A few years ago I found a new way to reduce my contribution to the local landfill AND reduce my dependence on oil…I decided to stop using ziplock bags. Because, as I’m sure you know, the manufacture of anything plastic requires a good bit of oil and then they end up in the landfill and live there forever. Literally. Every piece of plastic ever made still exists somewhere. Sorry if reading that ruined your day.
To replace plastic bags I made a big batch of fabric snack bags. I made some of the bags the size of sandwich bags and some the size of the smaller snack sized bags.
That was two years ago. I haven’t bought ziplocks since.
I know! It sounds so…un-American!
Yes, sometimes I get complaints from Scott when he’s packing for the airport and wants ziplocks for his toiletries (I haven’t had a problem getting through security with my toothpaste in my regular ditty bag). Other than that, I think we’ve adapted pretty well.
For my snack bags, I’ve used both cotton and nylon liners. I like the cotton liners better because I don’t have to worry about what kind of weird chemicals were used to make them (although conventional cotton is sprayed with lots of pesticides and then later it is bleached…but I try to use fabric that’s been washed several times). If I’m sending a messy sandwich in one of the bags, I just wrap the sandwich in parchment paper (I buy the pre-cut squares of deli paper at Costco) before I put it in the bag. My girls pull out their sandwiches wrapped in paper and use the paper like a plate when they eat at school. We use the bags several times (shaking them out when necessary) before tossing them in the washing machine inside-out.
I played with several designs before landing on this one. The rounded top is forgiving and the small piece of velcro is all you really need. I tried bags with full velcro closures, but they were hard to open and close. We’ve never had problems with this design — the food we put in the bags seems to stay in the bags!
I want you to be able to join the no-ziplock revolution, so while I worked on another batch of bags over the past few weeks, I took (poorly lit because it was usually the middle of the night) photos of each step.
Let’s get started.
First I cut out two pieces of fabric (one for the outside, one for the lining) using a pattern that I created. The pattern is made of one 8 1/2″x11″ piece of paper taped to another piece of paper with a rounded top edge. I traced a mixing bowl to get the rounded edge. The total pattern height is 17 inches. When I’m cutting a sandwich bag, I use the full height of the pattern. For a snack bag, I fold the lower sheet of paper in half, so the total height is 11 1/2 inches.
Place the fabrics with the wrong sides together (these pieces are cut to snack size).
If you’re going to use a ribbon tab on the rounded flap of the bag, now is the time to cut it. I make mine about 2 1/2″.
Fold the fabric tab in half, center it (as best you can) on the rounded top edge, and pin it between the two wrong sides with the cut edge poking out.
Sew along the perimeter of the bag, but leave the flat bottom end open.
Press the seams open and then turn the bag inside out.
Fold the raw bottom edge inward and press it. You’re going to top-stitch it closed.
Pin the pressed edge.
Top-stitch the bottom edge. Sometimes it is fun to use contrasting thread for this part…if you’re confident in your ability to sew a straight line. I’m not, but I use contrasting thread anyway!
Now add velcro to the outside of the bottom part of the bag.
Fold the bottom part of the bag up toward the rounded flap. I use my best judgement on this rather than a precise measurement.
Once you’ve figured out where you want your fold, top-stitch all the way around the bag, starting from the top right corner of this picture, down around the curve, and then up to the left corner. I don’t go across the bottom — I just leave the fold.
You’re almost done! Match up the rounded flap with the velcro on the bottom and add a piece of velcro to the inside of the flap.
That’s it! The bag I was working on in the photos is a snack sized bag. For the sandwich bag, follow the same steps but make your fold in the appropriate place to get the size bag you want.