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:

lotus4

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

lotus5

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!

Tutorial: 3 Ideas for Using Japanese Bento Bags

Tutorial: 3 Ways to Sew Japanese Bento Bags

Bento bags, AKA azuma bukuro

Bento bags are a popular Japanese style of bag, more properly called azuma bukuro (or fukuro. Bukuro and fukuru are different pronunciations of the same word, which is a blend of two words that translate to “good fortune” and “bag.” Azuma is the historical name for the eastern region in Japan now known as Kanto and Tohoku).

These are also sometimes called Japanese market bags, triangle bags, even origami bags, although there are other styles called origami bags, too.

I discovered bento bags a few weeks ago myself, and I am so glad that I did, because these are incredibly useful. I told you in January that I planned to sew for Christmas in July, and I’ve actually been doing this since June. So I’ve been making lots of bento bags as wrappings for the gifts I am sewing now. And for my own personal and household use, too.

There are different ways to sew bento bags. Whichever method you use, they end up the same shape. It is useful to know how to make these both ways, though, so that you can use scraps to make them. You might choose one way over the other depending on what size fabric scrap you have.

How to sew bento bags from rectangles

To make a bento bag from rectangles, you need two same sized rectangles that are three times as long as they are wide. Your rectangles could be 5″ x 15″ for a small bento bag, 6″ x 18″, 7″ x 21″, 8″ x 24″, 9″ x 27″, or any size, as long as it is three times as long as it wide.

Choose most any fabric you like to make these. Use 2 layers of cotton or linen for a soft and relaxed bag, or try denim or canvas for a sturdier bag that holds its shape well.

One rectangle will be the outside of your bento bag; the other is the lining. Align these with right sides together and sew around all four sides, leaving an opening for turning. Turn, press, and sew this opening closed.

Now place this lined rectangle with the outer fabric on top, and fold into thirds, with the lining fabric folded over the front. Sew two seams attaching each outer third of the rectangle to the center at opposite ends.

Then, sew across the two outer corners of the bag to box the corners. The shape and size of the bag will differ depending on how deeply you box these corners. Or you can choose not to box them at all.

Turn right side out and your first bento bag sewn from rectangles is complete. I’m betting you will make many more.

rectangle bentos

I made these bento bags from rectangles.

Sew bento bags from squares or triangles

There a couple of different ways to construct these from squares and triangles. Here are two slightly different variations on one method:

Take two same sized squares of fabric. They could be the same fabric for a bag with outsides and linings the same, or two different fabrics for a bag that will show both fabrics on both sides. If you want to use this method to make a bag with one fabric showing on the outside and one other fabric for the lining, you will need to first cut a square of each fabric in half diagonally and start the next step with four triangles rather than two squares.

Now you will either fold your squares in half diagonally with right sides together to form right triangles, or lay two different triangles right sides together, if you cut them as described above. Sew these together with an opening. Turn triangles right sides out, press, and sew the opening closed.

Then lay one triangle on top of the other at the right angles, forming a square where they overlap. Sew down along the edges of this square.

bandana bento

Overlap triangles at the 90 degree angles,and sew the square these form.

Now fold bag with right sides together and sew along both side seams. Box the corners and turn right sides out.

One More Way

Yet another way to make these is to start with three same sized squares, or six for a lined bag. You can use smaller scrap squares for this method than you can for the previous method, since this way uses more of them.

Sew two sides of one square to two sides of another square. Then sew two sides of the third square to the other two sides of the middle square.

You could line these as in the above methods, by sewing outer and lining squares right sides together and turning. Make three of these lined squares and then sew together.

This one is made from three squares. I'll make the lining the same way & sew the two together.

This one is made from three squares. I’ll make the lining the same way & sew the two together.

Or you could sew the bag and lining pieces separately, forming two bags. Then put them right sides together and sew, leaving an opening. Turn, press,and stitch opening closed. Sewing it this way creates a reversible bag, by the way.

What to do with bento bags

Now you know a few different ways to sew bento bags. You can probably think of plenty of things to do with them on your own, but here are quite a few ideas from me for how to make use of these handy bags.

Gift bags

These make “re-useful” wrappings because rather than just being a fabric gift bag, the recipient can then use it for some handy purpose like any of the ideas below.

Lunch sack

I first found out about these bags when I saw an anime character on TV using one to carry her bento boxed lunch. You can use these to carry your lunch as a pretty package whether you also use a bento box or not.

Your lunch will taste much better than this felt example lunch! Just tie bag closed to carry.

Your lunch will taste much better than this felt example lunch! Just tie bag closed to carry.

Bread basket and cloth all-in-one

I’m thinking they are perfect for wrapping loaves of bread as gifts, and these can go straight to the table for serving the bread and keeping it covered, too

Grab and go sack

For pencils, yarn or knitting supplies, small patchwork pieces, works-in-progress: anything you need to keep together and carry along.

Sort-able storage

Make a set for sorting nails or other hardware; fabric, scraps, or trim; cords, wires, or anything else. I plan to make a rainbow set for myself to sort small pieces of fabric and scraps by color. This could be a solution for organizing tools, a kitchen junk drawer, or bead and jewelry supplies collection, too.

Basket / bin

You can make these with interfacing or even quilted for sturdiness. Especially when these are small, they will nicely stand up and hold things on a bureau, desk, counter, or table. Or stand one in a dresser drawer or cabinet.

Harvest bucket

Sew another strip of fabric to connect the two ends and it becomes a handy tool for harvesting your garden.

Produce bags

For separating fruits and vegetables on the counter or to use while shopping. Unlike many reusable bags, bento bags are easily machine washable.

Use them to harvest or store produce.

Use them to harvest or store produce.

Purse or shopping bag

Sew a strip for a handle and carry a bento bag, small or large, as a casual purse or a shopping bag.

Make a strap by sewing a wide or two narrow rectangles into a tube, then tuck raw ends under & insert the ends of your bento bag, then sew.

Make a strap by sewing a wide or two narrow rectangles into a tube, then tuck raw ends under & insert the ends of your bento bag, then sew.

Add to this list by sharing your ideas for how you will use these in the comments below. Happy sewing!

Sew Easy Fabric Flower Pins for Bags, Hats, Hair, Gifts and More

Sew Easy Fabric Flower Pins for Bags, Hats, Hair, Gifts and More

Sew Easy Fabric Flower Pins for Bags, Hats, Hair, Gifts and More

I wanted to make a fabric flower pin to dress up and bring together the complementary colors on a reversible tote bag I made for my mother-in-law’s Christmas gift.

Yes, I’m getting a head start on my Christmas making now. And that’s why, when I loved the flower I made for her bag, I kept going and made a bunch of these pretty flowers. I kept my favorite of the bunch for my hair, and the rest are for gifts.

I kept my favorite of the bunch for my hair, & the rest are for gifts.

You could sew these directly onto a ponytail elastic, barrette, headband, clip, clothing, or bag, but I opted to make them more versatile by sewing them onto small brooch pins, which I can then pin on my hair elastic, hat, or bag.

Who can make a flower?

While making these, I had a sweet memory of my great grandmother, Lucy, who was a Sunday school teacher and loved nothing more than hearing children sing.  Of all the songs she taught us, my favorite was always this one:

“Oh, who can make a flower?

I’m sure I can’t, can you?

Oh, who can make a flower?

Only God, it’s true.”

While these aren’t the real thing, I sure felt happy while creating these fabric flowers and thinking of this old song and Grandmother Lucy. I hope you enjoy making them, too.

How to sew fabric flower pins

To make these double flowers, you need ten or twelve circles of fabric, a strong hand needle, thread, and a button for the flower center. You may cut five circles each of two different sized circles, or you can use all same sized circles. You may choose to cut seven rather than five for the bottom layer; these will be the larger circles if you are using two sizes.

If you would like to make leaves, cut these from slightly larger circles than you used for your largest flower petals.

You can cut your circles using an Accuquilt Go, a compass, or with the help of an Olfa circle rotary cutter.

You can also make your circles by tracing around a glass or other round object. I traced and then cut my circles several layers at a time. I used several sizes of mug and glassware and made my flowers in a few different sizes.

Sew by hand

Once you have your circles cut out, you can sit and sew them. This little project is sewn entirely by hand, and so is a great opportunity to sit and watch TV, or to have something to do while sitting in a waiting room or traveling as a passenger.

Thread a needle with a long, double length of thread. What I mean is, thread the needle and then tie the two thread ends together at the end. Then, take your first circle and fold it in half, wrong sides together, and then in half again, forming a quarter circle.

Sew a long running stitch through all four layers of the curved edge. Then pull the thread taut to gather the petal and repeat with the next petal. After you have sewn and gathered five petals, pull thread to tightly gather and sew the last petal you gathered to the first one of the five.

Sew the last petal to the first, then neaten center.

Sew the last petal to the first, then neaten center.

Continue to sew the raw centers of the petals tightly to each other, to tighten and neaten the inner edge of the flower center. Do this on both sides, then tie and cut your thread. You can set this flower aside for now.

Wash, rinse, repeat

Now sew another flower, perhaps using a different sized circle. Once you have both, sew them together with the smaller flower on top. If you’d like to add one or a couple leaves, do that now.

I made my leaves slightly differently than the flower petals. Instead of folding the green circles into quarter circles, I folded the circles in half, and then thirds. Then I sewed them with less gathers than the flower petals. Sew the leaves onto the back of the bottom flower layer.

Choose a matching or contrasting button or use a bit of embroidery for the flower center. Sew the button down through both layers of fabric flower.

Then sew the whole thing to a brooch pin, hair elastic, bag, or anything else. Small brooch pins work best, in my opinion, as these can then easily pin across a ponytail elastic or even a small barrette, not to mention on bags, lapels, hats, and etc.

Poinsettia pins

You can sew both flower layers from red fabric and make these into poinsettias. These will be useful during the holiday season. I plan to make small gifts of brooch pins at least, but I can think of lots of other ways to use these for holiday decorations and gifts, and I think I’ll be making a lot more of these fabric flowers in red.

You can sew both flower layers from red fabric & make these into poinsettias.

You can sew both flower layers from red fabric & make these into poinsettias.

Enjoy making them

I hope they will bring joy when I give them as gifts.

I hope they will bring joy when I give them as gifts.

I felt joyful making these and I hope they will bring joy when I give them as gifts. Whether you make just one fabric flower or a basket full, I hope you will enjoy making these as much as I did. Happy sewing!