How to sew a drawstring dog treat bag

Farewell, treat crumbs and goodbye baggies! Reusable washable treat bags are our go-to for pocket treats. I’ll be keeping my pockets tidy without wasting plastic from now on, thanks to my set of reusable washable DIY drawstring dog treat bags. My bags are made with sturdy fabric and strong seaming to hold up to daily wear-and-tear as well as washing. Here’s how to sew different types of simple drawstring bags.

Ditching Plastic for Fabric

On our family efforts to reduce waste, I sewed a whole set of reusable washable fabric shopping bags.  I figured why not use some small pieces of fabric and offcuts from my craft stash to make pocket-sized reusable dog treat bags as well? I’ve been pretty good about reusing small plastic snack bags to carry the boys’ treats until the bags either fell apart or were used as emergency poo bags (oops), but waste is still waste. Hello new reusable drawstring treat bags, goodbye plastic!

In the many years since this post was first shared, we’ve avoided a lot of plastic. Yay!  These first bags got so much use, I actually wore them out. See the pawnote at the end of this post on how well-used these bags have been, and how I sewed our new DIY reusable fabric treat bags.  The new bags are similar, but have a waterproof lining. They’re awesome!  They’re also easier to sew since I skipped the draw strings based on how we used them (or rather didn’t use them in the case of the strings) on walkies.

Dalmatian dog in a bandana staring at a colourful bag filled with dog treats

Drawstring Treat Bag Shapes and Sizes

Although these little cuties are sized and styled for dog treats, drawstring bags are an easy DIY. Homemade drawstring bags can be sized and scaled to suit a wide variety of uses. They’re great for gift wrap, storage, travel, and more. Drawstring bags are also a good stash busting crafts for making something useful from your fabric remnants, especially small bags, and you can make them as plain or as fancy as you please. There are a number of different ways to cut or combine fabrics when making a drawstring bag.

Different pattern shapes and sizes for making drawstring bags

Double Drawstring Bags (Sleeves Sewn on Each Side)

These bags are sewn with a separate drawstring sleeve at the top of each bag before the sides are joined and finished. They can be made with a single rectangle of fabric twice the intended height (plus double top sleeve and seam allowances) by the width (plus seam allowances) of your planned bag. If your fabric has a directional pattern, you can join two pieces instead of folding a single piece so that the design stays right-side-up on the bag. You can also do this to use up smaller pieces.  

Single Drawstring Bags (One Continuous Sleeve)

Alternatively, a wide piece of fabric can be sewn with a single continuous sleeve on the top edge before folding on of the sides and joining the opposite side and bottom to create the bag. They can be made with a rectangle of fabric twice the intended width (plus seam allowances) by the height (plus top sleeve and seam allowances) of your planned bag.

Accent Sleeves Using Different Fabric

You can use different fabric for the drawstring sleeve on either of these formats. To add accent fabric, joining or binding are common methods. Choose materials, finish, and sew with care as bulk or fraying inside the sleeve can cause problems. For the accent sleeves on these bags, I opted to join fabrics. Since we want this seam small, neat, and low bulk, I use a faux felled seam as shown below.  It keeps things nice and compact on my small pocket-sized bags. Once the accent fabric is sewn in place, the bag can be finished the same was as a single fabric bag. Thread changes are optional to coordinate if/as needed.

To create a faux felled seam as shown above: Fold and iron the seam allowances, tuck the edges into each other, and sew together. You can use this joining technique to combine fabrics to two-tone any part of your bag (or other crafts), not just the sleeve. It does mean a double line of visible stitches on the finished folded over drawstring sleeve, but this looks quite nice if you sew carefully.

Making Drawstring Dog Treat Bags

Tips and Tricks

Big drawstring bags are really easy to sew. Small drawstring bags, like pocket-sized treat bags, might require a few compromises since there is little room to manoeuvre after you join the sides. If you wish, you can angle the drawstring holes slightly so that they don’t end up with extra bulk where they meet. Folding inwards (single or double fold) is simple and neat. For an unlined treat bag, I like using a French seam. This requires a little extra fabric in the seam allowances and a touch more sewing, but looks very tidy and there are no raw seam allowances or thready bits to fray inside the bag. Alternatively, if you have a serger, that’s a great option to finish the inside seams for extra durability, like in our new lined pocket treat bags.  

Supplies and Materials

The materials and supplies used in making the drawstring treat bags shown in this post include washable fabric, coordinating thread, cord or ribbon for the drawstrings, scissors, rotary cutter (handy but not essential), iron and ironing board (optional but recommended), and sewing supplies. Bags can be hand sewn, but will be much quicker and easier if you have a sewing machine. 

  • Fabric (body of the bag and any optional trim)
  • Complimentary coloured thread
  • Cord or ribbon (drawstring)
  • Sewing machine and general cutting / sewing supplies
  • Iron and ironing board

I used a ready-made iron-on to fancy up one of my treat bags, but the bags are also cute and functional plain. I kind of like plain for shoving into my pockets, too. Traditional iron-ons can be a bit bulky.  If you have a cutting machine, heat transfer vinyl is an easy and slim alternative if you’d like to create a customised dog treat bag iron on design.

The steps and photos in the example below are for a single sleeve drawstring bag with French seams. The images in the collage below illustrate these steps being used for a two-tone bag (joined as above). A double drawstring bag follows the same general steps, but with two top sleeves before joining the two free sides. You can also skip the French seams and sew a standard hem right-side-in.

Sewing a Single Sleeve Drawstring Bag with French Seams

Preparing the Fabrics

  • Fabric should be washed, dried, and ironed flat prior to the start of the project. This is to preshrink the fabric so that things don’t distort during normal usage and washing after construction.
  • Cut fabric(s) to size (see above).  Don’t forget to include extra for the French seams, if using.
  • Optional: If using a separate fabric to create an accent sleeve, you can join the fabrics using your preferred method (see above) prior to assembling the bag.
Making a drawstring dog treat bag with accent fabric sleeve

Pressing the Seams

  • Iron flat and use folds/creases to mark out all of your seams and folds.  If you are working with plain or double-sided fabric, you might also find it handy to make a small mark to denote your designated inside and outside, just in case! What seems like the inside will become your outside when we French seam, so take care.
    • Fold in half along the middle width wide (future side of bag) and iron to crease.
    • Fold a seam allowance around all outside edges and iron to crease. Note that for French seams, this will along your narrow first allowance (initial join), not the additional allowance (second sewing).
    • Fold to form your drawstring sleeve (seam allowance still folded inside from the raw top edge) and iron to mark a crease along the top fold.
    • Fold again and iron to mark the bottom edge of the sleeve.
    • Using the bottom line as a marker, fold the corners of the sleeve inwards slightly to make a small notch. This can be a single fold or double (raw edges under). Iron to crease.
  • Double check all of your allowances and alignments. Adjust if needed.  Optional: Apply a small amount of flexible washable (or wash-out) fabric glue under the top seam and/or angled corners to help hold while you sew. Don’t glue any bag edges.

Sewing the Drawstring Bag

  • Stitch a small hem on each of your angled notches to secure the edges.
  • Fold and sew your drawstring sleeve, taking care to ensure that the top seam is folded inside and sewn into place under your hemline.
  • Refold along your middle crease. Iron again to make sure that everything is nicely flat and even. Flatten your side seam allowances outwards, but don’t steam out the creases. They make a handy little line to follow while you sew.
  • Sew along the first seam allowances for your top and bottom edge. Yes, this is right side out. It’s the first step of making French seams.  Close the sides up to the intersection with your notches but not (of course) closing up the openings on that lovely new sleeve. Reinforce the seam below the notch for a extra strength.
  • Trim the raw edges and corners for less bulk in the finished bag.
  • Invert the bag to wrong-side-out, taking care to tuck out your corners, and iron flat. 
  • Sew another hem along the bottom and side, just inside of your first seam allowance. This captures the first hem and your raw edges inside, creating the finished French seam inside your bag.  Reinforce the seam below the notch for a extra strength.
  • Invert the bag to right-side-out and admire your handiwork. 
  • Thread through your drawstring and enjoy!

A Pawnote on Pocket Dog Treat Bags

In the years since this DIY was first posted, the scrappy little dog treat bags were incredibly well used. After years of daily use and regular washing, they were coming apart and due for replacing. Although drawstring bags are great, I usually found my (lazy) self just folding the top over and tucking them into my pockets. No need for the bulk of a cord or extra sewing if I’m not using the drawstring feature. Skipping the sleeves makes pocket treat bags even easier. Hem the top, seam the sides, and done. Easy as!

Fabric can also be difficult in our sometimes soggy New Zealand weather, so I used a waterproof liner in some of my new bags. These quickly became my go-to bags, and I don’t think I’d go back to a bag without a liner. As an added bonus, the liner also helps keep any natural colours from staining the outer bags. Not that the dogs care, but dingy fabric just seems dirty, even when it isn’t.

Check out the DIY dog treat bags with waterproof liners for the details on my new pocket treat bags.


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