Thursday, November 7, 2013

Feed sack to tote bag- a tutorial

Yes... I've been absent for far, far too long.  Life has been hectic, work has been awful and I've been over-run with apples.
We have had a killing frost here so it's finally time to shift from gardening season to sewing season.  Maybe that also means I'll be blogging more often... although I feel that I don't have a lot left to say sometimes.
So... at long last, the tutorial on turning feed sacks into tote bags.
Now, this will only work with the plastic/fiber sacks.  The paper ones are great for mulch but wouldn't hold up. The bag I made today has a few 'special modifications' as it is a request from Justine for hauling art supplies in college.  This one is much large than I think would be practical for shopping.
Here goes:
 First, select your feed sack and make sure it is clean and reasonably dust free.  This is a 50 lb sack so it makes a hugs bag when finished.  I think the final dimensions are 17x6x20.
 Flatten the bag and determine how big you want it to be and how you want the front panel centered.  I used my rotary cutter (with an old blade) to cut off the top and the bottom.  You want to cut about 3 1/2 inches below where you want the bottom edge of the bag to be and about 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the top edge.
 From the remaining bag top or bottom, cut one or two strips about 3 1/2 inches wide.  These will become the handles.  Generally, you can cut just one strip and cut it in half for the two handles.  Since this is a bigger bag, I wanted the handles longer so it can be slung over the shoulder, so I used two strips and cut a 30 inch long piece of each.
 OPTIONAL STEP.  For this bag, I made a pocket!  I used a scrap of pet screen material that I have lying around,  It is a great flexible fiberglass product that is incredibly sturdy.  I've used it for the bottom of beach bags before (to let out the sand).  Anyway, I used a 10x13 inch piece, folded up 5 inches to make a pocket.  I covered the raw edge with bias tape first and also the sides to give a finished look.  If you're going for this, set it aside when finished.
 Now on to the handles.  Take your strips and fold them into thirds lengthwise.  You can pin them to get then to stay in place.  I'm not sure I would want to try to iron this.  For these, Justine wanted them to be padded so I layered in a 2 inch wide strip of quilt batting before I folded.  If you do this, don't pad it all the way to the end or you will end up with too much bulk when you try to attach the handles to the bag later.  Stitch the handles lengthwise down the raw edge.  I use a zigzag stitch for extra strength.  Set you completed handles aside,
 Now, turn the body of the bag inside out, flattening it out.  Make sure that the front and back are lined up correctly.  Stitch the bottom of the bag.  I used about a half inch seam but you can do wider or narrower as you prefer.  I wouldn't go much narrower for strength reasons.
Here's the tricky part.  Pull the front and back away from each other and form the corners to a triangle.  Be sure to line up your seam with the side crease of the bag so it is even.  Make sure your seam is turned one direction uniformly across the bag (not that it would be the end of the world if it wasn't).
This is where having some quilting tools comes in handy, but a ruler will do.  Use your straight edge and pencil to draw a line across the corner, making sure to keep it even.  I tend to make it about half an inch (on each side) wider than the creases for the sides of the bag.  It's about 5 and a half inches.  Pin the corner to keep it from slipping and stitch each corner on the line you drew.
 Turn the bag right side out, paying special attention to the corners.  The little triangles will just kind of float in the bottom.  You could probably tack them down or cut them off if they bother you but they're just kind of there.
Now... fold the top edge twice to the inside- once about half an inch and then again about an inch- so you're rolling that raw edge under all the way around the top of the bag, making a band at the top..  Pin it in place to keep it from unrolling while you work.
 ANOTHER OPTIONAL STEP!! Attaching the pocket.  If you have chosen to attach a pocket, unpin a bit of the top edge at the back of the bag.  Slip the raw edge of the pocket under the band all the way to the top,  pin in place.  The pocket will dangle inside the bag.
 Stitch the top band close to the lower folded edge to secure it.
 Attaching the handles.  Handle placement is a pretty personal thing.  Depending on the size of the bag and its intended use you can place them where you like them- just make sure they are evenly spaced and centered on the bag.  Since this is a big bag, I spaced them 7 inches apart- 3 1/2 inches from the center of the bag front/back.  Make sure they handles aren't twisted when you pin them in place to the inside of the top band.
Finally..... stitch the handles onto the bag.  I use the square with an x through it for strength since there is a lot of pressure on those handles.  You could also use strapping if you didn't want to use the sack handles.  Strapping would be softer and not so stiff.
And... It's a big chicken tote!  This one is big enough to hold several blank canvases that Justine left here.

Hope this helps.  It's not too late to make a few for the holidays.  Who knows... maybe I'll talk V into getting goats since they have some really cool goat feed bags.  He was suggesting that we get a different feed last weekend so we could get a different color bag.  Too funny.


  1. Thank you SOOOO much for the tutorial. I've been saving some of my plastic feed sacks for just this and now I can finally make some totes for Christmas presents :)

    1. Glad I got to this in time. I've been meaning to put this up for a while but just never made time.

  2. That is brilliant! I will be making one of these :)

    1. Glad you like the idea! They are very sturdy bags.

  3. great idea!
    thanks for sharing!

  4. I am so very excited about this! Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial! I was just emptying our chicken feed into their bins the other day and thinking about these bags of yours...perfect timing! I have three I can work with right now! :-)

    1. Can't wait to see what you come up with. They are really pretty easy and quite sturdy.

  5. Cool!. Too bad our chicken feed sacks are all paper here in Finland. I have to try make one from dogfood sack. :)
    Great blog! :)

    1. We have some feed sacks from paper. They make great mulch! And I didn't think about the dog food bags! Hmm....

      Thanks for visiting!

  6. Great tutorial! Thank you so much for posting this!


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