Today’s post takes you through the steps to make a drawstring gift bag.
In this tutorial, you’ll see two ways to make a drawstring gift bag. One that is unlined and the other lined. Both are easy sewing projects for beginners that make a fantastic personalized statement for any gift.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Let’s get started!
drawstring gift bag making supplies
While you can make a drawstring gift bag out of lots of different materials, essentially you’ll need the following:
- Fabric (one pattern for unlined; two patterns for lined drawstring gift bags)
- Lightweight Two-Sided Fusible Tape
- Scissors or Rotary Cutter
- Marking Pens (color to work with fabric) and/or Mechanical Fabric Pencil
- Sewing Pins
- Safety Pin
- Seam Ripper
You’ll also need a basic sewing machine and the supplies needed to use that as appropriate. While I now use a fancy-pancy Bernina 790 (it’s my baby), I started with a Singer machine, and it workes great for beginner projects like this one!
Regarding the fabric, to get started, I really think basic quilting cotton is the easiest to use. Once you’re comfortable with this project, you can change it up and use home decor fabric, canvas, quilted panels, and really anything that will be sturdy enough to hold a gift!
You also can add trims, embroidery, applique, fabric paint, HTV, and more to your bags very easily. I’ll make a note of when you would do this in the steps to follow.
In the top picture, you can see that the tall bag in the back is made with flannel and has a pom-pom trim! Just a little fun playing with my stash. The other fabrics are a mix of different weights, so it’s really all based on your aesthetic and disposition. Have fun with them!
drawstring gift bag Pattern
Take out a piece of paper and a ruler or tape measurer to get the dimensions of the item you’re bagging up! These measurements are creating your pattern. Don’t worry, it’s definitely NOT tough math.
Measuring your gift
I’ll be honest with you, sometimes I get confused by the different ways measurements are expressed. Is it length or depth or width or breadth?? Just in case you’re like me, I’m going to make it clear how this post is identifying the dimensions.
What if your gift is a wacko shape (that might be why you’re not using a box!)? Simply measure how it will sit in the bag. Hold a ruler next to it and estimate. We aren’t sending a rocket to the moon so estimating is just fine.
Seam allowance is what you like. I tend to use 1/2″ but I know others use 3/8″.
Ribbons are totally subjective. I like satin or grosgrain and I tend to go thick unless it’s a really small gift bag. Either way, you’ll add this to the calculation so you’re good with whatever you choose.
You can add tassels, pom-poms, and other embellishments to the outside surface later once you’ve cut your fabric. Right now, however, you need to decide if you’re going to make the bag with a Ruffle on top.
Ruffle?? This is the extra fabric at the top, which is totally optional. In the image below you’ll see an unlined drawstring bag that I didn’t make a ruffle on the left. On the right, I added a ruffle with some fun fabric.
Note: I’m actually surprised that I like the one on the right. I picked the fabrics from my scrap pile and don’t normally use the zebra as an exterior but I think it’s kind of fun. Who knew!!??
How much ruffle? My tip is to add a minimum of the same width as your ribbon for a medium-size gift bag. You can certainly make it more or less, especially if the ribbon you’re using is thin or if it’s cording and not ribbon at all.
Let’s get calculating … (dum-da-dum-dum) and yes, feel free to use a calculator.
Drawstring Gift BAg – Width Calculation
Step 1: Let’s start with calculating our Horizontal Perimeter. To get this just add the WIDTH + DEPTH times 2.
Step 2: Then decide how much extra room you want. The extra room is so you can scoot the gift in and out of the bag. It’s totally subjective so if you’re not sure then start with 2″ as your extra room. If you want it more or less fitted/slouchy, you can adjust future bags.
This is your WIDTH number for the bag. Here’s a WHAT IF …
What about if you’re using one piece of fabric and just sewing ONE seam, as I do in the LINED gift bag tutorial; or TWO seams as I do in the UNLINED drawstring bag tutorial?
Easy-peasy … for one seam, you’re all set.
For two seams, separate the figures into panels. Each panel will measure is D + W + (1/2 x Extra Room). This will mean you’ll have to cut two pieces, a front and back panel, but that’s all good. Sometimes, you might have a small piece of extra fabric you want to use and it just has to be two pieces. No problem.
Step 3: For EACH PIECE, whether it’s one or two pieces of fabric, add 2 times your seam allowance.
This is your width. Boom!!
drawstring gift bag – height calculation
Step 1: Let’s start by adding the Height + Depth.
Step 2: Add more Extra Space for the wiggle room here too. A rule of thumb is to use half of what you used for the width. Thus, instead of 2″ (for example) that was used in the width, we’ll add 1″.
Keep the addition going for Step 3: Add your Ribbon Width to your Step 3 number.
Optional, Step 4: Add the amount of Ruffle you want to Step 4.
One last bit … Step 5: Add 2 times your Seam Allowance to your Step 4 number.
This is what it looks like as a layer cake:
There! You now have both your width and height for either one panel of fabric, or two!
Some slight revisions if your bag isn’t lined
If you’re making an unlined drawstring bag then we need to add a little more to the height to make the channel for the drawstring (ribbon). Your width figures are the same as above.
To calculate the HEIGHT using the instructions from above, you’ll start revising the calculation at Step 3. Instead of adding the ribbon width once, you’ll need to add 2 times the width.
For Step 4, you also need to double the Ruffle measurement. Again, the Ruffle is optional.
Step 5: Take your seam allowance PLUS 1/2″. This isn’t seam allowance. It a fold that will be edge-stitched to make the ribbon channel. Having 1/2″ is just a little easier to press into the fold.
Not so much into math?
You can also simply wrap your fabric around the item
to get a feel for how fitted or slouchy you want it to be!
This is riskier but I’d be lying if I said I’d never done it this way (our secret)!
LINED DRAWSTRING GIFT BAG – THE TUTORIAL
It’s time to get down to business. I’m using a lot of photos so definitely contact me if you need more written instruction!
Now is the time to choose the look of your bag
For the lined drawstring gift bag, you need two coordinating fabrics. The dimensions are based upon your gift, as explained in the last section.
If you want to embellish the outside of the bag, now is the time.
Also, if needed, you can add a patch pocket to the interior or exterior if there’s a small gift that goes in with a larger gift. Wouldn’t that be a fun surprise!
First steps of the assembly
Stitch the top edges together with right-sides together. Press the seams over to one side.
Fold the sides together, right-sides facing and stitch.
Make sure to pin one edge’s top seam right inline with the other edge’s top seam. Little details like this aren’t hard and they do matter to the finished project.
Press seams open after finished here.
Optional step – but I really think you should do it, lol
Measure down from the top seam by the amount of Ruffle and Ribbon Width you decided on as you were calculating your measurements (you wrote this down, right??).
This is where you’re going to use the fusible tape to secure your seam allowance down.
Let me explain why! Your ribbon will be pulled in and out along the seam allowance. If it isn’t secured then it will pucker up and wear out (if this will be a reusable bag, which I hope it is!).
Just follow the instructions on the fusible tape. Your iron does all the hard work!
Creating the gusset bottom
You can decide if you want the bow to be on the side or center. For the side, then keep the seam on the side. I wanted mine center for the example bag, so I lined up my seam right in the middle.
To easily gusset the bottom of the bag, first mark out your seam allowance on the bottom.
Then, using a ruler, mark out corners from the seam allowances and edge of the bag. Here, I want a 3″ gusset, so I marked a 1 1/2″ square. YES, you need to cut your depth in HALF to find the dimensions of the square you’re cutting!
It’s your choice whether you cut your squares out first or stitch the bottom first. I like to stitch the bottom first, reinforcing the seam in line with where the corner will be.
For the exterior fabric, stitch straight across the panel.
For the INTERIOR PANEL, leave a hole to turn the bag right side out!!
To sew the gusset, pull apart the squared so the bottom seam is in the middle. Pin in place and stitch closed. You’ll have to do this for all 4 corners.
Then press the bottom seams flat so it sits nice! A+ for extra attention to details!
Turning the gift bag … it looks so pretty!
It’s time to turn your bag right-side out! Yay!! Great job! Hang with me though as there are a few key details yet to cover.
You need to pull the interior out and line up the bottom seam.
Remember, this isn’t stitched yet. You need to pin it and then edge stitch to close the hole you used to pull the fabric right-side out.
After that, push it into place and press the top fold flat.
Finishing the drawstring gift bag
Refer to your measurements. You need to mark a line all the way around the top of your bag to show how far down from the top you stitch to make the ribbon channel.
If you’re not going to have a Ruffle on top, then you only technically have to do one stitch for the bottom of the ribbon. I suggest, however, that you still edge stitch the top of the bag. It’s a little detail that looks nice.
You can make your stitches bigger here and use contrasting or coordinating thread. This can be a nice little detail depending on your fabric.
Notice the two black arrows on the picture to the left.
This shows where your horizontal seam(s) cross over the vertical seam(s).
You need to reinforce this spot. Just stitch back and forth a bit as you come to this point around the bag.
Now VERY carefully, you use your seam ripper to open up the seam for the ribbon channel. Look at the picture below.
It doesn’t take too much to actually rip the fabric instead of the seam, so just be patient. Only rip the vertical seam, not either of the two horizontal seams!!
This is a good time to pour a glass of wine! I wholeheartedly give you permission!
Once you have opened up the seam, stick the end of the ribbon with the safety pin and push through the channel. Aw, look how pretty she looks! (Yes, my bags are pretty girls. Don’t judge!)
Now is a great time to mention the post I wrote on tying a perfect bow. Click HERE to get these tips (more wine, please!).
Altering pattern for unlined bag
If you decide you don’t want to line your bag, there are a few extra steps to take. From my perspective, making the lined bag is actually easier yet I can see why certain uses make more sense with an unlined bag.
Here are the alterations to the instructions above that you need to make for an unlined bag. Note that I’m also showing a two-panel process so you can see what to do if you’re using two pieces of fabric, a front panel and a back panel.
Protecting the raw edges
Step 1: You’ll need to protect the raw edges. If you have a serger, an overlock stitch or rolled hem are perfect choices. If you don’t have a serger, you can do a zig-zag or even a straight stitch although there will be some fraying with a straight stitch.
Here are two panels of fabric. (I’m using white thread so you can see it but if this wasn’t a sample, I’d probably use a navy thread so the stitching would disappear.)
assembling the panels
Step 2: You’ll next stitch one side together, essentially making one piece of fabric.
Creating a channel for the drawstring (aka, ribbon)
Step 3: After pressing open the seam, mark your 1/2″ fold allowance, ruffle (if using, in this example we’re not using a ruffle), and ribbon channel.
You’re marking the line to fold the fabric down to press. So if you have a 1/2″ fold to create then you want to mark a line at the 1″ mark. As you iron, you’ll bring the raw edge to this 1″ line to create the 1/2″ needed.
Step 4: Take this to the iron and press the folds to the wrong side of the fabric.
Step 5: Head to the sewing machine and stitch the other SIDE SEAM. Don’t stitch down the folds yet. After stitching the side seam closed you will press open the seam and then fold the top edge down using the creases you created in Step 4.
Step 6: Now you can stitch across the top. First stitch the 1/2″ fold down, as shown below. Then either stitch the ruffle line or edge stitch the top fold.
Make sure, as with the lined gift bag, you reinforce the top seams as they cross over the side seams. It’s important since you’ll be using the seam ripper to open up the side seam.
Step 7: You’ll mark the stitch line and corners in the same way you did for the lined drawstring gift bag. Stitch the entire bottom closed as there’s no need to leave an opening for turning the bag right-side out.
Protecting the raw edges of the gusset corners
Step 8: There are raw edges from where you clipped the corners. These need to be finished. You can either finish them as you did the side edges, in the pic left, the raw corners are serged. Or you can use bias or binding tape to seal them in.
If you want to finish with bias tape, follow Step 9. If not, you can finish the bag using the remaining techniques needed for the lined bag. Click HERE to go back up to this point.
Step 9: Referencing the numbers below, follow these instructions to enclose the raw corner edge in bias or binding tape.
- Line up the fold just under the corner stitch line.
- Open the fold and stitch into place.
- Fold in the edges.
- Fold the tape over the raw edge and clip or pin it into place.
- Stitch across to hold in place. Voila! No more raw edge. It would look a lot better if the thread was navy blue, but you get the idea. 😉
All finished … one bow or two??
One thing that’s nice about using two panels of fabric, is that you have bow options. You can have just one bow as shown below on the left. Or, you can open up both side seams and have two bows, one on each side.
That’s it! What a fantastic EXTRA TOUCH you’re adding to the gift’s recipient.
other uses for the drawstring bags
While these bags are being touted as GIFT BAGS, they can be used in tons of other ways.
For example, these are great packing cubes. You can first use it for a gift, and then let them know that they can repurpose the gift bag as a packing cube.
Here are some other uses:
- Dust covers for bags and purses.
- Dust covers for shoes.
- Dirty laundry bag for travel.
- Bag for toiletries and hair tools such as a blow dryer and round brush.
- Pencil bag.
- Hobby bag.
- Linings for craft projects.
- Covers for pillow inserts.
- Towel bag for guest rooms.
THAT’S IT FOR TODAY …
I hope this tutorial gives you a great understanding of how to create both lined and unlined drawstring fabric gift bags.
Oh, wait! I’ve convinced you that using fabric gift bags is a fun and eco-friendly idea for a way to make Christmas a little more personal and festive BUT … BUT you don’t have time to make them yourself. Here are a few options I found online for you to buy instead of make.
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Have a fantastic week! Namaste,