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Drawstring Bag Tutorial

A larger drawstring bag works because it is simple to make and easy to close, but I also made it in cute fabric with a pocket to store a flashlight or a book. The pocket has an elasticized top so you can keep your treasures safe.

Then I took it one step further and found some laminated cotton to use which should be super durable and easy to wipe clean after school camps. I haven’t sewn with laminated cotton before so I was a little nervous but it was so easy. It is thicker than the quilter’s cotton I sew with most of the time, but no worse than upholstery fabric like I sometimes use for chair bags.  I used a size 90 needle to cope with the extra bulk and had no trouble at all.

The great thing about laminated cotton is that it won’t fray so you don’t need to worry about finishing all the raw edges. I had planned to make this bag on my overlocker (or serger) but in the end decided I didn’t need to. Of course, if you want to finish the edges with a serger or pinking shears you can, and if you decide to make this bag with upholstery fabric then you will have to finish all the raw edges as you go. It will still be a very quick and easy project.

How to Sew a Drawstring Sleeping Bag Case

Finished Bag Size: 16″ tall x 10.5″ wide x 33″ around (41cm x 27cm x 84cm)

Laminated cotton fabric cut to these sizes:

 -  Rectangle: 20″ x 31″ (51cm x 79cm) for bag body (Note: Think about which way you want your fabric if it is a directional print.)
 -  Square: 9″ x 9″ (23cm x 23cm) for pocket
 -  Circle: 11″ diameter (28cm) for bag base. I used a plate as a template.

    Elastic: 11″ (28cm) of 5/16″ (8mm) width
    Cord: 39″ (1m) 1/8″ (4mm) cord
    Toggle (sometimes called a barrel lock)

1. On the Bag Body Piece: Turn down a hem of 3/4″ (2cm) along the longest side and stitch in place. This will be where we thread the drawstring cord later.

2. On the Pocket Piece: Decide which side is the top edge of your pocket. Turn down a hem of 3/4″ (2cm) along that edge of the square and stitch in place. Then thread the elastic through this casing. Your elastic will be long enough to poke out each end, which is exactly what we want.

3. On the bottom edge of the pocket piece, measure and put pins at 1.5″ and 3″ from both sides so you have four marks. Carefully fold a pleat into the bottom edge matching up the two pins on one side, then do the same on the other side. Use the photos to guide you. These pleats will create some room in our pocket instead of it just laying flat against the bag.

4. Decide where you want the pocket on your bag piece. I placed mine roughly in the center, but you might choose to place it closer to the top of the bag if you wish. (Just remember that some of the top of the bag will be pulled toward the center top when the drawstring is pulled.) Pin the bottom edge of the pocket in place with the pleats sitting flat, then pin the sides of the pocket straight up from the corners. The pocket will kind of stick up at the moment but that’s OK; we will fix it when we sew it into place.

5. Take it to your sewing machine and line up to start sewing from the top of the pocket down one side. Make sure that the elastic is sticking out the end of the casing where you are going to stitch over it to hold it in place. I used a zigzag stitch to look a bit pretty, but you can use straight stitch if you prefer. Sew down the side of the pocket and leave your needle down near the corner. Lift the presser foot and turn the fabric ready to stitch across the bottom of the pocket. Presser foot down and sew across the bottom of the pocket, taking care to catch the pleats in place.

At the next corner stop with the needle down again, lift the presser foot and pivot to go up the side.


This is where we are going to get the pocket to lay flat. Carefully pull the elastic through and bunch up the top of the pocket by pushing it towards the other side to gather it up until it is lying flat against the body. You want it flat, but not so tight that it buckles. HOLD ONTO THAT ELASTIC. When you are happy with how the pocket top is sitting, finish sewing up the side over the elastic so that it is caught in place.

If you want to you could go back over the elastic ends again for extra strength.

6. Trim off the excess elastic tails.

7. Fold the entire bag body piece in half with right sides together and sew up the side seam. Now you should have a tall cylinder of fabric ready to join to the base.

8. Keep the right side of the fabric on the inside of your cylinder and turn the whole thing upside down where you will attach the base. Fold the edge in four and mark those four spots with pins. Fold the circle into four and mark those four points with pins. Then match the pins on the circle to the pins on the bag body with the right side of the circle facing right sides of the cylinder piece. I added more pins to help line up the edges carefully.

9. Sew the base to the cylinder, carefully and slowly stitching around the circle. This is possibly the trickiest sewing of the whole bag but you’re nearly done so take your time.

10. Turn the bag through. We’re nearly done! Thread the drawstring cord through the casing at the top of your bag. I used a safety pin to help me with this.

11. Add the toggle: Put the two ends of the cord together, twist and wrap with a piece of sticky tape around the end. (See picture.) Push the toggle ends together to that the hole lines up and slip the cord through. Remove the sticky tape and tie a knot in the cord to stop it sliding back through.

Tips for Working with Laminated Cotton

  -  Use a larger needle than usual; I used a size 90.
  -  The laminated cotton is stiffer than most fabric so take the sewing slow and careful.
   - The laminated side will kind of “stick” to your machine foot and plate as you sew. I found it was only a problem when sewing the first couple of casings as the rest of the time you’re sewing on the wrong side of the fabric. I used my walking foot (it is built-in on my Pfaff machine but you can add one to other machines) and just guided the fabric through with my hands. I’ve read of using a Teflon foot, painter’s tape and/or a tiny dot of machine oil to help with this.
  -  Pins will leave slightly larger holes than in standard fabric so be a little careful where you put them.
  -  I’ve read that you can iron your laminated cottons and I would normally press sewing projects as you go but I didn’t use my iron on this at all. If you want to, use a low temperature, test on a scrap first and try to press the wrong side of the fabric. If you’re pressing the laminated side, use a pressing cloth.
  -  If you need to wash your laminated fabric, check the manufacturer’s website. I could find no instructions for washing this  fabric but some sellers said to only wipe it clean with a damp cloth.

Drawstring Bag Tutorial


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