Tips for Making Faster Grocery Bags

If you want to make faster grocery bags, you’ll have to understand that you don’t have to perform every task. There are many points in the production process where no sewing skills are needed. A reliable helper can step in at these points and save you valuable time and energy.

sewer with cat watching shoulder

Some assistants can be more trouble than they’re worth, no matter how cute.

Ironing the raw yardgoods. You don’t have to spend hours ironing pieces of cloth 10 yards long before laying out and cutting the grocery bag panels. Anyone who can handle an iron can do this.

Ironing the bag straps. They’ll need it but the person ironing your yardgoods can do this part too.

Measuring out and cutting webbing, grosgrain ribbon or twill tape to make bag straps. This is an easy task for anyone who can pay attention and use a pair of scissors safely. I routinely outsource cutting straps to one of my kids to save my back.

Marking where the trim-line should go. All you need is the bag, the spacer, and a piece of chalk.

Pinning the straps. Anyone who can handle pins, the straps, the bag insert, and the spacers can manage this.

Cutting the 2-inch ribbon tags that you sew under the bag strap to identify your bags. A very easy task and your assistant can cut a bowlful while you’re doing something more important.

Marking the notch point on the flanges and cutting out the notch. If you’ve got only a few bags to sew, this doesn’t take much time. If you are sewing several dozen at a go, have someone else make that 2-inch tick mark on all those flanges and cut out all those notches.

Clipping thread ends and removing whiskers from seams. Another job that someone competent with a pair of scissors can manage.

Flipping bags right-side-out and inside-out, depending on where you are in the sewing order of operations. As with notches, if you are sewing two or three bags, having to explain what to do to someone else won’t save you any time. If you’ve got dozens of bags to sew, have someone handy to turn the bags as you pull them from the sewing machine.

Ironing the 2-inch foldover. Whoever ironed your yardage can do this too, especially if you’ve got dozens of bags lined up.

Folding and rolling bags for storage. This also serves as a lesson for children to clean up your space when you’re finished.

Making bag inserts and spacers. Provide the measurements and let someone else mark and cut that cardboard or hardboard.

Cutting the panels for boxed bags. A careful assistant should be able to manage this as it’s just drawing straight lines and then cutting exactly on those lines. You may be able to have your assistant lay out and cut the tailored bag panels as well, although these are more complicated to lay out. They also have to be more precise in their measurements because of the way the panels and gussets fit together.

Other Odd Jobs

Here are some other things you can do to make faster grocery bags:

Wind several bobbins in advance so you don’t have to stop in the middle of sewing a bag.

Have a stack of boxed panels or panels and gussets ready to go.

Cut and sew bag straps from stash fabric or webbing so you’ve always got plenty waiting to be used. Plain bags benefit from colorful, patterned straps as that adds a design element that you can charge for.

Know how to make both kinds of bags. The boxed bags are quicker to cut, quicker to sew, and easier all around. However, you will get some waste fabric. This waste fabric can be used for straps but you can also use it for the tailored bags depending on the size of the leftover yardage. If you have a choice, always choose tailored panels and gussets over straps as you can make the straps from lighter-weight fabric or from webbing and wide twill tape. Bag bodies need something heavier so don’t use canvas or denim or home dec cloth where it isn’t needed for structural integrity.