Plastic package patchwork tote -- say that 3 times fast!

upcycled tote made from plastic food bags
In a previous post, I showed how I made a tote bag out of a plastic kitty litter bag. But wait, you're saying, all I have are a bunch of small plastic bags -- the kind that hold frozen peas, crackers, and raisins. Can I make a tote bag out of these? Certainly! All you need to do is make a plastic bag "quilt" first.

To make yours, just grab a pile of empty bags from your stash. (C'mon, I know you've been hoarding them!)
quilt made from plastic food packages
Cut the top and sides off each bag.
quilt made from plastic food packages
Then cut apart the front and back at the bottom. You're left with two pieces of "fabric." The pieces don't need to be the same size, unless you want that kind of design.
quilt made from plastic food packages
Once you've cut apart all your bags, lay them on a large flat surface. This is the fun part! Push the rectangles around like puzzle pieces, until you end up with a design you like. Here's mine. I like the bold primary colors and clean lines.
quilt made from plastic food packages
Before you head to your sewing room, take a quick photo of your design. That way, you won't have to remember what goes where. Next, starting with one row, take the first two plastic "swatches" and sew them together. It's easiest if you lay one raw edge on top of the other. 

When you have two long rows, sew them together (right-sides together). You'll end up with a large "quilted" rectangle like this. It will be the front of my tote.
quilt made from plastic food packages
Next, create another plastic "quilt" the same size for the bag back. Then just follow the steps for the simple tote

Here's my finished tote:
quilt tote bag made from plastic food packages
It took about three times as long as to construct as the simple one. But I love the way it looks.

Sewing tips

  • Wash and thoroughly dry the bags before you store them. (I keep mine in a cardboard file box.) Otherwise, you'll end up with a sticky, smelly mess.
  • Before sewing the tote itself, take leftover plastic pieces and experiment with your sewing machine's tension setting.
  • Plastic is stickier than fabric, so it's doesn't move smoothly under the sewing foot. Gently pull the plastic to keep it moving. Start seams about 1-2 inches from the top edge so you have something to grab. Then turn the seam around and finish the seam from the other end. (Or buy a teflon foot for your machine -- I didn't even realize these existed!)
  • It's almost impossible to rip out a seam without damaging the plastic. If you make a mistake, try just trimming off the seam and making the bag a bit smaller.
  • Use clear Scotch tape to keep the plastic in place instead of pins.
  • Leave your perfectionism outside the sewing room door.


  1. On starting the sewing - you don't have to start 1-2" inside the seam so it has somewhere to grab and then have to turn and go back the other way. Keep a pile of little pieces of fabric - like 2"x2" squares by the sewing machine and start sewing on these, butt your real piece up to it and keep sewing - then clip off the 2" square. I can't remember where I learned this - most probably from a quilter. You can reuse the little squares over and over.

  2. Very cool tote bag, and Cindi had a great sewing tip too!

  3. Are they strong enough to hold groceries?

    1. Good question! Yes, they're as strong as typical reusable bags. They may even be stronger, because there are so many seams.


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