How to: Sew a Drawstring Bag


Transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle inevitably means you will need to acquire some reusable bags to replace the plastic ones that are so commonly used in today’s society. Of course you could easily go and buy some bags, in fact if you are in the market for some large tote bags you can check out these that are made using 100% secondhand materials.

**Shameless plug for my mom’s Etsy store**
Use the coupon code: LIVINGWASTEFREE to receive 30% off of your purchase.

Or, if you’re like me you can learn to sew your own bags.


Originally, I decided to make my own bags because I couldn’t find any where I was living at the time. I now live in an area full of local businesses and I could easily buy new, locally made cloth bags, but I still often opt to make my own for several reasons:

1.) It’s easy: Honestly, it is!

2.) I get to choose the fabric: I love having creative control over what the finished product will look like.

3.) It’s inexpensive: It usually costs me less than $3 to make a bag.

What you will need:


  • Fabric: I buy all my fabric secondhand, and I try to get 100% natural fibers whenever possible.
  • A drawstring: This can be as simple as a shoe lace or a piece of yarn.
  • Thread: Again, I try to buy all my thread secondhand.
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • A sewing machine
  • A safety pin
  • A ruler
  • A pencil

Step 1: Mark Fabric

To begin I iron the fabric so that it is easier to work with. This is an optional step that I only do when my fabric is really creased and wrinkled like it is in the photo below.


To make a bag you’ll need to cut 2 pieces of fabric that are the same size and shape. Before I make a single cut, I draw light lines where I plan to cut my fabric.


You’ll need to cut each piece of fabric an inch wider and 2 inches taller than the size of the finished bag you want. For the bag I am making here, I marked out a 12 inch (30.5 cm)  by 12 inch (30.5 cm) square, which will create an approximately 11 inch (28 cm) by 10 inch (25.5 cm) bag.


Step 2: Cut Fabric

Once you have your fabric marked, take your scissors and cut out your pieces of fabric.


To make things easier, I usually fold my fabric in half before cutting so that I can cut out both pieces at one time.

Step 3: Pin Fabric

Lay both pieces on top of each other with the tops together. This means that you will lay the sides of the fabric that you want to see on the outside of your bag together.


Some fabric doesn’t have a front and a back so you won’t need to worry, but other fabric only has a pattern on one side so you would want to make sure the patterned sides are facing each other.


Pin three of the four edges down.


Step 4: Sew Fabric

To sew the edges I would normally choose thread that matches the color of my fabric, but for the sake of this tutorial I am using black with white fabric so the seams show up.

Once you have your edges pinned, it’s time to take it to the sewing machine and sew the edges down, taking the pins out as you go.


I use the most basic, straight stitch on my sewing machine for this and I leave a half inch edge.


Don’t worry if your stitches aren’t perfect (mine obviously aren’t), this will become the inside of your bag so no one will see them.

Step 5: Roll Edge


Now that three of the sides are sewn together, roll down the top two edges of your bag (the fourth edge that you didn’t sew together).


Pin the rolled edges down on the inside of your bag (which will become the outside when you are all done).


Step 6: Sew Edge

Sew the rolled edge down using your pins as a guide. The seam you are sewing now will be the only visible seam when you are done.


I start sewing near one of the seams so that the beginning isn’t as noticeable.


Sew all the way around the bag until you reach were you started.  Make sure to leave a small gap in between where you started sewing and where you finished so that you can insert your drawstring.


Step 7: Turn Inside Out

Once the bag is sewn up, it’s time to turn it inside out and see how good it looks!


Step 8: Insert Drawstring

This is where your safety pin comes in handy. Take the safety pin and pin it to one end of your drawstring. In this case I am using half of a shoestring. Insert the pin into the gap you left when sewing the top edge of your bag.


Pull the pin around the edge by scrunching up the fabric in front of the pin and then pulling it through that scrunched fabric.

Once you’ve taken the pin all the way around the rolled edge, exit through the same gap you entered.

Step 9: Use


You have successfully made your own awesome drawstring bag!


You can now take it to the store and fill it up with bulk goodies, or use it to store stuff around your house.


2 thoughts on “How to: Sew a Drawstring Bag

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