I got Gabby & Grandma Go Green out of the library and Miss M really liked it. It’s a children’s book with a very obvious environmental theme (that’s OK since it’s for kids!) about a little girl and her Grandma who spend the day together, doing various “green” activities. They make cloth grocery bags, shop at a supermarket and a Farmer’s Market, make sandwiches to go on a picnic, play at the park, and go to the library.
Along with the main story, the book is filled with little notes on the sides of the pages giving suggestions for “green projects”, symbols for recycling, and words like reuse, return, recharge, and refill. The pictures are all drawings of Gabby and her Grandma happily doing their fun activities and going on their errands together. It’s a great message to send to kids.
At the end of the book, there are instructions for sewing a cloth bag, along with illustrations. It’s very simple to follow so I was inspired to make some of my own out of old sweat pants with holes in the knees and raggedy ankles. I also bought some wide ribbon to use for the handle. The finished bag is strong and sturdy.
I sewed the bag by hand as I watched Mad Men. Time well spent! If your kids are old enough and if you have the patience to do this activity with them, it’s a great one to do together. I decided to do the first one on my own, without their helpful presence, but another time, I will do it with them since the bag turned out well and was simple to make. Of course, I have to teach them about safety around sharp needles and scissors first.
Instructions for making cloth bags (adapted from Gabby & Grandma Go Green)
1. Get a strong piece of fabric, at least 12 by 24 inches. I used the top part of one leg of old sweatpants, so they were already hemmed at the top, and sewn on part of one side.
2. Get the rest of your supplies: measuring tape, scissors, pins, needle and thread.
3. Measure and cut the fabric to the correct size.
4. Fold the 24-inch length of fabric in half, turned inside out. Pin the 2 side seams together.
5. Sewing ½ inch from the edge, use a basic straight running stitch to sew the two sides together.
6. Turn over the top edge one inch and pin in place. Sew the hem using a basic straight stitch. (I skipped this step since the hem was already in place from the top of my old sweat pants.)
7. Get a ribbon to use for the strap: it should be about 1 inch wide and 18 inches long. Sew the strap on either side of the bag, on the inside of the bag.
7. Get a ribbon to use for the strap: it should be about 1 inch wide. The length depends on how long you want your strap to be. I cut my ribbon about 40 inches in length, and the finished product can comfortably hang over my shoulder. Pin a safety pin to the end of the ribbon and drag it through the hem, so that it comes out the other side. Tie the ends together.
8. Turn the bag right-side out, and it’s done!
Wash your reusable bags!
Cloth grocery bags are a great idea and I like that it cuts down on plastic bags. In Ontario, where I live, plastic bags now cost 5 cents each, so it’s an added incentive for me to use cloth instead. However, it also brings one more risk: food borne illness.
Reusable grocery bags often do not get washed enough, and are a perfect breeding ground for food-borne illness. It is very important to wash them regularly, especially if they have come into contact with raw meat, unwashed produce, or other foods that are higher risk for bacterial contamination. Check out this site for tips on how to avoid illness from using cloth bags.
Wellington, M (2011) Gabby & Grandma Go Green. New York, New York. Dutton Children’s Books.