Ally Newby said she didn’t know how to sew, and neither did her mother, but that didn’t stop her from her Bat Mitzvah project.
Ally, 12, is selling Bags for the Bay, tote bags made out of repurposed T-shirts. All of the proceeds go to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
The nonprofit organization is dedicated to saving the bay through education, advocacy, litigation, and restoration.
Ally, a seventh-grader at Rosa Parks Middle School in Olney, said she is interested in the environment — in particular, animals and their habitats.
She researched the Chesapeake Bay online and learned about its unhealthy state, due in part to agricultural runoff, wastewater teatment and factories, stormwater runoff, and air pollution.
“I knew I wanted to do something to help the bay,” she said.
Ally said she decided to support the Chesapeake Bay Foundation because it educates people, advocates for laws to protect the Bay, organizes clean-ups, and plants trees and grasses in the most polluted areas.
“I saw bags made out of T-shirts and thought that was a great idea,” Ally said. “Not only do the factories which cause pollution have to make less bags, but fewer bags will end up in landfills or in the Bay, where they can hurt animals.”
She asked a neighbor with a sewing machine to teach her to sew.
“I still only know how to sew a straight line,” she said. “Now I have my own sewing machine and I might learn how to do more later.”
The bags come in a variety of designs, and offer a unique way to use a favorite T-shirt, Ally said.
“They can be used for a lot of things, like shopping, sleepovers or gym clothes,” Ally said. “They can also be personalized. People can give me their favorite shirt and I will make it into a bag for them.”
She started making the bags at the beginning of the summer. She has sold them at $3 apiece through word of mouth to friends and family.
“Most people think it is a really cute idea,” Ally said. “It’s a way to reuse something that people don’t want into something that they do want.”
Ally has sold them at the Olney Farmers and Artists market several times. She estimates she has sold about 25 bags.
“The Olney Farmers and Artists Market is so proud to have a girl like Ally Newby participate,” market founder and President Janet Terry said. “Her work making reusable bags from recycled T-shirts is an inspiration to other young people regarding the importance of saving the Bay and protecting the environment. We congratulate Ally on her work and hope she will continue in her efforts.”
Ally said she she’ll keep making and selling bags at least until her Bat Mitzvah in May. If there is a demand, she will continue after that.
She plans to be at the farmers market selling her bags again on Aug. 31.