38. How to Make a Drawstring Bag

How to make a drawstring bag

This episode is subtitled: ‘Are we managing without Kim…?

Kim is still away but things have been ticking over with me popping next door into Teacups a couple of times a day to make sure the girls are okay. I say ‘girls’ but Joan objects to me referring to her as one of the girls. I’m not sure whether it’s because of her age (61) or the fact that she feels superior after her career in the civil service, which culminated in her being the manager of department of three staff.

I’m quite sure she’s competent enough to be ‘second in command’ in the tea room while I spend most of my time in Tulips (next door) or out on deliveries, but the whole managerial thing does go to her head and I feel a slight tension whenever I walk in.

There were two events for her to ‘manage’ on Wednesday – firstly it was one of our ‘Companions’ sessions so a small number of tables needed to be allocated to those people who were normally on their own but were wanting to share a pot of tea with someone else, and secondly, it was Mr Saunders’ 84th birthday so Victoria Sandwich must be on the menu when he turned up to meet the other Companions.

It’s a real gift to know your customers so well that you can provide their favourite cake on their birthday, and taking the trouble to do just that is excellent for business. However, when I popped in, half an hour before the session, I could see that the découpaged letter Cs were ready to be placed on the tables to denote it was reserved for ‘Companions’, but, although there was a big selection of beautiful-looking cake, there was no Victoria Sandwich on display.

‘Hi Joan, have you hidden the Victoria Sandwich to make sure there’s a piece left for Mr Saunders?’ I asked, smiling to myself when I realised I’d actually crossed my fingers in my pocket.

‘No, I thought it made better business sense to make the Bakewell Tart. It usually sells better.’

‘Aaargh! It makes better business sense to do as you’re requested!!’ There was a shop full of customers and plenty of staff milling round so I was very relieved when I realised that I hadn’t actually said that out loud.

I was furious, but didn’t have time to deal with it then. I had to jump in the van and get to Waitrose and back before Mr Saunders arrived because I knew that Kim had promised him it would be one of the cake options on his birthday. As I dashed off I crossed my fingers again, hoping that they’d have what I needed.

Every traffic light was against me and I’ll swear there were twice as many dawdlers in the car park than there normally is – a toddler kicking off at having to hold Mummy’s hand, an elderly lady who was oblivious to the cars, making a bad job of steering her trolley, three youths laughing, joking and meandering (don’t kids go to school any more?). I trundled past them all and eventually parked up in a space that could not have been further from the entrance. When was the last time I ran anywhere? Before last Wednesday in that car park it was probably when I was in the school netball team 35 years ago (Goal Attack, by the way).

I shouted my request at a member of staff over the heads of some more dawdlers who were ahead of me at the entrance and the young gentleman very kindly pointed me in the right direction, without penalising me for my rudeness.

Joy! I scooped up the boxed cake and headed for the tills. I was back at Tulips a whole six minutes before Mr Saunders was due next door so we fished out some candles and Jaz waited outside to divert him into the flower shop before his rendezvous in Teacups.

He was overwhelmed by the candles and the singing and delighted to be given special permission to take his cake next door and share it with the other Companions while they drank their tea. Joan would be livid.

That episode didn’t inspire any particular creative projects for me this week but a bit of sewing the evenings is good for the soul and I decided to show you how to make a drawstring bag. They have lots of uses, including this idea for putting soap in.

Blue's signatureDo people ever buy you lovely soaps? Do you use them? They look so pretty and usually smell very nice but I find they just get left in my bathroom cupboard going to waste.

How to make a drawstring bag

If you make a little bag for them using thin cotton I reckon that opens up three options for you:

  • You could put them in a drawer and benefit from the scent.
  • You could put them out with the towels when guests come to stay.
  • You could give them away as little gifts.

I chose muted shades for my bags because these soaps were muted colours.

How to make a drawstring bag

I found some old Whitestuff price tags in my salvage box, which would be great to reuse as the string for two of the bags. The buttons and ribbon were new.

How to make a drawstring bag

My soap tablets were about 5cm x 7cm so I cut a piece of material for each bag, measuring 12cm x 30cm. I don’t have any set ratios for you but you need to consider having enough material to cater for the thickness of the soap (mine was less than 2cm thick), seam allowances and casing at the top to house the string or ribbon.

First I turned in and ironed the long side seams. I chose to do two small folds so there would be no raw edges on the inside or around the openings of the casing. I managed to keep it neat with about 0.5cm turned over twice. I then sewed these hems.

How to make a drawstring bag

Next I turned both of the short sides in by about 0.5cm then a second fold of about 2cm. This is larger so it can house the ribbon or string. When you stitch this down, make sure you sew near to the edge so you are trapping your small first fold.

How to make a drawstring bag

I embellished each of my bags with a button. These are wooden buttons but I decided the bags probably wouldn’t ever need to be washed so that would be okay.

How to make a drawstring bag

You then fold the strip in half along the long edges, right sides together and pin. You can see, below, how the soap will fit.

How to make a drawstring bag

When you stitch these side seams, make sure you stitch on the inside of the hem stiches that you sewed earlier. Because I’d managed to make these hems very small, I was able to sew the seam just the presser foot’s width from the edge and still avoid the original row of stitches. The side seams should start at the bottom of the casing and finish at the bottom of the bag. If you sew the seams all the way from the top there won’t be a gap to thread your string through.

Once the seams are sewn and you’ve turned your bag right way out, you’re ready to add the drawstring. It takes two pieces of string or ribbon for each bag. Mine were each about 25cm long.

I have a very useful needle that will take a piece of string (as long as it’s not too thick) and it has a blunt end so it travels through the casing quite easily. If you are using ribbon and you don’t have a needle like this then you can attach a safety pin to the end and ease it through.

Feed the string or ribbon through the casing to the other side and continue round, back to where you started by feeding it through the casing on the other half of the bag.

How to make a drawstring bag
How to make a drawstring bag

Then feed the other piece through, starting and finishing at the other side. Tie the two ends together with a knot at each side, add your soap and pull the strings away from each other to close the bag.

How to make a drawstring bag

I did the same thing with the other two pieces of material.

How to make a drawstring bag
How to make a drawstring bag
How to make a drawstring bag


  • Don’t have your casing too small. If it’s a tight fit getting your string or ribbon in then it won’t close so well.
  • If you’re not practiced enough to sew such small hems, make them a bit bigger but don’t forget to make allowances when you cut your material.
  • Don’t forget to start the side seems at the bottom of the casing – don’t stitch those gaps up!
  • If you don’t have a needle like mine (a bodkin) you can thread ribbon through by attaching a safety pin to the end and using it in the same way as the needle.

Salvaged Items:

Were any of you wondering how to make the gingham bag that appeared in episode 21 when I made the memory game from plastic milk tops? Well now you know! These bags have so many uses – what will yours be for?

See you all again next week and in the meantime, don’t forget to share any of your makes on Facebook or Twitter.

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