I’m a bit of a packrat crossed with a magpie. I collect all sorts of little odds and ends. Over the years, I’ve managed to curb most of these tendencies, but one thing that remains a great weakness is fabric remnants. Every time I go to the fabric store I am compelled to beeline to the remnant bins and rifle through those half-price goodies. I know I don’t need them, but how can I resist? It’s like a treasure hunt and it’s rare that I walk away empty handed. These frivolous purchases have come to make up a large portion of my fabric collection. I suppose if I was a quilter it would all be perfectly justifiable, but I’m not and I refuse to be. (I’m pretty sure it would spell certain doom for me and the livable space in my apartment if I had that kind of excuse to buy fabric.) Luckily I’ve become quite skilled at coming up with other uses (excuses) for my ever growing collection. Most often I channel this into one of my sewing favorites, all manner of bags.
Last year I started making these particular little lined drawstring bags. They aren’t anything new or amazing concept-wise, but they are pretty cute, easy to make, and don’t require much fabric. Perfect for using up those remnants and fat quarters.
I also think this is a good way to practice hand sewing, if you’re into that sort of thing. Despite the fact that I own three sewing machines, sometimes I just want a good hand sewing project. I find it pleasant and calming. And sometimes I get struck by unbearable envy of little Japanese women who hand sew everything, and it’s all disgustingly cute.
If you don’t like hand sewing you can whip these little bags up lickety-split with a sewing machine (less than half an hour if you are on good terms with your machine). Either way I think this is a good beginner sewing project. They are cute, easy, fun, and also make nice little reusable gift bags.
Itty Pretty Drawstring Bags!
Justifying a Burgeoning Fabric Collection
Almost any sort of fabric will work for these little bags as long as it’s not super stiff or heavy (like thick denim). I usually use quilting cotton or other lightweight woven fabrics and that is probably the easiest to work with. The finished bags end up with a 3” (7.62 cm) square base, and uncinched stand about 4 ¼” (10.8 cm) tall.
Materials and Tools
- 2 pieces of at least 7” x 14” (approx 18 x 36 cm) fabric (a fat quarter or a remnant wider than 7” should be fine)
- Sewing thread (matching or contrasting)
- Hand sewing needle or a sewing machine
- 30″ (~76 cm) or so of cord (for the drawstrings, so not super thick)
- Scissors (and/or a rotary cutter)
- Safety pin
- Embroidery floss or decorative thread (if you want to decorate the bag)
- Beads (to put on the drawstrings)
- Beeswax or a thread conditioner (Like Thread Heaven) if hand sewing
A couple of notes on hand sewing: I use a plain running stitch to make these bags, but if you wanted something a bit stronger you could also use a back stitch. Remember that the smaller you make your stitches, the less visible they will be. If you’re just starting out with hand sewing, don’t sweat it if your stitches aren’t very small or even. This will come with practice and probably nobody but you will ever notice they aren’t perfect.
- Print out the pattern (Click to download pattern) or draft it out on paper or directly on the fabric. Here are the dimensions to draft it yourself (seam allowances included):
- Fold your fabric in half and then layout and cut your lining and shell pieces according to the diagram. Trace the pattern on the fabric first or pin it on and cut around it. If you need guidelines for your stitching, you can lightly mark the seam lines too. Pencil usually works fine if the fabric isn’t too dark.
Note: It’s not super important for this project, but it’s good practice to pay attention to the grain of the fabric when laying out and cutting patterns. In this case the grain should line up with one of the straight edges of the pattern.
Take the shell fabric, still folded along the bottom edge with the right sides together, and straight stitch down the sides. Repeat with the lining piece, starting 1 ¼” (~3 cm) down from the top edge (where the stars are on the printed pattern). If you are using a machine, be sure to back tack at the beginnings and ends, especially on the lining.
Optional: Press open the side seams after sewing. Be sure to fold the seam allowances in at the top bit of the lining too (where you didn’t sew). Even just finger pressing will make a difference.
Pull open one corner of the shell and flatten, matching the side seam with the center bottom (the fold line). Sew straight across the corner. (if you want to get technical, you are creating a gusset here) Repeat with the remaining corner of the shell, and one of the corners of the lining (leave the other side open). Press allowances towards the bottom, if desired. You should now have two square bottomed cylinder things (except for the lining which will have an opening at the bottom/side).
That corner magically becomes a straight side!
Nest the shell fabric inside the lining so that right sides are touching. Match up the top edges and the side seams (pins are helpful here) and then sew all the way around the top edge.
Turn the bag right-side out now, through the opening that you left in the lining. After everything is right-side out, fold in the seam allowances of the opening in the lining and top-stitch very close to the edge to close. (Or you could be fancy and use a blind-stitch to close it.)
Flip the lining so that it nests neatly inside the shell fabric. There should be about a ½” fold of lining fabric that sticks up above the edge of the shell. Try to make sure that all the seam allowances of the top edge are turned down towards the bottom (It helps to use a knitting needle or other slender stick for this). Sew all the way around the top along the seam, just above the shell. This will make the tube or casing for the drawstrings.
To keep the allowances tucked in at the tube openings, you can add a few stitches to tack them down.
Optional: I like using contrasting or decorative thread for this part sometimes. If you don’t want it to show, choose a thread that matches the lining and “stitch-in-the-ditch” trying to sew as close in the seam line as you can.
Cut two pieces of cord at least 15″ (38 cm) long for the drawstrings. It’s better to go long here and then trim the length after. Attach a cord to the safety pin and use it to thread the drawstring through the tube at the top, starting at one of the side seam openings and going all the way around (not out the opposite side seam). Repeat with the second drawstring, but starting from the opposite seam opening.
Knot the cord ends together on each side and trim the ends to about ½”. If you want thread a big bead on each side before tying them off.
If you cord frays a lot, either melt the ends (if it is synthetic) or put a bit of Fray Check or glue on them.
Bonus round: Do some decorative stitching around the bag (through both layers or just one) with some embroidery floss or other pretty thread. If you are ambitious you could use a plain fabric for the shell, and decorate it with lots of pretty embroidery before sewing the whole thing together. Little beads, buttons, or sequins could be pretty cute too. Go nuts.
Thanks to my sister for the lovely photos!
Tada! You are the proud owner of a cute little bag. Now go show it off and find some treasures to put in it.
If anything needs clarified in the instructions, please let me know!