Advice in making a t-shirt tote

I’m a teacher. Each year, my school has a beauty pageant as a fundraiser and as a result, every teacher gets involved in some capacity. I’ve been asked to make tote bags (using school t-shirts) that will be used to hold judge “thank you” swag.

Today, I was given 5 shirts today, all different sizes and colors. Each has a different inspirational quote, which I’d like to utilize somehow.

I know that they don’t realize that the different sizes causes me to resize my pattern with each shirt so I’ve got to find a work around. I might be able to get my hands on enough of the same size…maybe.

I’ve looked at no sew bags and those don’t seem like a viable option. Plus I don’t think they would be appropriate for an appreciation gift.

I could cut the quote out and use it as a decorative panel in a regular canvas tote. Would I need to use some stabilizer to do this?

Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. I’m currently more than a little overwhelmed at how to tackle this.


I think those no sew bags are cute but sort of too casual maybe for a swag bag…you could class it up a bit and make drawstring bags out of each t-shirt…

a bit of sewing…sew the hem, turn down at the top (hopefully the quotes would show!) You could get as fancy as you want…use some of the t as the string or use fun colors?

You could square the corners to make the bottom more bag like…you could go crazy with some embellishments, badges, fringe…

.drawstring bag from a t-shirt

Another sew drawstring bag


I’m glad you mentioned cutting out parts to use as patches on regular cotton totes because that was where my mind went too. I use a fusible webbing for that sort of thing, a product like stitch witchery which is ironed on to the back of a piece of fabric then a layer is peeled away revealing the other side of the fusible material so it can be positioned onto more fabric & ironed in to place. It’s helpful to add a line of stitching round the edge to keep things more permanently attached. The fusible stuff helps reduce stretch a great deal too so the parts go together evenly.


I’ve used stutch witchery before.

Thank you for the suggestion!

1 Like

I would definitely go with using bits of the shirts to embellish a bag that’s made out of something woven instead of knit, since I don’t feel like t-shirt fabric is a good choice for bags anyway. Also seconding the stitch witchery/fusible webbing for smooth attachment.


Looking forward to seeing the finished swag bags!

1 Like

Do you think I can layer stabilizer and wonder under?

I might have a plan.

Yes, I see no reason why you couldn’t do that. Good luck with your plan.

A few years ago, I took one of my kids’ marching band tees, and made it into a lined tote. I also used clear vinyl as an outer layer, so I could set the tote down in the bleachers and not worry about it getting soaked. Unfortunately I can’t find pics on this comp but there is a pic on the other site:

Like a non-fusible interfacing and a sticks-to-things layer? I in fact know for certain that you can!

Thanks! I think I might give this a try this weekend. :slightly_smiling_face: