Morsbags and The Green Bag Lady are two groups that give away cloth bags with the goal of reducing the use of paper and plastic shopping bags. Morsbags is profiled in the Quilting for Peace book, and The Green Bag Lady has sewn and given away hundreds of cloth bags in past SMS Giveaway Days (though her total count is up to almost 8000 bags).

We were inspired by morsbags and the Green Bag Lady to have a Grocery Bag Sew-Off, running now through December 22.

Visit this post for details on how to sew, give, make a difference & win prizes too!

First we’d like to tell you a little more about the inspiration for our Sew-Off:

Green Bag Lady
The Green Bag Lady project gives away thousands of cloth bags at Green Bag Lady events and in “freebie posts” on the project website. Teresa, the Green Bag Lady, has even given away one hundred bags in each of our December Giveaway Days! We asked Teresa to tell us a little more about the project. She writes, “The Green Bag Lady art project started in January of 2008. My husband came home with fistfuls of plastic bags. I wondered why he didn’t use our fabric ones and he said there weren’t any in the other car. I started sewing. I made a pattern. I made a how to video. Now, my team of sewers and I make fabric shopping bags from recycled, donated or unwanted fabric and give them to people for FREE if they promise to use them instead of paper or plastic. Each bag has a label sewn into it with the project information as well as a bag #. Each bag name/location/number are recorded on the Green Bag Lady site. To date, we have given away over 7500 bags in all 50 states and over 70 countries. There are also over 40 groups/individuals around the world making the bags and giving them away for free too.”

You can learn more about the Green Bag Lady project here, so take a look to learn more about joining the effort. The project was featured on CNN for a week in October of 2008 and then for another week in January of 2009. You can view a clip from the features here, and Teresa also shared this nice magazine article about the project.

Teresa writes, “I have great sponsors that have donated sewing machines, fabric and support including Elna, Amy Butler, Harmony Art, Les Indiennes, Pixel Organics, etc. Again, no money at all is made from this project. In fact, I dip into my own pocket for anything that is not donated. These items include thread, labels, shipping of bags, repairs, etc. So far, all the fabric we have used has been donated.” She adds that the pattern on her site is “so very simple,” can be made easily with fat quarters and that it’s the perfect project for a beginning or young sewist.

In addition to sewing bags, you can also help the project by sending fabric donations (email bagettedad [at] gmail [dot] com for a shipping address). All of the bag scraps and any fabric too thick for bags is made into dog beds for a local vet/animal shelter.

morsbags also started with one person and has grown into a huge network of “sociable guerilla bagging!” The site is up to 55,000+ free cloth bags, sewn and given away for free with the goal of reducing plastic bag use. Claire from morsbags writes, “It’s a great time of year to get people morsbagging; either for their shopping, or as gifts, or as a unique and useful wrapping idea.” Claire shared some highlights about morsbags with us:

What is a morsbag?
A morsbag is a reusable cloth bag made from second hand fabric such as old curtains, duvet covers or vintage clothes. Strong, washable, made with love, totally unique, ethical and fashionable, morsbags are made locally, thus reducing transport miles and because the fabric has already been manufactured, no more chemicals, pesticides, water pollution or child labour is involved as it is with the production of new cotton. Not to mention that the fabric used for morsbags would otherwise end up clogging landfill. Declogging landfill to declog the oceans. Makes perfect sense.

When/where did the idea for the web site originate?
Morsbags was started in January 2007 when I felt totally frustrated by all the plastic bags floating down the canal where we live (on a houseboat) and decided that making a reusable cloth bag out of recycled fabric was an immediate and positive solution to an environmental problem… Only I didn’t know how to sew! Within 24 hours I’d asked mum to design a simple bag pattern, made a bag, realized it was easy; wanted to share the pattern freely with everyone so that they could help themselves and take positive action themselves, and persuaded Joseph, my husband, to design and launch the web site.

How do we spread the word?
The only promotion of morsbags has been by word of mouth, people contacting us and by the ‘pay it forward’ idea of receiving a beautiful, free, unique morsbag with a label featuring the website on it. This way, people are led to the web site and hopefully inspired to join in, and so it continues… We added a tally so that people could add the morsbags they made and it just kept on rising!

‘Pods’ are groups of people who make them (or solopodders who make them alone at home) and enjoy getting together for a natter, a creative moment and some chocolate cake. Schools all over the world are making morsbags, as are housewives, brownies, prisoners, students… Over 1000 pods are busily bagging in countries all over the world, sewing with community spirit and a sense of purpose, and fun! Over 55,000 reusable morsbags have been made and freely distributed, potentially replacing over 27 million plastic bags; and they are just the bags we know about!

How are they given away/ How do I get a morsbag?
They are given away ‘guerilla’ style – i.e. unexpectedly to unsuspecting shoppers in queues, through letterboxes, to friends, relatives and colleagues, at organized handouts and ALWAYS for FREE, so watch out! People love to be given a homemade gift. It always makes people smile, and the memory of the surprise helps them remember to take it shopping. Or, download the free pattern off the site and get crafty. It takes 20 minutes max to make a morsbag, it’s great fun, very simple and extremely addictive.

Celebrity Fans
We don’t have ‘fans’ as such but know that Michael Palin, Prince Charles, Tony Blair and many other British celebrities have been morsbagged!

Sadly the Pacific Gyre of plastic grows daily, harming and killing more marine wildlife every day. Morsbags is a totally non-profit organization run in the spare time around our day jobs so we don’t really have the resources to get the message out to everyone. It really is a simple solvable problem if we can just get everyone to join in and pull together on the pointless ecological disaster called plastic bags.

Morsbags offers a free pattern, handouts, labels, a forum, a “how to animation” and much more on their site, so check it out!

One person really can make a huge difference! Thank you, Teresa & Claire, for your inspiring efforts. Now it’s your turn… Join our Grocery Bag Sew-Off today!

* All pictures courtesy of morsbags. You can find more great pics here on Flickr.