Nylon Shopping Bags with Carrying Pouch

I've said it before and I'll probably say it again. I love reusable shopping bags! I keep a set of five or six large shopping bags in the trunk of the car at all times. But, they are a little bulky for taking to the mall or when I am window shopping. So, I keep a couple smaller bags in my purse. That way I can still be nice to the planet if I decide to make a little impulse buy somewhere.

My goal was to create a shopping bag that's lightweight and compact. Also, since I carry them around in my purse I wanted something cute. Being nice to the planet doesn't have to look frumpy. The result, this set of two, coordinating nylon shopping bags with built in carrying pouches. Adorable and useful.


  • 1/2 yard black ripstop nylon
  • 1/2 yard white ripstop nylon
  • spool of 3mm polyester ribbon
  • 2 two-hole buttons
  • thread
  • 3 - 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of tagboard or a couple of cereal boxes
  • scissors
  • rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • stencil cutter, wood burner, soldering iron or multipurpose heat tool
  • large piece of glass from a picture frame
  • plastic yarn needle


Print the pattern for the handles and pouch. Make sure to print it the "Actual Size" and don't "Shrink to Fit."

Cut the pattern out with scissors.

Before we go any further, I'd like to share a little tip about cutting ripstop nylon.

If you don't want to worry about finishing the edges of nylon fabric with your sewing machine, you can heat cut the material. Seriously, no scissors required. The idea is that you use a heating tool  to melt the edges of the fabric as you cut it so it won't fray. I was a little skeptical that cutting nylon with heat was possible until I gave it a try. It's pretty simple to trace around a cardboard template and make clean cuts.

You can get versatile heating tool like this Walnut Hollow Creative Hobby Tool. These are really cool because you can use them for wood burning, soldering, cutting plastic stencils, cutting nylon and more.

Read the package instructions and follow all the safety precautions before using this tool. And be careful. It gets HOT.

First, you are going to make a template that you can trace with your heating tool so your cuts are nice and smooth.

Trace the pattern for the handles onto two pieces of tagboard and the circular pouch onto one. If you don't want to buy tagboard, you can use a couple empty cereal boxes instead.

Cut out the pieces with a scissors. Tape the two handle pieces together at the center.

Use a rotary cutter and mat to trim both pieces of fabric so they are 17 inches wide.

While your heat tool is warming, fold one piece of fabric in half and lay it on the piece of glass. I'll show you how it works with the white fabric, first.

Position the top edge of the bag template 16 inches up from the fold. I taped the sides of the template to the glass after it was positioned so it stayed properly positioned as I cut.

Use your heat tool to trace around the top of the template.

Remove the extra fabric.

Remove the template. Don't panic. The top edge and handles of the bag will be lightly fused together.

Gently separate the front and back of the bag.

Now, with the remaining scraps of white fabric cut two circles using the template. You can cut them both at the same time, but I found it was easier to cut them separately.

These circles will be the pouch.

Cut the black fabric in the same way.

You will be using the black circles to make the pouch for the white bag and the white circles for the pouch on the black bag. I'll show you the assembly process for one bag just repeat it for the second.

Pin the two white circles together.

Stitch 1/2 inch from the edge around the circle leaving a 1/2 inch opening. Make sure that you are using the correct needle on your sewing machine. A needle that is too thick could damage the nylon.

Unfold the black bag fabric. Position the pouch on so that it is centered from side to side and 2 1/2 inches from the bottom of the "U" shape between the handles. The small opening on the pouch should be toward the bottom  of the bag. Pin the pouch to the front of the bag.

Stitch all the way around the pouch 1/2 inch from your first set of stitches.

Now it's time for some decorative stitching inside the center of the circle. If you are into quilting or embroidery, you can show off your skill. I did something simple and stitched a grid pattern using the lines on the fabric as a guide. Be creative. Just make sure all your decorative stitching is inside the center stitched circle of the pouch.

Once your decorative stitching is completed, you can finish the sides of the bag. Pin the bag right sides together. Using 1/2 inch seam allowance, stitch each side.

To finish the sides you can either use your heating tool to cut a narrow strip off each side or use a zig zag stitch or serger to finish the side edges.

Turn the bag right side out.

Pin the handles on the front of the bag, right sides together.

Then pin the handles on the back of the bag, right sides together. Use a 1/4 inch seam allowance to stitch each of the handles. There's no need to do any finishing here because the edges were already heat cut. You can however press the seams open and stitch them to the handle for a more finished look.

Cut a length of ribbon about 25-30 inches long and thread the yarn needle. Insert the needle between the two white circles of the pouch.

Pull the ribbon all the way around the pouch and back out of the opening between the circles. Make sure the pouch is still laying flat and is not gathered at all.  

Pull the ribbon up through one button hole

then down through the other. Knot the ends of the ribbons together and trim any excess ribbon.

To gather your bag into the pouch, set it face down on a flat surface. Loosely fold the edges of the bag toward the center of the pouch. Pull the ends of the ribbon to gather the pouch.

Finally, slide the button towards the pouch to secure it.

Use the same process to create the second bag with the remaining fabric.

The only thing I did differently on my second bag is the decorative stitching on the pouch. This time I made a swirl instead of a grid pattern. It kind of looks like a record when the bag is open.

Enjoy your beautiful new set of shopping bags or give them as a useful gift!


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The Chilly Dog: Nylon Shopping Bags with Carrying Pouch
Nylon Shopping Bags with Carrying Pouch
The Chilly Dog
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