Tips for Choosing Fabrics for Drawstring Bags

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


Happy Wednesday, and welcome to the first post of the Lined Drawstring Bag Sew Along! I'm excited to kick this off by sharing my favorite shortcut for choosing fabrics. I'll be back later this week to share my plans for the bags I'm making during the sew along! I'll be updating the schedule post with all the posts so that you can easily catch up or reference these posts after the sew along ends!

I hope you'll sew along with us! Sew from the tutorial or the patterns:
Lined Drawstring Bag Tutorial
Lined Drawstring Bag Pattern
Lined Drawstring Bag Expansion Pattern

The methods and tips I'll be sharing in this post are simply things that have worked well for me when it comes to choosing fabrics for drawstring bags or other small projects. There is absolutely no wrong or right way to choose fabrics for a project or any rules for what kind of fabrics to use where. This is just meant to be a bit of guidance if you don't know where to start. Please feel free to experiment and play around with different combinations to figure out what appeals to you!

Recognizing Direction in Fabric Designs
Before we dive into my go-to method for choosing fabrics, let's talk a little about directional and non-directional fabrics as well as types of prints. The lined drawstring bag pattern & tutorial have cutting instructions written to accomodate directional fabrics for both the Exterior Main pieces and Exterior Accent pieces. Let's look at some different types of directional fabrics so that we're on the same page.


The fabric print above is a one-way directional fabric. It has a distinct top and a distinct bottom as well as distinct sides. That just means if it was turned a different way it could be upside down, or sideways. If you're using this type of print for the Exterior Main, you'll want to make sure the "top" edge of the print is touching your accent piece when you sew your pieces together.


The fabric print above is a two-way directional fabric. It has distinct sides, but the top and bottom are interchangeable. This means the piece can be turned two different ways and it will look right when sewn up!


The fabric print above is non-directional fabric. That means it has no distinct sides, top or bottom. It can be cut and turned any direction! This is the easiest type of fabric to use for drawstring bags, if you're nervous about getting your pieces laid out right.

Types of Fabric Prints
I'll be referencing focal prints, blender prints, and neutrals throughout this post. These can be a bit subjective, but here are some examples of what these look like to me for the purposes of this post:


Focal fabric: good deal of interest, typically larger in scale, often with multiple colors


Blender fabric: only one or two colors, typically smaller in scale and with a repetitive design


Neutral fabric: solids, linen, shot cottons, chambray, cork, etc.

Fabric Selection Shortcut

My favorite method for choosing fabrics is to start with a single fabric and use it to choose the rest of the prints or accesories I'm going to use for a project. Here is my very loose formula for deciding what type of fabric to use where on my bags:

Exterior Main: Focal fabric or medium scale blender
Exterior Accent: Blender, small focal fabric or neutral
Lining: Neutral, small blender or small scale non-directional focal

Let's walk through a few of the example fabric pulls below:


For this fabric pull I started with the Exterior Main fabric, which is a one-way directional focal print. I used the colors in the focal print to choose the rest of the fabrics, which are all blenders. The blue print is the Exterior Accent, the orange is the Ties, and the peach is the Lining. I was sure to choose a light colored lining fabric since the Exterior Main has a light background; I don't want the lining to show through it!


For this fabric pull I started with the Exterior Main fabric, which is a non-directional small scale focal print. I used the colors in the focal fabric for the remaining parts. The orange small scale focal print is the Exterior Accent, the dark purple blender is the Ties and the light purple blender is the Lining.


For this fabric pull I started with the Exterior Main fabric, which is a one-way directional focal print. It has a limited color palette so I added in a few neutrals to this pull. The peach blender is the Exterior Accent, the cotton/linen neutral is the lining, and the natural twill tape is the Ties.

For this fabric pull I started with the Exterior Main fabric, which is a non-directional blender print. I paired it with two more blenders in the same black and white color palette. The black print is the Exterior Accent and the white print is the Lining. To add a pop of color I choose a rainbow paracord for the Ties.


For this fabric pull I started with the Exterior Main fabric, which is a one-way directional focal print. I found a second focal print in a very similar color palette for the Exterior Accent, and a purple blender that coordinates with both exterior prints for the Lining. The natural twill tape is the Ties.


For this fabric pull I used prints from a single collection, to make it nice and easy! I started with a two-way directional focal print for the Exterior Main. I paired it with a medium scale blender for the Exterior Accent and a small scale blender for the Lining. The yellow twill tape is the Ties.

For this fabric pull I started with the Exterior Main fabric, which is a non-directional focal print. I used colors in the focal fabric for the remaining parts. The pink blender print is the Exterior Accent, the green blender print is the Lining and the mustard paracord is the Ties.


For this fabric pull I started with the Exterior Main fabric, which is a two-way directional focal print. I paired it with two blenders that match the colors in the focal print. The red dot blender is the Exterior Accent, the cream blender is the Lining and the natural twill tape is the Ties. I coordinated the colors in this pull but also the theme, using a paper-like blender with an envelope themed focal print.

Using Different Fabric Substrates

I probably use quilting cottons 75% of the time when I make a drawstring bag. I have a large stash of options and they're easy to work with. The other 25% of the time I use other weights of cottons! Barkcloth, cotton/linen blends, light-weight canvas and chambray have all made their way into drawstring bags. They aren't too different to work with, the main thing to keep in mind is not to use something too heavy on the Exterior Accent. If the fabric there is too thick it could interfere with the drawstring closure. I don't typically use lightweight fabrics like voile or lawn, since they wouldn't provide very much structure. I've used knit fabric before, which actually worked better than expected. Find that tutorial here: Knit Drawstring Shoe Bag Tutorial


Cork is another fun option to really mix up your drawstring bag! I used it on this bag as a bottom accent (variation is in the expansion pattern). It was fun to work with and the result is so cute!


I hope this post is helpful when you're choosing fabrics for your bags! I can't wait to see the fabric pulls you all come up with for your projects! Please share them with me on instagram @jenib320 + #lineddrawstringbag or via email (jenib320 @ gmail.com)!

Happy Sewing

9 comments :

  1. Hi there! I loved the post. Really helpful and detailed. I admire you work and the way that you mix your fabrics.

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  2. Love this post. You have a wonderful stash. I'm looking forward to this sew along.

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  3. Wonderful advice! I love your fabric style. 😁 Can you recommend any favorite online shops that carry good Blenders? Sometimes I'm just looking for a "Blenders" category, but don't want to spend time looking through all of the other fabrics. Thx!!!

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    1. Stash Fabrics has a good basics section! - https://www.stashfabrics.com/c/basic-fabric-collections

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  4. I'm ready to sew-along! Thank you for the amazing help in pulling fabric. Here I go!!
    -Jean

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  5. Your stash ! How is it possible to have so many fabrics ?! I want to come to your place and watch them all ! Amazing !
    I love the Little houses fabrics, this bag will be very pretty ! And the bag with pencils is very cheerful !
    Thanks for the advice !

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  6. I so want that pencil fabric! Can you tell me where to get it?

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    Replies
    1. I'm not sure where you can get it now, it's a few years old! It's from the collection Noteworthy by Erin McMorris. A google or etsy search might turn something up!

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