Category Archives: projects

Sewing lesson: Drawstring gift bag tutorial

For today’s lesson, I thought I’d share one of our latest sewing projects.  The Artist has been trying to earn money to finance her big school trip to France next summer.  She was hired to do some custom sewing for a local shop.  We made drawstring bags to be used as take-home bags for some beautiful beaded purses.  Making the bag part was pretty easy.  But, in my prototype, we hit a brick wall when it came to making the casing for the drawstring.  How to get the cording in and out of the casing?  The solution (I thought) was to leave an opening at the bottom edge of the casing, but this turned the top of the bag inside out to get to the drawstring.
My prototype also utilized French seams to encase all the raw edges since the fabric the shop owner chose frayed very easily.  Yeah, that worked, but was pretty time consuming and made the bag a little too narrow.  So, we settled for simply overlocking the seam and went from there.  That made the casing issue an easy fix by just leaving an opening at the seam to thread the cording through.  But, that left a nice frayed out hole.  I finally came up with a workable solution.  Hopefully I’m not the only dunce out there that couldn’t make a simple drawstring bag, so I’ve created a tutorial.  Hope it helps someone.

Supplies needed:
Desired fabric
Thread to match
Cording to use for drawstring

I started by cutting my fabric.  For these particular bags, I wanted the finished product to be 12″ x 12″, so I cut with one edge on the fold and cut a 12.5″ by 13″ piece on my high-tech self-healing mat with my low-tech shears.  (A rotary cutter is next on my sewing wishlist.)  Cut with right sides together.

That fabric looks way wrinkly in the photo.

 The trusty overlock setting on my machine.  (Use a serger if you’re lucky enough to own one.)

 I left a 1/2″ side seam allowance, so I stitched . . .

. . . then trimmed the seam for a nice clean look.

Overlock the bottom seam with a narrow (1/4″) seam.
Finish top edge  by overlocking (ends up about 1/8″ wide.

I love the rich fabric choice!

At this point you should probably press all your seams to one side.  Since I skipped this, pretend the seam pictured below lays nice and flat.
Now, to solve the problem of how to get the drawstring in the casing, I basically made a buttonhole about 5/8″ from the edge as close to the seam as I could.  I tried the buttonhole foot, but got better results with a freehand straight stitch.  This is about 1/2″-5/8″ long.  Use a seam ripper to carefully slit the buttonhole, trimming away any loose threads.

Here you can turn the bag right-side out, making sure to get the corners squared out.  Or, you can wait until after you stitch the casing down.  It would depend on whether you prefer to work from the outer layer or inside layer as you stitch.
Turn about 5/8″ to the inside of the bag and stitch following your overlocked stitch line.

Cut cording to desired length.   Push one end through buttonhole opening and thread through casing around to buttonhole opening again.  Tie ends in an overhand knot to secure.  Turn right-side out if you haven’t already done so.

And there is your beautiful bag, all ready for packing cute shop goodies for customers or for gift giving or whatever.

We’re now pros at making drawstring bags.  Let me know if this tutorial helps you. 🙂

Bird nest necklaces

Have you seen the amazing bird nest jewelry out there?  I saw a fabulous tutorial for a necklace from Maria over at Agape Love Designs and immediately knew I wanted one.  At first I thought I would just buy one from her shop, but then as I looked at the tutorial, I thought, “Hey, I can probably do a decent job making that!”  I thought it would make a great Christmas gift, so Mom, if you’re reading this, stop right now if you don’t want to spoil the surprise!  You’ve been warned.
It’s taken me some time to round up everything.  I’ve never made jewelry before, so this was a bit daunting.  I looked high and low for glass pearls but either didn’t find any that I liked or didn’t want to buy several strands to get the colors I wanted.  I asked Maria where she get hers and she steered me to Etsy.  (What did I ever do before I started browsing there?)  A quick search still wasn’t finding what I wanted, but then I happened across a shop that offered strings of multi-colored potato pearls that seemed really reasonable.  I thought, “Hey, this will be great, I just cut the string apart and I have plenty of pearls.  They’re even kind of egg shaped.  Perfect!”
I got my pearl string in the mail and loved the great jewel tones.  Hubby and I both decided it was just too pretty to cut apart and should be made into a necklace, so I went to order another string.  What’s this, a listing for five strings?  I’ll take it!  I’m so happy I did, my second order has some great egg-shaped pearls.  I think they look amazing in the nests.

I sat down with all my supplies and was surprised at how quickly my first nest came together.  
This one is for me.  I tried a different color to represent each of my six kids.  They like to argue over who claims what favorite color, so I know who I represent with each one, but I figure I’ll let them decide which one belongs to each child. Overall, not bad for my first attempt.

I put it on a chain and I love it.  I can’t wait to wear it in public and see what kind of comments I get.

I tried something a little different on the one for my mom, I noticed as I was sorting through pearls that I had ones that corresponded well to the birthstones for all of my siblings.  So, starting at the top there is the dark green for me (May) then August, March, May, November, May, April and February in the middle.

What do you think?