Posted on 93 Comments

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?


93 thoughts on “Tees to Totes

  1. 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!

    2. I had the same problem.
      I’m visiting from the 199 comment event…LOVE your blog…it’s clean, neat and easy to read! The chicken handbag is creative and fun…you are definitely a great teacher…the instructions are clear and easy to follow.
      Hope you will come to visit me:

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. Very very nice and handy… keep up the good work… am going to check out all of your works…

  5. 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!

  6. Too Cute! Now I have another project I’m going to have to try! I agree that the step by step photos are great!

  7. 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.

  8. Very creative! I love upcycling, but I have as yet to use t-shirts in my work.

  9. What a great idea!! But I don’t understand how you can not be a t shirt wearer Hehe!!

  10. 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!

  11. What a great idea. Very cute.

  12. 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!

  13. What a fabulous idea and a great way to reuse old shirts my daughter would grow out of.

  14. 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!

  15. What a great idea I never would have thought about doing this!

  16. Wow! You are very talented. I always wanted to learn to sew but I don’t think I’ll ever have the patience to learn!

  17. Well, if you aren’t the smartest thing on two wheels! That’s totally amazing. You have a lot of creativity, girl. Great article. Thank you. Deb

  18. Wow! You are talented! So very cute. I should have paid more attention when my Grandma tried teaching me to sew. Love the tshirt to tote idea.

  19. Excellent post and I can see that you are very creative! I wish I was able to sew.

  20. Very clever. I’ll show this to my daughters who have Tshirts they’re saving for memory sake. This way they could be put to good use.

  21. Great looking bag, you certainly know what you’re doing! The attention to detail is impeccable. I’ve only ever sewn once. It was alright —

    1. I think you did a great job with your tote bag!

  22. 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!!!

    1. Thanks so much for the suggestion for Google Friend Connect or Networked Blogs. I’ll look in to adding those this week.

  23. Lovely blog and beautiful designs. Your talent shines throught!

  24. 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!

  25. 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 🙂

  26. I love this idea and love making purses! What a cute idea for a teen to use a t-shirt that they grow out of, but love the memories behind it!

  27. So cute! What a creative idea! I’m not crafty at this stage of my life (just don’t have the time), but I am bookmarking these ideas for someday!

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. Very cute! I love the egg fabric. I haven’t sewn in a long time. This project makes me think I should get back into it.

  31. 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!

  32. 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!

  33. 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!

  34. How clever and resourceful! I would never have thought to take a t-shirt and create a bag. You could sell them on Etsy!

  35. I love the egg fabric!

  36. What a cute project and a great idea! Plus I love that you can re-purpose a favorite Tee-Shirt into a brand new accessory!

  37. I’m not at all creative so I don’t have any suggestions but I just wanted to tell you that I love this tote!

  38. Great tutorial. The pictures are excellent visual aids. And it’s a cute idea. Thanks for sharing!

  39. 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

  40. Wow, I’m impressed! I often wish I had more sewing skills. I have a lot of t-shirts I need to use, so I may give this a try!

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

    1. That is a great idea to use the kids’ character tees. I will look for some of those to give it a go! Thanks much!

  43. I love how creative you are. I would have never thought to make a handbag from a T-shirt. I think your friend will love that as a Mother’s Day gift.

  44. 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.

  45. Beautiful! Can I have one? LOL

    Still Dating My Spouse

    Stopping by via the 100 comment blog hop!

    1. Thanks, Pamela! You can have one if you would simply place an order. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

  46. Oh my gosh, my grandmother would love this. Now if I can figure out how to be more crafty!

    Thanks for this, its inspiring.

  47. 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!

    1. This particular bag isn’t for sale, but I do take orders. 🙂

  48. 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.

    1. That is a great idea! Thanks for sharing! I even have some picnic themed fabric in my stash!

  49. 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.

  50. 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 🙂

  51. Wow! That’s really cute! I always wish I had the skill to make things like that. I’m going to be checking out your other projects.

  52. What a great bag and instructive blog post! I am always so impressed with what people can do when they can sew.

  53. What a cute tote!

  54. 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! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for the effusive praise! I love it! 🙂

  55. This is so cute!!! I love the little chicken- I am a sucker for a cute design! Thanks for sharing xoxo-Rachel

  56. Cute bag! I always admire someone who can sew and repurpose items they find!!

  57. I am so envious of your talent! Some day soon I want so much to learn how to sew… the repurposing possibilities seem endless- like making a t-shirt into a cute bag!

  58. 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.

  59. That is SO cute, not to mention very creative! You are very talented.

  60. I have appreciated the comments so much! Thanks to everyone who stopped by to look.

  61. That is so cute! I wish I was creative like that! My mom has skill like that.

  62. I love your blog! I’m going to look around further. I still buy fabric, and I haven’t sewn much in 30 years!

    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.

  63. 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!!

  64. 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!

    1. Angela, check out my other pages on this site for samples of other bags and purses that I make and sell.

  65. 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.

  66. 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!

  67. 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:

  68. Wow!! You are good!!!!! And you make it look easy. I could NEVER make it, but I would buy one!

  69. Lovely purse, thank you for sharing this. Very informative post.

  70. 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!

  71. 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!

  72. 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!!

  73. 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.

  74. That is SOOO adorable! I really wasn’t a fan of the pink shirt when I saw it, but I LOVE the fabric you chose to put with it! I would love it if you shared this project on my weekly blog hop: Take it on Tuesday:

  75. Wow, is that an adorable tote!! You are truly talented, thanks for sharing it.

  76. Oh I love making tee shirts into other things! or just remaking them to fit differently.
    Thanks for the ideas!

  77. 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!!!

  78. 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 🙂

    1. I hope you will, Elizabeth! Thanks for stopping by.

  79. I love to create things with old t-shirts too!

  80. Wow! I wish I was 1/2 as crafty as you are! Too cute!

    Nicole @ MamaNYC

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