Wednesday, 16 March 2016

How to make Drawstring Bags - Part 1

Drawstring bags are a popular item for shoeboxes. There are various methods but this is how I make mine.  I also make double string ones - please see Part 2.

You can also make them any size – when you cut out your fabric, simply add 2 cm (3/4") to twice the width and 4 cm (1 1/2") to the length of the desired finished size.

The fabric used here was 22 x 19 cm (8 3/4 x 7 1/2"), which results in a finished size of 10 x 15 cm (4 x 6"). 

If you wanted a finished size of 15 x 20 cm (6” x 8”), you would need to cut a piece measuring 32 x 24 cm (12 3/4” x 9 1/2”).

These ones are for marbles but the method can be adapted for other purposes – this red cotton one was made to hold a sewing kit.   

As the bags are unlined, I use pinking shears for neatness and to prevent fraying. Alternatively, you could use an overlocker (serger) or a zigzag stitch to finish the edges that will show on the inside.

You will need:
  • Fabric – it needs to be fairly robust for a marble bag
  • Sewing Machine
  • Iron
  • Thread
  • Pins
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Tailor's chalk, pencil or fabric marker
  • Cord – I used approx 40 cm (15 3/4") per bag – you could use a shoelace or bootlace
  • Scissors (plus pinking shears if you have them)
  • Safety pin
  • Bead – this is optional but I like to add them to single string bags to help to close the bag and help it to stay closed.  Some fabrics will stay closed without the bead.

Step 1

With the right side face down, press two creases - one at 1 cm (3/8") and another at 3 cm (1 1/8") from the top edge – this will later form the channel for the cord.

Step 2 

Open the creases back out and fold the fabric in half widthways, with right sides facing. Pin along the side and bottom. Mark the fabric at about 3.5 cm (1 3/8") and 4.5 cm (1 3/4") down from the top edge. This gap can be adjusted depending on how thick the cord is.

Step 3

Using a 1 cm (3/8") seam allowance, stitch from the top edge to the upper mark then from the lower mark to the bottom, then turn and stitch along the bottom edge. Be sure to start and finish each section of stitching with reverse or locking stitches.  

My old machine did not have markings on the footplate so I stuck a piece of cardboard down as a guide in order to keep the seams consistent.

If you are batch making, you can chain piece the sides then chain piece the bottoms, reinforcing at the start and end of each section as before.

Note the change of sewing machine ;-)

Step 4

Clip the bottom corner of the bag, being careful not to cut the stitches. Open the side seam so it lies flat then fold the channel over and pin.

Step 5

Turn the bag so the right side is facing out – be careful not to stab yourself on the pins. Stitch the channel 1-2 mm (1/16") from the edge. The narrower the bag, the more fiddly this is, but just go slowly. Neaten the ends of the thread.

My bag was too narrow to fit over the free arm of my machine but if I was making a larger one, I would do it that way instead.

Step 6

Attach a safety pin to the end of the cord and thread it through the channel using the gap in the stitching.

Step 7

Thread both ends of the cord through a bead, then tie a knot at the end.  Your bag is finished!

Variation - I have started to make my marble bags with boxed bottoms.  I give directions for this additional step in Part 2 - follow steps 7 to 10.

There are other ways to make drawstring bags – you will find lots of tutorials on our Sewing board on our sister page on Pinterest. You could even make a drawstring backpack.

Thank you to Pam of Threading My Way for featuring this tutorial on her blog.  Do head over to Pam's blog for hundreds of fab tutorials.


  1. These are so cute and a great idea for all the little pieces of fabric that are too small for other things. I love the idea of the bead! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you Teresa. My brother had a bag just like this for marbles when he was little. He would have to tie a knot in the cord to close the bag and then spend ages trying to undo the knot with his teeth when he wanted to open it again. The bead is a much better option...

  2. I love how you've added the beads to keep the bag closed. I've featured your tutorial today.

  3. Lovely material. Kudos!

  4. Very descriptive post, I liked that bit. Will there be
    a part 2?

    1. Thank you for the positive feedback. Part 2 is here:

  5. Saved as a favorite, I love your blog!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. There's far more to see on our main page on Facebook.


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