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Based on 115cm fabric

  • 30cm fabric (here, a different fabric is used on each side)
  • Scraps of fabric for appliqué and contrast rectangle
  • Scraps of Bondaweb
  • Buttons to decorate
  • 1m cord
  • Matching thread

Finished Size

11 1/2 x 16" (29 x 40cm)

Skill Level


Why not start the academic year with a bright bag for those new plimsolls and trainers? Eleanor Reynolds has designed a fun drawstring bag that is so quick to make, you could set up a production line. And don’t restrict the bag for school children - why not make one for your own gym class or your toddler’s playgroup?


  1. Cut 2 rectangles of fabric 12 x 18 1/2" (30 x 47cm) for the bag sides.
  2. Following the manufacturer's instructions, iron the Bondaweb onto the heart and star fabrics. Cut out simple shapes to appliqué - the bag here has a folk art feel with its heart, star and buttons. Iron a shape onto each rectangle, or as here, onto a contrasting navy fabric. Satin stitch the raw edges.

TIP! The top 3" of the bag rectangle is folded over for the gathering cord, therefore position any motifs nearer the bottom of the bag, so they are clearly seen.

Pump bag

OPTION If you want to hand appliqué the motifs, remember to add a 1/4" allowance to the shapes, to allow for a seam to be turned under. Curved edges and angles will also need snipping to make the motifs lie flat.

  1. Sew on buttons as desired (Stitch firmly - the bags are likely to be in and out of the washing machine). Embroider the child's name onto the bag using satin stitch. (Or stitch by hand using an embroidery thread and chain stitch or running stitch).
  2. Satin stitch the contrasting panel onto one of the rectangles.
  3. Take one bag side, with wrong side facing you. From the top edge, fold over and machine stitch a 1/4" single hem 6" long on two of the long edges. Repeat with the other bag side.
  4. Take one bag side and with wrong side facing you, fold down 3" from the top edge. Fold under a 1/4" single hem and pin. Machine stitch this hem close to the edge. Machine another row of stitching, 1" from the first row. This makes the channel for the cord. Repeat with the other side of the bag.
  5. Place the two bag sides together, with right sides touching. Pin and sew down the sides and across the bottom. Start stitching from a point just below where you stitched the first side hem. Turn the right way out and press.

OPTION For extra strength (effectively a double hem), after you have turned the bag the right way out, top stitch along the sides and lower edge, joining up with the line of stitching on either side of the bag.

  1. Attach a safety pin to one end of the cord. Put a knot in the other end and thread the cord through each channel on either side of the bag. Knot the ends together. If necessary, knot, glue or stitch the ends of the cords, to prevent them unravelling (or enclose the ends with a fabric tab).

Other Ideas

Once you understand the basic construction techniques, why not try out some of the following variations on the basic bag?

  • For a football-mad child, make each side of the bag from strip patchwork in the team colours. The child’s name and age (or favourite position) can be appliquéd onto one side of the bag, in the same style as football shirts.
  • Make the basic bag waterproof and suitable for damp swimming gear, by lining a cotton bag with clear shower curtain PVC. On the front of the bag, find a small piece of jazzy or tropical patterned fabric and cut in the shape of a swimming costume. Alternatively, sew the bag out of cotton towelling.
  • For a junior Darcey Bussell’s dancing classes, sew the bag from a remnant of satin and appliqué on some satin ballet pumps. The cord could be replaced by a wide satin ribbon.
  • If the children enjoy being organised at school and play, why not encourage it at home, by making an oversized bag for their dirty laundry?

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 8 Number 6 - September 2000