Hand printed drawstring clothes bag – DIY tutorial

With back to school getting closer and closer, I had to put aside my hippy flowery projects because of an emergency. My daughter needed serious crafty attention. You see, a few days a week she attends an after school club where she needs to change into civil clothes so her uniform won’t get all dirty with paint, glue, nail polish or whatever else they eat there. The bag she used last year to carry her changing clothes gave his notice this morning, so I had to make a new one.

So this week we make a cotton clothes bag with a drawstring closure and hand printed customised motive to make it more personal (i.e. so no other kid thinks they can borrow it). The bag is about 40×50 cm (16”x20”) when laid flat. It is a versatile bag that can be used also as laundry bag, and why not swimming bag or library bag.

It is quite easy to make, this is obviously a sewing machine project. As in previous projects (like this or this), we will be using fabric paint and stencils, so you have to factor in the drying time required for the paint. The bag itself can be made and painted in 2 hours.


To make this drawstring clothes bag you will also need:

  • Two pieces of medium weight cotton in natural colour: 82×55 cm (32 1/2”x21 1/2”) and 6×5 cm (2 1/2”x2”).
  • Matching thread.
  • Cord: approx. 180cm (70”).
  • Fabric paint.
  • Brushes: I used a larger one to fill large areas and a smaller one for the edges.
  • Pencil and cardboard (to draw the motive, but you can also print it from your computer).
  • Paper knife.

Make the bag

1 – Fold the 6×5 cm (2 1/2”x2”) cotton piece into two and stitch along the open long side using a 0,5 cm (1/4”) seam allowance. Turn inside out and press.

2 – Fold the larger cotton piece so it is now 41x55cm (16 1/4”x21 1/2”).Pin along one of the small sides as well as the open large side up to the 51 cm mark (see picture 2).  The left over will be used in step 5 to make the cord casing.

Fold the small piece made in step 1 and sandwich between the two layers of the larger side, close to the bottom corner, with rough edges flush.

Picture 2

3 – Make a double stitch along the pined line using a 1 cm seam allowance. Then overcast or zigzag.

4 – Fold in and pin each side of the cord casing part. Make a zigzag stitch as shown on picture 4.

Picture 4

Fold in twice the top part left over for cord casing as shown on picture 5.1.

Picture 5.1

Stitch close to the bottom fold, see picture 5.2 and 5.3.

Picture 5.2
Picture 5.3

6 – Using a safety pin, pass the cord through its casing and the tab at the bottom of the bag. Knot to ends together.

Picture 6

Print the bag

7 – Draw or print desired motive on some light cardboard. Here everything fits in a 20x2cxm (8”x8”) box. To make the cutting step easier, make sure to fill in all the drawing and letter shapes.

8 – Cut out the dark bits of the motive with a paper knife and appropriate cutting mat. Mind letters when they have a loop: make sure to leave a bit to hold on the paper (see for instance my “a”).

Picture 8

9 – Secure the stencil on the bag with some tape. Insert a plastic sheet between the two layers of the bag fabric so paint does not leak onto lower layer.

Fill in the holes of the stencil: using a little bit of paint at a time and always moving the brush from top to bottom.

Picture 9

10 – Leave to dry as per paint manufacturers instructions and press if required.

More tips on stencil painting can be found here.

Any back to school crafty emergency you wan to share with us all?

4 thoughts on “Hand printed drawstring clothes bag – DIY tutorial

  1. Hi there, thanks for the comment on my shawlette (http://dinkidots.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/posing-with-my-shawlette-ta-dah.html). You asked whether it would be suitable for a beginner. I’m not sure really – I think if you can do chains, double crochets (US) and single crochets (US) then it should be alright. The tricky thing might be understanding the Japanese chart. I had never used a chart before, but I managed to figure it out – but I’m not sure I would have done when I first started crocheting. I guess the thing to do is give it a go with some spare yarn and see how you get on with a few rows. The pattern is just repeated every few rows. Good luck if you do choose to try it! :o)
    Maria x

    1. Thanks Maria, I may start with something simple first and then move to your project. I don’t trust my clumsy fingers these days.

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