Gathering Threads

Simple Drawstring Bag Tutorial

Posted by on Sep 06 2017, in Patterns, Sewing tips, Tutorial

This is a simple bag pattern that makes up quickly and is great for a lunch bag, small shopping bag and general catch all.

It’s super quick and easy to make, too, so it’s perfect when you need a quick gift or sewing project and don’t have a lot of time.  It was recently featured on The Shopping Channel and it makes a great project for the beginner sewer, with lots of options and ways to personalize it.  I used fabrics from Camelot Fabric’s new Flutter and Buzz collection, Threaders fusible fleece, plus a few bits and pieces from my stash.

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

  • 3/8 yd fabric for bag fabric
  • 3/8 yd fabric for lining
  • 12 x 33″ fusible fleece (optional)
  • a scrap of contrasting fabric at least 12″ x 2 1/2″ or 24″ of 1/2″ wide single fold bias tape
  • 1 yd of 1/4″ ribbon
  • thread to match


  • Sewing machine
  • Rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • Ruler
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Marking pen
  • Pins
  • Safety Pin or blunt darning needle
  1.  Print out the DrawstringBagPattern and cut the following pieces from both the outer fabric and the lining:  two rectangles 12″ x 14″ for the upper bag and one circle for the base.  From the contrasting fabric, cut two strips each 1″ wide and 11 1/2″ long for the casings.  (Note: if you’re using 1/2″ bias tape, cut two pieces 11 1/2″ long instead).

2.  For a sturdier bag with more body, cut out two rectangles of fusible fleece 11 1/4″ x 10 3/4″ and one base circle, using the dashed lines of the base piece for your cutting line. This is an optional step, and your bag will be just as nice without it, if you decide to skip it, just floppier.

3. If you’re using the fleece, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and fuse the fleece to the wrong side of the outer fabric, leaving a 3/8″ (1cm) space along the long sides and the bottom edge.  There should be approximately 2 1/2 of the outer fabric above the top edge of the fleece.

4. Fold in the long sides of the casing strip to the centre to make the strip 1/2″ wide.  Press.  Then turn under the short ends 1/4″ and press again.  Repeat with the second strip.

5. Lay the casing strip 1/2 across the outer fabric, so that it is 1/2″ above where the fusible fleece ends.  With the RS (right side) of both the outer fabric and casing facing up, pin the top edge of the casing to the line, centering it between the long edges.

6. Stitch the casing along the long edges.  If you have one, use your edge stitch foot.  This foot has a metal guide in the centre, which runs along the edge of the fabric and makes getting really straight top stitching easy-peasy.  If not, use your regular foot and just stitch slowly and as close to the edge of the casing as possible.

On my Janome S7, my stitch settings for the edge stitching were alignment to the left 2.1 and a stitch length of 2.4.

Remember to reverse you stitching for 1-2 stitches at each end to secure the casing.

7.  RS (right sides) facing, pin the outer fabric with the attached casings together.  Sew down the two long edges of the outer fabric rectangles using a 3/8″ seam allowance and being careful not to catch the openings of the casing as you sew.

My stitch settings for the construction were needle centered, stitch length of 2.4:

Press the seams open.

8. RS facing, sew down the long edges of the lining rectangles using the same 3/8″ seam allowance and a stitch length of 2.2-2.4 that you used for the outer fabric.  Again, press the seams open.

9.  Following your machine’s instructions, remove the base of the machine to convert it to free arm sewing.  Free arm sewing lets you get into smaller spaces, like sleeves and the inside of bags.  Very useful.

10.  Turn the lining inside out and put the outer fabric pieces inside, so the right side of the lining is facing the right side of the outer fabric.  Pin the layers together and stitch around the top edge of the bag, using a 3/8″ seam allowance and rotating the bag around your free arm as you sew.

Press the seam allowance towards the lining fabric.

11.  Switch back to your edge stitch foot (the one with the guide).  Edge stitch the lining using a straight stitch of 2.2-2.4.  Edge stitching helps make a flatter, neater edge and ensures that the lining fabric won’t peek up over your outer fabric when you’re using the bag.  Here’s what it looks like:

And here’s what the bag should look like at this point:

12.  Switch back to your standard foot.  Baste the bottom opening of the outer fabric and the lining together.  From this point forward, treat the upper bag as one layer.

13. Still using the free arm, sew through all the layers of the bag just underneath the casing. This will let you ‘draw’ up all the layers when the bag is finished (and sorry, I forgot to get a picture!)  Set the upper bag aside for a moment.

14.  Put the base of the sewing machine back, so that you are no longer using the free arm.

15. Pin the circle cut from the lining to the fused base so that you have a sandwich of lining-fusible-outer fabric.  Pin.  Baste by sewing around the edge of the base to secure the layers together.  From this point forward, treat the base as one layer.

16.  RS facing, pin the upper bag to the base.  Make sure your pins are perpendicular to your stitching line, not parallel.  This way, if you do miss a pin or sew over one (and you should try really, really hard not to sew over your pins — it’s BAD for your machine if you hit one and can cause a lot of damage), chances are your needle won’t strike it directly.  This part can be a little fiddly – I pin the circle at 12, 3, 6 and 9 first and then ease the rest of the circle to fit the upper bag.

Using a 3/8″ seam allowance and , slowly sew around the base, securing the upper bag and the base together.

17.  Trim the seam allowance to 1/4″, neatening the edges. Then overcast the raw seam allowance, using a zigzag stitch.   My setting for the zigzag were W 5.0 and L 0.8.

18. Turn the bag right side out and press.

Here’s what the inside of the bag will look like at this point:

19.  Cut the ribbon in two even lengths and thread it through the casing using the safety pin or a blunt darning needle.  Knot the ribbon together at both ends and trim any excess ribbon.

Enjoy your bag!