Easy DIY race shirt bag tutorial (no sew)

by Kim on March 4, 2013

A couple weeks ago, I was complaining about all the old race shirts I have lying around. Some of them I know I’ll never wear again, but I hate to throw them away…what’s a hoarder girl to do?

In the comments on that post, someone suggested making bags out of the shirts. Huh! I’d heard of making quilts, but never bags. I have a few recyclable bags that I use for grocery shopping, and they seem to come in handy ALL THE TIME. Especially when we’re traveling—and even just for day trips during the summer—we always seem to have so many random things that need to be put in something.

So, I immediately started scouring Pinterest for ideas and found a couple different tutorials. Since I wasn’t 100% in love with a particular one, I cherry-picked my way through the ideas and cobbled together my own version of a bag. Here’s the end result:



And here’s how I got there…

race shirt bag


1. Grab a race shirt (or any T-shirt)—cotton shirt, tech shirt, it doesn’t matter. The bigger (and, more importantly, longer) the better.


For some reason, I got this tech shirt in a men’s large (??). Needless to say, I don’t get much use out of it.


Which is too bad, because it’s pretty sweet, with the “I run this city” and the race route map.

2. Cut off the sleeves (inside the seam) and make a big dip in the neck, like this:


You’re welcome to eyeball this, like I did. But keep in mind that these edges will stay rough, so if the potential for jaggedness/unevenness scares you, you might want to take the time to draw some lines for yourself first. (And if you really care about jaggedness, you could fold the edges over and run them through a sewing machine to finish them a little. But I promised you a no-sew tutorial, so pretend I didn’t say that.)

You can also fold the shirt in half widthwise and cut that way, to help ensure more even slopes on each side. (Not that it really matters, since it’s almost impossible to tell in the end, but it does save you cuts if your scissors can handle it.)

3. Grab one of the discarded sleeves and cut 4 strips of fabric, about 1/2” wide and 6” long. Stretch them out a little to warm them up for what they’re about to do.


I know there are only 3 shown here, but don’t be fooled. You want 4!

(This is just a test to make sure you’re paying attention. Also sometimes called “accidentally taking the photo too early.”)

4. Take your new basketball uniform and flip it inside-out.


5. Make 4 little slits into the hem of the shirt (but not all the way through the hem) like this…


The slits should be roughly equidistant from each other. (Roughy…I mean, no need to get out a tape measure or anything.)

4 Cuts

6. Attach a safety pin to an end one of your 4 fabric strips. Then, thread the pin through the piping in the hem from one hole to the next.


7. Scrunch it up and pull tight! Then knot the two ends together. Leave the loose ends hanging for now.

Repeat this process with all 4 fabric strips and slits.


Technically, you don’t have to do this 4 times—you could go with 1, 2, or 3 gathers instead. The idea is that more gathers = less chance that things fall out the bottom, and well, I want to be able to carry a bag full of rice and marbles if the mood strikes.

8. Knot the loose ends of fabric together until you can barely squeeze a molecule of oxygen through the opening.

Then, throw in one more good knot.


Trim the ends of the fabric pieces and flip the shirt right-side-out.


At this point, you technically have a finished, functional bag and can stop.

But for a little extra flair, keep going to braid the handles!

9. Cut the sleeve loops at the top, so you now have 4 hanging strips. Then, cut 3 slices into each of the strips. Braid the slices together (pinning the ends for now).

Braided Handles

10. Now, you can either knot the braids together, *cough* sew them together *cough*, or use my slightly more complicated method, as follows. (I wasn’t happy with the strength of a regular knot and had no intentions of doing any sewing.)

Take two of the braids from the same side of the bag, remove the pins, and line up the ends on top of each other. (I trimmed mine a little…perfectionist’s reflex.)


(Bear with me on the horrible photography…this is the point when my camera’s battery died and I had to switch to phone pics, right as the sun was setting…)

Snip tiny holes on either side of the fabric scrap pile you’ve made, and then connect the holes by (carefully) jamming your scissors through the remainder of the fabric. (If this weren’t a no-sew tutorial, you might be able to use a needle and thread for this, but that’s neither here nor there. Jam those scissors!)


Grab one of your discarded sleeves from Step 2. This time, you need a small piece of SEAM, or some kind of thicker hemmed edging, to work with. (This is important! I tried the next step with a regular strip of fabric and it just wasn’t strong enough.)

Use the safety-pin pull-through method to thread the seam piece through the hole. Then, knot the ends together several times.

20130302_181131 This method might sound strange, but mine turned out CRAZY strong.

11. You’re done! Stand back and admire your new bag! Then, insert rice and marbles, and swoon over the complete lack of spillage.


I even went into recycle-maniac mode (WASTE NONE OF THE THINGS!!) and found a use for the neckpiece I cut out. What does this remind you of?





…just kidding. The neck hole was WAY too big. I just took a picture, giggled like a fool, and threw the thing away.

Anyway, back to the bag. I honestly think I’ll use this a lot. For one thing, it’s perfect for the gym—since I always leave my purse locked in the car, I end up juggling my iPod, keys, shoes, and sometimes a book on the way in and out. (First world problems, I know.)

It could also be handy in the summer, when transporting sandy things to and from the beach (wishful thinking?) or picking up produce at the farmer’s market.

Because while you’re doing all those things, why not also casually brag about the race you ran??

half marathon




{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean October 20, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Just made my first bag. Will be using my new during snowboard season — my boots will go into it so that the melting snow doesn’t make a mess in the entryway. Then can simply launder the bag when I’m done.


Meghan November 26, 2013 at 7:42 pm

This is really cool. I was just on Pinterest wasting my night lol. N I ran into the cool idea ^^ for the bag. So I was like why not just read it and when I seen how much reading it was (really not much ) I almost hit the back button, glad I didn’t !!!

It’s a cool idea but it was fun to read actually made it feel like it was super fun . Just saying ur a really good writer and thanks for the cool idea.


Kristin June 3, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Thank you so much for this! My husband tends to grab me shirts from everywhere, claiming I can sleep in them. My new bags will be perfect for swim lessons with the kids and the farmer’s market!


Christy @My Dirt Road Anthem May 23, 2013 at 6:51 am

What a great idea! I am going to try this. I have so many old race shirts I figure I can mess a few up, might be a fun project with my kids.


Jen March 4, 2013 at 5:00 pm

What a great idea, I love it :)
Jen recently posted…Marathon Training Week 6My Profile


Miranda March 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Yay! So glad it worked for you :)


Kim March 4, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Thanks again for the idea! :)


Jenny March 4, 2013 at 9:39 am

What an awesome way to use up those baggy shirts you never wear…. I can’t wait to try this!


Giselle@myhealthyhappyhome March 4, 2013 at 9:08 am

What a great idea! I just cleaned out my workout clothes drawer (again) and took all my race t-shirts out. I threw them in a spare closet but need to do something with them. Love the bib too!
Giselle@myhealthyhappyhome recently posted…Marvelous Monday with Some Yummy Eats!My Profile


Marcia March 4, 2013 at 8:24 am

What a cute idea! I think I need to teach one of my kids’ classes to make these and bring enough shirts for everyone.


Amy @ Writing While Running March 4, 2013 at 7:28 am

Fun! Great idea – I am so sick of all my old race shirts, but don’t want to throw them away. I may have to do this with my super big Beijing Marathon shirt (my first marathon so I never want to give that shirt away!).
Amy @ Writing While Running recently posted…Endurance Sports Expo WeekendMy Profile


Kim March 4, 2013 at 8:57 am

Yes, definitely have to keep that one around!


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