For me, finding a free way to do something is normally a matter of looking around to see what I have on hand that might be pressed into service. In this case, my first two attempts to make an inexpensive water bottle holder involved crocheting strips of plastic shopping bags and combining a free can-cozy with an old camera strap. Both of these efforts worked very well, but not everyone can crochet, nor does everyone have can cozies and camera straps tucked away in drawers! I wanted to find something that the bulk of the population could do, and I think that the following idea is achievable on that level. You could do this craft with your own children or with some modifications, with children’s groups like VBS.
The only “trash” materials needed to make this water bottle holder are a long-sleeved T-shirt, two large aluminum tabs from food cans, and a scrap of some type of ribbon, cord, or string. I used a girl’s tee that was size 10-12, but any long-sleeved tee that will not be too loose around the container you intend to use should be fine. Slide the bottle from the shoulder of the tee down inside the sleeve to check this before you do any cutting. You should be able to get two holders from each T-shirt. Begin by placing the container that you intend to use on the stretched-out sleeve with the bottom of the bottle about an inch up from the hem of the sleeve. About where the bottle begins to slope into the neck portion will be the eventual center of your holder, so you need to go up the sleeve about that distance again and cut it free from the rest of the shirt, as shown in the photo. This will be the holder. Using a yard stick or other straight edge, trace a straight line from the edge of the neck ribbing to the bottom hem and another line from the point where the sleeve and the shoulder connect down to the hem. Cut along both of these lines, going through both the front and back layers of the shirt. This will be the strap.
Turn the sleeve inside-out, and being careful not to cut through the front layer, make small slits in the sleeve hem on either side of the seam that runs the length of the sleeve. This forms a casing for the ribbon or string. I like to remove and save the ribbons which manufacturers put on some garments to keep them on the hangers. Ribbons such as these are perfect for this project since you only need about six to eight inches. Using a safety pin, thread the ribbon through the casing that you just formed. Then, remove the pin, draw the the sleeve opening closed and tightly knot the ribbon. The excess ribbon can be cut off, and I recommend putting a dab of glue on the ends to keep them from fraying.
The next step involves some folding. While the sleeve is inside-out, fold down the upper portion of the sleeve until just an inch of the closed-up hem side is visible. Then, keeping that fold in place, turn the whole thing right-side-out. The final fold is to turn down about a two-inch cuff. If you are unsure about how much to cuff, slide the bottle inside and adjust the cuff to come just to the “shoulders” of the bottle. This is the basic form the final bottle holder will have.
Now you need to prepare the metal tabs that you saved from your food cans. These will be the parts that connect the strap to the holder. To open up the second hole and prevent them from cutting into the fabric, remove the remaining piece of aluminum with a pair of pliers. I was able to bend those sections on my tabs until they tore away from the sides, and I was able to remove them. Any bits of metal that remained, I used the pliers to fold toward the back of the tab and smoothed them down.
To find where the tabs should be attached, line up the seam on the sleeve with the fold that used to be along the top of the sleeve. This should form two new folds on the sides and this is where you want to place a mark. Slide the tabs inside the holder on those folds and use a pencil to trace a line along the edge of the tab. Once you have the marks in place, you simply sew the tabs in place with matching thread. Make sure that the front of the tabs are facing out and that you are holding the cuff out of the way while you stitch so that the stitching will be covered by the cuff. To modify this so that it does not require sewing, make small cuts through the two layers of fabric under the cuff and insert a strip of t-shirt (cut from your scraps) long enough to pass through the openings in the tab and the holder and then tie a knot. (See the photo near the end of the article to see the no-sew modifications.)
You can set the holder portion aside and turn your attention to the strap. Since the strap is cut over the shoulder seam of the shirt, you will need to make a small cut in the middle of that seam to allow the seam to be pushed up on one side and down on the other. You want the seams to lie as flat as possible when the sides are folded in so that they do not form a large bump in the strap. Be sure not to cut all the way through the seam itself. Then you need to tri-fold the strap all the way down its length, being sure that the shoulder seam remains flat. I chose to whip stitch the length of the cut edge because I find sewing to be the cheapest option, but you can glue these folds into place or use an iron-on bonding tape if you prefer. I would recommend one of the latter options for use in VBS or other children’s group. Once the strap is secured together, slide the ends through the tabs on the holder and determine how long you want the strap to be. You may need to try it on for size. Cut off any excess length (an equal amount from both ends), and stitch the fabric in place around the tabs. If whip stitching is beyond the abilities of your children’s group, the strap could also be attached by passing it through the metal tab and knotting it around itself. If you are doing it this way, be careful not to cut off the excess length until you have put your knot in place. At this point, the holder is officially finished.
As always, decorating is up to you. On my shirt, the pink looked like it had been washed with a new pair of jeans and was a strangely mottled pinky-purple. I was puzzled with how to make it look better, but finally decided on a length of ribbon saved from a gift bow and a T-shirt flower made from another cast-off shirt.
The verse that kept coming to mind for me while I did this project was Isaiah 44:3, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:”. The Living Water that quenches my thirsty soul needs no holder, but is with me at all times. What a precious promise for me to claim and ponder! I pray that God will increase my thirst for Him, and then quench my thirst with His life-giving floods.