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How to sew an easy upcycled drawstring bag

A few months ago, I figured out how to upcycle an old shirt into a drawstring backpack for my daughter. It was an incredibly quick project, so I made a few more for other kids in my life. When I made my daughter a DIY counting and sorting toy, we needed a way to store all the pieces. I immediately thought about her backpack, but she had it full and it was too big for what we needed. So I decided I would just adapt the process to turn it into an upcycled drawstring bag instead.

This project took me so little time (less than 15 minutes) and used up only a portion of one of the many shirts I have designated for upcycled projects. Since I still had some time before my daughter got bored with her farm animals, I crafted another upcycled drawstring bag. I made it bigger this time for yarn storage, which I need a LOT of. When I move into my new craft room (that has less space), I have big ideas for these yarn storage upcycled drawstring bags. I’ll keep you updated 🙂

Step 1 of Upcycled Drawstring Bag – Gather Your Supplies

To sew an upcycled drawstring bag, you’ll only need a few basic crafting supplies. If you want to make a large upcycled drawstring bag, make sure you choose a shirt that accommodates your desired size. You’ll need cord of some kind. My bags feature jute twine, but you could also choose parachute cord, ribbon cord, cotton rope, or any other rope-like material you may have. You’ll also need a few basic crafting supplies; scissors, a yarn needle or safety pins, pins, thread, and a sewing machine or needle if you are sewing by hand.

Step 2 – Cut Your Old Shirt

You can make this bag in essentially any size you want. Your only limitation is the size of the shirt. For a smaller bag, you’ll cut partway into the shirt. My cut area on the small toy bag was approximately 8 1/2″ x 11″. For my large upcycled drawstring bag, I used as much of the shirt as I could by cutting just below the sleeves. Since your size will depend on the size of the shirt you are upcycling, I did not measure mine.

Step 3 – Sew Your Seam

Place your right sides together. For the large bag, turn the shirt inside out. On the small bag, fold so the long side becomes half. Pin (if desired) and sew along the raw edges with a 3/8″ seam allowance. For a large bag, you’ll only sew the bottom seam. I like to sew a double seam on any larger bags that will hold heavy objects. It’s probably overkill, but if I’m going to make something, I expect it to last 🙂 For a smaller bag, you’ll sew one of the sides and the bottom – make sure you stop before the hem opening!

Step 4 – Clip Your Corners and Hem Openings

Your corners will look much better if you clip the seam allowances before turning. For the smaller bag, you also need to clip your hem opening so it’s flush with the seam. For the larger bag, I had to cut the hem so it was open. On your shirt, you may just need to cut a slit from the bottom edge of the shirt to the first hem seam. After clipping, turn right side out.

Step 5 – Install Your Drawstring

Thread your rope into the hem opening and cut. Depending on your material choice, you can use a yarn needle (easiest if your rope is small enough) or a safety pin. For the smaller bag, thread one rope through the entire opening. On the larger bag, I used two ropes – one threaded through each side. You should leave enough rope to knot, but not so much that your rope will be ridiculously long when the bag is pulled closed. I left about 3 1/2″ on each end of the small bag and only 2 1/2″ on the large bag (both of which could have been shorter still). After installation, knot the ends together.

Step 6 – Enjoy Your Upcycled Drawstring Bag!

Like me, I’m sure you can find numerous uses for these upcycled drawstring bags. I adore that they are so quick, easy, and cheap to make. Plus, the size is so customizable that you can make one for almost any purpose you need. In fact, Dallas wants me to whip a few up for some of our camping gear… and then some for his hunting gear.

Happy Crafting!

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