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How to... Make a bag out of an umbrella

Blog by Farah

Merton resident

Some years ago, I had two umbrellas lose their battles against the breeze in one season. I was annoyed about this anyway. I was also annoyed about their most-likely fate of going to landfill. I googled for repair options (expensive or fiddly). But I also found fun re-craft options (bags, clothes). Bags were easy: just needle, thread and my amateur sewing skills. So, I put the umbrellas aside for future reference where they languished - and multiplied! Meanwhile, reusable bags and repair workshops have become a thing and (thanks to a pandemic) we have all had more time indoors. Time for some re-craft projects! Oh, as well as the old lanyards and umbrella, I used thread from hotel sewing kits. One bag = reuse + practicality + low cost.

Rain is a fact of life in the UK and so are umbrellas. Breezy weather is also a fact of UK life and so are broken umbrellas. We must maximise options for repairing and re-crafting our human-created and non-biodegradable broken stuff. Better, sustainable design is a challenge for manufacturers. But once an item fails those tests, let's choose to up-cycle.

Making your bag

What you'll need...

  • Broken umbrella

  • Scissors

  • Long strips of fabric / old lanyards

  • Safety pins / Regular pins

  • Thread

  • Needle


1. Open the umbrella and detach the canopy from the frame

  1. Run scissors over the taut thread attaching the canopy to the frame

  2. Unscrew the cap at the centre of the umbrella and remove the small fabric circle

2. Wash and dry the canopy

3. Spread out the canopy and check that all the seams are intact

Step 3

4. Strengthen all of the seams using e.g. back stitch

5. It might help to use e.g. safety pins to mock up steps 6-12 first so that you can see how the bag

will take shape and which areas will need to be sewn

6. Fold the canopy in half so that the seams are visible on the outside

  1. This makes a trapezoid shape

  2. Ensure that the umbrella’s closing strap is on the short side of the trapezoid (top)

Step 6

7. Strengthen the long side of the trapezoid (bottom) – this will be the base of your bag

  1. Fold over and pin the bottom seam, closing the hole in the centre

  2. Sew a back stitch/blanket stitch along the bottom seam

Step 7

8. Sew the right side closed with a running stitch

9. Sew the left side closed with a running stitch

10. Take the right edge and fold over to make the internal pocket, aligning the bottom seams

  1. Pin the right edge, ensuring that you pin only to one layer of the umbrella canopy

  2. Sew the right edge in place from the bottom of the bag up to about halfway– so that your hand comfortably fits into the pocket when it’s finished

  3. Ensure that you sew the pocket only to one layer of the umbrella canopy!

Step 10a
Step 10b

11. Repeat the previous step (10) with the left edge

12. Turn the bag inside out

  1. You should have a square-ish envelope with two internal pockets

13. Re-configure the self-securing umbrella strap so that you can use it to keep the bag shut

  1. If the strap has a Velcro attachment, remove the hooky bit by unpicking the stitches

  2. Pin the hooky bit to the top-centre of the other side of the bag

  3. Stick the felt bit to the hooky bit whilst sewing – this makes it easier to sew the hooky bit without the thread becoming entangled in the hooks

  4. Stitch the hooky bit in place

14. Attach the handles/straps

  1. You could make the handles from scratch from two long strips of strong fabric, adjusted to whatever shoulder length you like

  2. To maximise reuse and reduce waste, I used old lanyards

  3. Whatever material you use, consider what you will use the bag for in order to work out:

    1. How much handle to attach to the bag

    2. How many rows of stitching you need in order to secure the handle

    3. Whether to attach each strap’s ends to opposing or the same sides of the bag

Step 14

15. Optional extra – sew the umbrella case on to add another pocket

Leftovers for other projects: the small fabric circle and (if not using Step 15) the umbrella case

Feeling inspired to give it a go? Tag us in your photos on social media (@SustainableMert on Twitter and @sustainablemerton on Instagram) using the #WasteWarriors


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