April 27, 2020

How To Make A Washable Reversible Shopping Bag Using Japanese Origami Method

Written by Kumiko Toya

During my life in Japan, I kept one or two neatly folded reusable shopping bags in my purse whenever I went grocery shopping. Many people in Japan do this. After a few times of use, I would throw my shopping bags into the washer and then line-dry them. I had never given it much thought because it was just a matter of habit, like washing my slippers.*

bag image

After I moved to the U.S. in 2018, I saw people packing their reusable shopping bags in grocery stores that looked nice and sturdy, but I secretly wondered how they were going to clean them. (With a hose?)

As a growing number of states are ordering their residents to shelter in place to help slow the spread of the virus, more people are staying home except in limited circumstances. One of those exceptions is going to the grocery store.
Though many of us are already following the protocols such as keeping social distancing inside the store, wearing a face mask, and washing our hands thoroughly as soon as we are home, what about your reusable shopping bags?

Recently, an analysis from The New England Journal of Medicine* found that the virus can survive up to three days on surfaces and experts advise people to launder reusable shopping bags that were brought to the store after each use.

image photo bag

This week, we introduce the Azuma bag ( a traditional Japanese origami-fold bag ) which is very easy to make, quite roomy for your big shopping, foldable to fit into your purse, and stylish to carry around!


I have had many compliments on my bag from others in the grocery aisles, and a cashier even made a comment on how mine was the nicest reusable bag. That is a high compliment coming from a person that sees many differing bags!


This is a very quick project! Perfect for beginners or those who want to jump back into sewing. It can be a thoughtful gift for Mother's Day as well!


How To Make A Japanese Origami-fold Reversible Washable Shopping Bag

2 rectangles of light to medium-weight fabric.

 đŸ’¡You can make them in any size you want. The only rule is that the length of the pieces needs to measure three times the width. Your rectangles could be 8″ x 24″ for carrying your lunch, or 10″ x 30″ for organizing smaller items...

đŸ’¡My grocery bag  is made from two rectangles of 20" x 60" (50 cm x 150 cm).  The finished size is approximately 26" x 26" (67 cm x 67 cm)  

In this tutorial, a smaller bag is made as it is easier to take photos.

step1_3-11  Place the rectangle face-up. Take the third segment of the rectangle, and fold it. 

step1_22  Sew the lower edge of folded segment with a 1/2" ( 1 cm ) seam allowance.The red line in the photo is the sewing line.

step2_13  Fold the corner down to meet outside corner. 

step2-24  Now fold the remaining third over. 

step2_35  Sew along the top edge with a 1/2" seam allowance.

step4_26  Your bag should now look like this.

step5-17  Make the other bag the same way. 

step188  Place the two bags like this photo. One bag is right side out, and  the other bag is wrong side out.

step79  Put one bag into the other bag. Make sure the two bags are face-to-face.

step10_410  Sew the handle parts together with a 1/2" seam allowance. Leave a 3" ( 8 cm ) opening. Add a few extra stitches to reinforce the two points where the handle parts intersect.

step1911.  Turn right-side out.

step13-212  Close the opening using whip stitch.

step1413  Press the bag well, especially in the corners. 

step2014  Finished!

washWash it after each use.

line dry-1It depends on the fabric used but I would avoid using the dryer for my shopping bag.

pocket2If you want, add a pocket bofore step 8.

bag image2My husband likes the bag, too. He prefers the khaki side. 


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