My reluctant handmade childhood and a tutorial

by - Thursday, June 24, 2010

Long before eco- friendly handmades became popular (circa 1981), my mother would send me to grade school armed with school totes made of leftover upholstery fabric and pencil cases made from upcycled curtain drapes. Kicking and screaming, I protested against the downright ridiculous frugality that my mother was trying to instill in me. I gawked with envy over the shiny, department store purchased  items that my classmates proudly paraded in class such as bright  BPA laced plastic lunch boxes, magnetic puffy pencil boxes and other plastic thingamajigs. During recess, I'd cringe at seeing my sandwich wrapped in infinitely re-used plastic wrapper while my seatmates were munching their snacktime goodies from disposable aluminum foil bags.  Not to mention that my lunch came in those mini recycled fabric totes! Aarrgh!

My most horrific eco-friendly experience happened in Grade 3 when my mother decided in a fit of lunacy that I should use an oversized buri mat bag  as school carryall. It is fashionable and unique and natural she enthused. I thought she was out of her mind.

Another time she made  me use those sturdy rainbow nylon mesh bags (the ones farm folks use to transport a live chicken in). Some cruel, ruthless classmates would tease if I would be going to the fresh produce market after school!

Looking back, I laugh at how my mother was so damn ahead of her time.  She had the eco-friendly mentality going on right at the start. Too bad I was just  too young to understand eco friendly much less spell it.

This following tutorial is a paean of sorts to my mother.  It's a back-to-back upcycled flour sack market tote. It's nothing new really.

My tote is still hanging on a hook on my bedroom door and I'm still gathering enough courage to use it in my next trip to the produce market. I imagine it would be so fashionable toting eggplants and squash in it? Oh did I tell you my childhood pyjamas were made of recycled flour sacks too?

Upcycled Flour Sack Market Tote


2 pieces flour sacks
Sewing machine/needle and thread

1. Decide how big and deep your tote bag will be. If you want a back to back printed tote bag, cut out the back and front sides of the sack. Put the two printed sides against each other. Hem and sew along the sides. Turn wrong sides in. Hem and fold top. Sew folds neatly in place.

2. Make a strap out of the unused plain side of the flour sack. Cut  two sets of 4" x 24"  fabric. Fold  fabric into two. Sew along the sides with a seam allowance of  1 cm. Turn wrong sides in.  Iron the fabric strips.  Sew along both sides of the fabric. Attach strips to the back using double stitched reinforcement.

3. Enjoy your newfangled upcycled flour sack tote!

You May Also Like


  1. Ahh this brings back memories of my mum (who was nowhere neeear as eco friendly as yours however) and my childhood. I do remember the crocheted string shopping bag, multitudes of homemade clothes (which just weren't cool in year 5+ when everyone else was wearing surfwear) and also the homemade pencil cases and similar... now i just wish i had that sort of sewing talent!

  2. What a pity that more people don't follow in your mum's footsteps. When I was a child we wore hand knitted cardigans and home sewn dresses. We came home to home cooked food and made do and mended as much as possible. Like you, I yearned for shop bought, machine made items. Only now do I see the wisdom of our parents!

  3. Ahh Chrissy, this does bring back memories. I wish I kept some of those old pencil cases, mesh and mat bags.

  4. What a great idea, I love it!

  5. your mom was truly before her time! :-)

  6. I think it must say SOMETHING that I have NEVER seen a cloth floor sack! I'm envious :) Your Mama taught you well! I'm going to link on Facebook :)


Sweet! Your comment is appreciated!