Happy Earth Day 2013! Upcycled T-Shirt Sleeve Drawstring Pouch

I was looking for something appropriate to post on Earth Day, and then Jenelle over at TrashN2Tees told me about these little bags she makes out of upcycled t-shirt sleeves. I thought it was a fabulous idea, so I went into my stash of deconstructed t-shirts, pulled out a pretty sleeve, and went to work. From start to finish this took me 20 minutes, including taking pictures. But I always have my machines and cutting area set up, so that part didn’t take any time at all. Anyhow, however you look at it, these little bags take only a short time to make. Sew (or serge) two seams, poke two holes, thread the “string,” and you’re done! Mine is very plain – no embellishment at all! But they’re much more fun if you add some applique or other embellishment to the sleeve before you make the bag (while the sleeve is still flat).

Jo’s deconstructed t-shirt stash

Cut the sleeve from the shirt and cut away all the bulky seams. Do NOT cut off the hem! That’s going to be the casing for the drawstring. Fold in half, right sides together, and trim the raw edges to make a rectangle.

Fold sleeve right sides together; trim sides and top.

Serge (or stitch) the side and bottom edges. I used my serger, which trims and seams and overcasts all in one step (I love my serger!). I used a 4-thread overlock stitch, and boosted the differential feed up to 1.5 to keep the fabric from stretching as I stitched. You could also use a sewing machine: Use a small zigzag stitch (2 mm x 2mm) to sew the seams; the zigzag lets the seams stretch, so they won’t accidentally POP if the pouch is stuffed too full. It’s not necessary to trim and overcast the edges, but I think it looks nicer (I like insides to be as pretty as outsides).

Serge (or stitch) raw edges (these will be the bottom and one side of the bag).

For a nicely finished edge, I like to weave my thread tails back into the serged stitches. You could also use a bit of seam sealant, but it’s really simple to use a tapestry needle to pull those threads under, and you don’t have to wait for the seam sealant to dry. (Plus: I always know where my tapestry needles are, but I’m not always sure where I left my tube of seam sealant!)

Weave thread tails into the serged edge.

Turn the pouch right side out and poke out the corners.

Using a seam ripper or small, pointy scissors, poke a hole through the outer layer of the t-shirt hem about 1/2″ from the seam. Repeat for the other side of the seam.

Cut holes in the sleeve hem, which is now the casing for the drawstring.

Cut a long 1″ strip of t-shirt, parallel to the hem. A little more or less is okay; don’t stress about it being exactly even. Grab the ends and PULL! Then pull some more! The knit strip will curl up and turn into a “string.” Cool, huh?

Cut a strip about 1″ wide and parallel to the shirt hem.


…and pull and pull and pull until it curls into a “string.”

Use a large tapestry needle or a safety pin to thread the drawstring through the casing. (This is sort of like putting a curtain on a curtain rod.)

Use a large tapestry needle or a safety pin to pull the drawstring through the casing.

Tie the ends in a knot and cut off the excess “string.”

Tie drawstring ends in a knot and trim off the extra length.

Fill with … just about anything little! I’m using this one to hold some supplies I’m giving to a friend who’s learning to tat.

Finished and filled!

I’m planning to make many more of these. Wouldn’t they make great gifts, filled with collections of small things like buttons or golf tees or dog treats? Especially with related embellishments on the outside, like appliqued thread spools or golf balls or puppy prints. Send photos of your pouches and I’ll add them to this post. I’d love to see what y’all do with this idea! Jo

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One comment on “Happy Earth Day 2013! Upcycled T-Shirt Sleeve Drawstring Pouch”

  • Well you weren’t kidding about having a ton of t-shirt scrappits eh, Jo? I really appreciate the shout out and I’m happy to inspire you with an idea or 2 to reuse whatever you have left. For anyone wondering what to do with their newly serged sleeve bags here are a few ideas: -organize game pieces
    -keep valuable jewelry safe while traveling
    -pack a picnic and use it for dry snacks, utensils, and to keep napkins from blowing away!
    -keep a small toy stash in your purse
    -discreetly carry around your mama cloth or feminine products
    -make up bag
    -use as a wristlet on the go
    -keep your coupons safe
    -hang your garden bulbs
    -reusable gift bag
    -goody grab bags

    Hope everyone had a safe & Happy Earth Day!

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