Three cute bags in three handy sizes. So easy, and so useful as gift bags or for any small storage task. Make a coordinated set with matching accent borders as we did or choose just one size now, saving the other options for later. 

We used a solid white cotton twill as our main panel fabric. This type of slightly heavier yet still pliable substrate is our recommendation because the bags are not lined. Instead, you’ll Finish the interior with a classic French Seam Finish. It’s a technique you can use again and again. The main challenge is getting over the fact you start by sewing your panels wrong sides together! But, it all works out beautifully in the end.

The front and back of each bag has a fun accent border made up of a fussy-cut quilting cotton and a length of rick rack Trim. The personality-packed kitty cats we selected are from the Here Kitty Kitty collection by Cori Dantini for FreeSpirit Fabrics. We show you how to best center your favorite fabric to account for the upper Trim line as well as the wider French seams along the sides and bottom. 

Each of our sample bags features slightly different kitty faces, but they all blend together as a set thanks to the matching main panels, rick rack, and cotton twill drawcords.You need just small cuts for any/all of the bags, so this would also be an excellent ScrapBusters project. Each cut is detailed for the Small, Medium, and Large version within the Getting Started section below. 

This is a true beginner-friendly project, but with some great techniques to learn and/or practice, like the French Seam finishing, as well as creating a drawcord channel and threading through the double drawcords. 

One of our favorite things here at S4H is coming up with simple projects that are also interesting and inspiring to a newcomer. If you’re a sewing pro, it’s a fast and fun project to make as a break between your more complicated WIPs. 

Or… teach someone to sew – maybe someone who has been trying to come up with a unique gift idea. Putting even the simplest item into a handmade fabric bag elevates your gift to a new level. 

The Large Bag finishes at approximately 10” wide x 12” high, the Medium Bag at 8” x 10”, and the Small Bag at 6” x 8”. 

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

NOTE: Cuts and supplies are shown for the complete THREE BAG TRIO bag. Should you wish to make a single bag only, check the Getting Started section below to confirm the actual sizes needed for individual bag cuts.

  • yard of 44”+ wide lightweight canvas, denim, twill or similar in a solid color; we used a soft cotton twill in white – many of these substrates come in wide widths; our twill was 54” wide; as mentioned above, check the Getting Started section for exact cuts required.
    NOTE: If you use a canvas, consider pre-washing it with fabric softener, then drying and ironing prior to cutting out your panels. This will help soften the canvas, allowing it to more easily Gather with the drawcord.
  • ½ yard of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton in a coordinating print for the border accents; we used Here Kitty Kitty by Cori Dantini for FreeSpirt Fabrics – ½ yard was enough to allow for the precise fussy cutting of the front and back borders
  • 1¾ yards of medium rick rack for the border accents; we used Wrights Medium Rick Rack in black
  • 5¼ yards of ½” cotton twill tape or similar for the drawcord; we used black twill tape – the drawcord channel finishes at approximately ¾” wide, so your drawcord must fit within this width 
  • All purpose thread to match fabric and rick rack
  • See-through ruler
  • Measuring tape
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins and/or clips
  • Large safety pin for threading the drawcord
  • Seam sealant; optional for the ends of the drawcord

Getting Started

  1. From the main panel fabric, cut following:
    Large Bag: TWO 11½” wide x 15¼” high rectangles
    Medium Bag: TWO 9½” wide x 13¼” high rectangles
    Small Bag: TWO 7½” wide x 11¼” high rectangles
  2. From the accent border fabric, Fussy cut the following:
    NOTE: Refer to the diagrams above to see how we positioned our Here Kitty Kitty fabric to best center our kitty squares, accounting for ½” above each cut and ¾” along each side and across the bottom.

    Large Bag: TWO 11½” wide x 5¼” high rectangles
    Medium Bag: TWO 9½” wide x 5¼” high rectangles
    Small Bag: TWO 7½” wide x 5¼” high rectangles
  3. From the twill tape (or similar for the drawcord), cut the following:
    NOTE: These are the lengths we worked with; all are longer than necessary… always the best place to start. We show you how to insert the drawcords and shorten to your best length at the end of the instructions below.
    Large Bag: TWO 36” lengths
    Medium Bag: TWO 30” lengths
    Small Bag: TWO 26” lengths
  4. From the rick rack, cut the following:
    Large Bag: TWO 11½” lengths
    Medium Bag: TWO 9½” lengths
    Small Bag: TWO 7½” lengths

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

NOTE: Our construction photos are of the smallest bag in order to best capture steps within the frame of the camera. The process is the same for any of the sizes.

Prepare the borders

  1. Find the two 5¼” Fussy cut accent borders. On each border, fold back the top edge ½” and Press well.
  2. Check from the front to confirm your crease line is straight all the way across your pretty Fussy cut border.
  3. Find the two lengths of rick rack to match the border. The rick rack is designed to have a “half wave” reveal along the top folded edge. To insure this reveal is nice and straight, place the border Right side down on your work surface, with the fold at the top. Place the rick rack across the folded edge so the center of the rick rick is right along the fold. Clip or pin in place. You are only pinning the rick rack to the fold itself; do not pin all the way through to the front of the accent panel.
  4. Thread the machine with Thread to best match the rick rack in the top and Bobbin.
  5. Un-fold the top edge and machine baste the rick rack in place, keeping your Seam close to the bottom edge of the rick rack as shown in the photo below. Remove the Pins/clips as you stitch.
  6. Re-fold the top edge and Press well to reveal the straight rick rack Trim.
  7. Repeat for the second border.
  8. Find the main front and back panels. 
  9. Place a border across the bottom of each panel, overlaying the border on the panel so the sides and bottom raw edges of the two layers are flush. Pin in place.
  10. Re-Thread the machine with Thread to best match the accent panel in the top and to best match the main panel fabric in the Bobbin. Re-set for a slightly lengthened stitch, we like to use a 2.8mm – 3.0mm Stitch length for most topstitching. 
  11. Edgestitch along the top fold of the border.

Assemble front to back with French seams

  1. Place the front and back panels wrong sides together. Pin along both sides and across the bottom.
  2. As shown above in the diagrams, measure 2½” down from the top raw edges of the layered panels and place a horizontal pin along each side at this point. These are the start and stop points for your Seam. The upper 2½” section will become the drawcord channel. 
  3. Re-Thread the machine with Thread to best match the main panel fabric in the top and Bobbin. Re-set for a standard Stitch length. 
  4. Using a Seam allowance, Stitch from horizontal start pin point at the right edge, continue down that side, sharply pivot at the bottom corner, stitch across the bottom, sharply pivot at the opposite corner.
  5. Stitch back up to the horizontal stop pin point on the opposite side.
  6. Remove the project from the machine and clip into the Seam allowance at each horizontal pin point to a depth of ”.
  7. Then, Trim back the remaining Seam allowances below the clips to ” .
  8. You are trimming back each side and across the bottom, but leaving the upper 2½” as-is.
  9. Turn the bag Wrong side out, so your panels are now the more traditional right sides together. Use a long, blunt tool to gently push out the bottom corners so they are as sharp and square as possible. A knitting Needle, chopstick or point turner works well for this.
  10. You will now stitch in the same pattern as above, again with a Seam allowance. This second Seam encloses the raw edges of the first Seam, creating a smooth Finish to the inside of your bag – a traditional French Seam technique.
  11. Don’t forget to once again start and stop at the same points 2½” down from the top Raw edge.

    NOTE: If you are new to this Seam finishing technique, check out our four-part Machine Sewn Seam Finishes series, which details this and several other of our favorite finishes to make sure the inside of your project looks as good as the outside.

Drawcord channel

  1. Turn the bag Right side out once more. As above, use your long, blunt tool to gently push out those bottom corners. Because of the bulk of a French Seam Finish, the corners will be a bit rounded; this is totally okay.
  2. Along the top free edge of both the front and back main panels, fold in the raw edges of the sides so they are flush with the sewn seam. Then, fold down and press the top raw edge along the front and back ½”.
  3. Fold down the top of the front and back again until the folded edges meet at the top of the sewn side seams.
  4. Fold down one side and pin, then match the fold on the remaining side.
  5. The inner folds of the front and back should meet as shown in the photo below.
  6. Make sure the top of the bag, both front and back, is nice and straight.
  7. Slightly lengthen your stitch once again, and Edgestitch each folded flap in place. Your Seam should run approximately ¾” from the top fold. This forms the front and back channels for the drawcords. Measure your Seam width prior to starting to insure you will completely catch the inner fold; you can adjust the width slightly wider or narrower than ¾” as needed.
  8. To help reinforce the sides, backstitch between the front and back pieces just above each side seam – as you stitch across the “gap.” 
  9. This final edgestitching is done as one continuous Seam in a circle so If your machine has a free arm, now is a great time to use it.

Insert the drawcord

  1. Find the two lengths of your chosen drawcord – our choice was black twill tape. You’ll also need a safety pin, scissors, and Seam sealant if your drawcord is prone to fraying (ours was).
  2. Add a line of Seam sealant to each end of each length and allow it to dry.
  3. Stick the safety pin through one end of one length. 
  4. Thread the drawcord through the front Casing, running from left to right.
  5. Insert the drawcord into the back Casing, running through it from right to left. This means there is now a loop to the right of the bag and the tails are at the left of the bag. Loosely knot the tails or clip them together. This keeps the first length from being pulled out when you are threading the second.
  6. Remove the safety pin and stick it through one end of the second length of drawcord. Thread this length through in the opposite direction: from right to left through the back Casing, then from left to right through the front Casing. You now have a loop on each side and tails on each side. Make sure those pairs of tails are flush with one another.
  7. Holding on to each set of tails, and keeping those ends flush, gently and evenly draw the bag all the way closed. Now is the time to adjust the length of the tails if need be… obviously, they can’t be longer, but you can shorten them if necessary. Ours were longer than necessary so we cut away about an additional 1” from each end.
  8. If you do cut away any length, re-apply Seam sealant and let it dry.
  9. Knot together each pair of tails so they stop slightly above the base of the bag.
  10. When open, there’s still leaves plenty of length to work with.

Contributors

Project Design: Anne Adams
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild

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Melinda McKenry
Melinda McKenry
6 months ago

The PDF for the Drawcord Bag Trio – I just printed it out because I like a hard copy to refer to when I am sewing. I always check my printout to make sure I have all that I need. I did get a chuckle today – the three diagrams right below “Getting Started” that the pattern says “Refer to the diagrams above….” – well, those diagrams are (even with magnifying glass) very tiny. Perhaps you could modify the PDF photo? I do print at 100% so everything is fine. (I printed the diagram off your article itself so I… Read more »

Linda O'Neill
Linda O'Neill
6 months ago

Does anyone know of a place to purchase the Here Kitty Kitty fabric. I’ve searched all over. When I look up Cori Dantini none of the kitty fabrics show up. Help!

Melinda McKenry
Melinda McKenry
6 months ago
Reply to  Linda O'Neill

I just ordered last night off Etsy from My Happy Handbag. She had best price per yard and her shipping price was half some of the other places. She shipped it this morning so she’s very efficient. She charges by the 1/2 yard but I ordered 2 so I could have a while yard to play with. I saw that the Fat Quarter Shop had it also.

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