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REPURPOSE | Trash into Treasures

Make your own reusable shopping bag out of a broken umbrella.

By Wendy Becktold

Lori Eanes

I thought I was pretty good at minimizing my use of plastic. I wrap sandwiches in compostable baggies, grind fresh peanut butter into a glass jar, and buy a bunch of stuff in bulk.

Then I decided to follow the advice of blogger Beth Terry of and collected all my plastic waste (recyclable and not) for a week. It’s one thing to know theoretically that all those random scraps add up, another to watch the pile growing under the kitchen sink and imagine it floating forever in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Achieving a plastic-free life feels like a Sisyphean task. But it cheers me up to hear about how cities from Austin to Mumbai to Mexico City are banning single-use plastic bags—a global trend that will surely make a dent in the mountains of plastic trash overtaking the planet.

With that in mind, I made my own reusable shopping bag out of a broken umbrella. I snipped the fabric loose from the umbrella spine, folded it, cut out two squares, and then sewed them together along the sides and bottom. I made handles with the leftover material.

The bag is waterproof (of course), light, and easy to stuff into my purse. Now I just have to figure out what to do with that pile under the sink.

Difficulty Level: 4 | Construction time: 1 to 2 hours

You need some basic sewing skills.

What You'll Need:
  • Umbrella
  • Sewing scissors
  • Pins
  • Yardstick or tape measure
  • Chalk
  • Cutting mat
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Cutting wheel (optional)

Based on a project by Joanne Wong at


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