Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sewing lesson: Drawstring gift bag tutorial

For today's lesson, I thought I'd share one of our latest sewing projects.  The Artist has been trying to earn money to finance her big school trip to France next summer.  She was hired to do some custom sewing for a local shop.  We made drawstring bags to be used as take-home bags for some beautiful beaded purses.  Making the bag part was pretty easy.  But, in my prototype, we hit a brick wall when it came to making the casing for the drawstring.  How to get the cording in and out of the casing?  The solution (I thought) was to leave an opening at the bottom edge of the casing, but this turned the top of the bag inside out to get to the drawstring.
My prototype also utilized French seams to encase all the raw edges since the fabric the shop owner chose frayed very easily.  Yeah, that worked, but was pretty time consuming and made the bag a little too narrow.  So, we settled for simply overlocking the seam and went from there.  That made the casing issue an easy fix by just leaving an opening at the seam to thread the cording through.  But, that left a nice frayed out hole.  I finally came up with a workable solution.  Hopefully I'm not the only dunce out there that couldn't make a simple drawstring bag, so I've created a tutorial.  Hope it helps someone.

Supplies needed:
Desired fabric
Thread to match
Cording to use for drawstring

I started by cutting my fabric.  For these particular bags, I wanted the finished product to be 12" x 12", so I cut with one edge on the fold and cut a 12.5" by 13" piece on my high-tech self-healing mat with my low-tech shears.  (A rotary cutter is next on my sewing wishlist.)  Cut with right sides together.
That fabric looks way wrinkly in the photo.
 The trusty overlock setting on my machine.  (Use a serger if you're lucky enough to own one.)
 I left a 1/2" side seam allowance, so I stitched . . .
. . . then trimmed the seam for a nice clean look.
Overlock the bottom seam with a narrow (1/4") seam.
Finish top edge  by overlocking (ends up about 1/8" wide.
I love the rich fabric choice!
At this point you should probably press all your seams to one side.  Since I skipped this, pretend the seam pictured below lays nice and flat.
Now, to solve the problem of how to get the drawstring in the casing, I basically made a buttonhole about 5/8" from the edge as close to the seam as I could.  I tried the buttonhole foot, but got better results with a freehand straight stitch.  This is about 1/2"-5/8" long.  Use a seam ripper to carefully slit the buttonhole, trimming away any loose threads.
Here you can turn the bag right-side out, making sure to get the corners squared out.  Or, you can wait until after you stitch the casing down.  It would depend on whether you prefer to work from the outer layer or inside layer as you stitch.
Turn about 5/8" to the inside of the bag and stitch following your overlocked stitch line.
Cut cording to desired length.   Push one end through buttonhole opening and thread through casing around to buttonhole opening again.  Tie ends in an overhand knot to secure.  Turn right-side out if you haven't already done so.

And there is your beautiful bag, all ready for packing cute shop goodies for customers or for gift giving or whatever.
We're now pros at making drawstring bags.  Let me know if this tutorial helps you. :)

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