Upcycle Feed Sacks!

Upcycle Your Animal Feed Sacks

Do you like animals? Do like to sew? Even if you don’t have a hobby farm you still might have some animal feed bags laying around you could “upcycle” into re-usable shopping bags, beach bags, or a hip bag to take to your local farmer’s market.

In addition to poultry and dog feed I buy a lot of bird seed, both mixed seed and black oil sunflower. Oftentimes the bags have very pretty designs, like this one: 

The best bags are the ones that have a weave as you can use a sewing machine to put them together.

You can use other types of bags, like dog or cat food bags, but those cannot be punctured with a needle without damaging the bag material. You can always make a bag from them using my method, you just need to use glue, instead of a sewing machine.

Once you’ve found the bag you want you should take off both the top and bottom binding material and lay the bag out flat on a cutting surface and trim the edges of the top or bottom if necessary.

I am using a cutting wheel with a ruler made specifically for cutting wheels on my bag but you can use regular scissors. 

Once you’ve evened up the edges you can cut off the top part of the bag so you will have some material to make a handle.

 

 

 

 

Don’t worry if the strip you have to work with is wrinkled or ugly, by the time you are finished flattening and folding and sewing it the handle will be fine.

I cut off enough so that I can fold it in half with the ends tucked in–so maybe 2.5 times the width of the final handle.

Here is the strip I cut in the first picture. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the second picture you can see the piece is much flatter after “hand ironing” and clamping with binder clips. I use binder clips for this project because they are much easier than shoving pins into the stiff material.

Once your handle is folded, clipped, and ready to sew you can set it aside.

Turn your bag inside out and use binder clips to fold a seam on the bottom edge of the bag.

You will then sew the seam and also sew the handle.

I sew two seams on the handle, one on each side, which stabilizes it and makes it less likely to roll. (see picture on lower left)

Once you’ve sewed the bottom seam you next sew the corners so you will have a bag that sits up on its own.

You will open the bag up (still keeping it inside out) and use a triangle guide to mark the corners.

I just make a triangle guide out of a reinforced piece of paper.

It’s easier to look at the following pictures to understand what I mean.

First you will turn the bag so the seam you’ve just sewed is running vertically, make sure the seam is centered and place the triangle on the corner and mark it with a pen or marker. 

See how the seam you’ve just sewn is facing you in the picture to the left (the one with my hand almost covering all the seam!)

That is the bottom of the bag and this is what you will stitch to make your bag stand up on its own.  

Here it is after I’ve drawn the marking:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then here it is after I’ve sewn both corners. I’ve left the picture larger so you can see what I mean. See how it is standing up, even though it is inside out?

Now you can turn your bag rightside out.

For the top edge of the bag you are going to fold the top over two times so there are no raw edges showing.

Once you’ve turned it over all the way around you can either pin or clamp it so that it’s even.

Now you will tuck the end of the handle under the fold at whatever two points on the bag you would like your handle.

Again I use binder clips to get everything into position.

Here is a picture of the back side of the bag all clipped and ready to sew!

Once everything is secure, you can sew it. It won’t be easy, the material is stiff and you will have to struggle with it. Just go slowly and keep checking that the slick material isn’t slipping.

Before I show you the finished project I’d like to share a bit about the sewing machine I’m using.

I bought this 1913 commercial Singer machine from a saddle maker who lived at the very end of The Santa Fe Trail (true story!) He was downsizing and had three commercial Singers just like this one. I already had 12 sewing machines at the time so I needed to make and sell a lot of these feed bags to justify the expenditure!

The machine was originally operated by a treadle but the saddle-maker attached a 1.5 HP motor to it and also added this (kind of ugly but very handy) formica top, complete with homemade scissor holder!

He showed me how to operate it when I bought it but it all dribbled out of my head before I actually got to use the machine.

 Luckily, the Smithsonian Institute has a library of operator manuals, so I was able to download a copy of the actual instruction manual

You don’t need to use a 1913 Singer to sew your bag, I sewed my first 50 bags on the first machine I bought for myself back in 1986, which is the cheapest Singer made.

Just make sure you buy a heavy needle adequate to the task and use heavy duty thread.

 

 

 

Okay! Here is what you’ve been waiting for, the finished bag! 

Voila! I hope you give this a try and upcycle a bag of your own. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions!

If you’d like to win the bag I’ve upcycled in this article please come and check out my upcoming Facebook Party on June 18, 2018, where I’m giving away not only a bag, but other goodies, too! NO purchase necessary. Link to Summer Reading List Launch Party!!