Turn a Men’s Shirt/Tie into a Tote (aka: little boy church bag)


My husband has a surplus of button-up shirts.  He had to wear them for school for years and now has to wear them to work.  However, finding them isn’t as easy as just stopping by the mall.  My husband is 6’5″, remember?!!  So sometimes we get lucky and find them in local stores…..but mostly we find them online.  But usually the very longest (sleeves included) are just barely long enough for him.  So if they are ever accidently dried in the dryer, forget it.  Their days are through.  Also, sometimes cheaper brands shrink just from washing.  Uggh.  Those ones are goners too.  And what does a man do with all of his ‘too-short’ button ups?  Well, he puts them into his wife’s refashion pile like a good husband should. ;)  But good heavens, those shirts have rapidly multiplied over the past few years and rather than feel like a button-up shirt hoarder, I decided a good button-up shirt re-purpose project was in order.


However, I had something in mind that would need a neck tie.  So, I asked my husband Steve if he hated any of the hundreds hanging in his closet.  (Okay, not hundreds.  But lots and lots.)  Luckily, he pulled about 5 of them and said they were either “too short” or “snagged” or “just too skinny at the end” and he wasn’t wearing them.  Sorry for your misfortune dear husband……but thanks for the treasure. :)


So, I got to work, and made a new little something out of those 2 cast-off items.




Yes, a little Shirt/Tie Church Tote (14.5 x 15 inches in size) for my little Connor to carry his “quiet activities” to and from church. 




If you’re not into the whole “tie on the tote” look, then just don’t add it.  (I tucked it inside to show you how sizzlin’ cute it still is without.)




And let me tell you what…….my shoulder thanks me.  I will no longer carry a church bag filled with “quiet” activities for the kiddos.  They can carry their own.  (Except for baby Chloe.  She still needs a little help. Ha.)  Now this little dude can carry his own quiet books, coloring pages, markers, snacks, etc. to church with him.  I was getting tired of hauling all of their stuff for them. 




The tote is lined with thick duck cloth (sturdy canvas-y fabric), so it holds its shape really well.





Connor kinda loves his new little church tote.  Especially because it has a tie on it…….just like him.




Whew, one shirt from the refashion pile down…..many to go! 






Would you like to transform an old shirt/tie into a tote??

(Remember, you can skip the tie part and just make a shirt tote.)




First of all, you can make your tote a variety of sizes.  But I will share the dimensions I used to make my little tote for my 4 year old, which is 14.5 inches tall (not including the handles) and 15 inches wide.  Also, you don’t have to use an old shirt to make this tote…….burn dang it, it’s so much cuter if you do! :)





  • Men’s Button Up Shirt (just be sure it’s big enough for the size tote you want to make)
  • Duck Cloth (This is just thick canvas-like fabric, available at most fabric stores. It gives the tote great shape.  The amount needed depends on what size you make, but I needed about 2/3 of a yard.)
  • An old tie (optional)
  • thread, scissors, pins, etc.


Cut 2 main squares out of your shirt that are 16 x 16 inches (use the front and the back of the shirt for this).  Be sure that the button section goes right down the center of your square.  Then cut two long strips out of your shirt (use the bottom of the shirt or maybe the sleeves) that are 14 x 2 inches.  Then cut the same 2 squares and 2 strips out of your duck cloth.


Now, you could do this before cutting your square but I forgot.  But sew the opening of the shirt closed so that it doesn’t ever gape open after it becomes a tote.


Then, place your two shirt squares together (with right sides together) and sew along the right and left edges, using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Do the same with your 2 duck cloth pieces.


Then, either trim and zig-zag your side edges or serge them right off.


Next, decide how long you want your tie to be (I decided I needed about 11 inches of tie).


Then stitch it in place with 2 seams that are less then 1 inch from the edge.


Next, grab one of your shirt strips and one of your duck cloth strips and sew them together, with right sides together, along the two outer edges.  Use a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Repeat with the other 2 strips.  Then turn both right side out and iron flat.  (Need help turning a tube right side out?  Go here.)



Then pin one of your strips to the front of the tote (the top layer only).  I found the center of the tote and then placed the two ends about 6 inches apart.  Make sure that you are placing right sides together.


Now, sew each end to the tote, sewing it in place with 2 different seams (less than 1 inch from the edge).  Do the same thing with the other handle on the back side of the tote.


Next, slide the shirt fabric (that is right side out) down into the tube of the duck cloth (that’s still inside out).  Now the right sides of fabric are facing each other, right?


Slide it down until the top edges are even.  Match up the side seams then pin the top edge in place.


Sew in place, using a 1 inch seam allowance, then turn right side out.  Iron flat (take your time).  Then top-stitch about 1/16 of an inch from the top edge of the tote.  This top-stitch will keep the top of the tote from shifting but it will also help keep your tie down and in place.


Next, turn the tote inside out and smooth everything out to the bottom.  Sew the bottom shut, from side seam to side seam, using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  See the red dotted line below.  (If your bottom edges didn’t match up exactly, don’t worry, mine didn’t either.  It’s most likely because we sewed and turned the top and then ironed it…..and maybe it wasn’t exact after all that manipulating.  No worries.)  But just be sure that the shirt fabric isn’t bunching or folding when you sew the bottom shut.  You want it nice and smooth.  (And then zig-zag or serge the edge.)  Then make your little bottom squared off corners.  See the arrows below.  (A better explanation here.)


The squared off bottom for my tote isn’t huge.  After folding the corner the other way (again, more on that here), I measured down 1.25 inches and then sewed a seam straight across.  Now, serge or trim and zig-zag the raw edges.



Here’s a look at the bottom from the right side out.  Nice and perfect for a few books and supplies.



Iron any extra seams if necessary to give it a nice polished look.


And that’s it. 








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81 Responses to “Turn a Men’s Shirt/Tie into a Tote (aka: little boy church bag)”
  1. 1
    Anita says:

    Soooo adorable! This project combines 2 things I think are awesome…sewing totes and repurposing!! Your photos/tutorial are really well done. I’m looking forward to trying this one out. :)

  2. 2

    What a great project! Super for gift-giving! Thanks!

  3. 3
    Hannah B says:

    Cute idea! You could also sew the tie on the opposite side and make it fold over to keep the bag closed (you know, like a strap with snaps on a purse or wallet). Then you could use a snap to keep it closed, or find something cute that could look like a tie pin! :)

  4. 4
    Heidi says:

    I love this! What a great idea! Thank you so much for sharing :)

  5. 5
    Becca says:

    Too cute. I have a tie obsessed boy too. He likes to wear his clip on with his Star Wars t-shirt. Because, you know, he’s fancy.

    Would make a fun pillow too.

  6. 6
    Monica says:

    That is so perfect for church!!! And perfect for a little boy! Mine would love this too! Now I need to go raid Daddy’s church shirts…..

  7. 7
    Corrine says:

    So cute! I’m sure my son would love one! If you’re still wanting ideas for shirt redo-s, here’s a link to an adorable dress! Love it (and you may have already seen this). http://www.danamadeit.com/2008/07/tutorial-the-shirt-dress.html

  8. 8
    Kimberly says:

    Ha Ha I can relate all too well with the shirt situation. I am married to a 6’6″ PA, so between school and the last 2.5 years of actually working as a PA we have a lot of too small shirts as well. This is a great idea and I see it in my future for my only little boy.

  9. 9
    Krystal says:

    Ashley, you really are too clever. So adorable and I love that you sew not only for your girls, but your boy as well. Darling!

  10. 10
    Christine says:

    LOVE! My daughter has one of her boyfriend’s shirts that she wanted to make a skirt out of until she realized she is too tall to make a modest skirt, so this is the perfect solution!!! BTW…we wish the cute little boy came with as well! Thanks for sharing!

  11. 11
    Anna says:

    This is sooo cute! What a great idea! :) I actually was just refashioning some button-up shirts as well. I made a summer dress out of 2 thrifted ones and just recently posted it to my blog!

  12. 12
    Cherie says:

    I Love this! I actually wrote “church bag” on my to do list this morning. It needs a makeover, inside and out. And my husband not only wears dress shirts to church each week, but also every other day but Saturday. And he never throws away the ones that start to get threadbare, or the brands he just doesn’t like. Now I am glad! And I have to tell you my husband’s excuse for his “hundred” ties in the closet. He says that ever since his mission and then church each week where you always dress exactly the same, the tie is the only part that he can ever make look different. Does that mean that I should get to buy a hundred dresses!?

  13. 13
    Lisa says:

    Very cute!
    ….Oh, it’s a man bag; well I’d still use it ; )

  14. 14
    Gillian says:

    Brilliant, just love it…and what gorgeous photos :)

  15. 15
  16. 16
    Katie L. says:

    I too have a stash of my hubby’s old shirts, AND my little Cooper would love this bag!! Making it this weekend for sure! Thanks for the great idea :)

  17. 17
    Mandy says:

    How cute is that?! My husband was never the shirt and tie type, otherwise I would totally do this. VERY creative :)

  18. 18
    nopinkhere says:

    Cute! My husband doesn’t need to wear shirts/ties very often. I think he was scarred by his dress code in high school. I did see a cute girls dress refashion of a men’s shirt in the most recent issue of Stitch magazine. I liked that it had the buttons down the back, plus the chance to use a special scrap of fabric on the front.

  19. 19
    DSeattle says:

    I love this. I think I’ll have the knotted tie and use scraps of tie for the outside of the straps. Thanks for the idea– it’s wonderful!

  20. 20
    Polly says:

    Stop it. This is too cute. You have talent, girl.

  21. 21
    Natalie! says:

    This is the Cutest Church bag EVER!!! I’m in LOVE with it! and basically everything else on your site!! You are SO creative and your tutorials are the best I’ve found!! Thanks!!

  22. 22
    Denise says:

    Super cute tote. The only problem I’ve had with my little man carrying his own bag, is what to do with it during primary. If it goes to primary with him it’s too distracting. So, I end up with it for the other two hours of church, defeating the purpose, arghh!! Maybe we’ll just hang it up on the coat hooks in the foyer during Primary? hmmm….

  23. 23
    Liveseygirl says:

    Love this idea will definitely make one for both my boys when they are a bit older. Well done!

  24. 24
    Agy says:

    That is a lovely idea! So cute!

  25. 25
    AgKe says:

    fantastyczna torba !!!

    pozdrowienia z Polski

  26. 26
    Shruthi says:

    wow… what a super cool project to retain those cute little shirt of loved one… :) will surely try it

  27. 27
    domi95 says:

    Extraordinaire !!!

  28. 28
    Alexa says:

    What a great idea to add a tie! I’ve done several shirt-to-bag conversions on my Bag of the Week blog, but we’re not a tie family, so that just never came up. If the tie was long enough, you could add a little stiffener inside and use the skinny end for handles. Just topstitching the edges might do the trick. This would also be a fun way to use clip-on ties that have grown too short to wear.

    My basic shirt bag is a grocery-size bag that rolls up and fastens with a cuff. In this post (http://ogno.blogspot.com/2012/05/weeks-20-21-or-more-shirt-bags.html) I also made a smaller bag with a ruffle on the top made from the shirt hem. And this time (http://ogno.blogspot.com/2012/01/weeks-3-4.html) I added some canvas to make the second bag bigger.

  29. 29
    Caroline says:

    What a great idea. I don’t have any kids yet, but I do have a lot of excess shirts with threadbare collars and sleeves from my fiance. I have been saving them thinking that one day I could make a quilt using squares cut from the shirts, but in the meantime I might have to sacrifice one for a cute new tote bag. I would love any other tie repurposing ideas too! I have cute one to repurpose, but it has a stain right near the bottom.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    Jill says:

    What a cute idea! Thanks for sharing! Smiles, Jill

  32. 32
    Julie Snow says:

    I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO doing this! My five boys could use a new church bag! This is cutest idea I’ve seen in awhile – you are so great to share – love ya!

  33. 33
    Tru says:

    you are so talentive , your project are so fresh looking . keep up the good work.

  34. 34

    Wow, this is amazing!! Great idea, wonderful bag!!

  35. 35
    kris says:

    bag is cute but Your little boy is a real ham how cute he is

  36. 36
    Crystal says:

    Have you seen the man’s shirt turned into little girl’s dresses? You have little girls and I would think that you would have seen those in the past. If not, they are adorable and easy peasy. That could help you get to work on the shirt stash! :) I’ve made a few, but want to make more. I was thinking you actually had a tutorial for one design… I don’t remember though. :) I thought I’d pass on the idea in case not. I love them – and so do my little girls. The tote is very adorable too. I have two little men that may appreciate something like this. :)

  37. 37
    Barbara says:

    This is adorable! I’m thrilled to try this! With my husband, the collars and cuffs wear out before the actual shirt does, so this is *perfect* re-purposing.

  38. 38
    Viji says:

    Cute tote bag…..Super simple technique to making a neat square bottom for the bag….Thanks for sharing….

  39. 39
    Laura C. says:

    You are so awesome!!! I just said I needed to make church totes for my kids to carry their own stuff! And I had decided to make some for my 11 nieces and nephews for Christmas and these are super cute!!! Are you making a cute tote for your girls? I’m picturing a ruffle tote that looks like a dress! :) thanks again for your wonderful ideas!

  40. 40
    jeanette says:

    Love this! I have the perfect shirt and tie to use, and I will admit… I’m making it for me!

  41. 41
    Melanie says:


  42. 42
    sewil says:

    Nice and easy. Be sure to make his son such a wonderful thing. Thanks for the idea.

  43. 43
    Belga says:

    Very nice! You have such a creative mind!!

  44. 44
    Lisa says:

    I need to find the time to do this!!

  45. 45
    Mandy says:

    Oh honey, I can so sympathize! My hubby is 6’5″ and skinny as a toothpick! Finding dress shirts long enough in the arms and body, and fitted enough is a super challenge! From one giant’s wife to another-where do you shop for your hubby’s shirts? I am always on the lookout for good shirts. I have generally bought Stafford Wrinkle Free shirts from JCPenney-and they are pretty great. Inexpensive, true to size, and they are a breeze with little or no ironing! Hallelujah! But sometimes they don’t have the color I want, etc.

  46. 46
    Lisa says:

    Where exactly do you buy your husband’s shirts online? My boyfriend is 6’4″ and I have troubles finding him nice shirts too!

  47. 47
    kristina says:

    I love this bag and had to make it for my nephew. It went together so quick and it is so adorable. Thank you!

  48. 48
    Julie says:

    This is great :) Last summer I made a dress for my daughter out of one of daddy’s shirts (I’m sure you’re familiar with those already but I loved it too). We have our fair share of daddy’s old shirts so glad to see another repurposing idea for them. Thanks!


  49. 49
    Tiffany says:

    so cute! If only I had a little boy to make one for. Can I ask, what are the religious flash cards? I would love to get some for my daughter.

  50. 50
    Jessica says:

    Freegifts4kids.com is a site dedicated to parents and kids. We would love to hear about some of your favorite crafts that you do with your kids on our forum! We have over 200,000 registered members so it would also be a great way to promote your site. Please visit the following link to post: http://www.freegifts4kids.com/baby-forum.php?c=9

  51. 51

    Ashley, thanks for this! I’m publishing in my blog! You’re awesome!

  52. 52
    Alexandra says:

    Thank you for this wonderful idea. At last – a cute sewing idea for boys!!!!! I now just need a boy!!!!! Hehehe!!!! :) Xxx

  53. 53
    Terry says:

    This would be really cute for a girl too. Just omit the tie and add some lace. Really cute idea.

  54. 54
    Marie M says:

    Terrific! Especially good for the shirts with worn-out sections. I’d prefer to give those in good shape but just a little shrunken or the wrong color to Goodwill, a thrift shop, or a clothing bank, so someone without could use them. Those are good places to look for an inexpensive shirt/tie to make one of these, too, if there are none in the family!

  55. 55
    Kristy Bybee says:

    Love this so much that I had to figure out how to make a “girly” version for a friends little girl. I will definitely be making the boy version too! I posted a girl version tutorial on my blog with your’s referenced quite a log (what can I say, I Love your blog)!

  56. 56
    Lauri Jacobs says:

    Very cute, I’m always looking for fund raising ideas. I do not have the pattern but a friend of mine showed me an apron made from a mans shirt. You cut the sleeves and back off. Sew all the sides, may not if all the seems are attached. Add straps to tie around waste. So the neck of the shirt goes around your neck and tie at waste.

  57. 57
    Julie Alberts says:

    You are awesom!!! This is just the idea I was looking for for my little guy/future missionary. He will love it, Thank you!!!

  58. 58
    Julie Alberts says:

    Thank you for this wonderful idea and tutorial. I just finished making one for my Son for Christmas and I made a few adjustments by using the collar from the shirt for one handle and the small end of the tie for the other. I love how it turned out. I will be making another one or two for my two littlest guys too. I was also thinking about painting a “Future Missionary” tag on the pockets. Here is a link to my fb photo if you’d like to take a look: http://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=477118665674053&set=a.112527732133150.13644.100001277723300&type=1&theater
    Again though, thank you!!!

  59. 59

    I love your projects thank you for sharing

  60. 60
    Lynette says:

    I’ve just been thinking of an idea for my son’s church bag. I just thought that instead of stitching up the whole placket, you could stitch in between the buttons, but leave it somewhat open so the buttons are an activity themselves. I like this idea, but I may just applique a fabric tie onto a canvas bag. I don’t have leftover men’s shirts (my husband’s a mechanic and wears company provided uniforms) or ties, but I love the idea of a tie bag. This turned out very cute!

  61. 61
    millie says:

    very good directions exsplains it very clear

  62. 62
    Lisa says:

    This turned out so cute! Thank you so much for the great idea; its going to be the coolest gift!

  63. 63
    Debbie B says:

    Love this idea. I have a teen boy who grows out of his clothes so quick. He loves dress shirts and ties and loves to help me with his too small donations and my daughter helps me with the crafts. She loves to sew too!!!!
    We donate all our projects to special needs kids.

  64. 64
    Lynda R says:

    This is just adorable. Love the idea and having just had built in robes installed and many shirts in the bag to recycle this will be the ideal project for them. With 5 little grandsons I am sure they’re all going to love having a bag made from granddads shirts.
    Thank you for sharing your ideas with such clear instructions. Loving it!!

  65. 65
    Ilse says:

    Thank you so much for the tutorial. Finshed one bag…ten more to go!