Deirdre (a.k.a. WaterWorks via her career in stormwater engineering) joins us on the blog from We Are New Every Day. Deirdre creates these Mesh Panel Produce Bags as a cheery, re-usable option for fruits and veggies at the market. Learn more about Deirdre in her introduction, and let us know in the comments when you make your own set of produce bags!

I enjoy using eco-friendly, fun foodie print bags to gather my produce from Farmer’s Markets and from the grocery. I added a mesh panel to my bags so the cashier doesn’t have to open the bags during check out. It keeps my produce choices free of bruising and keeps the sales lines moving efficiently. The quilting cottons don’t add significant weight to the produce, so I am not paying extra for the bag weight.

A set of these bags would make a great gift for Mother’s Day, teachers, and good friends. They are wonderful to make in batches, finishing each step for several bags before moving on to pressing, etc. Mix and match band fabrics with bag prints for more excitement and to help bust through your stash.

Materials/Notions:

  • 1 Fat Quarter per bag– Cute foodie print a must!
  • ½ yard Utility Mesh (enough for 6-8 bags)
  • Clothesline/Cording (about 24” per bag)
  • Coordinating Thread
  • Walking Foot (optional, but makes working with the mesh so much easier)
  • Steam-a-Steam, ¼” wide (optional, but might help with the mesh)

All seam allowances are ¼” unless otherwise noted.

Cutting the Fabrics:
Cut two 3” wide strips from the 22” length of the fat quarter. This will leave you with one piece 18”x16” (Main Bag) and two pieces 18”x3” (Drawstring Band). Cut a mesh strip 6”x18”. (Just a quick note about fabric prints: The two 3” wide strips will be turned 90Ëš in order to form the Drawstring Band. If the print has a direction, as in the Alexander Henry Apples and Pears print I am using, your Band print will then be sideways. This doesn’t bother me, as the finished bag is still adorable. However, you might consider an accent fabric for the Band. Red and white gingham would make a cute Band for the Apples and Pears, for example.)

Create the Main Bag Tube:
Sew the mesh strip to the Main Bag piece along the two 18” lengths, forming a tube. I find it much easier to do this with a walking foot because the mesh is frisky. Alternatively, you can place a strip of Steam-a-Steam along the edge of the fabric and then iron to adhere the mesh. This will keep the two pieces together while sewing.

Serge or zigzag the seam allowance and press toward the Main Bag fabric.

Optional: I like to topstitch along these two seams and “lock” the seam allowance down. This is tricky as you are sewing a tube and you have to finesse the fabric through the machine. Go slowly and be patient, or simply roll your eyes at the crazy woman and move on to the next step.

Sew the Main Bag Bottom with a French Seam:
Turn the Main Bag tube right side out and smooth it out, centering the mesh panel. Trim across the bottom (watch your print direction) if necessary because that mesh is frisky, remember? Press lightly

Stitch the bottom of the tube and trim seam allowance to about 1/8”.

Turn the tube wrong side out, poke out the corners, press lightly and stitch close to the bottom edge. This will enclose the raw edge of the seam allowance and form the French seam.

Create the Band:
Right sides together (watching print direction), stitch one short end of the band pieces together. Press the seam open, then fold band at seam with right sides together again.

Place the folded band along the top of the Main Bag, matching side seams. Use a pencil and straight edge to mark the opposite side seam location. (I could give you a dimension for this length, but this is the easy and lazy method. It also allows you to make different width bags from scraps without having to redo math!)

Along the line you just drew, mark a gap that is ½” from the edge and is ¾” long. You will not sew through this gap– It’s for the drawstring. See the picture below for clarity. I created a “ruler” for this by marking an index card. It saves so much time when I am working on multiple bags.

Stitch along the marked band seam, leaving the gap open and backstitching at the top and bottom of the gap.

Trim the seam and press it open. I like to topstitch these seam allowances down so that the drawstring doesn’t pull them through the gap during bag use. A simple stitch along the side of the seam line works. Also, you might stitch across the seam at the gap to reinforce the opening.

Attach the Band and Finish the Bag:
With the Main Bag right side out, pin Band right sides together to Bag. Line up your Band seams with the pressed sides of the bag, deciding which side of the finished bag you want the drawstring to be on. Make sure you put the gap closest to the Bag edge! Otherwise, your drawstring opening will be inside the bag. (Ask me how I know to point this out!) Pay attention to print direction, too, if necessary.

Stitch around the top and turn the Bag wrong side out.

Press seam allowance toward the Band. Press ¼” of raw Band edge in and then fold Band just a little past the halfway point. This should place the raw edge (pressed in) across the seam joining the Bag and Band. Pin in place from the right side. (I find this easiest to accomplish by pressing while it’s wrong side out, then switching all the pins to the right side for sewing.) See the detail below.

Turn the Bag right side out and stitch along the seam joining the Bag and Band. This seam will catch the Band on the inside, forming a casing and nicely finishing those raw edges.

Thread a length of cording/clothes line through the gap, tying the ends in a knot.

Now run to your nearest Farmer’s Market and show off your awesome Mesh Panel Produce Bags!