Wednesday, September 28, 2005


I am writing this tutorial in the hope to reassure those of you who might be reluctant to join in Zoanna's action, because they think they don't have the sufficient skills. Hopefully after reading this, you will realize that making a drawstring bag is very easy!

I am a visual person myself and understand better with pictures... And I imagine that I'm not alone in this case... So last night while making a bag, I took photographs of each step.
I am really going to go step by step so that even the very beginners can feel ready to help!
All the pictures are clickable to larger pictures, so you can take in every detail.

1. Prewash (= preshrink) your fabric (this is essential as many fabrics shrink, and those bags will obviously be much used and washed often!) and iron it. Choose a very lightweight fabric to keep shipping costs low for the organization who will be sending the bags to the shelter.

2. Cut 2 18"x18" (46x46 cm) squares for adults' bags, 14"x14" squares for kid's bags.

3. I find it is more time-effective to mark the folds for the casings now (before sewing). But you can also do this step after step # 6.
How to mark the casing: fold about 5 mm (1/4 inch) of the edge of a side to the wrong side of the fabric. Iron (possibly with steam) to mark the fold. Then fold the edge again - about 2 cm (3/4 inch) this time. Iron again to mark the fold.

4. Pin the squares, right sides together. If you're not experienced at sewing, make sure you put enough pins to hold the fabrics well together. I put my pins far from the seamlines to make sure I won't catch any while I sew (and this way I don't meet any pins on my way while I sew, which means I won't need to stop the machine to remove a pin each time I meet one! This goes much, much quicker. I sew up everything first, then remove the pins).
Here are my two squares pinned together, right sides together (what you see here is the wrong side):

you can see here that I unfolded the casing to one side.

Sew up 3 sides. On one side the seam must stop before the casing, in order to leave an opening!

To make sure I won't forget stopping the seam below the casing, I actually start sewing from there, marking the seam limit with a pin (which I put far from the seamline!):

click on the pic to see the pin marking the seam limit.

How wide should the seam allowance be? It's up to you. In my case, I position my needle to the left (and not to the centre) and I line up the edge of the fabric to the edge of the presser foot. (but I know that not all machines have the option of positioning the needle to the left rather than to the centre...)

A little tip for beginners: When you reach the end of a side, sink your needle into the fabric; put the presser foot up; use the needle as a pivot to turn your fabric at a 90° angle. Put the presser fut down and start sewing again. No need to cut your thread or anything!

5. Serge the edges on the 3 sides(with an overcasting or a zigzag stitch), stopping below the casing. Serge both edges together to gain time.

6. The edges of the casing's opening are still raw. For a nice finish, fold each edge to the wrong side of the fabric (do so for both raw edges).

Here you can see the squares sewn together to 3 sides, serged, and with the casing's edge sewn down:

7. Now is the time to sew the casing.
If your machine is free-arm, remove the box to free up the arm. This will enable you to position the bag all around the arm and sew much quicker and more easily.

Pin the casing down to the inside (=wrong side) of the bag, along the folds you created with your iron. (here again, make sure you put the pins far from the seamline).

Sew the casing down, 3-4 mm (=1/8 inch or just a bit more) from the bottom edge of the casing.
Here you can see how to place your fabric around your machine's arm. This way the fabric will sew up very smoothly, instead of being bunched up to the side (another gain of time!):

And here is your bag finished, inside out:

8. Now all you need to do is thread some cording (bought or self-made, no matter!) into the casing. Et voilà!

(wink to Zoanna: this is the cheerful fabric with African instruments I told you about!)

I hope everything makes sense? Otherwise, don't hesitate to ask any question.
I would appreciate your feedback immensely.

And of course, this is just one way of making drawstring bags! If you feel more comfortable with another method, go ahead!

If you are thinking of joining in, it would be wonderful to include a little note in each bag, with a kind word for the recipient. And remember: no two bags alike!


Z said...

I have one question, does the size stated includes extra seams?

Isabelle said...

Yes, since I state to cut 18"18" squares before sewing. Hope this helps! Who are you, Z? :o)

cathymk said...

Hi Isabelle, thanks for the tutorial! I might be able to have a go on the weekend.

shashi said...

Instructions are very clear. Your fabric is gorgeous. Will go and have a look what I have tonight.

Bea said...

Thanks for the tutorial, Isabelle.

KarenV said...

Those are great instructions Isabelle - thank you so much! You've just reminded me to wash my fabrics too - must do that tonight!

Zoanna said...

I can tell you're a teacher! Very good directions. My son was reading over my shoulder and we were both impressed with your machine. I've not seen one like it, but then again, I'm not in the sewing loop much (until now). Wondering what that indented (bowl shaped) part of the machine under your thumb is (to left of needle). Is it a pin catcher? Your bags will look more professional than mine.I'llpost alternative instructions on mine, just in case some prefer a different method.
Thanks, and yes I love that African print!!!

Isabelle said...

SO GLAD you find the instructions are useful, dear Zoanna!

The indented part of the machine serves as a larger platform to sew. Very handy as the top opens onto a little box where I can put my needles, bobbins, presser feet...
My machine also does embroidery... (and I have planned a few small embroidery designs to personalize the bags!). Call me a nerd... I put all my savings in this machine, a year ago. But I never regretted it! It is second-hand though ;o)

Hugs! I'm glad you like the print!

anneke said...

I'm admiring what you're doing for the Katrina victims. You have a busy life, but you make the time to not only make a lot of bags, but make a tutorial as well.
great job

Dawn said...

Thanks for the tutorial! Gives me something to try this weekend. :)

Have a good weekend

~Harsha~ said...

excellent tutorial Isabelle.. you're so good with sewing machine.

Little Grey Cat said...

Oh that is so lovely Isabelle! I will have to give it a go one day. Need to get a sewing machine first lol

cathymk said...

I started my bags on the weekend, then realised I had no cording for the drawstring! I also thought I had fabric to make the bags in my patchwork stash but no! only fat eights, not big enough -so my first step was to patch together the fabric into 45cm squares - on the weekend I'll get cording and finish the bags. At least thry'll be original!

Carol said...

Hi Isabelle :-)
No posts for a while? You must be swamped with your reading. Hope you are well! MIss you!