Tutorial: More Kinchaku Japanese Drawstring Bags

Tutorial: More Kinchaku Japanese Drawstring Bags

We made lotus shaped kinchaku drawstring bags here on the blog a couple of weeks ago. I told you then that there are other ways to make kinchaku, too. So let’s look at these now.

Kinchaku are purse or lunch sized drawstring pouches. They were traditionally made with chirimen, which are kimono fabrics. They are most often made with a round or square bottom.And they are and were extremely popular with ladies in Japan, both now and in history.

I didn’t have any chirimen fabric, but I did have a piece of Robert Kaufman Tranquility fabric with a crane motif and hints of gold shimmer.

kinchaku tutorial

Square kinchaku, fabric by Robert Kaufman

I started with this Japanese inspired print, and then I made these in all sorts of other prints, too.

kinchaku Japanese bag tutorial by Millie Green

These are reversible, by the way, when you make them the way I’m showing you.

How to sew kinchaku

You can make your kinchaku with a square  or a round bottom.

Kinchaku tutorial by Millie Green

Small kinchaku made from five and six-inch squares

You can make them any size that you like.  Use three or four inch squares and add pockets inside to make a small pouch for carrying jewelry. Or use eight or nine inch squares to make a large purse. I think seven and a half inch squares are the perfect size for lunch bags.

I made one that’s ten inches all around, but once you make these that large or bigger, then they become komebukuro. We’ll save those for another post.

Make them sturdy

You will want to prepare your fabric squares before sewing these together in order to create a nice sturdy bag. You have choices here, and I recommend you make your choice based on the wise old principle of using what you have.

Prepare your squares using any combination of:

  • Batting and backing
  • Fusible fleece
  • Midweight interfacing
  • Heavyweight interfacing
  • Felt
  • Canvas
  • Duck
  • Denim

I like to use fusible fleece on five of the squares and midweight interfacing or sturdy duck or denim for the other five. Felt works nicely in place of fusible fleece.

For canvas, felt, or anything other than fusible type interfacing, you can baste the sturdier fabric to the back of a lighter weight cotton if you are using this for your outer fabric. To baste, just sew these together with a scant 1/8” inch allowance all around.

Or make a miniature “quilt sandwich” by layering your outer fabric over a layer of wadding (batting) and a backing square. Then quilt these together. You can have fun with this and do some fancy or decorative quilting. Or you can keep it simple.

Kinchaku tutorial by Millie Green

I had some fun quilting on the outer base square for these kinchaku.

You can add pockets to some or all of the lining squares, too. Do this now, after you interface the pieces and before you sew them together.

Of course you should feel free to construct your fabric pieces by patchwork. Simple four-patch works nicely here, or use your imagination and go wild.

large kinchaku

Ten inch square bags (made here from four- patched five-and-a-half inch squares) are a great size for a project bag for knitting or other take-along crafts.

To make square kinchaku

Kinchaku sewing tutorial

You will need five squares of outer fabric and five lining fabric squares, prepared (as discussed above).

For the exterior, I like to use a contrasting square, possibly of the lining fabric, for the bottom piece. In this case, I cut four of the outer fabric and six of the lining.

Take the bottom piece, and sew the other four pieces to the four sides of this bottom square,right sides together,  starting and stopping a seam allowance width from the edges.

Then, sew these four squares to each other, creating the side seams. Now use your fingers and eyes to check and make sure there are no openings in these seams. Fix this now if you missed any spaces.  You can turn it right sides out and look at it now if you want. Then repeat with the remaining five squares.

Skip to the next section to finish your square kinchaku.

To make round kinchaku

Round kinchaku tutorial

You need two circles for the outer and lining bottoms, and a piece of each fabric that is as tall as you’d like your round kinchaku to be by the circumference of your circle, plus seam allowance. You can use a compass or trace a dish or other round object to make your circles.

Prepare your fabrics as discussed above. Then, simply sew the other piece right sides together around the circle and then sew the side seam. It’s easy to sew the circle, just go slowly and carefully guide your fabric to keep your seam allowance uniform.

You can clip little slits in the seam allowance all around if you like, but if your seam allowance is narrow you won’t need to clip much if at all. Check the bottom and side seam with your eyes and fingers to make sure everything is connected and you didn’t accidentally miss a spot. It is easy to fix these mistakes now. Turn right sides out, if you like. Then repeat for the lining piece and base.

To make the drawstring casing

For either square or round kinchaku, you have options in constructing your drawstring casing.

You can make tabs from matching or contrasting fabric, grosgrain or other ribbon, or bias binding. You can make several evenly spaced  tabs or just choose one wide tab centered on each of the four sides.

I like to use contrasting fabric. To make the tabs like I have done for most of the kinchaku pictured here, cut four same sized rectangles. Cut them between three and four inches wide by a length that is anywhere between one-third and five-sixths of the width of your squares. Turn and press a narrow hem on all the short sides, then sew these down. Now fold along the long edge, and center it along the top edge of one of the squares with the raw edges of the folded rectangle aligned with the raw edges of the square. Baste down with a one-eighth inch seam allowance. Repeat for the other three tabs.

You could do the same thing with shorter squares rather than rectangles and space two or three tabs along each square. If you use narrow bias binding, cord, or ribbon, you will want to use more tabs.

You can use contrasting fabric, even satin for the lining, and add pockets if you choose.

You can use contrasting fabric, even satin for the lining, and add pockets if you choose.

To finish your kinchaku

Place the inside and outside bag pieces right sides together, with the casing or tabs sandwiched between the two layers. Sew together, leaving an opening big enough to turn. Turn right sides out. Pull the tabs and push the lining down into the bag.

Sew the opening closed and continue top-stitching all the way around the top of the bag. Pull down on the lining and straighten the top seam as you sew.

Now thread a cord or ribbon through all tabs and tie the ends together. Then thread another cord of the same length starting and ending on the opposite side of where you started and ended the first cord. Tie the second drawstring and your bag is complete. You can tie the cords in a bow or use them as handles to carry your bag.

These are addictive

kinchaku tutorial

I can’t stop making these bags! They go together so quickly and are so cute and sturdy; sewing them is addictive. That’s good because these will make great gifts. Try this quick easy project and I bet you can’t make just one either.

Happy sewing!

Sew a Small Purse Tutorial: Tiny Tasseled Tote

Here’s my own design for a small purse tutorial.

Small purse tutorial.

Small purse tutorial.

This elegantly simple bag is incredibly easy to sew and offers endless opportunities for embellishment.  It is tiny as totes go, but as a small purse it is offers plenty of space for all your essentials, with room to spare.  It features an outside pocket big enough for your phone or sunglasses, and two inner pockets, one sized for your ID and debit card.

I really wish I had an embroidery machine; if I did I would completely cover this small bag with colorful embroidery. Since I don’t, I decided to make mine understated and casual in all one color and with minimum embellishment.  I think this denim blue corduroy is nearly a neutral color and I know it will go with much of my wardrobe.

I want to buy some silk cord to make the tassel and make a bag like this in a dressier fabric, too. Keep tuned to this blog, as I will soon share another small purse tutorial for a variation on this bag that is a lot of fun to make, too.

Without further ado, here’s this small purse tutorial, suitable for beginner sewists:

Tiny tasseled tote small purse tutorial

You need fabric for the bag body and lining, a little bit of interfacing, and yarn for the strap and tassel.

Cutting instructions


  • 2 bag body pieces (main fabric) 7.5″ by 9″
  • 2 bag lining pieces (second fabric) 7.5″ by 9″
  • (optional) 2 interfacing pieces  7″ by 8.5″
  • (optional) 1 interfacing piece 4.5″ by 8″
  • 2 main fabric pieces 5″ by 7″
  • 2 pieces second fabric 5″ by 7″
  • 1 piece second fabric 6″ by 9″

Step one is optional – interface or quilt

If you choose to add interfacing to your bag, do it now. Because my outer fabric was corduroy and the quilter cotton lining fabric less sturdy, I chose to interface the back of my lining fabric (7.5″ by 9″ inch rectangles).  If you use quilter cotton or other lightweight fabric for the outside of your purse, then interface that instead.  Also apply interfacing to one of the 5″ by 8.5″ rectangles.

Another option is to forego interfacing and quilt one layer of your bag, either the outside or the lining. Just quilt these now, before we move on to construction.

Make the outside pocket

Take one 5″ by 7″ piece of your main fabric, and a matching piece of the lining fabric and align these right sides together. Sew around all four sides, leaving an opening of at least 2″ to turn right sides out. Clip the corners, turn, and press.

Now fold over the top about half an inch, press, and topstitch. I chose to press mine with the lining fabric forward, to show a bit of contrast on the outside of this otherwise plain blue bag. You can fold towards the inside though, if you’d rather not show off your lining fabric on the outside of your purse.

Center the pocket on one of the bag body 7.5″ by 9″ rectangles, with the hem you just sewed at the top of the bag. Sew the sides and bottom of the pocket to the bag body piece about 1/8″ from the pockets edges.

Make the inside pockets

Take the 6″ by 9″ lining fabric, and fold it right sides together to make a rectangle 4.5″ by 6″. Sew with a ¼ inch seam allowance along all three open sides, leaving an opening of at least 2″ for turning. Turn right sides out, press, and top stitch the opening closed.

Now fold one short edge of this finished rectangle upwards about 2 inches and press this fold line well. Then, center this pocket on one of the 7.5″ by 9″ bag lining rectangles, and sew the bottom and sides down on the lining fabric.

Inside pocket image.

Inside pocket image.

Sew the bag body and lining

Now take the two main fabric rectangles and put them right sides together.  Make sure the outside pocket is facing with the opening pointing up, then sew the side and bottom seams.

Then repeat for the bag lining pieces, again making sure the pocket opening is facing up before sewing the sides and bottom together. Set both bag and lining aside.

Make the tassel

Wrap yarn around the four outstretched fingers of hand about ten times. Tie the yarn together at the top of these loops with a short piece of yarn, then cut through all the loops at the bottom. Take another piece of yarn and wrap it around and around the strands, about half an inch from where you tied the yarn together at the top, then tie. Voila, a tassel!

How to tie a tassel.

How to tie a tassel.

Make the flap

Take one of the 5″ by 7″ pieces to your ironing board and place it right side down, aligned with the long edges horizontal and the short edges vertical. Then fold the bottom corners upward to make a point in the middle and press these fold lines well.

Tassel bag point image.

Tassel bag point image.

Then, cut along these pressed lines to make a triangle shaped piece for the flap. Cut a lining rectangle piece to match, too. Now, go back to your ironing board with these pieces. Fold  one of the edges you just cut to form the triangle back ¼ inch and crease this well with your iron. Repeat on the second triangle.

Tassel bag point crease image.

Tassel bag point crease image.

Now place the two triangles right sides together and sew together along the opposite side of the triangle from the side that you just creased. Clip the seam allowance from the triangle point, turn right sides out, align the creased seams you previously pressed, and press again.

Now insert the two short yarn tails from where you tied the yarn together at the very top of your tassel into the triangle point. Topstitch along the seam you just sewed, then topstitch to sew the side with the pressed seams closed, too, being sure to catch the yarn at the top of the tassel inside the seam.

The third side of the triangle flap remains open. Align this open edge with the top edge of the back side of your bag body, right sides together, and sew right along the edge to baste these pieces together.

Make your strap

To make the yarn strap, use 9 pieces of yarn about 4 feet long. Use 3 strands each to make three long braids, then braid these three all together. Secure ends by tying with another piece of yarn. Or opt to use ribbon or make a long fabric strap instead, if you prefer.

Final assembly

Take your main bag body and your bag lining body and insert one inside the other, with right sides together. The flap should be between the two bag bodies. Now place your strap inside, also between the two bag bodies, aligning each end with the side seams.

Use the free arm on your machine, and sew these together, leaving an opening to turn. You will sew the backside with the flap and the straps, and leave the opening in the front. Turn right sides out and push the lining side into the bag body. Now fold the edges of the opening inward, topstitch this opening closed, and you are done.

It’s reversible

Technically, this bag is reversible. Although, if I were going to reverse this bag, I would change the construction of the inner pocket. I wouldn’t want a debit card pocket on the outside of my bag. To do this, just omit the step of folding the inside pocket up to create the card pocket. Sew it on as a larger patch pocket instead, the same as you did for the outside pocket.

I hope you use this small purse tutorial to make one, too. What fabric will you use? How will you embellish yours?

How to Sew Easy Shorts in Just 10 Minutes

How to Sew Easy Shorts in Just 10 Minutes

You really can sew easy shorts in ten minutes. I made pairs for two of my boys and a pair for myself in half an hour, and this included stops for elastic fitting and rewinding a bobbin.

Sew Easy Shorts

For kids, sew easy shorts in 10 minutes using bandanas

Easy bandana shorts are a super quick and simple way to make cute shorts for kids.

I made these with polyester, rather than cotton, bandanas. I am collecting cotton bandanas for another project and I accidentally bought a couple that turned out to be poly.

It occurred to me that these will dry quickly and so make perfect yard shorts for my boys who are in and out of the garden sprinkler this time of year.

I’ve made these from cotton bandanas before and they have been summer favorites for all my children. They wear them so much that the cotton ones don’t last through too many seasons. So it was time for me to whip up a couple more.

You can use bandanas to make shorts to fit most any size child. Or you can make bandana pants for a baby or toddler. Here’s how to make them:


  • Two bandanas
  • Elastic for waist
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Scissors

Step one to sew easy shorts: measure

The key measurements you need are the child’s waist and rise. To measure rise, run the measuring tape from the waist, between the legs, to the back waist.

I like to make bandana shorts like jams using the full bandana and not measure inseam or length. If you’d like to hem your child’s pants to a specific length, you are welcome to take the leg measurements. Then you could trim the bandana from the top rather than hemming the legs. That’s what I’d do if I wanted to shorten these.

Sew easy shorts step two: cut

Fold the bandanas in half with the fold running vertically. You are going to cut out a J shaped piece from the top edges. Determine how deep and wide to cut this J shape based on your measurements.

You will want to divide the child’s rise measurement by half and add 1 inch — or up to 2 inches, if you’d like to add more room to grow.

Mark that far down from the top corner edge of the folded bandana. Then mark an inch and half to two inches in from the outside edge. Cut in a J shape between these two points, leaving a J shaped cut-out on the edges of your folded bandanas.

Fold the bandanas in half with the fold running vertically.

Fold the bandanas in half with the fold running vertically.

If I wanted to shorten the legs from the bandana lengths, I would cut that many inches off the top, before I measured and cut the J.

Step three: sew legs

Each bandana will make one leg. Fold them right sides together, and sew down the inseams, which are the edges of the bandana beneath the J crotch seam you cut out.

After you sew each leg, turn them right sides out.

Step four: sew crotch seam

With the legs right sides out, align the crotch seams of each leg piece. Make sure the leg seams you already sewed are aligned, as well as the top edges.

Sew this crotch seam with a stretch stitch, for maximum strength.

Now they look like shorts.

Now they look like shorts.

Step five: sew the waist

Now fold over about an inch at the top of the shorts, toward the inside, and press.

Sew around this seam, leaving a couple inches open, to allow for elastic insertion.

Cut elastic to the child’s waist measurement, attach a large pin to the end of the waist elastic, and thread it through the waist channel.

Then, sew the elastic ends together and top-stitch the waist closed.

Of course, you can hem them if you like, and if you did not shorten them from the top at the beginning.

Personally, I like to let little boys wear them long. The green and blue pair are longer than knee length on my youngest and look cute to me.

Voila! Ten-minute kid shorts.

Voila! Ten-minute kid shorts.

Sew easy shorts: ten minute adult yoga shorts

I used the same technique to make myself a ten minute pair of shorts, too, refashioned from a t-shirt. I made legs from the front and back panel of one of my dear’s favorite t-shirts, which he has outgrown.

Sew all the seams on these with a stretch stitch.

For mine, I cut the rise a bit short, and then added a waist section from another shirt.

This did not work out perfectly as a ten minute design, so I won’t go into detail about the waist section. Other than to say that I sewed it right sides together to the top of the shorts, and then folded it over and sewed it down on the inside atop the previous seam.

My mistaken way to do this had to add elastic for the top of this section. I want to make these and yoga pants with a crosswise knit cut short enough that it will not need elastic; the ones I just made have too much bulkiness around my already too bulky middle! I’ll hope to show how to make a yoga pants pattern here soon if I can.

But these worked well enough to wear and to love. My husband particularly loves these shorts; he’s been complimenting me on them all day. He doesn’t mind all the bulkiness around my middle, because he is responsible for it. This is what has come from having “cook dinner” on my don’t do list. He cooks things like rich stews, fried chicken, pizzas, and fat burritos and burgers every week! I’m going to have to take dinner off of my don’t-do list soon, or else I’ll have to make myself a whole new wardrobe!

I think they will be a comfy favorite, & I made them in just ten minutes for $0.

I think they will be a comfy favorite, & I made them in just ten minutes for $0.

Ten minute adult legging shorts

I made another kind of shorts for me in ten minutes, too.

I made another kind of shorts for me in ten minutes, too.

I made another kind of shorts for me in ten minutes, too.

I think of these knee length leggings as undershorts and wear them under casual short dresses.

Make these the same way as the other shorts, using stretchy knit and cutting them smaller for a closer fit.

Rather than adding bulkiness with a waistband channel, stretch a narrow elastic waistband and top stitch it down using a stretch stitch.

The elastic I had is fairly decorative,so I sewed it on the outside in this case. You can use a thicker elastic for the waistband, and sew it on the inside instead, if you prefer.

Make your own shorts

You don’t have to start with bandanas or T-shirts to make shorts.

Make elastic waist shorts to fit anyone by measuring desired length, inseam length, waist and leg circumferences (plus ease) and rise. It is easy to cut shorts to fit anyone’s measurements in just a few short minutes. No pun intended!

I encourage you to both sew easy shorts and to play with bandanas, refashion T-shirts, and have fun with fast fashion ideas like this. Happy sewing!