A drawstring bag is a terrific go-to when you’re thinking about sustainable gift packaging. It’s customizable, can be made from quality fabric, and re-usable. It’s a gift that packages another gift!
If you sew, you can quickly make loads of drawstring gift bags with little effort. If you like putting in some effort, though, you can choose fabric prints that you know will appeal to your recipients, and personalize them with a name or monogram, or embellish them with holiday theming.
You can also choose, as I’m doing with this particular set of drawstring gift bags, to use all stash fabrics, remnants, and upcycled materials. I love diverting stuff from the waste stream! These bags will have long, useful lives before they need to be finally disposed of.
A drawstring gift bag is a perfect beginner project, and to make it even easier for those of you who are brand-new to sewing (Welcome to you!), I’ve created a very simple pattern that you can follow. The pattern creates a drawstring bag that’s 4″x4.75″, and is perfect for party favors and small gifts.
In addition to the pattern, you’ll need the following supplies:
- fabric. Any fabric with a similar weight to quilting cotton works well. I also like to use canvas, burlap, and especially upcycled dress shirts and pants.
- drawstring and safety pin. Grosgrain ribbon is the nicest option, but again, feel free to substitute anything similar that you have on hand. This is a great way to use up the last half-yard of ribbon on the spool!
- sewing supplies. Use a universal needle and cotton or poly thread. Cotton thread is weaker than poly thread, which is why it’s not always used even though it’s more sustainable. These little gift bags are so small, however, that cotton thread is fine for them.
- materials for embellishment (optional). You can paint, stencil, or screen print easily on these bags. Do this embellishment after you’ve cut out the fabric and pressed down the drawstring channels, but before you do any sewing.
Step 1: Cut out the drawstring bag fabric using the pattern.
Iron the fabric, then trace around the drawstring bag pattern using chalk or a Frixion pen. The pattern dimensions are just a suggestion, so if you’ve got a little extra fabric on hand, just enlarge the size of your drawstring bag. And if you don’t have quite enough fabric on hand, a smaller drawstring bag is also okay!
I like to make drawstring bags in batches whenever I’ve built up an embarrassing surplus of fabric remnants. When I finally get around to sewing, I’ve got a pleasingly large stack of bags all cut out and ready to go!
Fun fact: I’m low-key obsessed with my Frixion pens. They draw so cleanly on my fabric–and erase so cleanly with my iron! I actually drew the fold lines in the photo below on the RIGHT SIDE of my fabric–gasp! It made it super easy to see where to fold the fabric to the wrong side, and one quick pass with my iron erased the ink completely.
Fold the fabric towards the wrong side at those fold lines, then iron to crease.
Optional: Embellish your drawstring gift bag.
Some of these drawstring bags are destined for my etsy shop. I’m embellishing those with hand-carved stamps and fabric paint. You could also hand paint these bags, embroider on them, stencil or screen print them, on applique on them.
Whatever method of embellishment you choose, do it before you’ve sewn the bag together!
Step 2: Sew the drawstring channels.
Cut the drawstring to be approximately three times the width of the bag. Set that drawstring aside for later.
Sew down the two folds that you made in Step 1. Adjust your needle placement so that you’re catching the fabric near the raw edge. This will become the channel that you’ll feed the bag’s drawstring through.
Step 3: Sew the sides of the bag.
Fold the bag right sides together. Sew down the two long sides of the bag, starting your stitching at the stitch line that you made for the drawstring channel. Don’t sew that channel shut!
Turn the bag right side out, and use a chopstick or a dull pencil to push the bottom corners out.
Step 4: Insert the drawstring.
Pin a safety pin through one end of the drawstring, then work it through both channels until it comes back out the same side you started with. Tie a square knot.
These bags are easy to make at any size, and they’re super useful at any size! A slightly larger drawstring bag holds spare masks, and an even larger drawstring bag keeps your extra shoes tidy in your luggage. Change up the fabric type, and you can make wet bags to hold cloth diapers or swimsuits.