Ever since we acquired a second dog, we’ve needed lots of plastic bags. I dislike plastic bags for many reasons, but I’ve yet to find another way to pick up after my dogs when we go out for long walks, which we’re doing a lot of these days.
I don’t want to increase demand for plastic by purchasing those rolls of plastic bags you attach to a leash, sleek and convenient as they look. Loads of plastic bags, suitable for re-use, enter my house weekly. Once I started looking around for plastic bags to repurpose for cleaning up after my dogs, I was shocked by how many plastic bags I threw away.
I save bread bags (the best!), the bags from frozen fruits and vegetables (I rinse them out), plastic produce bags, the gazillion plastic bags that pretty much everything I buy online comes packaged in, even those bags they put fresh cut flowers in at the supermarket. Sometimes, plastic bags have air holes punched in them (to prevent kids from suffocating), but if I’m desperate for plastic bags, I save those and tape over the holes. If I received a newspaper, I’d save the plastic bags newspapers come in too.
My collection of plastic bags isn’t pretty. For too long, I hung them from doorknobs or stuffed them unattractively into the old stoneware crocks I stationed by the front door to accommodate dripping umbrellas.
But then I remembered a simple invention a friend showed me decades ago. It requires a rectangle of fabric, a piece of ribbon or string, some elastic, and either a sewing machine, iron-on fabric bonding tape or fabric glue.
It took me about 20 minutes to make one of these delightful plastic bag dispensers. I stitched it together using my sewing machine. It might take longer to make one using iron-on fabric bonding tape or fabric glue, but not much.
This useful, reasonably attractive item, has improved my life immeasurably. You stuff the bags into the top of the fabric cylinder, and yank the bags out from the bottom, one at a time. What could be simpler? I hang it from the upper hinge on my back door. It weighs very little, so you could hang it from a small nail or even a push pin.
To construct this now-essential item, I used leftover fabric that matches the curtains in my kitchen. When I go in and out the back door (not so frequently during this pandemic), I’m no longer subjected to a tangle of unattractive bags. They’re all neatly hidden inside this ingenious plastic bag dispenser I made at no cost whatsoever.
If you haven’t any fabric scraps, use an old t-shirt or kitchen towel or an article of clothing you’re ready to give to Goodwill. You need a rectangle of fabric that’s about 10″ wide by 14″ long.
For the dog-less, this little project is a useful way to store plastic bags for any reason. I’m not promoting the use of plastic bags (all of us should carry reusable bags for most shopping), but they’re not going away soon. This plastic bag dispenser will help you reuse plastic bags, but you won’t have to look at them.
How to Make a Decorative Plastic Bag Dispenser
Store and re-use plastic bags with this easy-to-sew plastic bag dispenser made from a rectangle of fabric, some elastic and a piece of ribbon.
- Fabric scrap, at least 10" wide by 14" long
- Two pieces of elastic, each 8" long
- Safety pin
- Ribbon for handle, about 10" long
- Straight pins
- Sewing machine (see NOTE)
Cut the fabric into a rectangle. It can be any length, but it should be about 10" wide.
Place the fabric, right side down, on a table, and fold a 3/4" hem down at the top and bottom of the rectangle. Press with your fingers (or iron) to make a crease. Pin to hold each hem in place.
Pin each end of the ribbon to the top hem of the fabric, about 3" in from each end.
Stitch a 1/2" hem at the top of the fabric, stitching back and forth over each end of the ribbon several times to reinforce it.
Stitch a 1/2" hem at the bottom of the fabric
Fold the rectangle in half, lengthwise, right sides together.
Stitch a seam between the hems at top and bottom 1/2" in from the edge of the long side of the rectangle.
Attach a safety pin to one end of a piece of elastic, and use it to thread the elastic through the hem at one end of the cylinder. Remove the safety pin, and knot the ends together. Repeat for the other end of the fabric cylinder.
Turn the cylinder right side out.
Hang the plastic bag dispenser by the ribbon handle.
Scrunch and stuff plastic bags into the opening at the top, and draw them out from the opening on the bottom.
If you don't have a sewing machine, you can make this plastic bag dispenser using heavy-duty iron-on fabric bonding tape (purchase online or at a department or fabric store). You could also use fabric glue, but it may not bond as well. Follow the directions on the package for using the iron-on fabric tape or fabric glue. You may need to make the seams a little wider to accommodate the width of the iron-on tape.
Cut out a piece of fabric, 10″ wide by 14″ long. Place it on a flat surface, right side down.
Fold the bottom of the rectangle up 3/4″ and pin in place. Repeat for the other end of the rectangle.
Pin one end of the ribbon 3″ in from one edge of the pinned end of the fabric. Pin the other end of the ribbon 3″ in from the other edge.
Stitch along the pinned edges of the rectangle.
Stitch back and forth several times over each end of the ribbon to reinforce it.
Reinforcing the ribbon will keep it in place when the bag dispenser is hanging up.
Fold the rectangle of fabric lengthwise, right sides together, and pin in place.
Starting 1/2″ from the top, stitch the pinned edge, stopping 1/2″ from the bottom.
Attach a safety pin to one end of a piece of elastic, and thread it through the channel at the top of the cylinder. Scrunch the fabric over the elastic, without stretching the elastic, and tie the elastic in a double knot. Push the ends of the elastic into the channel.
Do the same for the bottom of the cylinder.
Turn the cylinder right side out.
Hang the dispenser from a doorknob, hinge or hook. Stuff plastic bags into the top and pull them out from the bottom.