This drawstring tote bag is now my go-to gift bag. No need for a bunch of wasteful tissue paper to hide your present -- the drawstring closure keeps your surprise under wraps :)
The bag also becomes an extra bonus on top of the gift it's carrying inside. The first friend I gave one to years ago has been using it as her lunch bag. My sister-in-law intends to use hers to carry her art supplies. It's just a conveniently sized little bag to carry stuff around in, with a simple closure so your things don't fall out. What else could you ask for? :)
Although I first made this a few years ago and have made a few more since -- there are a couple of spots where I tend to mess up the construction (and then end up having to unpick a lot of stitches as a result). So I figured it was time to put together instructions to prevent such future kerfuffles.
Here's what you need:
1 piece for the body - 21" x 14"
2 pieces for the handles - 3" x 14"
1 piece for the casing / drawstring closure - 8" x 21"
1 drawstring - at least 23" long (not in picture)
1. First we make the handles and body like you would with any other tote bag.
First, fold the handle pieces the long way, right sides facing and stitch the long sides together with a 1/4" seam allowance (so you have a long skinny tube). Press the seam open and turn it right side out (attach a large safety pin onto the end of the tube and then push that safety pin through the inside of the tube to turn the tube right side out).
Press the handles with the seam in the middle. Stitch along the length of the handles with 1/8" seam allowance (or as close to the edge as you can stitch nicely).
For the body piece, zigzag 3 out of the 4 edges, leaving one long edge raw. This will be the top / opening of the bag. Fold the piece in half, and stitch around the side and bottom of the bag with a 3/8" seam allowance, leaving the raw edge on top open.
(Optional) Square off the bottom corners of the bag, snip off the corners and zigzag the raw edge.
2. Now we make the casing / closure for the drawstring tote bag.
Fold the casing/closure piece in half the long way and press.
Open it and fold it in half the other way and pin together. Using pins, mark a point 1/2" from each side of the fold you made in the previous step (this is assuming that your drawstring is less than 1/2" wide -- if it's wider, you would mark those points the width of your drawstring away from the centre fold you made earlier). Stitch this left side of the casing, from the bottom towards the middle, stopping at the mark you made and then back stitching. Repeat from the top to wards the middle.
You now have a tube with the same diameter as the bag opening.
Press the seam open and stitch around the opening you have in the middle. This is the opening for the drawstring casing.
Fold the tube in half along the crease you made at the beginning. Stitch around the tube 5/8" from the fold.
3. Now that we have the bag, handles and casing / closure piece, it's time to put them all together.
With the bag body right side out, pin the handles to the top of the bag 2 1/4" from the sides, with the seam facing away from the bag. Put the casing over top of the body and handles and pin the raw edge of the casing to the opening of the bag. Stitch with 3/8" seam allowance.
Turn the bag inside out and press the seam open so that the casing piece is flat. Fold the whole top of the bag down so that 1 1/4" of the right side of the body fabric is showing. Fold the handles up and pin. Stitch around the opening of the bag, 1/8" from the top as well as 1/8" from the seam between the bag body and drawstring closure.
Turn the bag right side out, insert your drawstring and you're done!