I’m the kind of person who likes to make things herself. If I buy a handcrafted product I usually try to figure out how I can make it myself and how I can improve it. That’s actually how I got started in the cloth diaper business: I purchased some handmade cloth diapers and after inspecting them I thought “I can do this – better!” So I did.
That’s how I started to make mesh produce bags. One night at the grocery store I came to the horrifying realization that our reusable grocery bags were filled with plastic produce bags! How un-green is that? As soon as we got home I was on the internet researching reusable mesh produce bags.
There were tons and tons of mesh produce bags in different fabrics, sizes, with and without accessories. But I couldn’t bring myself to buy any; I looked at them and thought “I can do that – better!” So I did.
It took a little while. First I had to go through the painful “product development” stage where you try out different ideas and end up with a bunch of crap before you discover what works best.
Finally I came up with what I think are the perfect mesh produce bags. They have that fantastic little pleat that I love in plastic produce bags, are lightweight, are see-through, and best of all – they’re reusable!
Supplies to Make a Mesh Produce Bag
In addition to the usual sewing implements; scissors, thread, pins, etc, you’ll also need:
- Scrubby mesh – don’t use regular tulle or petticoat mesh, they won’t hold up.
- 1/4″ ribbon – I prefer grosgrain, but you can use anything you have lying around.
- Medium-sized safety pin
- Iron and ironing board
- Sewing machine (Obvious I know, but I want to be thorough)
- Serger if you have one – if not you can zig-zag or overcast with your sewing machine.
Ready? Then let’s get started!
Make a Mesh Produce Bag – Step by Step
I did my best to explain each step clearly, and hope the photos help, but if you have any questions please contact me or leave a comment below; I’ll be happy to help!
Step 1: Cut your Mesh
With the mesh folded in half, cut your rectangles so the fold is on the bottom. You can make your mesh produce bags any size you like, but keep in mind that after sewing the finished size will be about 1/2″ narrower across and 1″ shorter than you cut. Here are my cutting dimensions:
- Small: 7.5″ wide x 11″ tall (folded in half – if you unfold it the rectangle would be 7.5″ x 22″)
- Medium: 10.5″ wide x 12.5″ tall (unfolded: 10.5″ x 25″)
- Large: 13.5″ wide by 16″ tall (unfolded: 13.5″ x 32″)
I color-code my bags. Some of my rejects included cute little ribbons with snaps to wrap around rolled-up produce bags, and snap-on carrying pouches for neatly folded or rolled mesh bags. It didn’t take long before I realized that after shopping and putting away groceries I wasn’t about to sit and roll up all these mesh produce bags, or fold them neatly into a pouch. What I actually did was stuff all the produce bags into one of the large mesh produce bags and toss thems into the van with the reusable grocery bags. Color-coding make it easier to grab the right size while we’re shopping.
Step 2: Side Seams
With the fold at the bottom of the bag, serge or stitch up the sides of the bag. Stitch top-to-bottom on one side, but on the other side stop about two inches from the top. This will make the opening for the ribbon closure. If you serged the seams you’ll need to keep this end from unraveling by tying the threads together, or whatever method you use. If you stitched the seams with a sewing machine you may want to zig-zag or overcast the seam for added strength.
That was easy, wasn’t it? Now turn the bag right-side-out.
Step 3: Top Casing
Before ironing your mesh take a scrap piece and do a test to make sure it doesn’t melt your mesh. Mine was fine, but I don’t want you to end up a melted mesh mess.
If your iron and mesh pass the test, carefully press the top edge under – to the inside – about 1/4″. Then fold that edge to the inside so it just barely overlaps the side serging/stitching. Pin in place then press the edge.
Carefully stitch along the fold to create a casing for the ribbon.
Good job! I’ll bet your bag looks something like this one!
Step 4: Bottom Pleats
Most mesh produce bags on the market are simple rectangles like you’ve got now. If you want you could skip ahead to the last step and be done. Personally, I like the bottom pleats because they expand to hold more produce, they allow the bag to sit upright, and they pull the sides of the empty produce bag in so it’s smaller.
To add the pleats you first have to mark bottom fold in the middle. The easiest way to do this is to fold the bag in half side-to-side and make a mark there.
Keeping the back right-side-in, push one corner toward the middle mark, so the seam is directly under the mark. It’s a little tricky, but I know you can do it.
Pin the pleat in place.
Then repeat with the other side so both pleats are pinned in place.
On the right side of the bag, stitch across the bottom about 1/4″ from the fold, catching both pleats in the stitching. Piece of cake!
Yours looks like this, right?
You’re almost done – just one more step.
Step 5: Adding the Ribbon Closure
Measure your ribbon against the bag. You need enough to go around the whole top of the bag plus about 2-3″ on both ends for tying.
Attach the safety pin to one end of the ribbon and insert it in the opening of the casing. Carefully work the safety pin through the casing until it comes out the other opening. Be careful not to pull the other end of the ribbon into the casing. If you do it’s not the end of the world, just pull it all the way through and try again.
Hold the ends together and tie them together. You can cut the ends on the bias (slanty) so they’re less likely to unravel.
Step 6: Done!
To finish my bags I like to lay them out on the ironing board and give them a light pressing to set the pleats and make them nice and flat. You can totally skip this step if you want though.
Using your Mesh Produce Bag
Fill your mesh produce with fresh fruits or veggies and pull the ribbon tight. The grosgrain ribbon has always held well for me, but satin ribbon might slip. You can also tie the ribbon after you pull it tight: just fold it so the knot is against the bag, creating two loops on either side. Take those two loops and tie them into a knot. Pretty slick!
When my mesh produce bags get a little dirty I just swish them through the water when I’m washing dishes and air dry. If they get really nasty I wash them with my laundry on cold then air dry.
Congratulations, you just made a mesh produce bag! Go show everyone you know what a cool produce bag you made, then take a photo and send it to me so I can see too. Go green with mesh produce bags!