s not a bad idea to give it a quick wash (if it needs it) as well as a pressing.

Start out by cutting off the sleeves of the shirt. Follow the sewn line on the shirt as a guide.

Next, cut off the banded neck area. If you want to make your bag shorter, feel free to cut off a few inches from the bottom of the bag. Turn the shirt right side out.

Using your ruler, draw a straight line from the armpit of the shirt all the way down to the bottom. This will be a sewing guide for your child and also help give the tote some added shape. Repeat for the other side.

Pin the bottom of the shirt shut.

Sew down the side, the bottom, and then the other side.

Turn the bag inside out. It should look something like this.

Now it’s time to decorate! If your shirt is plain, try adding patches (like these silly monsters from Simplicity), doodling with fabric markers or adding your child’s name with fabric paint. It’s all up to them.


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