How to Open a Potato Bag.
Or any bag that closes with string.

When someone sends me an Ask Karen question I answer it with the lightening speed of a sloth eating a brick of saltwater taffy.

So when Leslie sent me a message last winter about how to open a bag that’s sewn closed with string … I got to work.  I got to work cleaning the fridge, and brushing my cats, and making a house of cards out of Oreo cookies and avoiding any sort of organized exercise program.

I also taught myself to do origami out of homemade fruit leather.

After I’d exhausted all methods of avoidance, I set my mind to figuring out exactly how to open a bag that’s sewn closed with string at the top.  Because who hasn’t been completely frustrated staring down at a bag of potatoes KNOWING if you just pull the right string … it’ll open like magic.

So I dressed myself in a suit made of cabbage leaves, went to the grocery store, crouched down low, and practiced on all of their potato bags.  With my clever camouflage I remained inconspicuous for more than 3 minutes.

Then I got kicked out of the grocery store.

After months of research, vandalism and fridge cleaning … I figured it out.

This video is for you Leslie.  I would like to extend an early “You’re Welcome”.

~ karen


How to Open a Bag


How to open a bag that’s closed with string (like a potato sack). It’s easier than you think.

I cannot overstate this Leslie … you’re welcome.


  1. Kathy Hartzell says:

    back in ’79’ as a thrifty newliwed, I hought that it would be practical to make a grand ball o’ string from the salvaged string from such sewn up bags.

    It is now the size of a large double chocolate malted milk ball. Guess we have the same genetic predisposition to impatience with the chain stitch.

    Why then do the hems of boughten garments unravel so easily when you are heading off for a lovely day but never unravel when you struggle with the loops so you can re do the hem?? And you can’t take a giant scissor to the task!!

  2. Call Me Patty says:

    Yep, that’s my solution too, Karen. Yep.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I love you so much. Seriously. so much you should be glad I live so freakin far away. snort.

  4. ruth says:

    oh man. another Best.Post.Ever. hahahahahaha!

  5. Lynn says:

    Gosh, I have no problem OPENING the bag that is sewn with string…but I can’t figure out how to RESEW IT. Seed spills out on my sewing machine, it’s awkward & heavy, & my needles break. Sigh…;)

    Seriously awesome post Karen! I keep a big old industrial scissors in my shed for that EXACT purpose. Once again you’ve made my day. :)

  6. Kim says:

    Aww Karen, when I saw the title of your post I said to myself (or probably out loud) ”No way! Why didn’t I think to search for that answer on your blog a long time ago?”.
    All this time I thought there had to be an easier method to opening those bags, turns out I open them the same way you do. The right way!
    Great video. Every time I feed the birds I shall think of you!

  7. Auntiepatch says:

    LOL! Thanks –

  8. Hi Karen,
    As a life-long barn worker, I KNOW your pain BUT I’ve managed to almost figure it out. Thankfully, most feed manufactures now have a lovely little arrow pointing to a pre-cut corner and you just get out your fingernails and yank the string they point to. These companies are smart and should be given an award of some sort, as it means NO hassle, guaranteed.
    However if there is no time saving arrow, I take scissors or my handy pocket knife and facing the front of the bag cut the right side knotted end as close to the bag as possible. Then using the string of the first sewn “link,” yank the front string. Sometimes it needs yanking on the back side instead, or even both yaked at the same time but when that first link comes apart, it opens like magic. However, sometimes the magic isn’t at that end of the bag and since cutting the bag means having the frayed sections bags getting into the horse feed, I get stubborn and try the other end of the bag in the same manner and that one works.
    Of course success at this “barn art” usually, in the beginning at least, just means being intensely stubborn, and losing stupid amounts of time. But the investment is worth it when you can open these stupid things 98% of the time without hassles. Too bad barn work is the type of work that often has no witnesses to appreciate the hard won skills. :-)

    • Rhonda "SmartyPants" says:

      I am standing at attention in my living room saluting you and all the countless others for the grossly unacknowledged and, therefore, even more grossly unappreciated ‘barn art’ you do, day in and day out. the closest I got to any of that type of ‘art’ was when I visited my Granddad about 55 years ago and he taught me and my brother how to milk his two goats that he sheltered in a lean-to in the back yard. A far cry from the ‘barn art’ of your type, ‘Taken For Granite’, I’m sure – if I was wearing a hat, I’d take it off and place it over my heart in honor of your ‘barn art’.

  9. taria says:

    so my ask Karen question is how do you keep track of where the darned scissors are?

  10. Mary says:

    That’s exactly how I do it. And I actually lol’d for real! Thanks for a good start to my day.

  11. Gina says:

    Ha, I just go directly to your second method for the same reason.

  12. Lisa says:

    You are a hoot & it works for me! Just FYI though, sometimes on the bottom of the sewn bags is a thick paper binding along edge that has the same stitching running down the middle of it, however when you “simply” pull that string magic happens & it comes right off. Not all bags have this nifty option but it’s a dream when they do. Love your videos!

    • Nancy Blue Moon says:

      You are right Lisa..That kind of bag is very easy to open..My cat food has this and it opens in a zip!! Why can’t they sew them all this way??

  13. Leslie says:

    Oh Karen!

    Thank you VERY MUCH! That is hilarious! I’ve been watching for this post for months.

    You’ve made my day! My week actually!
    Still laughing!

  14. Jamiek says:

    Scissors – Y-E-S!!!

  15. SuzyMcQ says:

    Your nails look great. Also enjoyed the occasional cackle in the background.

  16. Sally says:

    The whole time I’m watching this, I wanted to scream with frustration, because of course, it should have worked. I’m yelling, “just get the scissors!”, and then of course….. What a great laugh! Thanks for sharing, as usual.

  17. Erin says:

    Hey, if at first you don’t succeed, hack at it with scissors…

  18. Jules says:

    hahaha! I was so curious in the beginning thinking this would be a revelation on how to open them..your approach is perfect..

  19. Tina says:

    OH thank you. My first big laugh of the day and it very much appreciated! LOL

  20. Mary Kay says:

    LMFAO – Great start to my day!!

  21. marsha gaspari says:

    bahahahahahahaha Bloody brilliant.

  22. Erica Filpi says:

    Karen thank you for the laugh.

  23. Cindy Marlow says:

    Yet another Karen video that totally ruins my mascara. I need to read your blog BEFORE I do my makeup!

  24. Karen Anderson says:

    HIlarious! That is EXACTLY how I opened the last bag of birdseed that I bought..only with a bit more swearing and finally stabbing it, Psycho shower scene style, with the closest thing I could grab–gardening clippers. Opened perfectly.

  25. Tricia Rose says:

    Oh Karen, I got all excited! thinking you had the answer! (guess you do…)

  26. Jamieson says:

    Now I see where your chickens inherited their graceful moves in “will they eat it?”
    (PS It’s early and I’m still in bed next to my sleeping husband, so I had to watch the video in silence. It adds a certain frantic ‘je ne sais quoi’.)

  27. Mary says:

    So-o-o funny! Great way to start my early day. This always happens to me, too.

  28. Laura Bee says:

    Hahaha! I had this skill when I was 12 & we had chickens. I lost it over the years & now have to use this method on my potato bags.

  29. Rhonda "SmartyPants" says:

    Wow–I stopped watching reruns of “Greg the Bunny” just to see this post. Your build up increased my anticipation so much I actually put off my nightly snack of raw cookie dough that I always eat while reading the latest “Art of Doing Stuff” blog. Man, what a let down. I totally expected a flaming can of lighter fluid, a hacksaw, or at least a bandaged finger (we all know about your tendency to self-harming posts). What I do love, Karen, is the color of your nail polish — ooh, la, la. Pray tell, what is the color named?

    Actually, thank you, thank you very much. If you had been successful, you would have been forced to address the absurdity of what happens on the off chance one should actually find the frickin’ right string to pull: ‘Now what do I do with this stupid piece of string?’

    You rock, as always!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rhonda – It’s Rimmel – Stiletto Red. ~ karen!

      • Rhonda "SmartyPants" says:

        I love you — Rimmel, same brand I use. Isn’t it great to get such great colors for such a wee price? Thank you, thank you again. I’ll be flashing my Stiletto Red nails before nightfall.

  30. Louise Rea says:

    Ha ha ha this is what I do with my kitty litter! I swear these bags are designed by little men intent on driving us all mad.

  31. becs says:


  32. Moe says:

    I remember once many many years ago, that I lucked in to opening a bag of sunflower seeds by pulling the string. Haven’t been able to repeat it since. Stupid string. :(

  33. Diana says:

    Hahaha brilliant! I’m quite new to your site and you are fab, really enjoy reading you (or hearing) no matter what you are on about!

  34. Karen Eggleston says:

    Good thing they don’t package scissors with string.

  35. Maureen says:

    My mom could open potato bags by pulling on the string and my sister and I can’t figure it out. I guess we still can’t. sigh

  36. KL says:


  37. Amanda says:

    you are so funny! I have chickens too and I was all excited to see you solve the string mystery cause it pisses me off ALL THE TIME! then to see your outcome … priceless! I laughed out loud for real! hehehe I always wanted to stop some random farmer and ask them … they must know right?

  38. Kristina says:

    Ah and to think yesterday, I was thinking of your video…How to open pasta(Seriously, I was!)and along comes this!! Love IT!!! Fortunately, my chicken feed bags and dog feed bags come with the string AND the plastic runner strip…easy peasy…box cutter pleasey!

  39. Andria says:

    I suspect your technique will work on most types of bags. But I am bookmarking the video for easy reference just to be sure.

  40. Patrick says:

    Thanks! I’ll need lots of luck!

  41. Patrick says:

    Been reading for a while now, but this is my first post.

    The video made me howl! Thanks for brightening up midterm time!

  42. Lena says:

    I’ve been a lurker for a little bit, but this video inspired me to write. All I have to say is… “Hahahaha!!”

  43. Nicole says:

    I know that bag, Quickfeeds scratch for chickens, I open it the same way. First try the string trick, and then hack it open with scissors.
    Sometimes I can actually open it the right way, its like winning the lottery.

    • Susan says:

      Haha! I get my feed from the same place!! I swear they do something just to screw around with us! Sometimes you can find just the right string but sometimes you have to resort to whatever is handy! I found a good sharp shovel works when scissors aren’t handy and the girls are anxious for a treat!!

      • Karen says:

        Sue – Just so you know. I have ONE egg in my basket. I think I might have the worst layers in the world. Norma started to moult in the spring then stopped! She’s had a bald patch on her chest and bum for months. She’s just now starting to grow feathers back there. Sigh. I hope they’re just slow learners and once this first moult is over they’ll be back on track for the rest of their lives. ~ karen!

  44. Marti says:

    I usually end up doing exactly that with ziplock bags, so I guess your approach must be right. Ha!

  45. Denise says:

    Oh, Leslie, I think you are going to like this one!

  46. Becky says:

    Thats exactly how I do it. It works every time!

  47. Toronto Boy says:

    The video is up! Liz, time to crack open a “bag” of potato chips and watch the fun that is about to ensue on screen1 =D

  48. Laura says:

    As always, you’re brilliant!

  49. Liz says:

    Never had a problem with your videos before – but evidentially “This video is private.”

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liz – Give it another shot! I think Youtube was just a few seconds behind in publishing it. (it’s a scheduled video) If it still isn’t working lemme know! ~ karen

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