Mary Zimmerman, a rural Darlington resident, has recently taken up a new hobby that is beneficial to both shoppers and the environment. She’s making reusable shopping bags and totes out of recycled feed and seed bags.
Zimmerman began making these bags about a month ago after her cousin’s wife showed Zimmerman the bag that she had constructed and gave Zimmerman a bunch of bags.
“I’ve been experimenting with how I’ve been making them,” explained Zimmerman, who estimated that she’s made about a dozen of the bags so far, most of which she’s given away to family and friends. “They’re great for shopping or camping or anything really,” she explained.
Zimmerman has made several different sized bags with handles of varying lengths and is excited to continue. “It was a good time of the year to do this when I started, because you can’t get outside to do anything either,” said Zimmerman.
“I might think about trying to sell them eventually, but I’m just giving them away right now because it’s fun,” said Zimmerman. “People occasionally give me a couple bucks for the strapping I use for the handles, but as long as people are using the bags instead of burning them or sending them to landfills, that’s all that matters,” she explained.
The feed and seed bags that Zimmerman uses to make the re-usable bags are made of a sturdy plastic material. “You can easily wipe them down to wash them and they’re better than the bags you can go buy in the store,” she added.
Zimmerman has been collecting livestock feed bags and bird seed bags from several people that she knows as well saving her own, as she feeds birds at her residence. She also hopes to talk to local feed stores to see if people would be interested in returning their used feed and seed bags so she could collect them.
“Some of these bags have beautiful pictures of birds and other animals on them,” explained Zimmerman. “I had one friend tell me she even considered buying a bag of horse feed, just so I could make her a bag with the image, that is until she realized how much horse feed costs,” she added with a laugh.
Zimmerman explained that the sewing involved with making the bags is nothing too fancy. “You just need to be able to sew straight pretty much,” she said. Zimmerman is more than willing to explain how she makes the bags to anyone that would like to try creating their own.
Zimmerman begins her projects by cleaning out bags that she plans to use, as the feed can occasionally leave residue. She then decides what part of the bag design she wants to be displayed on the front of the bag and begins cutting and sewing. She has several measurements to make different sized bags written out on a chart for reference.
For the handles Zimmerman said she first used strips of the feed or seed bags, as she didn’t have anything else, but that now she buys lengths of strapping from stores like Hobby Lobby or Joanne Fabrics to use for handles.
After cutting the appropriate length for the bag size, Zimmerman will slightly melt the strapping material to keep it from fraying. You can do this with a match or lighter, although Zimmerman quickly brushed the ends over a warm burner on the stove top.
Zimmerman attaches the strapping to the plastic material with an hourglass stitch to finish the bag. She then signs the inside of the bag, along with the name of the person receiving the bag and the year.
Zimmerman is thinking about sharing the project directions with 4-H groups who could make the bags for projects or with other groups who might be interested in making the bags like the Lafayette County Bluebird Society.