Ditching Plastic for Fabric
On our family quest to reduce household waste, I sewed a whole set of different reusable washable fabric shopping bags. I figured why not use some small pieces of fabric for pocket treat bags as well? I’ve been pretty good about reusing small plastic bags to carry treats until they either fell apart or were used as emergency poo bag substitutes (oops), but the wear of in/out pocket use is pretty hard on thin bags and waste is still waste. Hello new drawstring treat bags, goodbye plastic!
In the many years since this post was first shared, we’ve saved a lot of plastic. Yay! See the pawnote at the end of this post on how well-used these bags have been and the changes I made when I sewed new DIY reusable fabric treat bags. These first bags got so much use, I actually wore them out. The new bags are similar, but simplified and lined. They’re awesome!
Drawstring Treat Bag Shapes and Sizes
Although these little cuties are sized and styled for dog treats, drawstring bags are an easy DIY that can be 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, 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 bag.
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
Different fabric for the drawstring sleeve on either of these formats. You can join or bind. Choose materials, finish, and sew with care as bulk or fraying inside the sleeve can cause problems. Binding is attractive, but can also be tricky, especially with a small overlap. For the accent sleeves on these bags, I opted to join. Since we want this seam small, neat, and low bulk, I use a faux felled seam. Once the accent fabric is sewn in place, the bag can be finished the same was as a single fabric bag (see DIYs below). Thread changes are optional to coordinate if/as needed with different fabrics.
To create a faux felled seam, as shown below: 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.
Tips and Tricks for Drawstring Treat Bags
Small drawstring 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 in the bag. Alternatively, if you have a serger, that’s a great option to finish the inside seams for durability.
Making Drawstring Dog 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.
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 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.
Fabric can also be difficult in our sometimes soggy New Zealand weather, so used a waterproof liner in some of my new bags as well. These quickly became my go-to bags. As an added bonus, the lining also helps keep any natural colours from slowly staining the outer bags. Not that the dogs care, but dingy fabric just seems kind of 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.