Jun 8, 2008

Free Simple Bag Pattern:Updated 2015

I have been on a creative, environmental, and even patriotic mission this weekend creating 'morsbags'..basically, a simple cloth bag that you turn into one with a small base with two simple stitching lines at the bottom.

As someone who has used reusable shopping bags since the 1980's, I jumped on the opportunity to update my shopping bags and join in with the current trend of encouraging their use in others.

I got my own original free pattern from a free bag movement in the UK called 'morsbags'. That project inspired me so much that I made 7 dozen free bags my very first year and gave all but a few of those away!

Morsbags is a grassroots and environmentally-driven project created by Claire ("Pol") Morsman in Devon, UK. Claire had found a dead seabird with its legs trapped in a plastic bag on a beach in Devon and later learned about a dead whale who had washed up on the shores of Normandy with a stomach full of plastic bags. Plastic bags are the serial killers of wildlife. Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them and die. They are ingested by one animal, which dies and then decomposes around it, after which the bag floats off to find another victim.

Morsman now lives on a barge in West London and has been repeatedly upset to see the number of plastic bags that float by her home every day. She realized that an answer to the problem of plastic bags lay in the our seeming reliance of them and changing our patterns of plastic bag use. Using a previously unwanted sewing machine that her great-aunt had kindly left her, and in spite of her lack of sewing skills, she begged her mum to design a simple bag that anyone could make and convinced her fiancé to make a website (overnight!) so that everyone could join in and make their own bags. That website became a major movement in Great Britain and has now spread world-wide. Morsbags can now be globally recognized by their iron-on labels (download here in pdf format) and only add to the looks, the intent, and the fun!

The goal of morsbags.com is to get people together socially to make reusable cloth bags out of old, free or repurposed materials (sewing or quilting scraps/old duvet covers/curtains/sheets/old jeans/charity shop fabrics etc.) and then use and distribute them amongst friends and colleagues so that collectively we can reduce the number of plastic bags we use. The simple pattern creates bags that are reusable, recycled, fun and easy to make.

But you don't have to use a label showing your support for the original group. It's just a basic, free pattern for your own use or to give away..to anyone, anywhere. 

I use mine for light shopping...running to buy a few clothing items, craft ingredients, socks from Costco. For grocery shopping, like many of you, I prefer boxy shaped bags with stiff bottoms that can almost stand alone. I will be making my own pattern for those next to mimic the ones available for purchase at our grocery stores. Remember, in many countries, there are no recyclable bags for sale, much less for free!


And I've made many, many bags in patriotic fabrics and given them away for use in  hospitals or to those who sew for our armed service members in hospitals!

As the morsbag label states....sociable...guerrilla....bagging. The idea is to make enough of the bags for yourself and friends and family members and then take the leap to 'socially' making them in groups and using 'guerrilla' or 'catch them by surprise' tactics, and hand them out to others. Collective pods (as in whales) will often have sew-ins at shopping malls, zoos, businesses, and other public places...and simply offer the made at the site bags to others as an alternative to their using plastic shopping bags.

Every single bag helps. By making a couple of bags for personal use or for distribution, you can eliminate the use of about 150-200 plastic bags a year!!! Even if I only made 20 bags and distributed them here in Salem Oregon....that would be 400 plastic bags eliminated from use in a year! Hopefully, I will make lots more than that ;)

My first bags took longer than they should have because I wanted to decorate them a bit, but all of them have been made out of thrift shop fabrics and donations...including the glow in the dark rickrack! Future bags will be far more simple...especially when I begin to hand them out to shoppers ;)

Even the recipients of the free bags feel more attached to a unique cloth bag than a flimsy plastic one and if people get into the daily habit of carrying cloth bags, we can save 1000’s of animals, birds and fish”

Basic Bag Directions from morsbags.com(PDF) or Basic Bag Directions (MS Word)
More Instructional photos

 Additional Bag Patterns can be found at my primary post for that on my primary blog:
With Heart and Hands...links always up at the top 'pages' bar.

For those in England and elsewhere making them for the original cause:
morsbag website: http://www.morsbags.com/
Morsbag Guide (PDF)
Morsbag Guide (MS Word)
How-To Animation
Labels (PDF)
Labels (MS Word)
Make your own labels with fabric and freezerpaper: (do not mirror reverse image, just print off)

****Amazing photos of some of the bags that have been made. You HAVE to see these!
Flickr: bargebaggers' Photostream


SuBee said...

That's TERRIFIC! And the best, easiest pattern I've seen yet for shopping bags. Does it count if I use my old scrub uniforms?

Quiltdivajulie said...

Thank you for sharing this -- instead of postcard inserts for my co-workers' holiday cards this year, I plan to start now and be able to give each of them a morsbag... gotta get busy, only 6 months to go and 9 bags (at least) to make...

Luckybear said...

Thanks for this post. I too will get busy making bags for friends and family.

Dawn said...

I downloaded the morsbag pattern about a month ago. I am saving up more fabric sraps to make bags for my famil and friends. These bags are going to be the new gift bag that my family and friends recieve on holidays and birthdays. Hopefully next Christams I can cut out all wrapping paper and gift bags by using these morse bags.