Shoe bags from a knit tshirt

I’ve been wanting for a while to make a few pairs of shoe bags — handy for protecting the nice shoes from the hiking boots and for keeping shoes off of clean clothes in a suitcase. A few weeks ago, I sewed up three pairs in one afternoon. All three pairs are different: one is made from a creamy gauzy material, another is made from burgundy cotton flannel, and the third is made from an upcycled tshirt. The gauzy pair has blue ribbons sewn into one of the seams of the bag — I tie them around the bag to close it. The flannel pair has a drawstring channel at the top made from coordinating gray gingham.

The upcycled pair is my favorite, and I even remembered to take pictures while I made it. So, this is a tutorial of sorts for making a pair of shoe bags out of a knit tshirt.

I started with an old knit tshirt of my husband’s. It was in my upcycle stash due to a bleach stain — I was able to work around the stain when cutting apart the shirt to make shoe bags. This happened to be a long-sleeved tshirt, but that’s not important. I didn’t use the sleeves at all (in fact they are back in the stash now).

I started by checking that my husband’s dress shoes, the intended occupants of these shoe bags, would fit inside the body of the shirt, with room to make two seams down the middle and separate it into two bags. I also deteremined how long the pieces for the bags would need to be. I eyeballed this, but if you wanted to measure it, you would measure around the shoe from the heel, along the sole, over the toe, and back across the top to the heel. Then, add half an inch for seam allowance at the toe end of the bag, plus about two inches for making a drawstring channel at the heel end. I marked off this distance with a line of chalk, roughly at the armpit level of the shirt. I also “cut off” the outer top corners, to give the bag a more rounded toe.

Next, I sewed along the chalk line, from one side seam of the shirt to the other. Since the shirt was from a knit fabric, I used a ballpoint needle and the triple stretch stitch on my machine. If you don’t have a triple stretch stitch, a zigzag stitch would also be fine.

Then, using my rotary cutter, I cut away the excess fabric — the sleeves and neck of the shirt. I cut about a quarter of an inch above the seam I had just sewn.

At this point, I had one large pocket of fabric. Its side seams were the side seams of the tshirt, and its open end was the tshirt hem. The other side was stitched close with my new seam, and the two corners at the end of it were also sewn closed and trimmed at 135° angles, for toe shaping.

The next step was to separate this pouch into two pouches and to give those pouches symmetrical toe shaping. I folded the pouch in half, matching the side seams. Then, I folded the matched side seams over to match with the center fold. Using a ruler, I marked off a “V” shape in the middle for the toe shaping. Then, I marked two stitching lines, one on either side of the center fold line, separated by about a half inch.

I stitched on those chalk lines and then trimmed with a rotary cutter close to the stitching. This gave me two identical pouches with shaped toe ends. The final step was to make a drawstring channel. If the shirt you are working with has an intact coverstitch-type hem, it may be possible to omit this step. Simply snip a hole in the hem on each side of the side seam you stitched. Thread the drawstring through one hole, around the bag, and out the other. Note that this will only work if the shirt’s construction allows the drawstring to pass through the hem at the original side seam.

The shirt I was using had a turn-and-stitch hem. No room for a drawstring. To make a channel, I trimmed off the old bulky curved hem, leaving a straight raw edge. I made one buttonhole near the seam on each of the bags, beginning about one inch from the edge. Then, I turned under the raw edge about half an inch, ironed it, and turned it under another half inch. I stitched along the folded edge, producing a channel. The buttonhole was now on the inside part of the channel. I finished the bags by threading half of an old shorts drawstring through each one.

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