Lotus drawstring pouch make great gift bags.

Lotus Drawstring Pouch Gift Bags and Purse Tutorial

Lotus bags are a pretty Japanese style of drawstring pouch

We started looking at Japanese style bags last week, when I showed several ways to sew azuma bukuro, or bento bags. I mentioned that bento bags make great gift bags, but these are not the only style of Japanese bag that works well for this purpose. This week, let’s look at an even prettier way to make an origami style reusable gift wrap bag, this time a lotus shaped drawstring pouch.

Use them for gift bags and more

With such a pretty wrapper, even a humble gift becomes wow-worthy. Present a hostess or friend with one of these drawstring pouches you custom created to suit their style, and fill it with just cookies, candies, even a candle, to transform such consumable gifts into something memorable and continually useful.

Lotus bags make a lovely gift of candy.

Lotus bags make a lovely gift of candy.

I made a small one from a poinsettia print to both wrap and store the poinsettia flower pins I made as holiday gifts. Besides gift wrap, these pretty bags with their handy drawstring handles can be used as a purse, to carry lunch, as project bags for holding knitting supplies or a patchwork project on the go, or for travel organizers, to carry jewelry or cosmetics.

These would make sweet favors for a bride to share with her bridal party, baby shower gifts, stocking stuffers, goody bags, and more. You could even make one from satin, lace, or bead it to make a gorgeous purse for evening or for a bride.

If I had boy and girl children and I sent them to school, I’d make bento bags for the boys and pretty drawstring pouches like these for the girls.  I bet you can think of more uses for them, too.

The best thing about these pretty pouches is that they are incredibly easy to sew; you can make one in just a few minutes.

How to sew a lotus drawstring pouch:

You will need 2 same sized squares of fabric, one for the outside of the bag, and one for the lining. You will also need 2 pieces of cord, ribbon, or yarn for the drawstrings.

Use any size of square to make these. An 18” square makes a nice medium sized drawstring pouch. To make a bag large enough to carry lunch, I suggest using squares that are at least 20”. A 10” square is nice for a small pouch for travel or a small gift. I have made these smaller, with 8” squares, to make a tiny drawstring pouch for giving handmade jewelry. And I’ve made one much larger, too. I reused a baby wblanket I made long ago for one of my boys to make an extra large drawstring pouch for a scraps bag. It’s also fun to make these like a tiny quilt, using a small piece of patchwork for the outside square.

Small pouch to hold a gift of handmade bracelets and earrings, made from 8" squares.

Small pouch to hold a gift of handmade bracelets and earrings, made from 8″ squares.

You might like to affix fusible fleece or interfacing to one of your squares if you are making a larger lotus bag or one to use as a lunch bag or purse.

Place the two fabric squares right sides together and sew around all four sides, leaving an opening for turning. Clip the corners, turn right side out, and press. Then topstitch to close the opening, continuing the topstitching all the way around the square.

Fold up the corners

Now lay the finished square on your table with the exterior fabric facing up. Fold the four corners of the square back to show the lining fabric. I fold these back three, four, or five inches, depending on the size of the bag.

Make sure all four corners are folded back evenly.

You can use your ruler and cutting mat to be sure all sides are even. Pin these in place, then sew a straight line across each of these corner folds, 5/8” from the fold. This creates the channels for the drawstring.

Place the folded edge at the 5/8" mark on your machine, and sew straight across.

Place the folded edge at the 5/8″ mark on your machine, and sew straight across.

Now sew the bag together

The next step is to sew the four seams that will transform the lined fabric into a bag. Start on any side, and fold the straight edge between two corner folds in half, with the outside fabric facing together. Sew this short seam on the lining side, beginning your seam just beneath the drawstring channel you previously sewed. In other words, don’t sew all the way, or you will not be able to pull your drawstring through. Do this on all four sides. I like to use a 2/8 inch seam here, but you can make this wider, if you like. Just be sure to sew all four sides using the same seam allowance, whatever it is.

You can turn your bag right side out now if you’d like to create a flat, square bottomed bag with corners that jut out. Or you can choose to box the corners.

To box the corners

You can box the corners by either sewing straight across the four corner seams like this:


Or you can sew a seam from top to bottom, creating an upright triangle, like this:


Now turn right side out.

Insert the drawstring

Cut two same sized lengths of cord, narrow ribbon, twine, or yarn. For all but the smallest of drawstring pouch, I cut both to the length of my arm from shoulder to fingertip. I cut them a bit shorter for tiny bags.

Attach the cord to a bodkin or safety pin, then insert it through all four flaps of the bag. Then tie the two ends of this cord together. If you like, you can add some beads to the ends of your cord before tying.

Now take the other cord and use your bodkin to insert it at the opposite side of the bag from where you inserted the first cord. Pass this one through all four flaps as well, add beads or not, then tie both ends of this cord together. Now you can pull both cords to pull your drawstring pouch closed and open.

If the drawstring pouch is for gifting, you can tie the cords into a bow.

This drawstring pouch is only one way to make a kinchaku

When carried, a Japanese drawstring pouch is called kinchaku. However, this is only one of many styles and ways to make kinchaku. We’ll look at other ways to sew kinchaku here soon, too.

This style, the lotus bag, is a particularly pretty shape of drawstring pouch that can be used in many ways. Perfect for gift bags, they are so easy to make and so pretty that you’ll want to make at least a few. This is a great way to use up scraps while making a useful project.  Won’t you like to make some today?

Easy to sew lotus drawstring pouch make great gift bags.

Happy sewing!

Butterfly Bag, Small and Large, and Blue Patchwork Purse

Butterfly Bag, Small and Large, and Blue Patchwork Purse

Reversible butterfly tote.

Reversible butterfly tote.

I have been making lots of bags lately, and I have a few tutorials and different bag patterns coming up here soon. This week, though, I’m showing a couple examples of butterfly bag and another variation of a simple tote bag purse.

First, I used my crazy patch butterfly appliqué blocks to make two different sizes of bags recently.

I made a butterfly bag tote as a gift for my niece’s sixth birthday. It’s a reversible tote big enough to carry coloring books and crayons to the ball park, where her brother plays nearly every day. There’s also room for a small quick quilt I made that she can use to sit on the bleachers or the ground while she’s there.

Baylee quilt, caption, I made this quick scrap quilt in only about an hour & a half.

Baylee quilt, caption, I made this quick scrap quilt in only about an hour & a half.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for making a reversible tote like this. You can use the strip piece method linked as a video below for making the patchwork straps.

Butterfly bag small purse

Then I found a single stray rainbow strip pieced block at the bottom of my scrap bin and I decided to make a small denim bag with a butterfly, too.

This will be a gift for a teenage girl.

This will be a gift for a teenage girl.

I used a rainbow variegated thread in the needle for the butterfly appliqué and also the strap and topstitching for this bag. This is probably my favorite decorative thread, and I have used it in a lot of projects.

To show off the lining fabric, I sewed the bag and lining together without straps, then folded over the top. I sewed the strap to the outside, with the raw edges under the fold. Then I used two rows of topstitching around the whole bag. I made the strap with a wider blue and narrower green piece of bias tape, covered by wide zigzag stitches up and down about five times.

Blue patchwork tote purse

Here is a purse I made for myself last week. It is just a simple tote with the addition of a curved, bias- edged flap at the top. I quilted the patchwork using horizontal rows of a wavy decorative stitch that reminds me, like these blue fabrics, of the ocean.

This one is mine.

This one is mine.

To make the flap, just quilt together a rectangle of patchwork with batting and your lining fabric. Make it about an inch narrower than one side of the bag. Then you can fold it in half and cut the corners into curves. Then bind the curved edge and short ends with bias binding.

I used half of a thick turquoise ponytail elastic and a half-ball style button for a closure. I just sewed down the elastic to the lining side of the flap when I attached the bias edging. It also has a large zippered pocket inside, with patch pockets for cards inside that larger pocket.

Just baste the flap to the bag, and then tuck it between the bag layers when you sew the bag and lining together.

If you don’t know how to make this strip style patchwork, which I also used for the straps on the large butterfly tote above, here’s a video of me explaining how to do this.

I actually made this piece of patchwork some time ago. The blue quilt pattern I showed here was for my baby’s crib, and I made bumper pads, too. We didn’t really use these, so I decided to reuse the patchwork to make bags. This is the first one I have done; I plan to do a bigger laptop tote or backpack with the next one.

Like Amish quilts, these bags include mistakes!

I have to say that each one of these bags includes some little issue that I am not happy with. For example, the lining I chose for my blue bag is a gorgeous midnight blue print. But, especially with the flap, too, it is pretty impossible to see what’s in my bag without shining a light. It’s not a huge issue, since I usually just stick my hand in my bag and grab what I need by feel, anyway.

I boxed the corners too deeply on my niece’s butterfly tote and gave it a different shape than I intended. But this worked out, because the unintended bucket shape of the bag is what inspired me to make the quilt that I otherwise might not have included with this gift. And while I probably won’t ever make a strap like the one I made for the rainbow butterfly bag again, it is interesting and different looking and it works just fine.

The Amish include mistakes in their quilts on purpose. My mistakes were more accidental. The thing is though, all these little issues are lessons learned. I’ll never use a dark fabric as a bag lining again. Maybe I’ll make a post about more of these kinds of lessons I have learned the hard way soon. I’d be happy to save someone from making some of these mistakes.

In the meantime, I hope you will join me in bag making. Happy sewing!