So, I mentioned in my last post about the toy chest that I turned into a LEGO table that I used a drawstring bag inside the chest to keep the LEGOs from falling out, and I told you that I’d tell you all about it another time.
Well, here we are!
The process for sewing a heavy-duty, large format drawstring bag is almost the same as it is for sewing the small ones that I often make. The only real difference is that you need to pay more attention to the seams. These large drawstring bags can hold a LOT of stuff, which means that they need to support that stuff, and to support that stuff they can’t have those janky little quick and easy seams that I like to sew on my small bags.
But the bonus to making these large bags is that you’ve got so much more surface to play with! I freezer paper stenciled the kids’ names onto these bags, and had plenty of room left over. I should have added a couple of dinosaurs, frankly.
To make your own large drawstring bags, you will need:
sturdy fabric. I’d choose something heavier than quilting cotton for a bag like this. Denim would be a good choice, but for these particular bags I used a heavyweight canvas.
measuring, cutting, and sewing supplies. You know what you need!
freezer paper. This material is absolutely essential for the type of stenciling that you’ll be doing. It can be a little hard to find, but it does last for a long time.
fabric paint. Look for something that is the consistency of acrylic paint; Jacquard Neopaque and Lumiereare my favorite brands.
webbing or twill tape or paracord. Along with the bag itself, you also need an equally strong drawstring. Twill tape is the most eco-friendly of these options, but paracord is what I happened to have in my stash, so that’s what I used.
And here’s what you do!
1. Measure your fabric. Iron your fabric, and then measure it to the following dimensions:
the desired width of bag + 2 seam allowances by the desired height of bag x 2 plus 2 casing allowances
For instance, I wanted my bags to be 16″ wide, and I wanted to use French seams on each side, so I added an extra inch on each side for that, giving me a total width of 18″.
I wanted the drawstring bags to be 17″ tall, so I doubled that to 34″, and added an inch to each for a casing, giving me a total length of of 36″.
Cut the fabric to those dimensions. You’re on your way to a drawstring bag!
2. Freezer paper stencil the fabric (optional). If you want to add freezer paper stenciling, the time to do it is now, when you don’t have to worry about the paint bleeding through to another layer of fabric.
Cut out your stencil from the freezer paper, remembering that the non-waxed side will face up. You can print on freezer paper, put it through a Cricut, or draw on it and cut it with scissors or an x-acto knife. My favorite aspect of freezer paper, though, is that you don’t have to worry about your stencil having islands–you can simply iron them onto the fabric along with the rest of your stencil!
Iron the freezer paper, waxed side down, to the fabric, using a light hand. You want the waxed side melty so that it sticks, but if it gets too hot the wax will melt away. Fortunately, there’s a lot of room for error here, so don’t get too fussed about it.
Paint your stencil, remembering to brush away from the edge of the stencil so that you don’t force paint under it. The stenciling for this particular project looks messy because the kids did it, while I gritted my teeth in another room so that I wouldn’t keep looking over their shoulders and saying “Careful!” over and over. Sigh…
Give the paint a few minutes to set, then peel the stencil off. I like to do this while the paint is still tacky, but you can smudge it if you’re not careful, so it’s also fine to wait until the paint has dried.
Follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions for curing and heat-setting times.
3. Sew up the side seams. I used French seams at the sides of these drawstring bags, because they look tidy and finished and they’re sturdy. To make a quick-and-easy French seam, start by putting the fabric WRONG SIDES TOGETHER. Yes, you heard me correctly–wrong sides together! I assure you that the universe will not implode… this time.
Sew a straight 3/8″ stitch along the entire seam, then trim it to about half that width–1/4″, say. Repeat for the other side.
Now, turn the bag inside out–the right sides are now together, yay!–and iron the seams. Sew them again, again with a straight 3/8″ stitch. Do you see what you just did? You encased the raw edge of the original seam! The outside of the bag looks tidy! The INSIDE of the bag looks tidy! And it’s very unlikely that the seam can ever possibly rip.
4. Sew the casing. Keep the bag inside out, and turn the top edge down by 1/4″. Press it flat, all the way around. Turn it down again by another 3/4″, then edge stitch it almost all the way around, leaving an opening at one side for the drawstring.
5. Thread the drawstring. Cut a drawstring to 3-4 times the width of the bag, then attach a safety pin to one end and use that to thread the drawstring through the casing. Tie the ends of the drawstring into a sturdy knot.
These large drawstring bags make awesome carry-alls for everything from swimsuits to the LEGOs that these particular ones were sewn to hold. They take up next to no room in storage, but they hold a serious ton of kid crap.
I already need to make some more!