How To: Drawstring Bag

Once a week I attend what I call “Lutheran Quilting Ladies.”  I don’t know what they call it but that is my name for it.  We meet on Wednesday mornings and make quilts that will be sent world wide through the Lutheran World Relief.  Those that attend are all Christian, but not all of that faith.  We are united in wanting to help others and doing charity.

They have making quilts down to a Henry Ford assembly line kind of speed.  We usually finish 8 a week that are full size with 20 or so ladies.  I am the youngest by a generation, sometimes 2.  We all have fun together and talk about our lives.

One of the ladies told us about a group of foster girls in a nearby community.  They are all moved about with nothing more that a plastic bag(s) to move their world belongings.  She asked us to make drawstring bags for them in happy, girl colors.  I made my first and wanted to show you how easy they are!

Here is a piece of fabric that was given to me to start with.  It is a woven cotton and fits the bill perfectly.Drawstring Bag Fabric

Cutting & Sewing

I opened it up and cut it so it would be a rectangle, the largest that I could make with the fabric I was supplied.  More about sizing at the end of the post.Drawstring Bag cutting fabric

I began sewing and found this little surprise stamp.  I sewed the side and bottom seams since the third side was on the fold and needed to keep the top open.  I did a double sewn line since I wanted it to be extra durable.  Nothing is worse than a bag or item that has a hole in it.  I wanted it to last a long time.  I then pressed it, all over to make it look nice.

Making the Drawstring

When cutting and making the original rectangle, I cut off the selvedge to use as the drawstring.  I started by sewing the two long pieces into one very long strip, with a few backstitched rows, see far left photo.

I did a triple layered string.  I folded the raw edge in and over once more.  After I started the strip I then would hold about 6″ away from the needle (with the needle down – every time).  I would fold the raw edge into half of the strip, see middle left.  Then fold that so the new folded edge aligns with the selvedge edge, see middle right.  Then, using my fingernail, or a pencil tip works too, I would tuck the distance between the needle and my finger into the same folded fashion that I was holding in my finger tips.  I then sewed a short distance (about 6″), see far right photo; then worked the next section to where I wanted it, sewed that section and repeated.  I continued working a section at a time until the length of the drawstring was complete.  I then tied each end in a knot.


I do not actually show you how to do a buttonhole.  Every sewing machine is different.  Check out your manual to learn how to make one if you do not know how.

I needed to find the best placement for the buttonhole so I folded the raw top edge over about 1 1/4″, twice to find the perfect placement.  I then marked it with my disappearing quilting marker.  I chose over the seam so it would be more durable and be less likely to tear out.

After making the buttonhole I checked the location and clipped it open.

Threading the drawstring

I folded over and sewed the top down about 1 1/4″ all around the opening.Drawstring Bag sewing 4

I had to take my son to the doctor and this was the perfect project to take and finish while I was waiting!

I prefer to use a large safety pin to thread my drawstrings but could not find one before we needed to leave.  This paper clip worked just as well.  I attached it to the end of the drawstring and made sure it would be secure.  I threaded it into the buttonhole.

Using the paperclip, I thread it through by gathering up the fabric at the tail end of the clip, left image.  Once the clip is full of gathered fabric I hold the top of the clip with one hand and pull the bottom gathered pile over the tail end of the drawstring, see right photo.  I repeat the process until the paperclip comes out the buttonhole I started at.

I usually end with a tightly gathered top, see left photo.  I think it is important to center the drawstring in the buttonhole, so I pull the drawstring through with no gathers around the top and make sure both sides of the string are equal, image on right.


Here is the completed bag!  It looks small compared to these large tiles but is about the size of a large pillowcase.  I wanted it to be too large as opposed too small for the foster girls.  This was a really fast project and only took about one hour.  They needed about 150 bags by the end of winter.  I plan to make one a week!Drawstring Bag complete


This size, standard pillowcase, took about 1 yard of fabric.  Any size could be made by measuring the length and width of the desired size, double the width plus 1″ more, and 3-4″ more to the length and cut.  Cut a drawstring that is much longer than the top in circumference.  My drawstring was VERY small but 1″ is a good width if using the selvedge edge; if not then 1 1/2″ folded twice on both sides (all raw edges inside) is a good standard.

Please post photos of your drawstring bag in comments here or tag me on Instagram @othelloquilter .



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