My first ever DIY blog posts appeared in Sunset magazine’s now defunct blog, Because Sunset is no longer hosting these projects, I’m making revised and updated versions available here at Crafty Nest. This post comprises Making a paper-recycling tote, originally published January 2008.

Recycling tote on shelf

Ever need something that you’re sure exists, but once you go looking for it, you come up empty? I searched for a bin in which to toss all my paper recycling (let’s face it: junk mail). And I wanted it to fit on the bottom pull-out shelf of my not-so-attractive-but-necessary microwave cart. I found zilch. So I made my own out of a cardboard box and fabric.


The tote is not exactly pretty, but it’s oh-so-handy for carrying paper products downstairs to the recycling bins, and it only cost me $16.

Tutorial and photos after the jump.

How to make a paper recycling tote

Supplies and tools

  • cardboard moving box (I found the perfect size at The Container Store)
  • craft glue (I used Aleene’s Tacky Glue)
  • 1½ yards of fabric (I used cotton duck cloth)
  • 3½ yards nylon strapping
  • 1 yard half-and-half hook-and-loop tape (one side you stick on, the other side you sew on)
  • erasable fabric marker
  • yard stick
  • straight pins
  • thread (to match fabric and straps)

1. Assemble the box: Glue the bottom flaps in place, then glue the top flaps down against the inside. Place heavy books on each side for about half an hour while the glue dries.

Sketch of tote plans

2. Measure the box, then add ¼ inch to all the measurements. Add a ½-inch inseam all the way around the edges, and 4 inches height (for overlap) to each side. To use just one piece of fabric to cover the sides and bottom, your drawing of the piece will look like a plus sign. (Click the sketch to see it larger.)

Cut fabric

3. Measure and mark the fabric and cut out your cover.

Tip: This fabric cover is designed to be removable and washable, so pre-wash and iron your fabric to reduce shrinkage.

Sew on Velcro

4. Pin and sew each of the four sides together. Then fold over the top edge about 5/8 inch, press and sew it down.

5. Next, cut the hook-and-loop tape into four sections—each a few inches shorter than the corresponding side of the box where it would be placed. Sew each non-sticky side of hook-and-loop tape onto the inside of the fabric cover, one on each side, about a ½ inch from the top.

Pin on sraps

6. Slip the cover over the box, then measure and pin the straps in place. For maximum strength, I made the straps traverse the entire bottom, loop at the top, then meet again at the bottom. Next, remove the cover and sew on the straps.

Recycling tote finished

7. Slide the cover back on the box. Then attach the sticky side of the hook-and-loop tape to the sewn-on side, and remove the backing. Pull the cover tight and press down on the hook-and-loop tape to make it stick to the box. All done.