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Upcycling project with coffee sacks

Old coffee sacks are usually thrown away, but here at Fair Trader we have an upcycling idea.


The official dictionary definition of the word upcycle is: ‘To reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.‘

Simple enough. Except ‘value’ is a pretty subjective term. And ‘reuse’ can mean a whole host of things.

‘Upcycling involves adding value (in the eye of the beholder or the upcycler) to something that would otherwise have been thrown away, recycled, lost in storage or abandoned. Upcycling can involve repurposing and reusing, refreshing, revamping and reviving or creating and re-creating.’

So have a go! Judy, a longstanding Fair Trader volunteer, has kindly given us instructions. Hessian coffee sacks available at Fair Trader.

Making a bag from a coffee sack

1. Cut out 2 equal-sized pieces of sacking for the back and front of the bag. Mine were roughly 54 x 54 cm. Be generous. The seam allowance needs to be large to cope with the hessian fraying. If the fraying bothers you, you can zig-zag stitch round the edges. Repeat with the lining fabric. This doesn't need to have a seam at the bottom if you have no issues with the pattern being upside down on one side of the bag. This would need slightly less fabric.

2. With right sides together, sew the hessian pieces together with a generous seam allowance to form a bag. Sew the lining pieces together similarly. The internal dimensions of the lining bag needs to be slightly smaller than the hessian one.

3. (Optional: to give the bag a wide base)

Pinch the side seam and the bottom seam together at one corner.

Measure about 6 cm from the V where the two meet and stitch across.

Trim with a generous allowance. Now do the same at the other corner. It is now bag-shaped.

Repeat with the lining. Press the seams open.

4. Making the handles

Cut two strips from the width of the coffee sack, about 13 cm wide. Iron in half along the length. Fold in the raw edges and stitch down along either side

5. Pin the raw edges of the straps to the raw edge of the hessian bag. Roughly stitch in place.

6. Put the hessian bag inside the lining bag, right sides together, making sure the straps are tucked in. Align the seams, and pin the two bags together along the raw edges. Hopefully they will be the same length. Keep the lining bag as taut as you can, otherwise there will be excess material inside the bag when it is turned the right way round. If the lining overhangs the hessian. trim it down so they are level.

7. Stitch the bags together using a generous seam allowance, making sure you secure the handles well.

DO NOT STITCH ALL THE WAY ROUND – YOU MUST LEAVE A GAP OF ABOUT 5", perhaps near a seam. This is where you are going to turn the bag the right way round.

8. Now for the exciting bit.

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE REMOVED ALL PINS, then pull the hessian bag right through the gap in the stitching. Unsurprisingly, this is called 'bagging'.

9. Pin the hole, then topstitch all the way round. I find it easier to do it from the inside.

A second row below makes it stronger.

10. Admire your bag.

Judy Griffiths, 8 May 2021

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