Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Craft Tutorial: Reversible Reusable Clean/Dirty Bags


To make things easier when we go out to eat with our girls, we bring utensils for them. I’ve been using plastic zip-top bags to carry the utensils, which gets pretty wasteful.


Even though we may be only doing this for a few more months, it’s better late than never to reduce waste. Plus, I sometimes can’t tell if the utensils are dirty or clean. A few weeks ago I could have sworn the utensils in my bag were clean but once at the restaurant I opened the bag and EEEEW!


So to cut down on the waste (Earth Day is April 22!) and so I know at a glance if they’re clean or not, I made these reversible and reusable clean/dirty bags to carry our utensils. The bags are simply made of cotton fabric. These particular ones are from my mom’s stash that she’s had since the 80s. In fact, I remember making a summer top from the fish fabric when I was in high school. And I think we used the light blue fabric to make clothes for handmade stuffed animals.

I made the labels using fabric paint and stamps, and the bag closes with an elastic loop and button. It closes in the same manner when you reverse it.

I’m sure there are lots of uses for these bags so I thought I’d share how I made them!



For the bag: 

  • Two pieces of dark fabric and two pieces of light fabric, cut to 7x7 inches each. It’s not necessary to use dark and light, but I’ll explain my reasoning later.
  • Two buttons
  • A piece of thin elastic, or in my case I reused an old hair elastic.

For the labels:

  • Light colored fabric
  • Fabric paint
  • Letter stamps
  • Scrap of felt and an old plastic lid to hold the paint

Plus: Rotary cutter, straight edge and self-healing mat, and (not shown) sewing machine, needle and thread.


First we’ll start with the stamped labels. Squirt some fabric paint onto the felt scrap and squish it around to spread it out. Press the stamp lightly and blot.


I want the resulting labels to be approximately 1x3 inches. So I started stamping about 3/4 inches from the side of the fabric and 3/8 inches down from the top.


Leave about 1.5 inches in between and stamp the next word. Using this particular scrap of fabric, I could fit 3 across. Allow to dry for 4 hours, and you can wash after 72 hours.


Now just cut them out with a rotary cutter and you have your labels. It’s up to you if you want to fold under the edges for a cleaner look or you could even serge them. I think I’ll try this unfinished, shabby look for now.


Take one piece of the dark and light fabric and put a label on each. You’ll place it upside down, about 3/4 inches down from the top edge (you’ll be folding over the edge to close it). I put “Clean” on the dark fabric and “Dirty” on the light fabric. This is because when the utensils are dirty, they will be touching the dark fabric on the inside (in case there are any stains that won’t come out in the wash).


Now we’ll sew the bag itself. Sew the dark pieces and the light pieces, right sides together. Trim the bottom corners and turn one of them right side out.


Slip the right-side out one into the inside out one. Make sure the side with the labels are facing each other, so when closed, the label will show on the front on both sides.


Now we’ll sew the two pieces together, leaving an opening to turn (marked with the pink pins). I left the opening above the labels…this is where we will add the elastic loop as we topstitch the turning hole closed.


Sew the bags together along the top edge, except for the opening.


Pull everything through the turning hole and push one bag into another. Press the seam flat.


Tuck in the elastic/ponytail holder into the turning hole. For the size of my button (1/2 inch), I also made the elastic stick out 1/2 an inch.


Top stitch around the top edge, sewing the hole closed and catching the elastic. I backstitched over it to secure.


I put in their utensils into the bag to help me figure out where to put the button i.e. how far down should I fold the top edge.


Sew on one button on the front and one immediately behind it on the inside.

ReusableBag17 ReusableBag18

And you’re done.


Hope you enjoyed the tutorial! I know that bringing utensils for your kids is a to-each-their-own sort of thing, but I’m sure if you modified them, there are lots of other ways to use these bags.

Happy Earth Day!

Visit thecsiproject.com



  1. Very practical! Thank you for the tutorial I will be using it soon!

  2. What a nifty and cute way to stay organized and clean! : )


  3. Visiting from A Little Birdie Told Me...what a cool idea!

  4. these are adorable! what a cute little idea!

    I'd love for you to link this up to my new link party, Your Whims Wednesday! http://mygirlishwhims.blogspot.com/2011/04/your-whims-wednesday-1.html

  5. Oh my gosh this is so clever!!! And adorable!

  6. that's such a cute idea. I really like it. And you could probably make them out of material that can be wiped clean too, right?

    Thanks for sharing Stephanie.

  7. You clever fox, these are adorable! I am the WORST about using zip-lock bags, I'll have to dust off my sewing machine and give this a try!

  8. Super cute. What a great idea. Love the linen stamped tags. They might be my favorites. Coming from Blue Cricket.

    Just Another Day in Paradise

  9. Love the idea of making super-cute bags. Bonus points for them cutting down waste. But that they are reversible = genius!

    Liking you via Crafterminds Support. :)

  10. I absolutely LOVE this!! (found you through blue cricket)

  11. I love this idea! Reusable trumps disposable every time.

  12. Very cute idea! Thanks for sharing the tutorial.

  13. I love this idea - I bring my own utensils around because I can't stand the overuse of plastic and have been thinking of making a bag with pockets for just this use - perhaps I'll do just that and make a cute little utensil pouch to go in the pocket!

  14. These are wonderful! I am going to post a link to them on Saturday at:


  15. Great idea! Great job!
    Thanks for linking up to Making It With Allie! I can't wait to see what you have for next week!

  16. Brilliant, and great fabric too. winks- jen

  17. I love it Steph! You come up with way too many great ideas, makes me jealous! ;) Thanks so much for linking this up! xx

  18. Love these, the labels make these for me!

    Would love to see you share it at my link party!

  19. This is such an awesome idea! I'm terrible at using plastic baggies, this would be great, thanks for the tutorial.

  20. Steph, it's always such a joy and inspiration to read your posts. What a wonderful earth-friendly craft! I love the fabrics, the hand-stamped labels, and the entire concept!

    Thank you so much for linking up to "A Little Birdie Told Me..." Tuesday at Rook No. 17!


  21. How cute! You could use this for other things too. happy Sunday.

  22. Brilliant! I love the clean/dirty reversible-ness. I have a little pouch I carry a spork in (to avoid plastic cutlery while out and about) but the "what to do with the dirty spork" problem is something I hadn't solved till now!

  23. I was just thinking of how wasteful I was using a zip lock bag each time we go out. I thought to myself that i didn't have any other better option. What a good idea, Steph! Now, you really make me wanna learn how to sew.

  24. This is SUCH a cute idea and what a great tutorial! :o) I am dropping by from CSI and think this is just too clever!!! :o)
    Jaime from Crafty Scrappy Happy

  25. Great idea! Our daughter is 2.5 and we also bring utensils with us to a restaurant. Thank u for sharing

  26. Very cute! You could seriously sell these on ETSY!


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