Handmade eco-bags strike a chord with the DIY crowd, too. Martha Stewart makes hers out of "I (Heart) NY" T-shirts, and others have taken the Morsbag template and tweaked it to make their own artful creations.
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — Despite their locavore leanings and hybrid cars, many Californians still find themselves snatching up wispy baggies at the supermarket and guiltily swearing they'll reuse them ... later.
It's not just Californians, of course. Those petroleum-based bags have become so prevalent, U.S. consumers throw away 100 billion plastic bags a year. That translates to 500 billion on a global scale — or a million bags per minute, tossed like used tissues.
Now, California's on deck to become the first state to ban plastic bags and add a surcharge to their brethren, the lowly brown paper sack, with AB 1998, which has passed the State Assembly hurdle and heads to the Senate later this year.
There's no need to wait around for political action, not when reusable cloth bags dangle from checkout stands at supermarkets everywhere. But when you make your own — out of a colorful sheet, an old T-shirt or even crocheted, shredded plastic bags — you won't just reap the karmic rewards (each reusable bag translates into 1,000 disposable bags you didn't touch), you'll save the cash you might have spent on a swanky, commercially made version.
That was Claire Morsman's idea. The British schoolteacher was so appalled by the plastic bag impact on marine wildlife — experts estimate that 100,000 marine creatures die every year after ingesting bits of plastic — she rounded up a few friends in 2007 to sew cloth shopping bags and distribute them outside supermarkets in Suffolk.
"I live on a canal and endless plastic bags float by like urban jellyfish," she told the BBC, during an interview that catapulted her guerrilla bagging movement into the public eye. Today, Morsman provides patterns and inspiration via a website — www.Morsbags.com — where her 70,000 guerrilla baggers log their distribution efforts.
Morsman isn't the only one to get on the bag-wagon. Handmade eco-bags strike a chord with the DIY crowd, too. Martha Stewart makes hers out of "I (Heart) NY" T-shirts, and others have taken the Morsbag template and tweaked it to make their own artful creations.
Here's just a sampling to get you started.
Simple fabric bags
This project, posted on Wisdom of the Moon (http://wisdomofthemoon.blogspot.com), requires only limited sewing skills and yield a bag with a squared-off bottom.
Nutshell: Cut an 18 x 42-inch rectangle of fabric. Fold in half, wrong sides together, so it's almost square. Mark a spot 3 inches down from the fold and secure the edges at the point with a pin. Now flip the top and bottom pieces of fabric over the pins, so you're looking at the wrong sides of the fabric, with a pleat tucked inside. Stitch the sides. (Turn it right side out and you'll see the boxed bottom.) Finish the top edges and attach straps.
More: View full instructions, including step-by-step photos at http://tinyurl.com/263hqy. Use the blog's search box to find sewing directions for net produce bags too.
If you're comfortable around a sewing machine — and know what a French seam is — you'll find Morsman's guerrilla bags a breeze. They can be made from old sheets, tablecloths or the leftovers from that unfinished quilting projects.
Nutshell: Download the bag pattern at www.morsbags.com.
Fits to a tee
This creation, designed by Martha Stewart's crafts team, is a perfect project for a novice sewer or T-shirt hound because it turns soft, old shirts into hip, ridiculously easy grocery totes. Sling it over a shoulder and proclaim "I (Heart) NY," or declare your allegiance to Oski. Either way, a single seam and some scissor action transforms an old T-shirt into a chic bag in two minutes flat.
Nutshell: Turn the shirt inside out, and sew the bottom closed. Turn right side out and lay flat. Cut off sleeves. Enlarge the neck hole by cutting a larger semicircle (use a mixing bowl as a template).
More: View the how-to video at www.marthastewart.com/article/good-thing-t-shirt-bag.