DIY T-Shirt Tote Bag Craft

two t-shirt tote bags hanging on hooks

You can make a fun custom gift with this simple upcycling project: a DIY T-shirt tote bag. You likely have all the supplies you need already on hand. It’s a family-friendly craft (great for rainy days). Best of all, there’s no sewing required!  

Extra-Special Ideas for DIY T-Shirt Tote Bags 

  • Transform a child’s favorite outgrown tee into a tote they can continue to enjoy. These totes are just right for carrying favorite stuffed toys.
  • Make eco-friendly bags to “wrap” holiday gifts, then keep and reuse
  • Turn this into a graphic tee tote craft, so you can gift your favorite film buff or sports fan with a carryall made from a logo tee 
  • Create a set of themed bags for your family to use at the farmer’s market, to pack with books and toys for car trips, or to keep accessories and other small items organized.

Here’s what you’ll need: 

  1. A knit t-shirt 
  2. Fabric scissors (or just good, sharp scissors) 
  3. A washable marker, chalk or masking tape  
  4. A ruler (optional but handy) 

Follow this video tutorial, or read on for written instructions

1 PICK YOUR FINISH: Your tote bag can feature a straight- or fringe-edge finish. Decide on which you prefer. Then, make sure to follow the appropriate instructions in steps 4 and 7. 

2 FLATTEN & FOLD: Lay your clean t-shirt on a flat surface. Smooth and fold the shirt vertically so the sleeves lay on top of each other (for tank styles, just align the arm holes). 

3 CUT STRAPS: Cut along the both sleeves inside the seams (the result will look like a tank top). Then, cut out the neckline, making a deep “U” to create handle straps. Leave at least 3’’ width at the shoulder seams so the straps will be sufficiently sturdy. 

marking bottom with masking tape

4 SIZE YOUR BAG: For a STRAIGHT-EDGE finish, turn your tee inside out; for a FRINGE-EDGE finish, leave your tee right-side out. Smooth tee flat, aligning the shoulder seams and bottom edges neatly. Decide how “deep” you want your tote to be. Using a straight edge or ruler, mark a horizontal line with your pencil, chalk or masking tape: this is the bottom of your tote bag.  Measure 2 – 3 inches down and mark a second horizontal line; cut off any t-shirt remaining below this second line.   

Here’s the no-sew part!

5 CUT BOTTOM TIES: Make vertical cuts from the bottom up to your first line, every ¾ to 1 inch across your shirt. Cut the front and back at the same time so your fringe ties will be even. Cut the final fringe piece along each side seam to create two ties. 

6 TIE TIME: Starting at one side, take the first top-and-bottom pair of fringes and tie into a knot. Then, tie the next two top-and-bottom pairs. Grab one of the strands from the first tie pair and tie it to one of the strands from the second tie pair. Next, take the other strand from the second pair and tie it to a strand from the third pair. Tie a fourth pair of fringes, then take the remaining strand from tie three and tie it to your new knot. Continue for the rest of the bag. This closes the gaps created between fringe pairs. 

7 FINISHING TOUCHES: For a smooth-edge bag, turn the tee right side out, so ties are hidden in the bottom of the bag. For a fringed-edge finish, you’re done! Embellish by tying knots at the top of each strap if desired. You can also glue or sew on details such as buttons, patches or pom-poms. 

finished t-shirt tote bags

Once you’ve made your first DIY t-shirt tote bag, we bet you’ll want to make another! Discover budget-friendly ways to decorate your holiday home. Or return to the Zulily Holiday Shop to find more gifting inspiration for everyone in the family.

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