Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Tutorial: Drawstring Bag

My older sister (seamstress extraordinaire) makes her own gift bags to be reused for Christmas each year. Brilliant! We each have a few and put some of our gifts to each other in them and then trade around each Christmas. I adapted what she makes into a more permanent, lined drawstring bag - this could be used as a gift bag (I might do a tutorial in the next couple months on creating her quick gift bags), but could also be used in the everyday. Wouldn't it be fun to make these to be part of the gift itself {Read: Put a handmade gift inside and voilĂ ! Two handmade gifts in one!}. So, this tutorial is part of the "Handmade Christmas".
After many tries, I came up with this cutie. It is perfect to stow away a few things such as a notebook, camera, pen, change purse or wallet.

+ 2 pieces fabric (1"x24") - these will be the drawstrings, or you can use ribbon or drawstring-type material - I wanted my strings to coordinate with the bottom section of the bag
+ 2 pieces fabric (3"x 10") - these will be the top pieces of the bag that the drawstring goes through (the polka dot fabric below)
+ 1 piece fabric (10"x16") - this is the patterned fabric you see the majority of on the bag
+ 1 piece lining fabric (10"x22") - use muslin or some other lightweight fabric
+ Scissors
+ Safety Pin (if you are making your own drawstrings)
+ Sewing machine, coordinating thread
+ Rotary cutter, metal ruler and cutting mat
+ Iron

Start by making the drawstrings (skip this step if you are using ribbon or cord). Fold the 1"x 24" strips in half, so the wrong side is out. Carefully press with an iron.

Sew along the open edge, as close to the edge as possible. To flip the drawstrings right-side-out, I used a safety pin and this method. Brilliant! I then tied off each edge into a knot.

Now, pin the 2 pieces of 3"x10" to the large 10"x16" piece, right sides facing each other. (see picture below).

With a 1/4" seam allowance, sew up each long (10") side and then press seams open with an iron.Now, place the muslin fabric piece on the newly stitched outside piece - right sides facing out. Fold the long edge in 1/4" and press with an iron. Repeat for the opposite long edge. Now fold the already folded edge in again 1/4". This will give the insides a more finished and clean cut look - no rough edges.
Stitch along these folded edges.
For the short edge, fold it over once 1/4". Press with the iron and stitch a straight stitch with 1/4" seam allowance.
Now, fold over these short edges about 1.25", press with the iron and stitch a straight stitch about 1" down from the edge. I used the stitch in the ditch method, so as not to make an extra seam (and I can't sew in a straight line that well ;)). This "pocket" is where the drawstring will be housed.
Almost finished! Fold the bag in half with right sides facing in, wrong sides facing out. From the bottom of the bag, stitch a straight stitch up each side (I stitched along the folded edge again). Be sure to stop before getting to the drawstring "pocket" - see arrow in the picture below. You don't want to stitch the drawstring opening closed!
What the bag is looking like (pardon my less than straight seams ;)).Attach one side of the drawstring to a dull pencil or a pen and thread through one "pocket". Untie and tie the other side of the drawstring to the pencil and pull it through the other "pocket".
Now, in order to get the drawstring effect, do the same as above to the other drawstring, except thread these ends through the other side of the openings of the "pockets" on the bag. See picture below- one drawstring is coming out one side and the other is laying on top of the bag as a visual- this is how it should be threaded through the "pockets".
Snip off any access drawstring - to whatever length you desire. You can also tie each end together or leave them open, like I did.
VoilĂ ! A fabulous drawstring bag!


  1. hey Ashley thanks for the tutorial. I am so inspired to try this and use it for X'mas gift bags.

    casey, singapore

  2. Hey Ashley!

    Amy T here...These are so cute but I have never used a sewing machine. Am thinking of getting one and would love to try your sister's version for gift bags. Will you post those sometime?

    BTW....so excited for you, Rob and of course Jimmy. Can't stand it!

  3. Great tutorial. Thank you for sharing. I also make fabric bags to store Christmas decorations for the remainder of the year.
    P.S. I have made fabric bags for gifts I have given and believe this...the recipients have actually thrown them away as if they were paper trash! Happy creating...

  4. This is great and I really love that fabric. It goes so well together =)

  5. Thank you so much! What an awesome tutorial! I just made one as a gift bag for the baby booties I make!

    Kelly, Virgina

  6. This is a great tutorial and I love it! It is so detailed and just what I was looking for for 2 and a half months!

    Thank you so much!!
    ~Courtney Rosehart

  7. Just made one of these. I used a water proof fabric for the liner (PUL) and made it slightly larger, to be a dirty diaper/wet clothes bag for the diaper bag. Great pattern, thanks for sharing!

    Emily C

  8. Thank you so much for this!! I'm very much a beginner at sewing but this looks VERY doable and exactly what I was looking for!

  9. Your tutorial is really easy to understand. I haven't used a sewing machine for a long time but to handstitch this bag might take a long time so I better re-learn. Thanks again for the tutorial. :)

  10. Thanks!! I loved the visuals. I just looked through the pics and I understood everything perfectly!!!

  11. Can anyone be more specific with the draw strings made out of fabric and the safety pin method? I've been struggling to turn them inside out!

    1. Hello there! Follow this link for a detailed explanation with pictures: http://www.made-by-rae.com/2010/06/sometimes-i-amaze-even-myself/

  12. Hi, thank you for the info, I'm going to give it a go, if i pull this off they'll be no stopping me!!!! they look fabulous, i love the fabric you have used, thanks again.

  13. Thanks for all the advice, just completed my first draw string bag!!! I'm so pleased, I've not used a sewing machine since school over 25 years ago.

  14. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I was looking for a gift wrap idea for a pair of earrings - and this bag is perfect. Really well laid out and easy to follow.

  15. this draw string bag is awesome and very easy, and this is coming from a kid!! this is an awesome thing to do on a rainy day! and it was fun to see relatives face when they saw it!!!! I highly recomend this progect for both kids and adults!

  16. Thanks am learning to stitch and this is so beautiful and detailed tutorial ,easy to follow.