Sewing: drawstring bag tutorial

Before I begin, here is my sewing machine!

FR_Model45

Since I’m amalgamating a couple of drawstring bag tutorials, I thought I’d show you one from start to finish. I’m using Scrapstore fabric again – pretty gold/ochre with bird and leaf print, and a white lining.

drawstring01

First of all, cut your fabric. I have two 9×12″ pattern pieces and two 9×12″ lining pieces. I’ve sewn my Beads of Courage and BCCA badges on to the front (much easier when you remember to do it first!) – just zigzagged all around their edges. You can see I made a measuring grid too – it’s much easier to make sure your right angles remain right angles if you measure with a grid rather than a ruler. Slightly annoyingly, this grid is 11×11″, so I later also made a cardboard template for these pieces that I can just draw around. This grid was made with the cover from a fabric sample book.

drawstring02

2. Pin a lining and a pattern piece together along the top, face-to-face. Do the same with the other two. This will be the top of the bag, so make sure your pattern pieces are the right way up. Sew a 1/4″ seam along the top. Do a few reverse stitches at either end to hold it (aka stay-stitches). I also do the trick where you pull on one of your trailing threads and use it to pull the other side through just enough that you can catch it with a needle and pull that thread through to the same size – you can then knot them together and snip them off. You don’t need to do both, I just don’t like cutting off ends on the right side of the piece, so I pull them through to the wrong side if possible.

I’ve drawn on 1/4″ seams in pencil all the way round – I don’t always, but it can keep things neater. If your pieces aren’t perfectly the same size, draw your seams so that the smaller piece is on top, since this means you will be able to see the edges when you sew it (and make sure both sides have the same total useful width, or your seams won’t be exactly on the edge creases).

I kinda prefer when my initial measurements and cutting don’t have to be perfect, but it does make things simpler if they are reasonably close!

drawstring03

3. Open up your piece like a book and press open the seam you just sewed. (Repeat with the other half). I made the marks for the two drawstring channel gaps on the back (wrong) side of the pattern fabric. They are at 2″ and 2.5″ from the centre of the seam. If you move them closer to it, you’ll get a bag that has more usable volume inside it when closed, since the drawstring will be closer to the top. This is up to you – I think these ones look quite nice closed.

If you are using a wide flat ribbon rather than a round cord, you might want to make the gap bigger.

drawstring04

4. As well as those two channel gaps on the pattern side, leave a biggish gap near the bottom on one side of the lining. You’re going to pull the whole bag through this later to turn it rightside-out. The original pattern suggested leaving this at the bottom – I find it shows less if you have it at the side instead.

Place one of your pattern+lining pieces on top of the other, right sides inwards, pattern-to-pattern, and with the seam in the middle lining up. Put a few pins in to hold it together, and sew all the way round, leaving the gaps you just drew. The photo is after sewing – you can see the stay-stitches next to every gap.

If you forget to leave a gap, then put stay-stitches at the edges of where it should be, and go back and rip out the stitches between. This is really annoying, so hopefully you only do it once…

drawstring05

5. Snip off your corners to remove extra bulk and press all the seams open on both sides. Especially press where the unsewn gaps are, because this will keep them neat and the raw edges inside.

drawstring06

6.Turn the whole thing inside-out through the side gap!

drawstring07

7. This is what you should end up with – use a long pokey thing through your gap to poke the corners fully out (pencil, mandrel…) and press it nice and flat. You now have a closed tube with the pattern at one end and the lining (currently inside-out) at the other.

drawstring08

8. Here is the gap you left, with the neatly pressed edges. The original pattern says to handsew this closed. That does look better, but also takes ages, so instead I just sew straight stitch as close to the edge as I can.

drawstring09

9. The gap is closed! This also shows up less if you use thread that matches your lining, but rethreading the machine a different colour in the middle of the bag is not going to happen.

drawstring10

10. Push your lining inside your bag so everything is in the right place and you now have your proper bag shape. Here’s a pic looking into the bag – you can see the sewn gap if you look for it, but all the other lining seams are lovely and clean. (This is why I moved it away from the bottom – if you look straight into a bag in normal circumstances without stretching it open, there’s some looser fabric at the sides so the bottom is what you see most).

drawstring11

11. Now you have the drawstring channel to sew. I made a couple of bags where the lining was slightly smaller than the outside, and wondered why I kept catching creases on the outside. Then I remembered that the first bag I made, I sewed on the outside when I did the channel and after that I’d sewn on the inside. Sewing on the outside means that you can keep the outer smooth, and if you do have any mismatches you can catch them inside or have a tiny extra fold at the seams.

So, you’re going to sew around the top of the bag like this, keeping the area you’re currently sewing on nice and flat. Start at the edge of one of the gaps you left in the pattern fabric seam. It’s easier if you draw a line on the outside to sew along too – I didn’t do this here.

drawstring12

12. Here’s a view from underneath the fabric where I’ve lifted it up so you can see where the foot is holding it down – I don’t have a free arm so have to be careful to keep the other side of the bag well out of the way and not sew the two together.

drawstring13

13. Sew all the way around the top and bottom of the channel, enclosing it so your cord can’t go anywhere else. Pause often and pull more fabric round towards you so you always have a reasonable amount to be sewing on. Eventually you will be back where you started and can stay-stitch to finish.

This is why you might want to draw a line… I ended up with rather a curved channel on the back. I don’t have any tailor’s chalk so just use pencil, which can take longer to remove and is why I didn’t draw one here.

drawstring14

I got my front side nice and straight, though! And a drawstring bag is rarely completely flattened out when in use, so you won’t notice the curve most of the time.

drawstring15

14. Add your cord. Put a safety pin through one end and go in through one of the side gaps, all the way round and out again. Then repeat for the other side. Tie your cord ends off and there you are.

drawstring16

15. Finished bag!

—–

Here are a few previous bags. In the closeup you can see what I meant about catching a fold when sewing the channel from the inside.

BoCbag5

BoCbag5_corner

This one below was not Scrapstore fabric – the teddies came from eBay and the blue lining is 100% polyester that actually makes a pretty good lining for a bag like this (also used as the lining just above).

BoCbag6

I saw this spaceman fabric in one of the little theme bundles at the Scrapstore and grabbed it because it is perfect for BoC bags! There tend to be a lot of florals, other nature-themed prints and elegant patterned upholstery fabric there, but things like this are rarer. The pieces aren’t big enough to cut a full 9×12″ piece so I will combine them with another fabric.

spaceman_fabric

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  1. #1 by Angharad Lescott on April 22, 2015 - 8:50 am

    Hi Heather. Beyond delighted that you are using the Scrapstore’s resources for such a great cause. You’ve inspired me.

  2. #2 by Angie Snelling on November 4, 2015 - 4:17 pm

    Heather, these look great, where do you get the BOC badges to put on them?

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