Recycling feed bags into cute items, like this tote bag

Tote bag
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Awhile back, I read an article about how in the early 1900s or so, a lot of packaging for items was designed to be what was now refer to as “upcycled,” so that pretty much everything someone bought, even the packaging, would go to some use.

For example, some companies used to print dolls on feed bags and these “dolls” would be cut out and played with by kids, which I think is such a simple, sweet and fun idea and it makes me sorry that we don’t see more of this today.

So, I recently bought some chicken feed and noticed an announcement on the back of the bag that said the bag could be upcycled. As you can see in the picture below, it shows that you can upcycle the empty feedbag into a wallet, a planter, an apron or a tote bag. I’ve been doing a lot of painting lately, so I was excited about the idea of creating an apron for that and gardening.

Upcycling image from feed bag

I waited a couple of weeks and, finally, all the chicken feed was used up, so I washed out the bag and went to the website address — all ready to make my apron.

Unfortunately, Kalmbach feeds no longer has the upcycle instructions on its site. I even did a Google search to see if it was maybe in a different location, but couldn’t find anything.

I was all hyped up to make something, but had no instructions, so I started to think I was going to need to change my plan. I can’t sew and don’t have a lot of craft supplies, so I would need to make something fairly simple, but I also wanted to make something I would use. At that point, I switched to a tote bag because I was doing some searching online and found some really cute tote bags that had been created from feed bags on etsy and pinterest. There were also a lot of tutorials on youtube.

As you can see in this picture, the package actually has really adorable artwork. Thinking about it now, I could have even cut it out and framed it or made some kind of sign for the chicken coop. But, anyway, I decided in the moment that I really wanted to make a tote bag that would display the artwork and the green and blue color pattern.

 

Kalmbach Feed package

Here are my very general directions on how I made my bag. I’m not being too specific because it was a first attempt and I kind of think people might have more fun adding their own touches. And, if you can sew, You can probably make something a little more durable.

But, here’s what I did:

I started by cutting some of the extra string off the sewn part of the bottom and pulling off the ingredients tag. Then, I folded the bag down the sides and pushed in the bottom of the bag so it would be flat. I put two pieces of cardcoard on the inside bottom of the bag, so it would help it to stay flat and give it a little more strength.

cardboard in bottom of bag

I cut off the top part of the bag all in one big loop above where the artwork started and I kept that loop for the handles and the smaller bit of decoration you can see holding the handles together. I did that so I can hang it. I plan to use this one to store plastic bags in, in the kitchen.

I folded over the top so that it was down to where I wanted it and used a glue gun in a few spots so that it would stay folded (although being able to sew it would have likely looked better and would be more durable). I cut small holes in the bag and the handles loops, which I doubled up, and used baggie ties to attach the first handle. But, then, I decided that string would be easier, so I used that for the second handle. I thought about using a glue gun, but didn’t know if that would hold. I also thought about using a stapler, but I have a pet peeve about getting scratched by loose staples, so sturdy string seemed best. The handles look pretty good, but again, ones that were sewn on would probably look best.

Overall, I really like how the bag came out and think the more practice, the nicer ones I can make.

Tote bag
Finished tote bag.

Acutally, I’m excited. This opens up a whole new world to me. As a dog, cat and chicken person, who knows how many bags I have thrown out at this point. But, now, I plan to start making all kinds of items with the help of some youtube tutorials and just some more creative imaginings about what I can make. Plus, I can always use more tote bags for storing pet supplies in a cute way. And, I love the idea of keeping usable items out of landfills.

The cat food usually comes in paper, and I’m not sure if the dog food bags might have too much of that “oil” from the dog food on it to effectively wash them out and re-use. But, even if that’s the case, I will still have plenty of bags to experiment with, thanks to the chickens.

I hope this inspires others to upcycle. And if you do, please share some of your creations!

Update: After I wrote this article, my mother emailed me the following, which was really cool to find out.

Your great grandmothers, Grace Cofield and Alice Pittard, both sewed dresses, aprons, and quilts and many more household items from flour and feed sacks!! In the 1920’s, 30’s and early 40’s the fabric from the empty sacks was a good source of material in rural areas. Simplicity and McCalls sold patterns to help create dresses for women and children.”


Related:

Feed Sacks: A Sustainable Fabric History

https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1105750

How flour sacks went from kitchen to closet