A Stash-your-Trash Bag for the Car...tutorial

I saw these neat bags to use as rubbish bags in the car, at a market a couple of years ago. I nearly bought one, but decided that they couldn't be that hard and I'd make one.  Just before Christmas, I finally got around to making some as gifts for my family.  I sent one to my sister (hey Lauren!) in Geelong, and when I went to visit I was only slightly horrified to see she was using it as a bag-bag. You know those bags you hang in your pantry to keep plastic shopping bags in. I explained it was for the car, for your rubbish. I wasn't sure if she got the idea?

Anyhow, she asked me recently to make one for her new zippy little sports car. She chose this fabric, which I just love. I have also made a dress cut for baby girl in the same fabric. It stayed in my ever-growing, 'cut-ready-to-sew' pile, until she was almost to big for it.

Back to The Bag, I made one for Lauren before going to Melbourne for a girls weekend (which, by the way, was a fantastic break even though I did have baby #3 with me).  It wasn't til I was on the plane that I realised... oops... I'd forgotten to take it with me to give to her. Don't worry, she did finally end up with it, not to long ago.

Because they really are so easy to make, I'm going to attempt a....TUTORIAL for making one. Bear with me.

A note on the measurements, my cutting mat is in inches, so I tend to work a lot of things out in inches. Plus half the width of a piece of fabric is 22 inches or 56cm, if it is 112cm wide, so a fat quarter should be 22 inches wide. Thus a fat quarter should be sufficient for this bag.

If you are Australian, like me, inches may be a little foreign, particularly if your sewing skills are a little more casual than serious.  I have included both cm and inches here which don't match up exactly because I rounded up. As if you were going to measure 55.88cm. If you are like my husband and like things in mm, work it our yourself.

Gather your supplies:
Fabric for the outer 40.5cm x 56cm (16" x 22"), if your print is unidirectional, the 40.5cm (16") is the height of your bag.
Lining 40.5cm x 45.5cm (16" x 18") - preferably something waterproof, here I used a remnant of some waterproof hospital sheeting I had. I have also used Nylon Ripstop, which is a bit easier to sew.  The lining will end up slightly shorter than the outer, so if you're using offcuts of something and don't have quite enough, it'll probably be OK.
A walking foot for your machine if the lining is plastic, or baking/tissue paper to lay over the plastic to stitch through, or check out this neat tip here for sticking tape to your machine and presser foot.
50cm (20") Boning, 10mm wide
Velcro or a snap and a snap press
Cotton thread

If your fabric is slightly shorter, it wont matter too much, you will just need to adjust your top casing size. There is plenty of fabric allowance to do this.

1. First up, cut your lining piece. This it is folded in half in the photo, so the long edge here is the 40.5cm (16") edge.  (Sorry about the photo - it's terrible because I had to use the little point and shoot camera, which didn't like focusing. On anything. At all!)

2. Cut your fabric outer for 40.5cm x 56cm (16" x 22") (remember 40.5cm will be the long edge of the bag). Now cut a 10.2cm (4") strip off the end of this piece, so you now have a 40.5cm x 45.5 (16" x 18") piece the same size as the lining. This becomes the handle, so if you don't have enough fabric, the direction of the pattern isn't particularly important.

3. Take your fabric outer.  Fold your fabric so that the 40.5cm (16") sides are together, fabric right sides together - the 'tube' should be 9" wide.  Stitch down the side seam only with a 12mm seam allowance. The folds are only there in the photo as I jumped ahead of myself and folded it before sewing. oops. You can just sew without making the folds :)

4. Now you have two options here:
WHAT I DID THIS TIME: Continue stitching along the bottom edge. Machine neaten the side and bottom edges with zigzag or an overlocker.


ALTERNATIVELY, you can pick the tube up and turn it so that the side seam becomes a centre back seam.  To do this: First, machine neaten the side edge. Then sew along the bottom of the bag. Next you can machine neaten this bottom edge too.  I forgot that I'd done this on one of the bags I'd made before Christmas! I think it does hang a little better. The second picture already has the lining attached. I haven't got to this yet.

5. Now take the 10.2cm (4") strip of fabric outer that you cut off in step 2. Fold the width in half so you still have a long strip with right sides together. Stitch 12mm from the edge, along one short end and the long side. Machine neaten the edges.  Trim the corners then turn it in the right way.  I find a chopstick pretty handy to do this. The press to make it neat. Turn the ends under 5mm and topstitch the end closed.

5. Back to the top of your bag. Turn down a 5mm hem and press, then fold this over another 3cm or so (1.25") and press. This will form the top hem of the bag. The hem doesn't need to be that big, I just made mine like that. Stitch approx 3mm from the bottom edge of the hem, all the way around. (the following two pictures are more to illustrate the hem size.  As I mentioned I got snap happy earlier, folding and pressing the hem down (and photographing) before I had actually sewn the side seam).

6. Now take your lining piece. Fold it in half, again so that the 40.5cm (16") sides are together, with right side facing (if you decide there are right sides) and stitch a side seam of 12mm.  If using ripstop, you will need to machine neaten your edges, as ripstop will fray. You wont need to centre the seam if you chose that option for your outer. Don't worry about the bottom edge for now either.

If you're using some sort of plastic, you might find a walking foot on your machine easier. If you don't have one, try sewing with a piece of tissue paper or greaseproof paper between your fabric and the presser foot.  If you're using ripstop, you wont need to worry.

7. Still with your lining piece, fold the top down as you did for the fabric outer and stitch about 1" from the top. This will become your casing for the boning, so LEAVE a gap of about 4-5cm between the ends of your stitching. I didn't bother turning the ends under with the plastic lining. You will need to with nylon. (Back to the good camera...)

8. Lay your lining and outer pieces with WRONG sides together. Line them up so that the lining is at least 5mm lower than the fabric outer top edge. Stitch along the bottom edge to join the two pieces together, either on the seam you have sewn in the outer fabric in step #4, or just below that seam. Don't worry if you end up cutting off more of the lining. Machine neaten the bottom edges together if you need to.

 9. Take your strap piece and stitch it to the bag, in the top outer fabric casing. I stitched it over the centre of the side seam (or centre back seam). 

10. Now, take your Velcro pieces and trim them to fit neatly across the width of the strap. Take the hook piece and sew it to the top of the strap, where you've attached the strap to the bag.

 This is what my stitching looks like on the inside of the bag - the outer row was where it first sewed the strap on, the inner row for the Velcro hook piece.

11. Take the loop piece of Velcro and put it on the opposite side of the strap to the hook.  Refer back to the picture at #9.  Check you've got it on the right side, then sew it in place.

 12. Next, take your boning. Check how much you need by holding it inside the top edge of the outer fabric. Leave a bit of overlap before cutting it.

13. Thread the boning into the lining. Mark each piece of boning where you think it will overlap. This is where you will stitch the two ends together.

14. Double check how long it needs to be to hold the top of the bag open, then stitch the ends together at the mark you made earlier.  It is easiest if you pull the boning through the casing so you have more boning to play with and don't stitch your lining. Feed the ends back inside the lining and check it again, before stitching the opening seam closed. Unpick and re-stitch it if you need to. I'm sure there is a formula for doing this perfectly. I don't have it.

If your lining sits outside the outer fabric like this...

...it is too big! You will need to unpick it and make it a little smaller.  

Until you can get it to look something like this...

Now, grab a plastic shopping bag and stick it inside the middle of the bag, tucking the top of the bag and it's handles between the lining and fabric outer. You now have a fancy car rubbish bag...

...to hang from the gearstick or headrest in your zippy little sports car...
...or on the side of the high chair. Actually, I may be on to something there. Maybe that would save some of my 'under table cleaning' I find myself doing more and more frequently.

 I have to confess a design flaw. Since making this one,  I actually finished the two I'd made for our cars. I know, two items down in the 'still waiting to be sewn' stash. So, the design flaw: if you manhandle the bag too much while putting your rubbish into it, the inner lining and bag slip down inside it. I do need to come up with something to rectify this. Maybe there needs to be a small ridge on the inside of the bag (on the outer fabric) where the boning sits to prevent this happening. Or maybe a smaller bag so there is less bag inside the bag.

 I'd love to know if you have a go at making a trendy rubbish bag for your car and if you make any improvements, be sure to share them here too.


  1. oh I like these will have to make one for my car - really great idea


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