Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag

Hi, I made these drawstring bags as a going-away gift for a work colleague, K., who left San Francisco to move back to Washington, DC for a new job. I wanted to make something that would remind her of the Bay Area – and then I could also put together this tutorial on how to make a drawstring bag. The weekend before her last day in the office, I went to Britex Fabrics to see if they had any San Francisco-themed fabric. Lo and behold! They had this great quilt-weight fabric with Bay Area icons, including the Britex Fabrics sign!

How to make a drawstring bag - single and double drawstring bags - csews.com

Here’s another view of the fabric. Isn’t it great? It has everything from wine country, tie-dyed shirts, and Chinatown to cable cars, Japantown, and Britex Fabrics. (You can buy this “I left my heart in San Francisco” fabric online ($15.99/yd) via Britex’s website.

I left my heart in San Francisco fabric - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Here’s what the real sign looks like in person. (Full disclosure: I cropped the image from Britex Fabrics‘ website. I took a photo of the sign last year but I can’t find it.)

Britex Fabrics sign

You can make a drawstring bag to fit items small and large. I decided to make a shoe bag so I got 1/2 yard of this 44″ wide fabric. And I used the leftover fabric to make two smaller bags, which you could put jewelry in or other small items.

I decided to attempt writing a tutorial but as I’ve discovered, it’s a bit more involved that I thought it would be! So I hope the instructions make sense and that I have enough photos to explain things.

Here are the materials for what I made:

1/2 yard of fabric
Cord for drawstring
Cord stop (optional) for ends of drawstring
Thread
Safety pin

Materials for how to make drawstring bag: Fabric, cord, cord stop, safety pin - csews.com

There are tons of photos in this post, which may make it seem like a complicated project, but really, it’s not! It’s basically a rectangle with the top folded over to make the casing for the cord. I also finished my seams by sewing french seams, which encloses the raw edges; but you could skip that and just pink or serge them.

You can make the bag with one drawstring that you pull to close (see big bag in the top photo) or you can make it with two drawstrings.The single drawstring bag is made from one piece of fabric folded in half with one casing for the cord. Here’s my drawing – roughly to scale – of the fabric unfolded.

Sketch: drawsting shoe bag - csews.com

Single drawstring bag – 1 piece of fabric folded in half

The double drawstring bag is made from two pieces of fabric with the top of each piece folded and stitched down.

Sketch - small drawstring bag - csews.com

Double drawstring bag – two pieces of fabric, this is one side

As you’ll see below, you thread two drawstrings through the casing and when you pull both drawstrings, the bag automatically closes – pretty cool.

If you’ve made a one-drawstring bag, you may want to check out how I made the one with two drawstrings – just skip down  to Step 4. 😉

The directions to make both bags are essentially the same – the only difference is that one uses one piece of fabric and has one drawstring and the other two pieces of fabric and two drawstrings.

From the leftover fabric, about 19 inches x 18 inches, I made two smaller bags. Instead of one piece of fabric folded in half, I cut two pieces of fabric for each one, like so. the dashes/dots are where I cut the fabric.

drawstring fabric bag pieces - csews.com

I didn’t use that little bit of fabric at the top of the shoe bag but I could have made the shoe bag a little deeper and then had zero waste!

The photos in this post are from both versions of the bag but the casing instructions focus on making the two-drawstring bag.

Size of the Drawstring Bag

The first thing you need to do is to determine what is the purpose of your bag. Then you can figure out the appropriate dimensions.

K. is a few inches shorter than I am. I thought my size-10 sneakers would be big enough to allow for clunky shoes or even high heels.

This is a “directional fabric” or fabric that is supposed to be viewed one way. As you can see, the words are all in the same direction. If I turned the fabric 180 degrees, the words would be upside down. (An example of fabric without a direction is polka dots. They aren’t going to be seen as upside down no matter how you look at them.)

If you are using directional fabric, you may want to get a little extra fabric to compensate the design.

For the shoe bag, I decided I would just cut a large rectangle, fold it in half and sew two seams – one side seam and one bottom seam. The top would be folded over and sewn down to make the cord casing for one cord.

1. Measure your fabric

For the drawstring shoe bag, I cut the fabric so it was about 16 inches tall (length of the shoe, plus about 4 inches for the height of the shoe and for the cord casing).

How to make a drawstring bag - Measure shoe - DIY, tutorial - csews.com

I folded the fabric in half and decided that the finished width of the bag should be about 12 inches – wide enough for one pair of shoes (9 inches, plus a couple of inches for ease, the width of the shoe’s sole and seam allowance: 9 + 3.5 inches = 12.5, for a total of 25 inches (unfolded).

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring shoe bag - Measuring fabric - DIY - csews.com

2. Prepare the cord  casing

You need your cord casing to be wide enough to fit a safety pin and your cord – two cords, if you’re making a two-string bag. As you can see my safety pin and two cords take up nearly an inch. So I gave myself plenty of ease to thread the drawstring. I added a little extra room so I could sew another line of stitching above the drawstring.

safety pin and cords - drawstring bag - csews.com

I marked my fabric four inches down from the top. Fold and iron 1/8-inch wide piece of fabric from the top until the 4-inch mark. This is the opening of the cord casing.

How to make a drawstring bag - Marking top fold - drawstring bag - csews.com

Repeat on the other side and sew down the folded fabric.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring shoe bag - DIY - CSews.com

Fold the top down 1/4 and iron. Then fold and iron it another 1/4 inch.

Tutorial: How to make a drawsting bag - DIY - csews.com

Stitch the top down.

Tutorial: How to make a drawsting bag - DIY - CSews.com

Fold top down to the 4-inch mark and stitch near the first linen of stitches. I used my edge stitch foot here.

Tutorial: How to make a drawsting bag - sewing casing - DIY - CSews.com

The casing is wide enough for two drawstrings.

Tutorial: How to make a drawsting bag - threading the cord - DIY - CSews.com

But the shoe bag only has one drawstring so I’m going to add a line of stitching at the top so the drawstring (see pencil marking?) will have one line of stitching above and below it. It also makes the bag look nice.

Mark top seam - drawstring bag - csews.com

3. Stitch the sides

I decided to make french seams, which enclose the raw edges. To make a french seam, you pin the fabric – wrong sides together. It’s a little tricky near the drawstring because you’ve got to lay the fabric flat and sew the first seam from the line of stitching at the bottom of the casing to the bottom.

Tutorial: How to make a drawsting bag - French seam - pin wrong sides together - DIY - CSews.com

Sew your first seam.

Tutorial - How to make a draawstring bag - French seam - DIY - CSews.com

At the bottom corner, pivot and then clip your corner.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - french seam, DIY - csews.com

Press the seam open. I used my sleeve press roll.

Iron seam open - csews.com

Turn it inside out. Press again.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - Sew second top seam - drawstring bag - csews.com

You may want to use a point turner for the corners.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - point turner for corner of drawstring bag - DIY - CSews.com

Stitch again down the side and then the bottom.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - French seam - DIY - csews.com

This is the left side of the bottom seam. You can see that the bag was folded on one side so you only need to sew one side seam.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - DIY - CSews.com

On the two-drawstring bag, which uses two pieces of fabric, you’ll be sewing a big “U” – two side seams and the bottom seam.

Tutorial: how to make a drawstring bag - DIY - CSews.com

4. Threading the cord for the two-drawstring bag.

You’ll thread one cord in each direction like this photo. Your cord should be double the width of your finished bag. (For the single-drawstring bag, you just thread one cord through the casing and tie the ends together and you’re done!)

Tutorial: How to make a drawsstring bag - DIY - csews.com

Take the first cord and tie it to a large safety pin.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - csews.com

Thread the safety pin through one side.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - thread cord with a safety pin - CSews.com

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - inserting cord - DIY - CSews.com

And then through the other side. Line up the ends and then either tie a knot or use a cord stop. I like the double-hole ones like this. You press it down and stick in your cord.

Cord stop

Then you can tighten it as much or as little as you want.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - CSews.com

Then you thread your second cord starting at the opposite end. In this photo, the cord stop is on the right, so I start threading on the left – remember the cord placement in the photo above? You’re following that direction.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - threading 2nd cord - csews.com

When you get to the cord stop on the other side, you just put the cord through the other side. This is why it’s important to make sure you have enough ease in the casing. If it’s too snug, it can be tricky to thread the safety pin and the cord.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - DIY CSews.com

Here’s a closeup shot of the second cord threaded through. See the first cord in there?

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - DIY - csews.com

And then you put your cord ends through your second cord stop. Use fray block or fray check on the ends of the cords so they don’t unravel. If you are using a synthetic cord, you can melt the ends with a flame from a lighter or a match.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - 2nd cord stop attached - CSews.com

5. Completed drawstring bag with two drawstrings! You pull both of them at the same time and the bag closes.

Tutorial: How to make a drawstring bag - DIY - csews.com

The finished shoe bag with one drawstring.

Tutorial: How to make drawsstring shoe bag - finished bag - DIY - CSews.com

Tutorial: how to make a drawstring shoe bag - finished bag - DIY - csews.com

Wow – I really didn’t expect it to make me so long to finish the post! I hope you find it useful – and maybe you can make some last-minute holiday gifts now that you know how to make a drawstring bag. Or you could make a bag to enclose a gift. Have you made any drawstring bags?

Tutorial: How to make a double- and single-drawstring bag

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