Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Make A Bag Chapter 3D: Drawstrings

Fourth and final installment of strap posts!

Today's is all about drawstrings and drawcords.

My oddly compartmentalized brain has always categorized drawstring bags as more casual than other bags with "proper" straps and "proper" closures. I feel bad for having forever held on to this impression because drawstrings offer one of the easiest and most versatile means of strapping and closing a bag. If you've been following this blog for a while, you might have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of drawstring-style gathered-opening bags and pouches I've turned out. For good reason: they're fun and crafty-looking and simple to make. Whenever I have to mass-produce any kind of bag, these are almost always my go-to pick.

Because they are such a prominent feature, any bag with a drawstring opening is usually automatically called a drawstring bag, regardless of its shape, function or structural category. Do not be distracted by its obviousness, though - remember that it isn't a type of bag on its own. Rather, any bag can have drawstring straps, or a drawstring closure. See:

This bucket-tote style pouch has drawstrings.

So does this darted tote-style pouch:

And this flat tote:

and this other flat tote (whose drawstrings also double as shoulder straps,

meaning this bag also moonlights as a backpack/knapsack):

Repeat after me: "A drawstring bag is just a (pick one) flat tote/darted tote/gusseted tote/wrapped tote/bucket tote/blocked tote with drawstrings that close the bag. If these drawstrings make short loops, they are handles. If they make long enough loops, especially if they are anchored elsewhere onto the bag, they are straps"


Now let's look at some different ways of attaching those drawstrings.

1 External channel
A strip of fabric is sewn onto the RS of the bag body

and the drawstring, when threaded through the channel, stays on the outside of the bag.

The channel has the added function of being decorative.

2 Internal channel (fold-over hem)

The bag above has a drawstring channel made by folding the top edge over to the WS/inside of the bag to make a hollow hem. The drawstring, when threaded through the channel, lays on the inside of the bag.

3 Channel Between Layers
Lined bags have the drawstring channel between the bag layers. Holes left in the side seams allow the drawstring to emerge. The channel itself is made by sewing two parallel lines of stitching around the circumference of the bag to contain the drawstring. This channel can be situated as high or low as you prefer. The channel of this bag is about 1.5" from the top edge, 

producing a ruffle effect when the bag is closed.

The channel of this bag is at the very top,

producing a more ah... sphincter-esque look.

Here is another drawstring channel at the top of the bag, with a single drawstring cord and cordstop

and an opening on both the outer and lining sides of the bag, to allow it to be reversible.

Note that you can also use grommets to make a pathway for a drawcord. Very popular in beach bag and swimming bag designs. But that's wandering into hardware territory and I want to avoid that in this series.

With that, the section on straps is complete - four entire chapters devoted to my favorite part of a bag.  Find the other straps here:

Chapter 3A: Open-ended straps
Chapter 3B: Closed-ended straps
Chapter 3C: Integrated straps

In the next post, we will be dissecting layers and discussing how to design reversibility into a bag. See ya soon!


  1. I little drawstring darted bag was the first thing I ever made. It was hot pink rip stop nylon, as provided by the "textiles technology" teacher at school!

    Very much enjoying the series! Thanks for all your efforts!

  2. Love your series'---you have such great info. Love all the bags you made's kind of a mini-round-up! Awesome.

  3. Thank you for this series ! I've been trying to post a comment for days, I hope this one works. You made me laugh aloud with your "spincter-esque" look. That is really funny, and so true ! I will never look at my lunch bag the same way again...

  4. I love the ruffles you talked about! When making drawstrings from fabric, do you use interfacing or not?
    Hope your child is feeling better. Have a great day, LiEr!

  5. Another fine installment!

    Have you ever found this site:
    He gives very nice instructions for serious bags!

  6. Hi LiEr ! I have to step up here and say that I deeply appreciate your blog and especially this serie...It's so well explained and clear, thank you for the work you've done to make this serie happen...
    I already mentionned you great pocket serie several times on my blog and I think in the coming year I'll be able to mention this "make a bag" serie...
    Have a great day,
    Marie, a reader from France

  7. Lier - you rock! this whole "course" is great! :) loving it!

  8. Thank you for your effort to post the lovely photos of your work. I feel a little inspired now. I have some young women in mind who are beach lovers here in Australia that could use a bag each for towels etc. I love your stand up one for that.
    Thanks again.

  9. Muchas gracias, muy bien analizado y una gran idea el protector de colchón, no lo había pensado y me gusta mucho!

  10. Hi, Lier! I love your creations! Specially THIS. I love music note designs. If I could only beg to have it, I really would! Haha! Thank you so much for posting this, I'm totally inspired now!

  11. Do you have instructions on how to make the bags with the channel on the top (photo has about 10 bags in it). I love how the bag stands up. I'm trying to make a Nerf dart bag for my son to hook on his belt. Is it the fabric choice. I'm a beginner, so I'm not sure what that is.

  12. Thank you so much for this comprehensive series on straps. It is going to be a huge help to me.

  13. Awesome, absolutely awesome tutorials! Thanks so much for your share of your quality work. Can't wait to begin an entire wardrobe of different bags. Bless you!


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