Friday 6 November 2015

Simple Calico Drawstring Bag ~ Tutorial

In August a friend gave me a huge amount of fabric. All she wanted in return, was for me to make the calico into drawstring bags of various sizes. The rest of the fabric was mine to keep. Today I'll show you how I made my calico bags. There's no need for lining, as the French seams enclose the raw edges and make a very neat finish - a quick and easy project you can whip up in next to no time.

Unlined, calico Drawstring Bag TUTORIAL... quick and easy to make ~ Threading My Way

You don't have to use calico - any sturdy cotton fabric is fine. I haven't included measurements, as you should be able to adapt this tutorial to make bags of any size. 

Some of my bags have a seam at the bottom, some don't. It's one less seam to sew if there's no bottom seam.

For a bag without a bottom seam - cut one piece of fabric...
  • Decide on the finished size of your bag. 
  • Add 1" to the width for the side seams. 
  • Double the height and add 2" to the height for the drawstring casings.

For a bag with a bottom seam - cut two pieces of fabric...
  • Decide on the finished size of your bag. 
  • Add 1" to the width for the side seams. 
  • Add 1½" to the height for the drawstring casing and the bottom seam.

  • On one side only, measure 2" from the top. Mine may look like it's the bottom, but it's not.

Sew French seams down the sides and across the bottom. On the side you marked, start 2" from the top. On the second side, start at the top.
  • With wrong sides together, sew just over ⅛" from the edge of the fabric - sides and bottom
  • Clip bottom corners if you have done a bottom seam, Be careful not to cut the stitching.
  • Trim any loose threads.
  • Turn the material so that the right sides are together.
  • Press or finger press.
  • Sew ¼" - ⅜" from the edge.
The photos shows the wrong side of the bag on a bag with a bottom seam. 

To neaten the edge of the casing...
  • turn under twice - ⅛" + ⅛"
I would have liked to have turned this hem to the inside of the bag, but it just didn't sit correctly. This means the tiny hem shows on the outside of the bag. If you can get it sit nicely on the inside, go for it!

You can see the hem is narrower where it joins the French seam. 

Make the drawstring casing, by turning twice towards the inside of the bag - ¼" + ¾". 

The hem will sit just above the French seam.

And this is what that little hem looks like on the outside of the bag. I'm calling it a design feature.

  • Using a safety pin, thread the cord through the drawstring casing.

  • Knot the ends of the cord.

I used a variety of notions from my stash for the cords. It pays to keep... 
  • ribbon from chocolates
  • ribbon with advertising
  • drawstring cords from the waist of pants - I always take it out.
  • tape from Moda jelly rolls
  • seam offcuts
I also used some piping cord and thin tape.

When I first looked at the calico, I was fascinated by the stamped markings. I'm guessing it's very old. I assume the lettering would have been at the end, or maybe the beginning of each roll. 

It was made in Japan and obviously passed Quality Assurance. I think the lettering adds to the appeal of the two bags that feature it. I'm so glad I didn't cut it off. 

How to make a simple, calico Drawstring Bag, with French seams -no need for lining ~ Threading My Way

We'll be having lunch in Sydney with my friend and her husband in the new future, and I can pass over the bunch of calico bags I have made. I think she'll be pleased.

Do you ever sew for friends?

I'll be adding this calico drawstring bag tutorial to the Drawstring Bags collection here at Threading My Way.

... Pam

Because of the drawstring cord, this bag is not suitable for children under 3 years of age.

If you think others would benefit from reading this post, feel free to share on social media.


  1. I agree- the stamping on the bags really adds something to them! Thanks for the tutorial!
    I don't often sew for friends because they know I am too busy and don't ask. I don't often sew at all anymore. Life is too crazy right now. I am almost done with the canning, so maybe soon...

  2. Oh that stamp is pretty - it really does add something to the fabric :) Pretty drawstring bags too - your friend is going to be very pleased :) I do sew for friends sometimes, when they ask me to make them something :D I've made a few things for my friend's Auntie Rita and I now call her MY Auntie Rita, hehe. When someone needs a zipper bag I get the call ;) I don't mind, because it's something I enjoy, plus it helps even out the playing field when I need something embroidered! My neighbour across the street asks me to do sewing and mending for him sometimes, for items in his workshop garage - I made dust cover curtains to protect some of his (grinding?) equipment, and he recently gave me a cover for a drill press that needs a few stitches - my husband visits him regularly to share a beer with him in the garage, so I don't mind helping him out (and he's very appreciative, or I wouldn't do it!) :D Oh I just remembered - I also made a "quilt" for his oldest son - his dad made him a toy bed from scrap wood and it was just the right size for his teddy, so he asked if I could make his teddy a blanket :D I had him come over to my house to pick out fabric, and whipped it up for him :)

  3. Thanks Pam! I know I will be referring back to your great tutorial.

  4. I appreciate the tutorial and the mention of the "found" drawstrings. I save a lot of those things too.

  5. They look amazing all in a bundle, very smart and classic, and I love the history the writing gives those particular two. I'm sure your friend is going to be thrilled with them. Sometimes, particularly with a fairly natural or rustic style bag, I like to use brown garden twine for the drawstring, very cheap and easy, and often looks really effective I find.

  6. Hi Pam, I used your tutorial and loved it so I linked to you here: Hope you don't mind ;)


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