Thirty Days of Making: Drawstring Bag

I’m in Day 7 of a short series: Thirty Days of Making. Every day for the next thirty days, I intend to make something, anything, that is in some way connected to school. There won’t always be pictures, and I reserve the right to credit myself for things that I help my kids make. But I’ve decided that I need thirty days of maker success and maker failure under my belt to be a better designer.

I’ve decided that artwork counts, but not writing (unless it’s part of the art, like calligraphy). Digital work counts, but it has to be useful or publishable.

Some days there will be pictures, some days there won’t be. Each blog entry will contain a list of some of the materials and tools, a quick review of the success or failure of the Making, and a reflection on what i think i learned from the endeavor.

Reason for the Project: A crystal ball without a bag

Over the weekend, I was at a friend’s house for a party.  In a window, there was a large crystal ball, half-shrouded in silk bandages.  I asked if it had ever started a fire. “Oh, yes,” said my host. “One day I came in here, and there was smoldering from the deck, where the sunlight had passed through the ball and hit a focal point. I was about ten minutes away from a serious blaze.”  I said, “I think I should make you a bag for it.” He agreed, “that would be awesome.” And then we dropped the matter and said nothing more about it.

But the thought stayed with me all through Sunday.  When I got to school on Monday, I decided, this would be my project for the day.  So I resolved to get to work on it, and I rummaged in my fabric stash at home for a scrap of about the right size.

Process and Results
Thirty days of making: drawstring bagThe piece of fabric I brought was nubbled linen.  I think it’s a blend of polyester and linen, rather than a true linen, but it feels nice and it has some weight to it.  I used a pie plate to cut the base of the bag as a round circle, and then used a string to measure the circumference of the circle.  That became the length of the sides, which are fairly deep. The bag is deep enough for my hand and most of my forearm.  I cut two circles for the bottom, and two matching sides, in order to create a bag with a lining, and give it some extra strength in construction.

I wound up using all of the modes of thinking common to the Design Thinking Method of my school.  I did some research first of all, by looking at some photos of drawstring bags. I then had to name what sort of problem I was trying to solve… make a container for a large round and heavy object, which needs to be protected from the sun and yet uncovered quickly.  I had to do a quick sketch of the completed bag and how the object would fit inside it; that’s visualization.  I then had to assemble the bag with pins — inside and out — in order to assemble the finished project.  I then had to re-pin it for sewing it together, set up the sewing machine, and actually assemble the bag.  It turns out that I forgot where the white thread was, though, so I assembled the tube for the drawstring with black thread instead. I even had to ask for help, by calling my mother and asking for her guidance through the final assembly of the outer container and the inner lining.

Reflection on My Learning

(UPDATE: Apparently everything but the headers beyond this point got deleted as I was uploading this blog entry.  Not sure if what I’m doing is a reconstruction, a slap-dash rewrite, or a completely new set of thoughts.  Oh well. Stuff on the internet happens.  Roll with it.)

Thirty days of making: drawstring bagThere was a fair bit of learning on this project.  Most of it was on the job, and on the fly: how does one pin these pieces together? How do these side-pieces get measured so that they’re the right length for the walls of the bag, but still sew on to the base?  How do I make sure the base is big enough around for the crystal ball?  My mother and I spent a good fifteen minutes defining terminology for how the bag was to be assembled, and then spent two minutes describing how to assemble the bag — nomenclature is everything in design, especially when you can’t share diagrams.

One of the most complicated parts of the bag construction, and the most tedious, was stringing the bag with a bit of ribbon for the drawstring.  It turns out that drawstring bags are easy to assemble, but that stringing them is a bit difficult.  I may have cursed during my assembly effort.

But the bag got finished, beginning to end, in about two hours. Probably about an hour for the cutting and sewing all told, a half-hour for panic and discussion on that, and a bit of thinking of how to work through the redesign.  That was fun. A lot of it.

Reflection on Learning in General

I’m not really sure if the pre-sewing machine me could have figured out how to build a a bag like this.  It turned out to be similar enough to some of my other patterns.  A lot of the work today involved, or flowing a pattern; turns out it’s awfully cleaning.


Five out of five.  I feel like this project did what it was supposed to; successfully I’ve learned how to do this again.  The completed project also has a home: when I’m done learning from it.

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  1. Yes. That would be the most “finished” way with no raw edges showing, no selvedge showing at all not even a finished selvedge. Probably strongest too, and that might be important when thinking about how to house and transport a crystal ball. It’s also possible to make a reversible bag that way too so you get two for the price of one and that can be fun. However, that way does take the most fabric, and sometimes that’s a consideration.

    My sister has a most interesting book, it’s late 1800’s and tells how to repurpose all sorts of garments into other things, for instance, a man’s shirt into a smaller child’s or into a child’s nightshirt, a skirt into a blouse… etc. A valuable resource for when things like fabric were far dearer than they are today.

    And don’t worry about the book, this is YOUR project. Get to it when you get to it and let me know when and if I can help.

    • I’ll have to look for that book. But as you say, at the moment fabric isn’t all that expensive. My goal is to make a few ‘costume’ pieces, and then see about making some real-ish clothes that I wouldn’t mind wearing to school on a day other than carnival or Halloween.

  2. You know there’s a few different ways I can think of making one of these bags, depending upon how “finished” you wanted your bag on the inside. And it would not have been that difficult to do by hand… at least *I* don’t think it would have been that difficult. A couple years ago, I needed a jelly bag (a bag you pour cooked fruit into, to strain out everything but the juice you will then use to make jelly) and I didn’t have the sewing machine readily to hand, so I made it up with hand-stitching in about the time it would have taken to set up the sewing machine… now, my bag was not perfectly finished inside (had raw seam selvedge edges), but it had bottom, seams, and drawstrings, and all that. How did you do the inside of this bag? (Really like this series, btw 🙂

    • Hi Christina,

      Book two that you recommended arrived today. I’m in the midst of a major cycle of grading at school, so I won’t get to it right away. But it’s now on the reading list!

      The advantage that I have when it comes to a sewing machine is that mine is set up all the time in the Design Lab. So if I have the fabric and the thread, I can just make the bag without any difficulty at all. I decide to make something, I go to the sewing machine, and it’s done.

      I’m glad you like the series. It’s been fun to write.

    • As far as the inside of the bag… you make two bags, one of lining and one of outer cover. You then nest them, fold the top inside edges of both bags over, and sew them together in two rows. One set of stitches, the bottom one, forms the bottom side of the ‘tube’ that will contain the drawstring; the top one needs an opening for the drawstring to come out.

      I’ll see if I can take some more photographs.

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