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The Great British Sewing Bee: make a laundry bag

Drawstring bags are easy to make and stitching them is a great skill to learn logo
Published: Tuesday, 2nd April 2013 at 3:31 pm

Making a channel for a drawstring is the key skill you’ll learn when stitching this bag. It’s a really useful technique that you’ll be able to put to use in so many ways – from bags to garments, such as pyjama trousers and drawstring skirts. Drawstring bags are easy to make and stitching them is a great skill to learn. This one’s been made with a gusset to give it a three-dimensional quality for extra room, but you can use the same principles for bags of all shapes and sizes. Adapt the bag to make kids’ shoe bags, ballet, gym and other kit bags, by cutting the main pieces smaller and simplify by using just a front and back piece.


1.9m (21/4yd) of 115cm- (45in-)wide fabric
10cm (4in) of grosgrain ribbon, 4cm (11/2in) wide
Sewing threads to match fabric and ribbon

Laundry Bag size
The finished bag measures 48cm wide x 74cm tall x 11cm deep (19 x 29 x 41/4in)

Fabric finder
This embroidered brushed gingham is a great choice for a laundry bag as it’s robust yet pretty. Try these alternatives: Classic gingham, cotton duck, denim, chambray, gabardine, ticking, brushed cotton, seersucker

Cutting guide
Press the fabric thoroughly before cutting. Determine how you’re going to cut the pieces from the fabric, so you leave room to cut the long drawstring strips along the length of the fabric.

From the fabric:
Cut one piece for the bag front panel and one for the back panel, each 50 x 93cm (20 x 37in)
Cut two pieces for the side panels, each 13 x 93cm (51/4 x 37in)
Cut one piece for the bag base, measuring 13 x 50cm (51/4 x 20in)
Cut two strips for the drawstrings, each 5 x 175cm (2 x 69in)
Cut one strip for the hanging loop, measuring 5x36cm(2x14in)

To make the laundry bag

Fold one of the long drawstring strips in half lengthways with the wrong sides together and press. Open out the strip, fold 12mm (1/2in) toward the centre along each long edge and press. Refold the strip along the centre and press again for a 12mm (1/2in) drawstring width. Clip each end on the diagonal and topstitch all along the long edge of the drawstring, stitching close to the edge. Repeat for the other drawstring and the hanging loop, but don’t cut a diagonal end on the hanging loop.

With right sides together, pin the long edge of the front panel to the long edge of one side panel. Mark a seam opening from 60cm to 65cm (231/2in to 251/2in) from the bottom edge (this is the position of the drawstring channel). Starting 1cm (3/8in) from the bottom edge and leaving a 1cm (3/8in) seam allowance, stitch the panels together all the way to the top edge. Remember to leave 5cm (2in) open in the seam where marked and make a few extra reverse stitches either side of the opening for strength. Stitch the other side panel to the front in exactly the same way, leaving the opening for the drawstring channel. Stitch the back panel to the side panels in the same way. You now have a rectangular tube. Stitch on the base panel, leaving a 1cm (3/8in) seam allowance. Press all seams open, and press the seam allowances along the drawstring-channel openings to the wrong side.

Turn 1cm (3/8in) to the wrong side around the top of the laundry bag, press and pin. Topstitch this hem. Next, fold 17cm (7in) of the top of the bag to the wrong side. Press the fold at the top and tack this turning in place along the fold and along the hem. Stitch all around the bag 10cm (4in) from the upper folded edge – take the sewing bed off your machine if it detaches. Work another line of stitching 5cm (2in) below this – make sure these two stitching lines are aligned with the top and bottom of the prepared slit openings for the drawstrings.

Starting at the left opening, use a large safety pin to thread one drawstring through the channel on the front, over the outside of the bag at the side panel, then through the channel on the back, so ending up on the other side of the side panel from where you started. Repeat with the other drawstring, this time, starting at the right opening. Knot the ends of the drawstrings.

Fold the hanging loop in half and pin the ends side by side to the centre back, with the raw edges about 7.5cm (3in) from the top of the bag – approximately 2.5cm (1in) above the upper stitching line of the drawstring channel. Cut an 8cm (3in) length of 4cm-wide (11/2in) ribbon, fold in the raw edges to form a 4cm (11/2in) square, and pin in place over the ends of the hanging loop. Stitch all around the grosgrain square, close the edge, then stitch an ‘X’ from corner to corner for extra strength.

The laundry bag pattern is taken from The Great British Sewing Bee by Tessa Evelegh, which you can buy for £14 (usually £20). To order with free p&p call 01603 648176


The Great British Sewing Bee starts tonight at 8:00pm on BBC2


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