Repurposed Button-Down Shirt bags by Cathleen from Cooking Up FIRE!

Today we have our first DIY post AND first guest post on the blog! We are very excited to share this excellent tutorial from Cathleen on how to repurpose old button down shirts into great shoulder bags, or perfect replacements for single-use plastic bags!

Comment from Kristine: We are super-happy that Cathleen wrote our very first guest post of what we hope will be many to come. Cathleen runs the blog Cooking Up FIRE where she writes about food, frugality, parenting, and of course the ever-present finances from beautiful Hawaii, so please check her out! With that, over to Cathleen:

This tutorial will teach you how to make a bag from a button-down shirt.

These shirt instructions are best used with high-quality cotton shirts with no stretch. I usually convert shirts that have frayed collars or holes.

In particular, Aloha shirts (or “Hawaiian shirts” as you mainlanders call it) work really well. They’re well-made with reinforced seams and high-quality fabric.

You can use these upcycled bags to replace single-use shopping bags, as reusable grocery bags, or as a tote.

These bags are lightweight, compact, washable, and strong.  Seriously strong. I’ve literally put a gallon of milk and a 5 lb bag of potatoes in a single bag. Results will vary.

Washing the bags is as you would normally with regular clothes. I usually wash with hot water, and then hang dry.

Bag Type 1: built-in shoulder straps


  • Button-down shirt
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Pins, if you’ve got them

To make:

Preparing the shirt: wash and dry the shirt and hang to make sure there’s little to no wrinkles. Patch any holes or tears in the main body area.

Use old cotton button-down shirts, like Aloha shirts-they that have double-stitched seams.

Button the shirt up all the way.

Fold the shirt in half length-wise (hot dog style).

Cut a quarter circle along the neck area.

Cut off the sleeves, leaving ½”-1″ fabric for sewing the hem.

Sew the front placket shut. It’s best if you sew both sides of the buttons.

Sew the bottom with a double stitch. Sew any bottom slits shut.

Hem the arm-holes by double rolling and sewing or tucking the cut portion inside the overlooked (the edge sewn over by the manufacturer) edge and sewing.

Hem the neck portion by doubling over the cut edges and sewing, or Serge, or cover with bias tape.

Optional: sew the inside corners in a triangle shape.

Bag type 2: With ribbon straps


  • Button-down shirt
  • 2 gross grain ribbons at least 1.5″ wide, cut to 39-40″ long each
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Pins


  1. Button all the front buttons.
  2. Cut straight across off the shoulder part at the armpits.
  1. Sew closed the button plackets (the tabs holding the buttons) on both sides of the buttons.
  2. Turn upside down, and sew the cut portion inside out, or use a French Seam with a 1” seam allowance. This will make the bottom of the bag. The top of the bag is the bottom hem of the shirt.
  1. Tuck in the cut end of each side of the ribbon by ½” and sew down in a z-pattern 3” on each side of the centerline of the top (previously the bottom hem of the shirt) of the bag, on both the front and back of the bag. You will probably need to use pins to keep the ribbon in place as you are sewing.


Enjoy using these bags for trips to the farmers market, to stash toys for the beach, or haul laundry. If you use high-quality shirts that I’ve seen better days, the seams will be strong and you’ll have a light-weight workhorse. Double sew any seams you make (the bottoms and sewing up the button plackets) and these bags will last you years.

Keys to look for good candidates of shirts:

  1. Double seamed sides
  2. All cotton fabric.
  3. Fabric that’s substantial- not the gauzy stuff you have to wear a slip or undershirt to keep from showing…things….through.

Cathleen’s blog:

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