Emily keeps horses and had a lot of feed bags on her farm in Vashon in the US which had piled up and she wondered what she could do with them. She experimented and came up with the idea of tote bags. Eventually a program was launched where people could drop off their bags for recycling and they were then given to the unemployed who wanted some part time work. I am not sure how this part worked but these unemployed people were loaned sewing machines to sew the bags for which they were paid and they were then sold to provide funds to help the homeless on the island. Such a great idea! Vashon seems to be on an island so I wonder if it is visited by tourists in which case the bags would probably sell very well. Perhaps my US readers could enlighten me about this. If you watch this video of Emily's tutorial she explains how the program works. Do take note of her tutorial as she is better at explaining what she does than I am.
Now the bag I made the tote bag from is fairly well used so if you can get hold of a newer one your end product would look much better. Have a good look at the design on your bag and work out what part of it you want to use on the front. Then allow for sewing seams at the bottom and for turning over at the top and cut off the parts of the bag you don't need. Remember that you will need to keep some of these strips for the handles.
Here is another colourful bag which would look great made into a tote bag but this one was grotty and had seen too much wear and tear. I pinched this for a photo opportunity from the CEO's stash :-)
Firstly wipe over your bag with a damp cloth and dry it. Then for the next step I tried sewing the bottom seam on the outside to do a French seam as suggested in another tutorial but I unpicked that stitching (which was crooked) and turned the bag inside out to sew along the bottom.
Then, following Emily's instructions I turned this over....
...and over again before sewing across. Then turn your bag to the right side.
Next fold over the top section. Emily suggests turning over 9cm (3/4inch) twice. I should have turned over a larger hem which I discovered later but I was thinking more about not turning over part of the design I wanted to keep. In this case I shouldn't have cut off so much from the top but you learn this as you go along. Ok, clear as mud so far? :-)
Then on the outside sew across the top being careful to catch in the edges.
With the bag Emily used she was able to make her two handles from just one of the strips she had cut off. There are different sizes of bags so you may be able to do this but I cut out my handles from two strips. I cut them about 60cm (24 inches) long. Fold in an edge on each side of the handle.
Fold over and bring edges together....
....then sew about 1/4 inch from edge or whatever you prefer.
Decide where you want to place your handles and put a mark. Emily's choice is 10cm (4 inches) from the outside edge of the bag and she places the outer edge of the handle where she has marked on the top of the bag. As you will see in the tutorial this will depend on the design on the front of your bag as you don't want to sew over an integral part of it.
Sew your two handles on. This is a tad messy as you can see as I didn't turn over enough at the top as I mentioned but I wanted to make sure the handle was sewn on securely so that it could cope with anything heavy in the bag. This was only a trial run and it is always a good way to find out how you prefer to sew your bag together. My sewing machine isn't real wonderful with sewing over too many layers so the stitching is less than perfect obviously but hopefully you get the idea of how it is done. How I miss my old brown Husqvarna from the 1970s as it could sew over anything. Sigh! Of course these could be lined as well if you preferred.
So there you have it ~ an easy way to keep a feed bag out of landfill. These would be great to use at farmers' markets and I am sure would be a topic of conversation. Do watch Emily's video as she does an excellent tutorial. What do you think...would you be interested in making one?