Tees to Totes

My friend is not a T-shirt wearer, but that doesn’t stop her daughter from picking up cute T-shirts with animal designs that her mom would like. 

My friend’s daughter knows that T-shirts aren’t just for wearing.  Sometimes they are just begging to be transformed into a purse or tote bag.  That’s exactly what happened with this “Mother Hen” T-shirt!

This is not my first Tee to Tote project, so I knew what I needed to do.  The first step is to find fabrics that coordinate with the T-shirt fabric color and the embroidered design. 

Naturally, I wanted to go with chicken themed fabric for this bag. When choosing fabrics, remember the wise words from Stacey and Clinton from What Not to Wear.  The fabrics don’t have to match, they just have to go together.

After I chose the fabrics, I cut out the design from the shirt and stabilized that square with woven fusible interfacing.  I then began to build the front of the purse, adding cuts of fabric until the rectangle was the correct measurement for the pattern I had chosen to use.

When the pieced rectangle was finished, I added Pellon Fusible Thermolam Plus to the back and quilted it using the “stitch-in-the-ditch” method as you can see here.

I had a difficult time deciding on thread color, so I used a light tan thread except for the stitching around the T-shirt piece where I used a matching shade of pink.

Now that the piecing was finished, I constructed the purse per the pattern instructions.  I was using the Baja Traveler pattern from Quilts Illustrated, and the only change I made was to add a zippered pocket on the inside of the bag.  I often add a zippered pocket to purses that will have a magnetic snap closure.  The zippered pocket offers a secure place for a wallet or money.

The other side of the purse is lined with pockets making organization easy.  The pocket and base fabric that you see here was from my fabric stash.  It was not part of my original plan, but I like the way it coordinates with the T-shirt fabric.



For the back of the bag, I used just two prints:  my favorite yellow fabric with the chickens which is a Robert Kaufman print and the egg print. 

I like the way these two prints look together, and I really like the egg print for the handles.  I try to stay away from directional prints like this yellow one for handles since I don’t like to have the chickens upside down or lying on their sides.










This purse with its cute Mother Hen would make a dandy Mother’s Day gift for my friend.  One thing is for sure …. She will get a lot more use from this bag than she would have gotten from the T-shirt. 

This Tee-to-Tote method of constructing a purse offers lots of great options. Why not leave a comment and give me your suggestion for a great Tee-to-Tote project?

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93 thoughts on “Tees to Totes

  1. What a great use for tee shirts. The bag was really cute as were several of the other projects I looked at on your blog. I think I might just have to follow you :)

  2. OMG, I don’t have to throw out my favorite T-shirt that’s getting holes in the armpits now!!! YAY!!! I just have to find time to sit down and sew into a tote…you’ve given me a great idea here, Elaine, this is awesome!!!

  3. Oh my goodness! How creative. I’m so jealous of people who can create such beautiful work and think outside the box, or should I say, bag.

  4. What a cute idea! I bet you can find all sorts of good fabrics from clothing at thrift store to convert into bags! Thank you for the tutorial, I may have to try this some time. I am still learning to use my sewing machine but really would like to have fun projects to try to make for my 2 girls!!

  5. Wow those are really nice! I’ve never been the creative and artistic type of person so I can’t really give you any ideas. But keep doing what you’re doing and maybe someday you’d already have a big business!

  6. I am SO impressed! Now I want you to make ME a bag, lol. I have always wanted to learn how to sew. It’s on my bucket list lol. I am so appalled by some of the clothing that is marketed to our young girl’s these days and I have a daughter for whom it is hard to find properly fitting clothing, so I would love to learn to make clothes for her. I wish I had more time to devote to learning how to sew, but maybe someday. In the meantime, I’ll look longingly at blogs like yours and be jealous from afar! You are incredibly talented!

  7. What an amazing blog you have! The post was so much fun…and informative…I want to run out and purchase some fabric and get started. I used to sew…but my eyes are not what they were. :)
    The chicken handbag is adorable…you are very talented…and also a very good teacher…your instructions are easy to follow. :)
    I’m visiting from Blogelina’s 100 comment event.
    Hope you will come and visit me:

  8. Oh my word, this is amazing!! I generally don’t get that elaborate, you’re making me feel like a newbie, now!! That is gorgeous:) I love all of the detail and patterns in the inside. Awesome!

  9. I wish I was crafty! I took a sewing class once and liked it but I never stayed with it and forget everything i learned now. Would love to make my own clothes.

  10. I really love that bag! I do not sew, but I make some crafts (minus the sewing machine). I am very impressed with you talent in making that purse. Do you sale any other the items that you make? I think I am going to show this to my mother and have her make me a t-shirt tote. I am going to go look at the rest of your blog and I am sure that I will find something else I like. Thank you for sharing this!

  11. That is so creative and such a neat way of being able to preserve memories of your child in a tee growing up or even passing it on to her when she goes to college. Love it!!

    1. Too funny about buying fabric and not sewing! I always say that fabric shopping is more fun than sewing, but I have to sew to make fabric shopping worthwhile.

  12. I love your site! I haven’t really sewn in about 30 years. But I’m going to again one day. My daughter asked me why I didn’t sew GrandBoy’s clothes, and I just looked at her. Maybe I need to plan a project.

  13. Oh wow – not only are the fabrics amazing (love R. K. prints!) but your handiwork is stunning! I could never pull this together. Maybe a simple bag but not all those nice pockets and even stitching. You have a gift! And your friend is lucky indeed! :)

  14. OH I LOVE the lining of your bag!!!! This would be so so so cute to take to a farmers market :) You could even use oil cloth to protect from moisture. You have a great talent! Thanks for sharing :)

  15. This is so cool. I love the idea of using something you already have, plus it’s useful. I am going to share this with my sister. She loves to sew gifts for people.

  16. I love that. I do know how to sew fairly well, but ultimately I’m not crafty of skilled or patient enough for a project like that. I do have an idea for you though. A few years back my Mom made me a picnic tote. It has a rectangular oilcloth table cloth, a fabric flatware caddy with slots for each utensil (plus a knife, a can-opener, and a couple of serving spoons). The fabric caddy rolls up and ties shut with fabric ties when stored. It also has a small picnic blanket, a set of plastic divided plates, and a set of plastic cups, plus a “dirty bag” made of a dishcloth with a drawstring to store dirty dishes in as you carry them home. The bag is roomy enough to also stick in the picnic food. My mom put it all into a purchased canvas bag, but if you made a custom bag coordinated to the blanket and caddy and so on, it would be so adorable.

  17. So cute – I was going to ask if the bag was for sale! One of my DIL’s aunts, collects anything with roosters or chickens. She would love this tote.

    I’ll be marking this post – I’d like to try this idea. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Amazing. I have never used a sewing machine and so want to start creating. Especially with the favorite articles of clothing I have saved from son’s wardrobe over the years. Your tote is fun and so well done.

  19. I keep seeing all these fantastic things to do with a sewing machine. Now if only I could find someone selling a used one at a decent price so I can start making cute things.

    I think it would be cute to take kids character tees to make toy carrying bags. You could even coordinate the tee to match the contents.

  20. I love to sew!! I always make clothes for my kids especially my daughter. I love making her pretty dresses and she’s always willing to wear what I make. I made crib bumpers and a dust ruffle for the crib. Now I’ve started an etsy shop selling footed pajama pants. I’m book marking your site so I can come back later.

  21. Wow that is so cute. I recently bought a sewing machine off craigslist. My mother, aunt, grandmother and sister all know how to sew but I am lacking in the skill. I could use a few new bags since carrying around kid stuff seems to wear them out easily. I will have to see about giving this a try. A t-shirt ruined with a stain would be perfect. I agree with another commenter that you should sell these on etsy.com.

  22. I love this idea!! I have several T-shirts I could turn into a tote. I thought it would be a hard project but your post makes me feel like even I could do it. Great!

  23. What a great idea! I tried to learn how to sew several times and just couldn’t get the hang of it, so I admire those who do. Thankfully, my mother-in-law is teaching my daughter how to sew! :)

    Visiting from Blogelina! Have a great weekend!

  24. You did a beautiful job! You are very creative and talented. I enjoy sewing but I do not have a “gift” for it. I want to read your smocking post. I picked up a smocking machine a few years at a garage sale just because I wanted to learn how to do it! But alas, I have not yet. Maybe by the time I have grandchildren! Ha!

  25. Oh my goodness, you are so creative. I wouldn’t have known what one can do with the Tees. I’ve bookmarked this page. I have to try it out. Thanks for sharing.

  26. I didn’t expect to like the finish product, but I actually love it. Great job. I couldn’t tell at first how it would end up. I love quilted and patchwork things these days. I have no idea how to make anything nearly as cool.

    Thanks for the post. Glad Blogelina sent me your way.

  27. This looks adorable. Have you considered making a small tote bag or a purse, wristlet, hand phone cover or tissue packet covers? Here you go, 5 suggestions :)

  28. This bag is adorable. I wish I knew how to sew. My mom always tried to teach me but I had no interest. I wish I would have paid attention so I could make wonderful things like this!

  29. I LOVE the idea of turning something you love, but not so useful into something that you can LOVE and USE as well! This Tee to Tote idea is awesome! I’ve just started learning to sew and my husband got me my own sewing machine for Christmas! This is a wonderful idea for me to try on my new sewing machine! Thanks for sharing! I love your blog and can’t wait to come back to see what else you’ve created!

    On a side note, wish you had a Google Friend Connect or Networked blogs button to make it easier to follow!

    Thanks again for the cute idea! LOVE the Mother Hen Tote!!!

  30. My mom would love that tote because she collects chickens! I never would have thought of making a bag from a tshirt. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  31. That project turned out great! So cute!
    I recently saw someone that used old T-shirts (like worn-out thrift store shirts) to make yarn for crocheting or knitting. It’s amazing what you can do with a T-shirt and what a lovely way to re-purpose!

  32. I have not one single ounce of sewing ability in me. It took me an hour to sew a button back on my husband’s sport coat! I was praying the thing would at least stay on until we arrived back home- it did! I see things like this and I am, in all honesty, sooo impressed by creations like this one! You are extremely talented! Thanks for sharing! By the way, the purse is too cute!

  33. How adorable & creative. I love the detailed step by steps. I am going to bookmark this as a sewing project for my girls homeschool activity.

  34. AWESOME! I personally thought the t-shirt was ugly, but remade into the tote it’s ADORABLE. I really liked all the step by step photos too. Nice job!

  35. How clever! I’m sending your blog directly to my mom because while I’m a little crafty, she’d be all over it. It’s a rare blessing to be able to see things other people wouldn’t…like a tote bag in a t-shirt.
    Peace and good to you.

  36. OMG! That is so cute and amazing! I wish I was more crafty sometimes! I did make a small quilt and my daughters bumper pads for her crib (11 years ago). I don’t think i’ve sown anything since! I had grand ideas of turning my kids favorite baby and kid’s clothes into a quilt later on in life . . . but I’m starting to think I’ll never get around to doing it. Too many other things to do in life and that I like doing.

    Thanks for sharing! That purse looks amazing!

    ps – visiting from the Blogelina event!

  37. That’s so creative! Who knew you could turn a t-shirt into a cute tote!
    This is great. I’m going to have to try some of the crafts you showcase on your blog. Thanks for sharing this and have a great day!

    1. I couldn’t find a way to comment other than replying and the last post doesn’t have the reply option- not sure if something is amiss… Anyways, I’m very impressed by your ability to think ouside the box. I often see t-shirts that make me think of people, but at the same time I know that they won’t actually wear the shirt, so I love the idea of repurposing it!!

      1. Julie, thanks for commenting here. Not sure what’s up with the commenting box as it was there for me now.

        I have appreciated all the kind comments and suggestions on this post!

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