DIYdiy projects

diy project: mesh screen beach bag

by Kate Pruitt

Summer is here, and I am so excited to start filling up my free time with warm weather activities. When it comes to beaches, pools, picnics and the like, I am definitely a planner — I like to bring everything I could possibly want along with me so I’ll never be caught without water, sunscreen, a book, a sandwich, a spare pair of shoes or an extra towel. I’m basically a traveling general store in the summer, but I love it! When this fun project appeared in our inbox from Parisian crafter and blogger Pascale Mestdagh, I knew I had my first summer DIY on my hands; this mesh beach tote is perfect for carrying all my summer stuff.

This summery beach bag DIY makes clever use of window screen mesh, which is a cheap, easy-to-use material that can be manipulated like any other fabric. I love that Pascale chose punchy orange and natural leather to contrast with the light gray tone of the mesh; it’s sophisticated and hits just the right note for summer. This tote is easily adaptable, too: Pascale added a handy zip pouch, which could be sized up or down or turned into pockets, depending on your preference. Thanks for sharing, Pascale! — Kate

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .

I got the idea for this project at our neighborhood’s Friday morning market where I saw a lady with a very interesting mesh bag. As a matter of fact, I liked her shopping bag so much that I asked her about it. She had bought it nearly 15 years ago, and it still looked like new even though it was her favorite market bag. And no, these bags were no longer available, she said.

Somehow, the bag stayed on my mind. How about making one of my own? It would be perfect for the beach, and the mesh would keep us from taking too much sand home. All I needed to find was mesh of some sort. A trip to my favorite hardware store taught me that window screen material was probably the closest I could get. This bag isn’t an exact copy of the original — I added some details as I went: a small zippered pocket to keep change and keys safely tucked away, fabric trimming and an oilcloth-covered bottom for sturdiness. I also chose leather handles instead of plastic tubing because that’s what I had on hand. To my surprise, the window screen material was fairly easy to work with and could be sewn on the machine without any problem. I used a slightly longer stitch than usual, but that’s about it. I feel tempted to use window screen material in other projects, as well. A short list has been made already . . .  all I need is time. But first, let’s go to the beach! — Pascale


  • window screen material (moustiquaire in French, muggengaas in Dutch), new or used, 66 cm x 100 cm
  • a piece of plastic for the bottom — the Clover ones work fine, but any other piece of plastic/wood/board would work equally well, 13 cm x 51 cm (it can be cut to size)
  • a piece of oilcloth, new or used, enough to cover the board and to make a zippered pouch (optional)
  • bias tape, enough to cover the side and bottom seams, and the zippered pouch side seams
  • 15 cm zipper for the zippered pouch (optional)
  • leather strip for handles (Note: If you can’t find any leather, you can use oilcloth or a piece of fabric to make your own handles.)
  • rivets to attach handles
  • hole punch
  • scissors
  • sewing machine and thread



Making the pouch:

1. Cut one 17 cm x 6 cm rectangle and one 17 cm x 28 cm rectangle out of oilcloth.

2. With the zipper facing the right side of the smallest piece of oilcloth, attach one side of the zipper. Fold over and top stitch. Repeat for the other zipper half and the largest rectangle. Top stitch.

3. Fold in half to form a pocket and close the side seams on the right side, about 0.5 cm from the edge. Finish the seam with bias tape (if you’re a confident sewer, you can do this in one go). Repeat for the other side seam: close on the right side and cover with bias tape. No need to sew the top of the pocket closed, as this part will be incorporated into the top hem of the bag.

Assembling the bag:

4. At the short end of the window screen material, fold in 3 cm and fold over again. Use a bone folder to make the crease, if necessary. Secure with paperclips. Top stitch into place. Repeat at the other short end, now making sure to incorporate the zippered pouch, nicely centered. Secure with paperclips. Top stitch into place.

5. Fold the screen material in half, with the right sides facing. Close the side seams, 0.5 cm from the edge. Next, bind the side seams with fabric bias tape.

6. Sew the boxed corners. To avoid having to sew through too many layers, you can pre-cut the boxed corners. If you prefer to play it safe, you can cut away the excess material after sewing the boxed corners. If you wish to cut before sewing the boxed corners, cut away a square with sides equal to the width of the panel divided by two; however, don’t forget to take into account seem allowance! (So if the panel is 6 cm wide, take off a square with sides equal to 5 cm.)

7. Make an oilcloth cover for the plastic bag bottom stabilizer by sewing two pieces of oilcloth together, the size of the board plus 1 cm of seam allowance on all sides, leaving one of the short ends open. Turn over and insert the board.

8. Align the open end with one of the boxed corners. Sew together. Bind seams with fabric bias tape. Bind the other boxed corner.

Note: The plastic board is attached to the bag on one side only!

9. Determine where the handles need to go. Punch holes correspondingly, in both the bag and the handles. Attach with rivets.

Note: As the size of the rivets will never perfectly match the thickness of the materials used, compensate the difference by using a small piece of leather or other material in the back. This will also add extra strength to the materials used.

You’re done!

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  • I LOVE this idea. I actually have a whole roll of screen and now I know what to do with it!

  • Cute bag! Transparent bags, especially purses, are getting popular. It’s definitely a power statement to have to confidence reveal to the world everything you’re carrying. There probably aren’t too many incriminating items in a beach bag though, except maybe your guilty pleasure read. ;)

  • HA! And here I was wondering what to do with the roll of screen net that I have left over from my earring frame project. Genius!

  • You had me at the title! Love this project- I had a green mesh beach bag that I loved but it got stained over years of use. I can definitely do this project!!! Thanks!!!

  • Brilliant idea- such pretty oilcloth! Do you have to use a special thread/needle to sew screen? Upholstery thread, for instance? Or does all purpose polyester thread work?

  • This project is great – but where can one find modern and/or cute oilcloth like what is shown in the pictures? Is it truly oilcloth with the flannel like backing or someother laminated fabrid?

  • This bag reminded me of Grandma Victoria (sigh!). When we would go to the market in Mexico, she’d always carry two large mesh bags for her groceries, no paper/plastic bags, so coo!…and a great way to save the planet. That was about 15-20 yrs ago. I must learn to sew!

  • “Pin it” I love this bag so much and have some awesome mesh in both silver and white and I am going to make it. Thanks for the instructions.

  • Thank you for sharing this idea! I made this bag and I’m happy with the result. It’s a fairly manageable project for a novice like myself. I chose aluminium window screen material (a.k.a. flyscreen/flywire in Australia) instead of fibre glass mesh, both of which were the only options at the local hardware chain. Tips I’d give:
    – Choose plastic mesh if you don’t want creases in the bag when you turn it right side out. Choose metal mesh if you don’t mind this and want a sturdier bag.
    – Avoid turning oilcloth inside out – it, too, creases.
    – Have a few extra sewing machine needles – sewing through metal mesh can break some…
    – Persevere! It will look great and be very handy.

  • This idea has been around the home sewing arena for many years. The poly window screen also makes a great small pet carrier if you close the top. Use a #90 or #100 sewing machine needle and sew slowly. Toss the needle when you’re finished it’s a goner. The handle can also be made from ready-made webbing or just reinforced, doubled-over fabric. The best material I’ve found for the bottom is what I call “core board” from the art store. It’s like little tubes of plastic, side by side. Cut on the lenthwise “grain” so it won’t roll up. It’s lightweight and durable. Just make a “pillowcase”, put the material in and seal down the one end. How about adding a cell phone pocket too?

  • I made a similar bag from a design I found on Martha Stewart. The handles were a giant loop of ribbon that went underneath the bag for support (imagine a loop of ribbon folded in half and sewn from one side of the bag, around the bottom and up the other side – the ‘folds’ of the ribbon were the actual handle parts). It wasn’t nearly as nice looking as this one though. No extra pockets or bottom form. I like those ideas and the handle of the other bag. Maybe it’s time to try again!

  • Thanks for the instructions, they are very helpful. I bought several rolls of that floral mesh and wasn’t sure how to finish the sides. This material is very fragile but, I’m only making them as party favors for a woman’s tea. I love your finished tote. Did I say I have to make 100 of these bags? 12″ x 12″. Can’t wait to get started. Thanks again.

  • where can i buy color leather to sew up the seams and i don’t have a sewing machine does anyone a manufacturer in NYC Possibly Brooklyn Help I want to make this bag

  • I hope that isn’t fiber glass screen mesh because if it is, you better wash your hands and if you put food inside it … you certainly don’t want food in proximity with charcoal fiberglass screen mesh, this stuff is toxic!