Saturday, 21 May 2016

How to make Drawstring Bags - Part 2

Drawstring bags are a popular item for shoeboxes. This is how I make my double string ones. You can find my tutorial for single string bags here.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to make unlined bags with flat or boxed bottoms. Here you can see the two different types next to each other to help you make your choice.

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.


These ones are for sewing kits but you can use this method to make bags in any size and any fabric.

You will need:
  • Sewing Machine
  • Iron
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Pins (and/or clips)
  • Safety pin
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Ribbon or cord - you will need two lengths which are double the width of the finished bag plus 15-20 cm (6-8”) each
  • Tailor's chalk, pencil or fabric marker
  • Rotary cutter, mat and ruler - optional
  • Pinking shears - optional

Step 1

Decide how big you want your finished bag to be and cut your fabric to size. Add 2 cm (3/4") to the width and 4 cm (1 1/2") to the length of the desired finished size. So if you wanted a finished size of 10 x 15 cm (4 x 6"), you would need to cut two pieces each measuring 12 x 19 cm (4 3/4" x 7 1/2”). If you wanted a finished size of 15 x 20 cm (6” x 8”), you would need to cut two pieces each measuring 17 x 24 cm (6 3/4” x 9 1/2”).

The turquoise one is 12.5 x 15 cm (5” x 6”) finished and the size of the fabric was two pieces at 14.5 x 19 cm (5 3/4” x 7 1/2”) each.

The terracotta one is 12.5 x 13 cm (5” x 5 1/4”) finished and the size of the fabric was 14.5 x 32 cm (5 3/4” x 12 3/4”). Instead of two pieces, I used one thin rectangle and folded it instead of sewing a bottom seam. To get this size from two pieces, they would have to be 14.5 x 17 cm (5 3/4” x 6 3/4”) each.

Step 2

On the wrong side of the fabric, make two marks along the side edges of each piece – 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 3

With the right side of the fabric face down, press creases between the marks, using an iron.

Step 4

Open the creases back out and re-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 wide the drawstring is.

Step 5

Place the two pieces of fabric right sides together and pin or clip. Using a 1 cm (3/8") seam allowance, stitch as shown on the photo. 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, then turn and stitch up the other side up to the lower mark then from the upper mark to the top edge.

Be sure to start and finish each section of stitching with reverse or locking stitches.

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.

Step 6

This is how your bag will look at this stage. Now you have to decide if you want a flat or boxed bottom.

Flat - clip the bottom corners of the bag as shown, being careful not to cut the stitches. Then skip to Step 11.

Please, note, if you have placed a fold at the bottom of the bag rather than a seam, you don't need to clip the corners. As you can see from the terracotta bag, it turns out nicely anyway.


Boxed – there is no need to clip the corners. Follow all subsequent steps.

Step 7

I call this 'the triangle trick'! Turn the bag so that the side seams are positioned top and bottom rather than left and right. 

With one hand inside the bag and the other on the outside, open the seams out flat and squash the corner, pressing the side seam against the bottom seam. 

Use a pin to make sure they are lined up – flip it over to check the pin has come through the centre of the seam on the other side and adjust slightly if not.

Secure the corner with the pin. You might notice that the end of my pin is ever so slightly off the seam.  (I didn't notice until I looked at the photo afterwards.)  Don't be like me – the more accurate you are at this stage, the better the result at the end. Repeat on the other corner.

Step 8

Using a tape measure or ruler, put a dot on the central seam 2 cm (3/4”) away from the point of the triangle. Then mark your sewing line right across the corner, going through the dot. A quilter's ruler with horizontal lines is useful to check that the pen line is at 90 degrees from the seam line. Again, do this stage accurately and you'll be glad you did at the end. Repeat on the other corner.

You may want a deeper bag than mine, especially if you are making a larger bag. Just place your initial dot further away from the corner.

Step 9

Stitch along the line you have made, be careful when you get to the pin. I stopped the machine and removed the pin just after I took the photo. Be sure to start and finish each section of stitching with reverse or locking stitches. I usually reverse for a few stitches then continue across the central seam for extra security, especially if the bag will carry something heavy like marbles. Repeat on the other corner.

This is what your bag looks like now.

Step 10

Cut the corners off, leaving a 1 cm (3/8") seam allowance. You can leave the corners on if you prefer.

Step 11

Open the side seams so that they lie flat then fold the channel over using the creases you pressed at the start and pin. I used clips because this fabric was very slippery and also I didn't want to snag it on the pins. 

Here's a close-up to show that the side seams are open:

Step 12

Turn the bag so that 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.

This is what your bag looks like now:

Step 13

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

Work your way right round to the other side and remove the safety pin.

Flip the bag over. Attach the safety pin to the end of the other piece of ribbon and thread it through the channel from the opposite side to before. When you get halfway, you might need to jiggle it to make sure the pin carries on through the channel and not out through the gap.

Remove the safety pin and tie the ends of the ribbon together on each side.

Your bag is finished!

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.


  1. What a great idea for a little travel sewing kit! :)

    1. Sewing kits are very popular in shoeboxes. This is a pretty and practical way to send them. Drawstring bags are also handy for other items such as school supplies or toiletries.


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