Clothing Fabric Remnants: The Shirt Sleeve Sack

I’ve had two bright button-up shirts tucked away in my fabric remnant stash for a couple of years now. I bought them at the same time because I just loved their fruity, colorful prints, but rarely ever wore them. Finally, they landed in the don’t-fit-so-well-anymore section of my closet and ultimately they made their way into one of my suitcases of fabric remnants.Today, I got around to cutting them up to make a simple lightweight tote.

I used the two matching shirts, but you can use one shirt and cut regular fabric or other clothing pieces to the same shapes. I won’t be offering a pattern in this tutorial as I pretty much winged this one and shot pictures as I went, but hope that it inspires you to look at clothing a bit differently before tossing into the thrift store bag.

To start, I cut out the sleeves of each shirt and ironed each flat. The curved cut along the tops of the sleeves will make a unique shape for the handle area of the bag.The collar band, which when trimmed away is already pretty much hemmed, would make a good handle for the bag. I removed the button and cut the rounded end off.Determining the bag will be blue/green (A) outside and orange/pink (B) inside, I seamed two A/B sections together inside out. With one A/B section, I sandwiched the handle strap between the sleeves, leaving about one inch showing. On the other, I left an area unstitched, but reinforced, to slide the other end of the strap into later.I trimmed away the extra fabric and original shirt seams.After turning the pieces right side out, I pressed and seamed the sides of the sections to eachother. I inserted a section of the loose handle end into the remaining hole at the top of one side and stitched around the entire top area of the bag, securing the strap. I then went back and reinforced the handle by sewing squares and crisscross seams.The cuffs that were cut from the sleeves will work great as the bottom of the bag. I seamed two together overlapping,then both seamed pieces together around the edges.I pinned the side of the cuff section to the trimmed bottom of the bag.Then seamed each side of the bag to the long sides of cuff section. I pleated the narrow ends of the cuffs to fit and seamed them to the other sides of the bag.I went back and zig-zag stitched along the raw edges to keep them from fraying.I turned the bag right side out and DONE! And there’s still plenty of fabric left from these shirts for more small projects. If you make one and your shirt has a breast pocket, trim it out and sew it to the inside or outside of the bag.I took the bag outside to try to get a good shot in the daylight, but in case you can’t tell, we have curiously funny sheep.
Please visit my latest post at SC Johnson’s Family Economics
for lots more ideas for repurposing clothing.

Disclosure: I am a compensated blogger for SC Johnson.

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57 Responses to Clothing Fabric Remnants: The Shirt Sleeve Sack

  1. Seriously. What can’t you do? You are amazing and I LOVE the bag! You know it’s a good project when four-legged farm friends stop by to admire it. 🙂

  2. #2 - patrizia says:

    OH, so clever! What a great idea! Love it! I am tempted of course…..hmmm…..should I…..

    Blessings, Patrizia

  3. #3 - a faithful follower !!! says:

    I love this bag !!! As always I’m in AWE!!!!

  4. #4 - Tina W. (TeaDub) says:

    That is just genius I say!

  5. #5 - Momma Mindy says:

    You continuously amaze me. I don’t think I will ever actually do any of your projects that you post (not that I don’t want to, I am just being honest about my abilities and my time) but I just LOVE seeing how you can create something out of almost nothing. You inspire me, even if I will never be able to do what you do. You just inspire me. You do. Thank you for always sharing your creations.

  6. #6 - kate blue says:

    am not experienced enough to take this one but have passed link on to some friends who are…I personally would’ve kept those super cute shirts lol…

  7. #7 - mmonica says:


    I don’t really wear shirts… but my husband does… he he he…

  8. #8 - Rose H says:

    What a great tote! So pretty. Love the curious sheep too :o)

  9. #9 - Kathie says:

    so cute! I love it.

  10. #10 - Robin Brannen says:

    What a fabulous idea…I love to recycle discarded clothing…Mine usually ends up in doll clothes for my nieces’ dolls….But I bet they would love one of your “sleeve saks” to tote their dolls around in!! I am headed to my thrift store box now! Thanks for the creative ideas and keep them coming…!

  11. Pingback: Tutorial: Shirt-sleeve tote bag · Sewing |

  12. #11 - Anne says:

    This is such a pretty bag! I would never have guessed that it was made from a couple of shirt sleeves! I linked to your tutorial at Craft Gossip Sewing:


  13. I am pretty much kicking myself right now for donating all of my old shirts….I LOVE the bag and the way you lined it. Before I give anything away, I will have visions of what kind of tote bag it would make. Thanks

  14. #13 - Anna Hanks says:

    awesome bag and awesome blog. I am going to be trying this one!!!
    so much for my plan of getting rid of stuff though!!!

  15. #14 - Beckie says:

    What a neat way to recycle. I love it thank you for sharing with us.

  16. #15 - Michelle says:

    This came out adorable…what a great use of the blouses!

  17. #16 - Tara says:

    Creative idea. Curve of sleeves make this tote unique. Love this!

  18. #17 - Jill says:

    Great project! I picture you in a more urban setting in California so I was surprised that you have sheep in your back yard. Love that! Do you have other animals?

  19. #18 - Tiffany Johnson says:

    You do it all! This is amazing!

  20. #19 - Saucy Chick Sherry says:

    Great repurpose and wonderful bag that doesn’t look at all like any part of a shirt. Brilliant my dear!! Happy creating…

  21. #20 - Sonya M says:

    I now feel the need to visit the second-hand stores for shirts to make this!!!
    Thanks for the awesome tute!

  22. #21 - Cathy says:

    What a great idea! And great way to upcycle! I also love your curious sheep! The pattern looks very fetching against her wool!

  23. #22 - Emily says:

    What a great idea! I love the bright colors.

  24. #23 - Jacque Chinnery says:

    Super idea! Thank you so much for all of your great ideas. I have quite a clothing stash and hadn’t thought of this!

  25. #24 - Jennifer Farquhar says:

    Love it!!! I am so inspired! What a super great idea!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now, pack a shirt-sleeve bag and come visit me!!

  26. #25 - Madcap says:

    It turned out great – congratulations! I love coming here for the ideas you share.

  27. I love that, such a great idea!

  28. #27 - Mona Moore says:

    Cathe, I smiled when I saw this because just yesterday my mother, who is 90, was bemoaning how wasteful we are today. She was recalling that her mother could get more mileage out of a ‘housedress’ than anyone. She said if the top wore out, grandma would use the fabric from the skirt to make an apron for herself or a dress for one of her girls. If there were some strips left over, she’d put them in a quilt. Or she’d use them to trim pillowcases she made from unbleached muslin. Then if there were any more scraps, she might make a little dress for one of my mom’s dolls. My grandma would be proud of you.

  29. #29 - veronica says:

    this is very cool! your fabric looks great together too!

  30. #30 - Lydia says:

    Wow! I’m seriously so impressed! I won’t be able to take anything to Goodwill ever again!

  31. #31 - Barb says:

    I love this! I have been holding onto an oversized mens button down shirt that I “sylishly” wore with a simple white tee under 11 years ago on the first date with my now husband. It’s a classic white and blue check plaid. I think I now know how I can use it! I can’t get away with wearing it as a shirt since it’s so outdated, but I think my husband would love to see me use it again – he’s very sentimental.
    Thanks for posting! I’ll be sure to mention your post if I do it and blog it 🙂

  32. #32 - Dulsanna says:

    Love the bag!

    I love to reuse clothing. I found fabric I loved and made a dress. Didn’t like the dress, so made it into a sewing machine cover. Got a sewing cabinet, so I made the cover into a yoga bag. Very fun!

  33. #33 - Carole Ann says:

    Wow, this is amazing! I love making things out of shirts too – love to reuse things. Congrats on a great design!

  34. #34 - jojo says:

    genial c est trop beau bises jojo

  35. Pingback: let’s think of them as roots « kathrophilia

  36. #35 - Diane says:

    Love that purse and what a neat idea to repurpose those shirts Ÿ

    I have really enjoyed browsing your site and have snagged some of your shares. Thank you so much.

  37. #36 - Stephanie says:

    Yea! Another great thing to make with all the old clothes I can’t get rid of and/or the old clothes I buy just for the fabric!

    I just love how you utilized the cuffs and the top curve of the sleeve pieces… so clever!

  38. #37 - Sheila says:

    Darling bag! I love it!


  39. #38 - Mitzi Curi says:

    Hi Cathe! You’ve done it again! I love this project and I’m raring to go with my sewing machine, which hasn’t been used in far too long. I hope I have the nerve to cut up some shirts…..

  40. #39 - Katie says:

    Oh, I just love this – what a great idea. And those shirts are awesome!!

  41. #40 - eliza28 says:

    That is so cool and I LOVE the colors!

  42. #41 - Linda Matthews says:

    Thanks for such a great tutorial! I’ve just added it to my November listings for Free Tote Purse & Bag Tutorials at

  43. #42 - Roben-Marie says:

    What a fabulous idea! I love it!

  44. #43 - Anna says:

    Fun purse! Thanks so much for the idea. I to have a couple “fruity” shirts I don’t wear anymore but love the fabric. I knew they were waiting for someone like you to give them a new life.

  45. #44 - corrie says:

    love that last picture with the sheep!!! thumbs up!

  46. #45 - Tora Consolo says:

    O.M.G. That is just too freeking cute, I have a great black and white long sleeved shirt with french blue trim that would work perfectly for this…Can’t wait to try it.

  47. #46 - oeta says:

    i love your site with its brilliant ideas and tips!

  48. #47 - Dawn Cooper says:

    I love your ideas I am in the process of opening a repurpose store in our great small town of Van Wert, Ohio and am always looking for new ideas. Thank you

  49. Pingback: Shirt Sleeve Sack | Free Purse, Bag & Tote Patterns and Tutorials

  50. #48 - Linda says:

    I love this idea. I always see cute button shirts at thrift stores, but do not buy them as I do not wear them – now I can make a tote bag. One out of a couple flannal shirts might work for a guy. Take care.

  51. #49 - kathleen says:

    a new excuse to go to good will! Thanks so much!!!!

  52. #50 - sue bishop says:

    love it I wanna make one you have inspired me thanks

  53. Pingback: Shirt Sleeve Sack

  54. #51 - craftygramma says:

    I know this is so much later than this post but I’ll try anyway.

    Love these fabrics. Love your sheep; we had a ram who always wanted into the kitchen. So funny.

    Also, do you know Bonnie hunter? She quilts from shirts (and fabric) and this type of fabric would be just wonderful!

    Well wishes to you and all.

  55. #52 - Jan Jones says:

    I found this on Pinterest, and I love it! We have plenty of old shirts in the fabric stash basket, so I am going to make one now. Thanks for sharing. Love your photo bombers!

  56. #53 - pj bergman says:

    I just found you and love what you have done with the shirt sleeves. I’m on to more adventures…Thank you for sharing! pj stitches!