Make a mini beach-clean bag

Turned inside out in the gusts and rain of storms Ciara and Dennis many umbrellas have been consigned to the scrapheap. But a few, (at least part of them) are going to find a new lease of life as a collection bag for mini-beach cleans. Usually it is the metal spokes of an umbrella that break while the fabric itself remains largely in good condition. And that is the bit we need for this project.

Our throwaway society often means that as soon as a product or item no longer fulfils its original function we chuck it out and say that it is no longer our responsibility. But all that rubbish has to go somewhere – either in the ground or into incinerators or worse still into the oceans. Some is recycled but it is unlikely that difficult to recycle items like umbrellas will be among them.

At Planet Aware we try and produce less waste, while recycling and reusing where we can. Finding a new lease of life for a bit of an umbrella is a small thing. But it is also an example of a way of thinking that we can apply more generally. Something might no longer fulfil its original function – but that does not mean it should be considered waste. Apply this to everything – from DIY to unwanted clothing and you will soon start to reduce your waste and resource consumption. Stuff is only waste because we choose it to be.

And the great thing about the umbrella bags is that we genuinely need them for our #2MinuteBeachClean boards. And I am pretty sure that we are not alone in that as you will find these boards across the country.

The umbrella bag

If you would like to make your own umbrella bag you need one broken beyond repair umbrella. WARNING: a broken umbrella can have some nasty spiky bits so PLEASE TAKE GREAT CARE. Remove the fabric from where it is attached to the umbrella snipping the thread carefully and not the fabric itself. The broken bit may be recycable if it is all metal. Remove the pointy bits at the end of the umbrella panels too so you only have fabric left.

You many need to wipe clean your fabric or just brush it down before you make your umbrella bag, depending on how dirty it is.

One you have removed your umbrella fabric from the rest of the umbrella you will have a nice big circle of fabric like this (right). My umbrella had eight panels. I decided to make a bag out of two panels which meant that one umbrella can yield four mini beach clean bags. I tried to minimise the amount of sewing needed but you can experiment.

Carefully cut along the seams of one umbrella panel. Then cut along the next but one panel seam. You will now have a quarter of the umbrella fabric in the form of two triangles attached on one side (see below left). Fold it over at the seam so the seam on the connected side of the panels is showing and pin the open side together. You will need to sew the open sides together – copy the sewing on the seam that it is already attached.

On a machine start sewing about 5cms from the top and reverse sew up to the wide opening and then back down the side seams. Stop when you get about 12cms from the point of the bag. and reverse stitch a few cms to make the end strong.

Turn the bag inside out and sew along the bottom from the bottom from the 12cms point. Trim off the fabric below this seam close to the seam. Turn the bag the other way and then sew along the bottom to hide the raw edge.

The bit of fabric that you have trimmed off will be used to make the handle. This is the trickiest bit but it is great if you can make it work rather than cutting a new piece of fabric.

Take the triangle that you have trimmed off. Cut along the seams to separate this into two triangles. Place one on top of the other and measure about 4cms from the point. Sew across the two piece of fabric at the 4cm point to join them. Open out this single piece. It will look a bit like an hour glass. Now fold the fabric together with the long sides meeting and sew along these sides so that you have a tube. Turn this inside out. This is your handle.

Fold the raw edges inside – you may need to trim a bit off here and then attach them to your bag on the outside – either side of a seam is best. I have done a quick sketch to explain these steps. If they are incomprehensible please message me!

You will find that one of your bags will have the little strap that is used to keep the umbrella folded up. Do leave it on and use it to keep the umbrella bag folded up.

If you make any of these bags and use them anywhere please do send us a picture! And if you find another use for umbrella fabric – indeed the whole of an umbrella let us know!