upcycled travel cutlery holders

Upcycle a Travel Cutlery Holder From an Old Shopping Bag

If you love festivals and food trucks as much as I do, making a travel cutlery holder to bring your own cutlery is a great way to reduce your environmental impact. Upcycling one from a worn-out waterproof shopping bag is even better. You don’t need any special skills, and in just a few minutes you’ll have a cutlery holder that will be the talk of the festival.

I wanted something that would keep the used cutlery and reusable straw, with that last drop of juice you can never quite shake out, from staining the inside of my bag. The material used to make reusable waterproof shopping bags (often Tyvek), is perfect for this. It’s incredibly easy to sew, durable, and can be washed with soap and water.

Here’s what you need:

  • Waterproof shopping bag
  • Scissors (or utility knife, steel ruler, and cutting mat)
  • Ruler and washable pen/marker
  • Needle and thread
  • Ribbon or string (about 22″)

Here’s how to make a travel cutlery holder:

First, wash your waterproof shopping bag with soap and water and remove any spots it may have. Don’t worry if there are some permanent stains. You can avoid them when you layout your rectangle.

Next, measure the length of all of the items you think you might include in your travel cutlery holder:

measure cutlery for travel cutlery holder

Then, take the longest dimension (for me that was 9 1/2″) and add 2″. This will be the length of your cutlery holder (mine was 11 1/2″). The width can be anything you want, depending upon how many times you want to fold/roll it before closing. I found that a 9″ width, which makes a 4 1/2″ deep pocket when folded, works well.

Designing the travel cutlery holder:

First, cut the bottom off of your waterproof shopping bag so you have one long rectangle. Look at the patterns on the bag, and at any damaged parts you might need to avoid. See where you can fit a rectangle, or two, of the size you need. I was able to cut two 11 1/2″ x 9″ rectangles from one bag while avoiding the technical text at the bottom.

open bag flat to layout design for travel cutlery holder

Once you have your design area in mind, use the ruler to mark one edge. Cut along this edge, then measure and square the other edges to this one.

Tip: If you decide to use a utility knife and cutting mat, be even more careful than usual. The material is very slippery and will want to move around under the ruler while you cut.

It may be quite difficult to get a perfect rectangle if your fabric has been folded many times and doesn’t lay flat:

old shopping bad being cut for cutlery holder

In that case, just do the best you can. Once the cutlery is in the holder, you won’t really notice if it’s actually a trapezoid.

Now for the sewing:

Don’t worry: this part is really quick and easy. All you need to do is fold your rectangle in half the long-way, with the outside facing in, and sew the side seams. Before you start sewing, though, double-check to make sure you folded it the right way. The rectangle should be inside-out, and measure whatever your length is by half the width. For me that was 11 1/2″ x 4 1/2″.

When you’re ready to start sewing, use a double thread and a plain stitch (or your favorite seaming stitch), with about a 1/4″ seam allowance:

turn fabric inside out and sew side seams

I did mine on a sewing machine, but you can easily do this by hand. I didn’t even use any pins because it was easy enough just to hold the two sides together.

When both sides are seamed, and the threads secured, turn your cutlery holder right-side out:

travel cutlery holder right side out

You can use a dull pencil or a retractable pen, with the pen retracted, to help push the corners all the way out.

Choosing a closure:

The last step is to attach a ribbon or string to keep it closed. While I love the idea of using covered elastics for this, like I did for the reusable produce bags (click here), they don’t quite stretch enough from the middle. Instead, I opted to use ribbon. If you use ribbon, about 22″ will make a nice bow. I liked the magenta handles that came with my bag, but since they were so wide, I decided to use a 12″ piece and tie it in a single knot.

Attach the ribbon or string at the middle, near the open edge, of the side you want as the outside when the cutlery holder is rolled-up:

strap closure sewn to outside of travel cutlery holder
strap closure sewn on travel cutlery holder

That’s it! Now your upcycled cutlery holder is ready to go.

Using your travel cutlery holder:

To use your travel cutlery holder, lay it down with the tie down:

loading the travel cutlery holder

Put everything inside, pushed toward the bottom. Then fold it in half so the tie is still down:

folding travel cutlery holder

Pull both sides of the tie together around the folded cutlery holder, and secure with a knot or bow:

travel cutlery holder tied closed

Here is the second one I made from the same worn-out bag:

Can you believe that tattered old bag looks this good upcycled into travel cutlery holders? I’d love to see how yours look, so please feel free to send photos! Here are some I made from a different old bag that had a huge hole in the bottom (I think it may have been dragged across the driveway):

upcycled travel cutlery holders black floral pattern

Old tarps and damaged tent floors are also great sources of waterproof fabric for this project. For this one, I used a thin strip of tarp to make the ties:

upcycled travel cutlery holder from green tarp

Recycling the scraps:

Hopefully you can recycle your scraps locally. If not, Dupont has a recycling program for Tyvek and other woven plastic fabrics (info here). Be sure to consider the environmental impact of the packaging and shipping, though, because each year Dupont receives about 100,000 pounds of woven plastic fabrics from individuals. Even averaging one pound per shipment, that’s 100,000 shipping boxes or envelopes.

As always, feel free to ask questions or leave comments. Don’t forget to subscribe to Creatorvox to get new posts right in your email. You can also follow Creatorvox on Facebook and Twitter for more tips and tricks between posts. Thanks for reading, and happy making!

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