Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Button Down Rehab Day 7: The Shirt Sleeve Bag

I'm super excited to introduce Gwen from Gwenny Penny as my guest poster for day 7 of Button Down Rehab.
But maybe you already know her.

She has some great projects on her blog, like the Out to Eat Placemat, the Dot, Dot, Dot Pillow, and you have to check out her Ballard Wall Art Knock Off. If my husband wasn't so afraid to let me use his power tools, I would be making one of those in a heartbeat.

Without further ado, I give you Gwen!

Hey, everybody! I'm so happy to be posting here on Jen's blog today. I’m Gwen, and I blog over at Gwenny Penny. I'm an engineer turned middle-school math teacher turned full-time mom of two little girls, and I blog in order to make sure that I carve out some creative time just for me each week.

I love sewing, crafting, and just about everything creative. These are some of my favorite projects...

Now to the matter at hand... Jen's awesome Button Down Rehab series! I asked my husband for a shirt, but he reminded me that he had just donated a whole bunch of shirts to the Salvation Army, so I had to make a trip to Goodwill, where I found an awesome orange plaid men's extra-large short sleeve button down shirt. It looked so summery that I couldn't pass it up. At this point, I still didn't know what I was going to do with it, though. I spent days thinking about it and finally decided that I wanted to make a bag, but it wasn't until I actually started cutting the shirt apart that I came up with the idea for The Shirt Sleeve Bag...

Cute huh? All I did was cut the sleeves off the shirt, open them up along the underarm seam line, and sew them together with a lining. Simple as that. Want to see how it's done? I thought so...

  • short sleeve men's extra-large button down shirt
  • lining fabric - about 1/2 yd, depending on the size of your sleeves (You could use the back of the shirt, but I used a contrasting fabric to make the tutorial pictures easier to understand.)
  • fusible fleece - about 3/4 yd, depending on the size of your sleeves
  • wooden bag handles (I used 6" bamboo D-shaped handles)
  • coordinating thread
  • rotary cutter or scissors


Step 1: Cut the sleeves off of your shirt right along the seam.

Open your sleeves up flat by cutting each sleeve open along the underarm seam. Cut off any serged edges along these open seams.

Step 2: Using your shirt sleeves as templates, cut out two pieces of lining fabric, one for each sleeve.

Step 3: Using your shirt sleeves and lining pieces as templates, cut out 4 pieces of fusible fleece, one for each sleeve and each lining piece. You do not need fleece along the "flange" that sticks up along the top of each piece (the actual sleeve hem)... see the picture below.

Following the manufacturer's instructions, apply the fusible fleece to the wrong side of each sleeve and lining piece.

Step 4: Take one sleeve and one lining piece and line them up with right sides together. Using a 1/4" seam allowance, sew along the top ("flange"). Press the seam open. Repeat with the other sleeve and lining piece. You will end up with two of these...

Step 5: Take your sleeve/lining pieces from Step 4 and place them right sides together, matching the sleeves together and the lining pieces together. Pin all the way around. You are going to leave three different openings when you sew your bag together. The first opening will be along the bottom of the lining so that you can turn your bag right side out. Leave about a 4" opening. The other two openings will be along the side seams where the sleeve meets the lining. These openings should be 4" long each and be centered where the sleeve meets the lining. Make sure to backstitch at every spot where you begin and stop sewing.

Sew all the way around using a 3/8" seam allowance, leaving openings as indicated above.

Step 6: Clip the corners and turn the bag right side out through the hole in the bottom of the lining. Press, tucking in the raw edges of the opening in the bottom of the lining. Sew the opening shut close to the edge.

Tuck the lining inside the bag and press.

This is what you should have so far...

And let's take a moment to check out how well the plaid lines up along the bottom and the side...
That was pure luck. I totally did that on purpose.

Step 7: Now to tidy up the other two openings that you left in Step 5 and create a casing for the handles. This is the tricky part. Take your raw edges along one opening and tuck them in. Pin in place. Repeat for the other opening on the opposite end of the bag.

To close up the opening, you are going to sew up one end until you get to the existing shirt sleeve hem, then sew along the existing shirt sleeve hem, then down the opposite end of the bag. Hopefully this picture makes it clear...

Repeat along the other side of the bag.

Step 8:  My bamboo handles were one piece, so if you buy handles with a removable rod across the bottom, you can skip this step. I needed to create an opening along the bottom of my handle in order to insert it into the casing. A little investigation showed me that the handles were just glued at one point along the bottom. I gently cracked the glue, only to find that there was a metal rod joining the two ends of the bamboo together. With a little gentle pulling I was able to pull one end of the metal rod out so that I could slip my handle into the casing of the bag.

After inserting the handle through the casing in the bag, just slip the metal rod back into the hole on the other end of the bamboo. Repeat for the other handle.

Congratulations! You just made a cute bag out of shirt sleeves!

I hope you'll come visit soon over at Gwenny Penny. I would love to have you stop by. Thanks so much for having me here today, Jen!


Thanks, Gwen! I just love the color, and what a great idea to make a bag out of shirt sleeves!

Make sure you go visit Gwen at Gwenny Penny and check out her other awesome projects.

Check out the other great upcycles and refashions you may have missed in the series:


  1. Thanks again for having me, Jen. Great series!

  2. This looks great! Love all of the crafty fun things you made out of your old button down!

  3. Wow, Gwen, what a great idea! I'll have to search through my DH's shirts!
    And thank you Jen, for organizing this.

  4. This is such a cute bag! I love the color and your mad plaid matching skillz! ;)

  5. Such a great idea, Gwen! I love it!

  6. Love the bag and love that ms gwenny penny! Xo

  7. I popped over via Gwen's blog. This is a terrific series and I can think of a several sleeves that are just waiting to be refashioned. Very resourceful and stylish bag, I have even seen a number of rope handled bags at H&M and similar type shops that might be a nice substitute as well.

  8. I loooove this bag! The shirt is just perfect for it.

  9. totally cute! bookmarking...I would love to make this!
    Thanks for sharing :)

  10. this purse is adorable! What a great idea! Thanks Gwen for sharing, love the Series idea too :)

  11. Love this! I'm a little nervous about the steps (i'm not really a 'sewer', however I might have to give it a whirl!

  12. What a great idea!! I hope you will link up to our Bag Brag Tuesday linking party! :) http://blog.chriswdesigns.com/linking-parties/


Thanks for all of your wonderful comments! I try to respond to each of them through email so please make sure you leave an email address or have your profile set up to include your email address if you want me to respond :)


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