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How to Sew Your Own Flat, Drawstring Cosmetic Bag

Loretta learned to sew on her grandma's treadle sewing machine. She began sewing her own clothes in 7th grade and still enjoys fabric work.

Easily Create a Useful and Pretty Bag for Cosmetics or Other Items

If you like to see all your small items at once, this is the project for you. Whether for cosmetics, art supplies, or any task that needs to be portable with easy access, this bag will suit your needs. Open it to lay flat, then pull the cords to get up and go!

This is an easy project with no exact requirements for materials or measurements.

Be sure to view all thumbnail photos for more information as you go along.

Step 1: Choose Your Fabrics and Optional Features

You will need three fabrics and the drawstring.

  • Base fabric. This should be sturdy like a poplin or muslin.
  • Cover fabric. This will show when the bag is closed. Choose something lightweight.
  • Channel fabric. This is where the drawstring is threaded through. I used a knit on one bag and the same woven fabric as the cover on the other bag.
  • Drawstring. You will need two lengths per bag, each about 20 or 26 inches long, depending on the size of the bag you choose to create. This can be purchased cording, extra shoestrings, clothesline, or the cords from the shopping bags from certain stores.

Optional features would be fabric for an interior pocket and elastic to secure small brushes and cosmetic pencils.

Step 2: Decide Your Size and Cut the Pieces

Some bags for sale online are a 22-inch diameter circle. That seemed really big to me. I decided on an oval about 16 inches by 13 inches finished size. As a reminder, this is a forgiving project. You can end up with a circle or an oval, bigger or smaller than my finished size.

My oval pieces of fabric.

My oval pieces of fabric.

Step 3: Decide the Extra Features

For each bag, I sewed a length of elastic to the bottom oval. I made a few different sizes of loops for smaller eye pencils and larger cosmetic brushes.

I wanted a little stretchy bag inside each bag. I upcycled the stretchy net that comes from the produce department with the onions and avocados in a bundle. You could use regular netting, tricot, or repurpose a camisole.

Cut your little fabric to a reasonable size. Mine was about 5 inches by 7 inches.

For one bag, I sewed the bottom edge (from the 7-inch side) directly into the outside seam of the ovals. For the other bag, I sewed ribbon to encase the bottom edge and sewed that to the flat bottom.

In each case, I folded an inch over at the top edge and threaded gold stretchy cord through the netting. This makes a pocket that can be tightened to hold really small items.

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Please see all photos for a better understanding.

Step 4: Prepare the Channel for the Drawstring

On one bag I used a t-shirt knit, and on the other bag, I used the same woven fabric as the channel. You could use very wide double-fold bias tape or even make your own binding.

In each case, I cut two strips of fabric the length of my oval having two inches width. Therefore I had two red knit strips 16 inches by 2 inches, and two woven strips 16 inches by two inches. All strips are folded in half lengthwise having the raw edges against the outside raw edge of the base.

Keep in mind your seam allowance around the outside edges will determine the final opening of your channel for your drawstring.

Pin or clip these strips along the outside edges. They will almost meet at the outside, but not quite.

Step 5: Assemble the Cover to the Base

With your base fabric facing up (with any additional features) place the right side of your cover fabric against this, wrong side facing up. Basically, right sides together.

Sew or serge around the outside edges in a seam allowance width that is suitable for your fabric weight. On the bag with the knit channel I used a 1/2 inch seam allowance, and on the other I used 1/4 inch.

Be certain to leave 3 to 5 unsewn inches to turn this right side out.

Step 6: Turn and Topstitch All the Way Around

Using your opening, carefully turn your bag right sides out.

Topstitch the opening closed, and topstitch all around through all layers.

Step 7: Thread the Drawstring Through the Channel

You will need your drawstring to be the length of the complete circumference of your bag plus about 6 to 8 additional inches. Better to start too long because you can always cut it shorter.

  • Thread your drawstring through the channel. I used a large safety pin to guide my cord.
  • Start at one opening and thread all the way around.
  • Start again at the other opening and thread all the way around.

Step 8: Enjoy Your Bag and Give One as a Gift!

I hope you find this to be an easy project with a useful outcome.

Here are some photos from Mexico. You can see there is limited counter space.

I have a powder blush/eye shadow compact (Rimmel), several small applicator brushes, an emery board, a wide tooth comb, Olay wipes in a baggie, and several other items. There is a pink face washing puff and a magnifying mirror in a shower cap. My theory is that, if it should break, the pieces would be contained in the shower cap.

It is easy to shift things around to see what I need at the moment instead of digging through a vertical bag. See the thumbnails for more information.

I made this second bag at the same time and same dimensions as the one called out in my article. The only difference is the channel for the cording. I found the red rib knit a little thick to pull tightly, so I used the base fabric instead.

I hope you have been happy with yours if you made one!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 The Sampsons


The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on September 17, 2020:

Hi! I took this on a recent 10 day road trip. It worked very well keeping things contained yet easily displayed and retrieved in the small hotel bathrooms.

However, if I made another one, I would make it slightly larger, maybe 18-20 inches diameter Instead of 16. I think the 22 inch ones I’ve seen online would be too big.

Let me know if you make one!


The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on August 29, 2020:

Thank you, Peachy. I'm sure you can find something. A new purchase of 1/2 yard fabric, or up-cycle a sheet, dress, or shirt that has seen better days. You might be able to to use bias tape for the drawstring, but I think it would have to be replaced from time to time. Have fun!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on August 29, 2020:

Love yoyr unique ideas! Now i need to find the draw strings and fabric.....

The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on August 15, 2020:

Hello Chitrangada! Thank you for the kind words and encouragement. I hope your bags turn out well for you! Post back with photos!


Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 15, 2020:

That’s a good idea. Would love to make one for myself and I am going to make few more pieces, for my relatives too.

Thanks for sharing the well explained and nicely illustrated tutorial.

Marjorie Dumont from France on August 13, 2020:

Thanks for the tips! I'll share my experience and link to you once it's done. You read my mind about chair covers, I've been meaning to make some for two years, haha!

The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on August 13, 2020:

Marjorie: p.s. If you look on my profile you will find other sewing articles - hair turban, chair covers. Even though I use a sewing machine almost anything can be done by hand.

If you choose to do a larger project (chair cover) by hand, get a needle big enough that you don't have to struggle.

The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on August 13, 2020:

Thank you so much! Jewelry travel - good idea. Put in a few rows of elastic and maybe some velcro strips too.

The first one - with the red channel - has three layers. I found that to be too thick to close as tightly as I wanted. Use only two layers, instead.

Thanks again and share how it goes for you!!!

Marjorie Dumont from France on August 13, 2020:

How awesome are you? This will be a good traveling jewelry bag too. I am going to borrow my friend's sewing machine before Christmas and I'm giving one to each of my friends. Thanks for this hub :D