How to Make Rag Bags

By Joanne Thomas

Things Needed

  • At least 2 yards of non-stretch fabric (e.g. cotton)
  • Needle
  • Strong thread
  • Scissors
  • Safety pin

A rag bag is a wonderful way to recycle old sheets, clothing and unwanted fabric into a useful bag. The technique used here to make rag bags allows you to personalize your bag. It can be any shape, size, or color and as neat or raggedy as you like. The technique used is similar to making a braided rug or a basket.

Cut or tear your fabric into 1 to 2-inch wide strips. The exact width is not important but try to keep all the strips the same width. It doesn’t matter how long the strips are but the longer they are the faster this will sew up.

Take three of your fabric strips and safety pin the ends together and to a cushion or the arm of your sofa, or you can have somebody hold the ends tightly as you braid.

Braid the strips tightly and evenly. You can fold the raw edges under as you go, or leave them exposed depending on the look you want. Over time the edges will fray, giving your bag an increasingly raggedy look.

Remove the safety pin and make a loose knot at the end of each braid so that they do not unravel. You may need to make additional braids as you go along as you will not know the exact total length needed beforehand.

Remove the knot from the beginning of a braid.

Thread your needle and stitch the three ends together to secure the braid.

Hold the sewn end firmly and while smoothing the braid over a flat surface begin to coil it into a spiral with the tail sticking up in the middle.

Coil the braid and sew the coil together as you go along by alternately catching the adjacent sides of the braid with the needle and pulling the stitches tight. This will make a circular base. Alternatively, take 4 to 5 inches at the beginning of the braid and form the spiral around it to make an oval shaped base.

Continue coiling and securely sewing the braided fabric until the shape is the desired size of the base of your rag bag.

Sew the next round on top of the outer round of the base and continue to sew your spiral upwards while building the sides of the bag vertically. Be careful to keep the sides of the bag straight rather than slanting inwards or outwards unless that is your desired look.

Continue coiling and sewing the braids. When one length of braid runs out, just trim the ends so they are even, remove the knot from the end of a new braid and sew it to the end of the previous braid. The raw edges will blend in with the bag but you can turn them under to hide them if you are trying to achieve a less ragged look.

Continue until your bag has reached its desired height.

Trim the end of the last braid and sew it down onto the fabric underneath, folding the raw edges under if desired. Now you can create the handles.

Decide how long you want your handles to be. Cut two identical lengths of the braid and sew with several rows of small stitches to the inside upper rim of the bag, folding the raw edges under if desired. Alternatively you could make one long handle and attach the ends to opposite sides of the bag.

Find the beginning end of the first braid in the middle of the base of the bag where you initially started coiling and sew it down on the inside of the base.

Tip

Keep your stitches small and close together to make the bag strong.

Use three different colored fabric strips for the braid for a colorful look.

A rag bag is a good way to use fabric that is ripped or stained-just cut the damaged sections off the strips.

For a neat and tidy look, use scissors to cut the fabric strips instead of ripping them. For an extra tidy looking bag fold the strips in half, machine sew along the edges and turn them inside out to hide the raw edges. If you are going for a very raggedy look then the frayed edges of the strips become an attractive feature of the bag, so just leave them as they are.

About the Author

A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.