Birdseed Bag Totes

When going to the grocery store or pharmacy or department stores, I have made the decision stop using the single use plastic bags.  As much as possible, and it is very possible to do this on every visit to every store, I will refuse those store bags in favor of my own reusable bags.   Even if I forget to bring in a bag, I’ll still refuse those plastic ones, like I did recently at a big box store.  I just had the clerk just put the items back in a cart and then I packed the bags standing at my car trunk.  Hopefully that will teach me to always get them out whenever I shop.  One thing I noticed after the grocery store run, meat tends to leak, and washing those bags is a pain.  The giveaway ones that are lightweight synthetic fibers tend to tear when washed, and the canvas ones get very stiff and wrinkled.  So, I needed something I could wipe clean with a sponge and some cleaner.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

DH buys the birds this premium seed, and they come in nice size bags made of a synthetic fiber of some kind that is woven.  I asked him to save me a couple of bags.  I have seen people making totes like this from 40-pound dog food bags, so I figured a 20-pound bag would be a good size for the grocery store.  Some of those tutorials are really complicated, so of course, I wanted to simplify the process.  Begin by cutting the bottom off the first bag.  There are two reasons for this.  It makes the bottom square, and cuts off the former stitching that could harbor seed debris and interfere with boxing the corners.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

On the top of the bag, cut two strips off, 3-inches wide each.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

Cut through each one crosswise to create two long strips.  Fold the edges to the center.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

Then fold in half again, enclosing the raw edges inside the strap. Use clips to hold as pins would leave holes.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

Turning to the machine, change the needle to a size 16.  I also chose a thicker thread than the kind I usually use for piecing.  Can you believe the price on these needles originally?  Yes, they are a bit vintage, LOL, but needles don’t go bad.  This unopened package was a thrift store score.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

I replaced the needle in the sewing machine with the size 16, and put the still usable size 12 one aside.  Here’s an old tip that is still a good one.  On a tomato pin cushion, number the wedges with needle sizes with a sharpie pen.  Then you can store your gently used machine needles for use later and not have to get your loop out to see the size on the side of the needle.  If you have needles stored in other places and you cannot remember the size, a jewelers loop will allow you to see it engraved on the side.

Pincushion Needles at From My Carolina Home

Next, lengthen your stitch length.  On my machine, I believe the 2.5 setting gives me 12 stitches per inch, and the 4.0 setting is more like 8 stitches per inch.  If you don’t do this, the closer stitching may perforate the bag too closely in a line and weaken the stitching.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

Stitch the handles near the double-folded edge to secure the layers together.  Repeat with the other handle.


Turn the bag inside out, and stitch across the bottom.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

Fold up that end, and stitch again for strength.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

Box the corner 3 inches.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

On the inside top, fold the top edge down one inch, then fold again one more inch.  Insert the handle under the fold, with each end 3 inches from the center.


Stitch all the way around on the lower edge.


Fold the handle up, and stitch again around the top edge.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

Voila, all done.  This first bag took under an hour to make.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

Then with the second bag, I did essentially the same procedure.


This time, I boxed the lower corners only 2 inches.

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

I’ll see which I like better on my next trip to the store.  The second bag took under 30 minutes!

Birdseed Bag Totes at From My Carolina Home

Do you have bags like this that could become totes?

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33 thoughts on “Birdseed Bag Totes

  1. Wonderfully helpful tutorial….and my heart did a pitter patter seeing the photos of a Pfaff at work….I STILL miss my Pfaff……too bad the new ones are now so poorly made!!

  2. Great! I’ve been wanting to make these for a while so as not to contribute to waste but have them stacked up and waiting for me. There are some fabulous “Green Day” fairs and events that I’ve been to and a veteran was at one making Many! He took only donations or old feed bags to give away those that he made. So Nice!

  3. What fun bags~!!~ I saved “dog food” bags with cute faces, but I could not get the smell of the food out of them. I sprayed them with Mr. Clean, hosed them out, wiped them down etc, and they still smelled of dog food, so I gave up, and tossed them. My cat food bags are similar and nothing I have for cleaners around the house will get the oils/smell out of the bag. I bet you could sell these bags at a local festival! The birds are sweet. 🙂

  4. lynn bourgeois

    Great idea. Thanks for sharing it. It was also the first time I’d read about using the tomato pincushion wedges for needle id. Love it.

  5. Since we cannot get the throwaway plastic bags in our state, I think I may just need to make a few of these for myself. Great tutorial and cute finish.

  6. Nifty idea. I must admit I did that with a friend a few years ago but we used a dog food bag. UGH smelly and hard to get the grease out. I much prefer the bird seed bag! Great post. (Unfortunately we still need the plastic bags for dog waste. Ick.)

  7. Donna Hutchinson

    I am Canadian and we have been using reusable bags for a few years now. We are charged .05 cents a bag at the register if we have to use the stores. A lot of my bags are give-a-ways with advertising on them. Love the waterproof bag idea. I also had a thought you could use a flannel lined tablecloth from the dollar store.

  8. Linda B

    Very clever Carole…thanks for walking us through the steps! We have a few older Purina bags that the chicken feed came in..I bet they would make great “grow” bags too to plant in. I confess I still reuse the plastic bags around the house but also use an insulated bag from Trader Joe’s to carry cold stuff all summer. I did some stitching on our sunshade fabric earlier in the year, and found some UV resistant thread on amazon to sew with…it might be a good thing to use on such a project It was a bit heavier, but worked well on my machine. (I have a lot left over! Ha!).

  9. Loris Mills

    Cute and well done! I made bags from curtain material (curtains were cut short into a valence) but yours have birds on them 🙂 They look lovely and useful!

  10. sheilaoxley

    I love this idea! I’ll have to find this type of bird feed. I do have a bag of jasmine rice that I thought would be perfect for a bag. Thank you so much for the tutorial and the tip for the needles!

  11. Jennifer Rauch

    Very nice! A gal in our Guild had done this for years -not sure if hers smelled or what she used, as I have my own canvas bags (over 40 years old!). Now you can have DH save ALL the birdseed bags & make bags for Safelight instead of buying them!

    1. Sage

      This is brilliant! I always thought these woven bags were recyclable. Since I am going to wind up with more totes than I need, I figure why don’t I just keep making these as gifts for my eco friendly pals. I’ll refer everyone to your method here!

  12. Brenda Ackerman

    Hello Carole; These bags are a wonderful idea and I am glad that you did such a fabulous tutorial on creating them. Mainly because, I just really would not know where to start. LOL at myself. Reading through several of your comments and discovering the smell problem using dog and cat bags, I am thrilled I read through the comments! I do use our bags as garbage bags because we are allowed to burn during certain times of the year and we have a compost area going at all times, plus we have a recycle station right in town where many disabled people are employed that does wonderful things for our community where we take all of our plastics and so forth to be recycled. I went and got carried away telling you everything. LOL… Thank you for sharing this great tutorial on using these bags for tote bags!! Have a fantastic day!

  13. Excellent recycling idea! I used a similar chicken feed bag today, but it was filled with gravel from the gutter on the roof. (You don’t want to know!) those bags are incredibly strong! I like the design in yours better, however. 😆

  14. Leslie

    Great ideas for using the bags from pet food storage / bird seed storage. In California we’ve had to use our own bags since laws changed this year. I love it .. . have actually used cloth tote bags for years, but now the clerks cooperate — lol. Never thought of using the food bags. I have a large dog and will try your method with my Blue Buffalo bags. Thanks again. Yours is my favorite blog . . . so many practical tips and projects. Have a blessed week.

  15. What a great idea. I don’t have bird seed bags so will have to see what else I can come up with.
    Our supermarkets are banning single use bags here already so we are in the habit of using our own.
    Thanks for sharing your idea.

  16. dezertsuz

    I don’t have bags like that, but I have many reusable bags that I take to Aldi each week, including a soft insulated zip bag for cold items. I don’t refuse the plastic ones at other stores, though, because we reuse them for garbage bags and kitty litter. I also take them with wrapped bread or other baked items for the neighbors because they are often not home, and I can tie it to the door handle.

  17. Patricia Evans

    These are super. I don’t feed the birds any more because the deer and squirrels eat everything, but a friend still gets bird seed. I think she buys the really big bags though, so they are probably too big for grocery shopping.

  18. Laura Geiger

    Wow, this is so AWESOME!! In California bags have to be paid for, so I have several I keep in my car and try to remember to bring them into the store. I never thought to use up the old bird seed bags and turn them into a shopping tote. You ROCK!! Great tutorial, I’m keeping this one handy. As opposed to the zillions of bookmarked projects…LOL. Thanks!

    Faunacoco, Fresno, CA

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