diy project: market bag makeover

Over the past few years, I have accumulated a handful of screen-printed market bags covered in unsightly logos or sayings from retailers and small businesses. These bags offer other uses besides toting groceries, such as carrying lunch to the office or transporting books back and forth from the library.

Today’s DIY project transforms your boring tote bags into something trendy and personalized. Perfect for all ages, students and professionals alike will proudly show them off in public. This DIY also makes for a fun family project. The options are endless! Take the tutorial a step further by adding a second pocket or inside pockets for a more utilitarian bag. Embellishments aren’t necessary, but they will make the bag unique to it’s owner. Have fun making your old tote new again! — Haylie

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

Materials & Tools:

  • market bag in need of a makeover (prep by spot cleaning, washing, drying and ironing)
  • cotton fabric (approx. 1/2 yd. for 4 bags)
  • iron
  • tape measure
  • ruler
  • several sheets of 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper
  • scissors
  • straight pins
  • needle and thread
  • sewing machine
  • buttons, brooches and other embellishments


1.  Measure out the space on your bag that you want to cover with a pocket (covering screen-printed logos or stains). Be sure to add 1″ to the top of the pocket and 3/8″ to both sides and to the bottom of the pocket, then make a template. I found that an 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper made the perfect pocket template for most of the market bags; for larger bags, I overlapped two sheets to make, for example, a 10″ x 11″ pocket.

2.  Iron your fabric, then pin the paper template to it and cut out the pocket.

3.  Fold over and iron down 3/8″ on both sides and the bottom of the pocket.

4. Fold over the top edge of the pocket by 1/2″ and iron, then fold it over another 1/2″ and stitch down for a hemmed edge.

5. Using straight pins, pin the pocket to the bag where desired. Be sure to only pin through one layer of your bag and if needed, measure from the edges so that the pocket is centered and squared.

6.  Using a simple straight stitch, sew down the side and bottom edges of your pocket to your bag. It may take some simple maneuvering to fit the bag under your machine foot. Remember to back-stitch at the beginning and end of your stitching for a secure pocket.

7. To create ruffles and trim from remaining fabrics, simply cut and tear strips approximately 1 1/2″ x 15″, then make a long running stitch either in the center or at the top of the strip. Leave thread strands long when you cut it free from the machine. Then tie off one end of strands and on the opposite end, while holding the bobbin thread, scrunch the fabric down toward the knotted end, creating a ruffle. To attach ruffles, simply pin them down and stitch over the original running stitch.

8.  Attach brooches, buttons and other small accessories with needle and thread to create sweet embellishments that personalize your bag.

Paulina J!

This is one of those “slap my forehead, why didn’t I think of this?” moment. I have a bunch of these sitting around the house. Will definitely do this.


Such a cute and simple project! And like Paulina (above) I’m wondering why I didn’t think of this… Thanks!


What a cute idea! I use mine for craft projects. I have to make one now. The pocket could be made to hold scissors and crochet hooks….


Nice! I turned a market bag inside out and sewed a pretty fabric casing around it. This is a great project for using up scraps!


This is a fantastic way to turn my ugly shopping bags into something I actually don’t want to forget at home! You could even display them on a coat rack in an entryway instead of hiding them in a closet.


I’ve vamped up generic corporate t-shirts for my husband in this same way – a rectangle of vintage Japanese fabric stitched over the ‘my chest is a billboard for hire’ section bring a zesty new look!


I’ve done this to a couple of my bags so far — it’s a great way to use up bits and pieces such as quilt squares that didn’t quite turn out as planned or test pieces. As my grandmother used to say, more fun! P.S. you can also add a pocket or two if need be!


This is so funny because I was going to do a post on the same thing!! I have several bags I received as freebies from companies over the years that have big ugly logos on them. I have been slowly covering them with fabric scraps in pretty designs. I guess I’ll wait to post on mine now…

ginny branch stelling

haylie girl, you always have the BEST ideas. you rock my socks off, every time! xoxo.


This bags look so nice and charming!
Does anyone know where to find tote bags like this?
Thanks for the beautiful ideas and dyi, i love it :)


This just gets my juices running! I’m like all the others who said “why didn’t I think of this?” I now have all these new ideas racing thru my mind!! Great stuff…thanks !!!


I love this Haylie, I too have a stack of those not-so-cute bags…today my grandaughters and I were planning a craft day…this is the perfect project. Hannah and Riley are going to have so much fun and go home with adorable tote bags that they fashioned!! Thank you!

mohair à Paris

Lovely !!!
l think it should be as a window.
Bravo ! quelle bonne idée !!
Je pense à le réaliser comme une fenêtre …
Mohair from Paris (France)