Monday, February 16, 2009

The Bag Issue. Solved. [TUTORIAL]

About five years ago, my sister gave me my first reusable grocery bag.

Well, I guess I could have used a number of the random canvas bags lying around my house as a grocery bag instead of taking the plastic ones Safeway was giving me with my food, but it wasn't a part of my life then, and so, I consider the one my sister gave me, all hand sewn with a cute wine bottle applique on the front (nice that she printed my shopping list it, I thought), my first official reusable grocery bag.

My mind isn't all that much of an original thinker, so I guess it took having a thing presented to me with its explicit purpose sewn to the front in order for me to deal with the plastic grocery bag issue.

Because, I will say, it was truly an issue.

I had a variety of ways of dealing with The Bag Issue, as Bubba called it, and one of those ways included filling one bag with all the other bags and shoving it under our sink so that it could pop out every time I went down there for the Cascade. To say that I hated this Way of Dealing With the Bag Issue would be understating it slightly. I used to flip it off every time it happened. That bag of bags. JERK.

Another way I dealt with the overabundance of evil white plastic grocery bags with the big annoying red "S" was to shove them down into the bottoms of my trash cans, below the one presently being used as a trash can liner, so that I'd never EVER run out of liners.

Except, sometimes, there'd be so many fucking bags down there that the Bag In Use had very little space inside which it could accommodate any actual trash.

The trash was really underneath the trash, is how I see it now, but then it just seemed like stability - I'd always have a trash can liner. Yay. Problem solved. ISH.

That was five years ago.

Since then, I began actively carrying and using my own bags (including that original one) for all my shopping; grocery, hardware, clothes, Target, vacation souvenir, etc. On the rare occasion when I've already used my purse bag and the other bags from my car and I'm left without a reusable bag in which to carry my purchases, I'll usually just hand carry whatever it is out with me or shove it right into my purse.

My life now involves almost no icky white plastic bag with the red "S" touching, and not only because I rarely shop at Safeway (thank you farm share), but because I just have adjusted to My Life Without Plastic Bags and don't feel like reverting. It's stability, that I never have to deal with The Bag Issue anymore, so the problem is solved.


See, now I don't have any trash can liners. And that is a problem. Because trash cans are grody in there. Especially bathroom ones (we still have a giant bag liner in our kitchen one because whoa - messy otherwise) with all the cotton balls and Qtips and empty bottles of shampoo I throw across the bathroom from the shower when they run out mid-shampooing.

It just gets all grody in those cans (yes, I can hit the trash can with a shampoo bottle from the shower because this is the one time in my life where eye/hand coordination comes together) and, really, they need liners.

But I'm not about to go back to taking my Target purchases home in icky white plastic bags with red circles on them NO. And I'm certainly not going to be buying actual plastic trash can liners to carry home in icky white plastic bags with red circles on them. That'd be, well, ridiculous.

My initial thoughts involved using one of my, now many, reusable shopping bags in my trash cans, but like the bag I used to use in the car for trash, it didn't seem aesthetically pleasing enough for my apparently beloved bathroom trash cans, and so I scrapped that idea.

And then we went commando with our trash cans for some time. No liner, no trash bag in there, no nothin'. Every now and again our cleaning lady who I love would put a bag in there, probably all the while thinking we were living like wild animals, but it would irk me that I was again interacting with icky plastic bags even though they were hiding the grodiness of the cans.

Getting too close to the scary roots of my brain? Probably.


It dawned on me during one of my eight yearly nights of insomnia (I heard this is the average number of nights per year that any person has insomnia) - a way to fix this whole crazy bag issue that shouldn't be using up so much of my brain power:


That's right - what if I continue down my obsessive path of upcycling Tshirts into useful things by fixing them up as trash can liners. Reusable, washable, durable trash can liners.

And also that would get them the fuck out of my bottom drawer so that I could close it without having to do the shove-your-hand-in-there-and-push-everything-down-but-pull-it-out-fast-enough-so-that-it-doesn't-get-slammed-in-there-when-you-close-it-with-all-your-might thing.

Yes. This could work. And OH it would be so easy because just sew the neck and sleeves shut and BOOM - you have a bag.

But, since it was insomnia I was dealing with, and not just a moment of sleeplessness solved by rolling over and pulling some more covers off Bubba (sorry, love), I had to make it fancy.

And that is where the Hem Turned Drawstring came to be. And that is when I decided fancy would also mean incorporating a cord stop, some shoelaces and some white electrical tape (optional).

So, if you have a grody naked trash can in need of a liner or are trying to break yourself of a similar Bag Issue but can't imagine your life with naked trash cans or you're dealing with an overabundance of race Tshirts, this might be a project for you.

Also, it's so easy you'll get that great feeling of satisfaction in, like, 10 minutes, and get to go on about doing nothing the rest of the day because, TAH DAH! you were productive already.

Tshirt Trash Can Liner
Tshirt (I used a lovely Presidio 10K shirt in a women's small)
1 yard of shoelace string (or enough to wrap around your trash can with approx. 6" remaining)
Coordinating thread
Coordinating electrical tape (or whatever tape you have on hand)
1 cord stop
1 small safety pin

To make:
Turn your Tshirt inside out and sew the sleeves and neck closed, like this:

Then, with the shirt still inside out, cut off the sleeves and neck, outside the seams you just sewed.

Cut into the bottom hem of the shirt, being careful not to cut into the hem's surging, and zigzag stitch at the base of the cut you just made.

Are you seeing how this is going to become the perfect channel for a drawstring?

This is so that hole doesn't rip all apart. Later. When you're doing the drawstring-ing.

Attach a safety pin to one end of your shoelace and insert, safety pin first, into the hole you just cut in the shirt's hem. Using the safety pin as a guide, pull the string through the hemline and out the other end of the cut you made.

TAH DOW! Drawstring in a hemline you didn't have to sew. LOVE that.

Place your shirt in your trash can, former neck and sleeve ends at the bottom of the can and wrong side out, and fold the shirt's bottom hem (with the drawstring) over the top edge. (This way the right side of the shirt's hem will show on the outside of the can.) Pull the cord through the hem until the shirt fits snug on the can. You should have about 4-6" of shoelace hanging out of either side of the cut in the hem, if not, pull it through until you do and cut to fit. Wrap some tape around either end to secure the cut ends.

Insert both ends of the cord into the hole in the cord stop and tie the ends in a knot on the other side of the cord stop.

You have to squeeze the cord stop mighty hard to get the hole to line up.

Pull the drawstring tight with the cord stop. You're done!

Then put it back in the bathroom, you know.

This went so fast, I made two, since I have a pile of race shirts now and they do nothing other than sit in my drawer and make it full.

And now I don't have any naked trash cans. WOO!

That's something. To me.


  1. All of our trash cans are naked. Except the kitchen, because, ew. And the downstairs bathroom, because, also ew. And yes, I do use the Evil Plastic Bag for the liner in there. I always have my re-usable grocery store bags (yeah, I bought them--I'm not crafty, remember?), but the MiL CANNOT remember to EVER bring HER re-usable bags back to her car, so she always brings home the plastic ones. Which I use to pick up dog shit in the back hall, rotting animal parts the dogs bring home, and bathroom trash. I really appreciate having those Evil Plastic Bags sometimes.

    I store them in an empty rectangular tissue box. Get it? It only has the small opening at the top, so you can shove a whole bunch down in the box and pull them out from the opening. Good enough.

  2. Do you live in my head? Because I was *just* trying to figure out this very same dilemma. Thanks for beating me to it... my ideas were sucktastic.

    BTW, the word verification for this post is "monsty" which I think should totally be a word.

  3. Finny, I'm surprised you don't have insomnia all the time with abundance of creative ideas rolling through your head. Not that I'm going to rush off and make this, mind you. But it does make me want to come down to your place, use a kleenix, and throw it into your nicely lined can.

  4. Oh you California girls are so good... damn you! Now I have to feel guilty about my trash bags too. I appreciate your purpose.... but I think my garbage must be goopier than yours.

  5. Awesome idea, thanks! So my question is what do you do for the dreaded kitty box. Because that's where all of my plastic bags get put to use.

  6. All my good ideas come to me in the middle of the night too. (Thus my title, Wisdom of the Moon) Anyway, all our trashcans are stark naked, but I may have to give this awesomeness a go... I LOVE the t-shirt channel. Who knew they were good for so much?

  7. Well, who knew??? Very clever ms. Finny. So, about how many weeks do you estimate a t-shirt liner will last??? Or do you intend to occasionally wash them???

  8. Brilliant! Finny! Our trash woes are plentiful as I refuse plastic bags but Andy is on trash duty every Friday morning and comes back inside from the alley to exclaim his disgust for the ick that went all about the alley and his person because of my bag refusal.

    Plus it looks fabulous. I am very impressed and will make these. I can also very mush relate to your drawer of tshirts that are taking up valuable clothing real estate.

    You should like win an award for this.

  9. Brilliant idea, Finny. And I like the easy tutorial you've provided. Thanks!

  10. YOU are a GENIUS!!!
    You have solved a problem. A big one. Now I have to tell my sister.
    love love love

  11. Wow, I usually just lurk around here, but I need to come out of lurkdome to say....Holy crap what a really good (and easy) idea! Color me impressed.

  12. Kris - Yes! My mom does that with her plastic bags. They're in an ancient Kleenex box under her sink. She uses them for everything and I get it, I do.

    We'll see how the Tshirt can liner thing goes, since I don't take out the trash and Bubba does, he says he'll "do his best" to remember not to throw them out.

    He's going to throw them out. I just know it.

    Dana - So far I just live in my head, which is pretty scary. BUT - I do like knowing that someone else was trying to solve this crazy ass thing. Makes me feel less Crazy.

    Decca - Next time you're over, feel free to throw Kleenex in both of the cans in the bathroom. I've found it's pretty fun. LOOK! Trash on my old Tshirts!

    Little Ears - Don't feel guilty! This is more of a clutter thing than a Save the Earth thing. I just don't like having bags all over the place and I also don't like having ugly trash cans. So, you know, I'm California Crazy, I guess.

    Katy - I don't have a good answer for this because I don't put liners in the cat box. I just trash the scoops and once in a while dump the whole mess and hose out the box. It's all very nasty.

    Nell - Why thank you!

    Wendy - Seriously - love to repurpose old Tshirts. Because, let's face it, I wear about 3 of my 10,000 Tshirts and the rest just sit there, taking up space that could be filled with much more wearable things.

    Pretty much any time I set out to sew something now, I ask myself first whether it could be made using a Tshirt. More often than not, the answer is yes. Especially if I ask it in the middle of the night ;)

    Anna - They'll last forever!

    I imagine Bubba will see when they're getting icky (he does the trash) and either throw them in the wash with the napkins and towels or he'll tell me they're gross and I'll do it.

    As long as the cleaning lady doesn't throw them out, I think they'll hang out a while :)

    Dig - No way! An award! That'd be cool! Until then, let's just get some cans lined with Tshirts so your poor Andy doesn't get covered in crapola. I get the same request from mine - make sure those bags hold! :) Hey - if you make one, post on it and we can spread the word.

    Junie - Let me know if you make one, Junie - I bet it'd be magnificent!

    Jenny - Yay! I'm so glad I solved a problem! That's a new one. If you or your sister make liners, take a picture - I wanna see!

    Brenda - Hello delurker - welcome :) You're very pretty in your impressed colors. Come again!

  13. i love, love this idea. i tried to ahve naked trah cans for a while, but with the kiddos, and my husband, well, i just couldn't do it. i have been using the same three trah bags for a while now, but this idea is so great. i love, love, llove it and i am going to copy you!

  14. That was SERIOUSLY creative! Now do you plan on running them through the wash periodically, say if they get all gunky from your nasty bathroom stuff? Earwax and all that...

    Make me some!

  15. Wow Fin, you've totally out done yourself again. This is fabulous!

  16. Your grocery-bag-making sister is impressed! Perhaps you can gift a couple my way--we have two naked bathroom cans, in case you are curious. ;)


[2013 update: You can't comment as an anonymous person anymore. Too many douchebags were leaving bullshit SPAM comments and my inbox was getting flooded, but if you're here to comment in a real way like a real person, go to it.]

Look at you commenting, that's fun.

So, here's the thing with commenting, unless you have an email address associated with your own profile, your comment will still post, but I won't have an email address with which to reply to you personally.

Sucks, right?

Anyway, to remedy this, I usually come back to my posts and post replies in the comment field with you.

But, if you ever want to email me directly to talk about pumpkins or shoes or what it's like to spend a good part of your day Swiffering - shoot me an email to finnyknitsATgmailDOTcom.