Trash always seems to collect in my car and it drives me crazy. Only so much can fit in the ash tray, and I hate to leave papers and wrappers on the floor, so I began searching for a little trash bag to keep in the car. I couldn’t find one I liked until Jo showed me the one she has used in her car for years. She loves it, but it’s starting to fall apart, so I decided to recreate the design and make one for her and one for me. The bag I made is easy to put trash into, easy to empty, easy to keep clean, and so cute! And because I used upcycled materials I already had on hand, I actually saved trash from the landfill while I was at it!
Gather the supplies
You’ll need two 17″ x 17″ squares of fabric. You can use just about anything you want, but I recommend choosing something that you can wipe clean. A rip-stop nylon or oilcloth would be nice, as would a thin vinyl. (If you really want to use a nice cotton or other fabric, you can, but you’ll have to resign yourself to never putting DIRTY trash in your bag, or else it will get stained quite quickly!) I chose to use an old vinyl tablecloth (the kind with fuzzy white “fabric” on the back) that had a tear in it. The vinyl can be wiped clean with a sponge, which made it a perfect easy-to-clean material for the bag. Some other good upcycle options would old tent material or the fabric from a broken umbrella.
You’ll also need a 14″ piece of wide ribbon to match. I chose a bright orange ribbon from my stash, which matched the cute hibiscus pattern of my tablecloth. For the bag’s closures, you’ll need a 1″ piece and a 6″ piece of sew-on Velcro and about a foot of 1/4″ wide elastic. And of course you’ll need the basics like scissors, straight pins, a ruler, thread, and a sewing machine.
One last thing you’ll need is something to give the top of your bag rigidity. The store-bought choice here would be boning but there are lots of creative options around the house. You just need something that’s long and tubular, and that’s flexible enough to bend, but firm enough to hold its shape in a circle. I used a piece of old electrical wire that I found in a big bundle in the garage. You could also use coax cable, a piece of a scrapped extension cord, or anything else you can find that will work. Just be sure it’s not any wider than a drinking straw. Cut yourself a piece at least 18″ long.
Attach the strap
Take one end of your ribbon and fold it over about a half inch. Pin in place. Now place the ribbon on one of the pieces of fabric so that the folded edge of the ribbon is positioned 4″ down from the top of the fabric and the left edge of the ribbon is positioned 3″ away from the left edge of the fabric. Pin in place.
Take it to the sewing machine and sew a 1″ square of stitches to secure in place.
Now fold and position the ribbon as shown in the first photo below. Fold the last 1/2″ of ribbon over and pin in place. Attach one side of the 1″ Velcro piece to the end and pin in place. Use the sewing machine to sew the Velcro to the ribbon, using a square of stitches like the one you made before.
Take the other half of the 1″ piece of Velcro and position it so that the bottom edge is 4″ from the top of the fabric and the right edge is 3″ from the right side of the fabric. Pin in place, then take to the sewing machine and sew down with another square of stitches.
Form the bag
Bring the right and left sides of the fabric you’ve been working on together so that the entire piece is folded in half, inside out. The handle should be hanging out the top. Sew along the side. Repeat for the other square of fabric.
Turn the second piece (NOT the one with the handle) right side out and put it inside the first piece. Line up the top edges of both pieces (at the end closest to the handle) and pin them together.
Sew the edges in place. If your sewing machine has a removable base that lets you convert to a “free arm”, that will be very helpful here.
Now turn the bag right side out so that the fabric with the handle is on the outside and the other piece is forming a lining for the bag.
Use your sewing machine to sew a seam 1/2″ from the top of the bag, creating a pocket where you’ll later add the elastic.
Now sew another seam a couple of inches from the top, as close as possible to the sewn edge of the ribbon handle. The seam should also line up right above the Velcro that holds the other end of the handle in place. Sew the seam all the way around the bag.
Sew another seam about 1/2″ from the last one. This will create the pocket where you’ll later put your cord/boning/wiring to create the top edge of the bag. Be sure to make this pocket wide enough to accommodate whatever cord you’re using.
Create the bottom closure
Put the bag so that the back side (with the handle) is facing up, with the seam right down the middle.
Put the 6″ piece of Velcro so that it is centered from left to right and the top edge is positioned 4″ up from the bottom of the bag. Pin in place, then sew with the sewing machine. Make sure you do not sew through both sides of the bag, but instead treat it like a tube or sleeve. The “free arm” on your sewing machine is going to be crucial here.
Now you want to finish the bottom of the bag by turning the fabric in on itself and pinning it in place.
Sew the pinned edges with the machine, again using the “free arm” and treating the bag like a sleeve.
Flip the bag over so that the Velcro you already attached is face down. Then place the matching piece on the bottom edge of the bag, centered from left to right. Pin in place and then sew with the machine.
To close the bag, just fold the bottom edge up twice and let the Velcro hold it in place. Having a bottom on the bag that’s easy to open and close makes it that much easier to empty the trash when the bag is full.
Create the top closure
Now it’s time to take care of the top of the bag. Start by flipping the bag inside out (so that our cuts are hidden inside!) and use a craft knife to cut a tiny slit in each of the two pockets you sewed.
Take your cord/boning/wiring and push it into the pocket furthest from the top of the bag, and keep pushing until it goes all the way around the bag and comes back out the slit on the other side. From here you can cut the ends so that they are even, or if you can manage, cut them about an inch longer and let the ends overlap each other, adding a little more stability to the loop. See the yellow markings in the photo below for details. If you chose your cord well, the bag will stand up on its own now, but still be flexible.
For the final closure, attach a small safety pin to the end of your 1/4″ elastic and use that to help you push the elastic through the pocket on the very top edge of the bag. When you’re all the way around, pull the elastic back out the same hole.
Tug on both ends to pull the top of the bag closed, then release tension to allow the elastic to relax. Tie the ends in a knot and trim off the excess.
The finished bag
You’re done! Now you’ve got a cute bag that’s ready to hang from the headrest in your car. You can easily shove your trash in the elasticized hole at the top without fear of it spilling out. Then when the bag is full, just open the bottom and shake the trash out into the trash can. So easy!