Sunday, October 19, 2014

Let's make a Cinch bag!

The easiest project to make when you're just starting out is a cinch bag, also known as a drawstring bag. My children use these for school gym clothes and we all use them when we go on trips. My family went to Washington D.C. a couple of months ago and we each carried one with a bottle of water, a snack, and a book to read when traveling to and from the hotel. It's so much better than carrying one large backpack. Everyone responsible for their own items, and the weight is off your back! So let's get started.

Materials needed:

1/2 yard cotton fabric
4 yards 550 parachute cord (or cording)
2 grommets
Coordinating thread
Long ruler

Very short list, right? Why did I write coordinating thread? Some people prefer matching thread while others prefer contrasting thread. Does it really matter? No. It's personal preference. I used white because I just happened to have a large supply. Choose whatever fabric suits you. My child wanted some Syracuse University (SU) fabric. I guess by now you have figured out where I'm located. SU is huge around this area. Children coming out of the womb are born bleeding orange. So it was just natural that I would make him a bag with this fabric.

There are some things you need to consider when buying your fabric. How does the design lay on the fabric? If there is no real pattern to it, then you will have less work than I did when it comes to sewing. However, the pattern on my fabric was specific in that it ran from selvage to selvage. Look on the edges of your fabric and you will see a border that normally has the manufacturer's name and the name of the fabric. That's your selvage. Since my pattern runs this way, I will have more work. Let me show you:

Ignore the toe shot! This is the directional fabric folded in half. Technically I could sew on the left side and the right side only and have a "bag." But let me show you what the back side would look like:

Upside down doesn't work well for anyone. Oh look! Another toe shot! So I'm going to give instructions for "directional" fabric. I will also let you know what to do if you don't have it.
  1. Measure with a ruler 19 inches in length x 15 inches in width. You can use a quilting ruler (my favorite), raid your husband's stash in the garage for his T-square (another huge favorite but it's heavy!), or squeeze it out with a standard 12 inch ruler. Just make sure your line is relatively straight. If you do not have directional fabric, measure out 15 inches width by 38 inches length.
  2. On the sides of the fabric, use an iron to fold down 1/4 inch of the fabric for the entire length of the fabric. Using a straight stitch, sew from top to bottom near the edge. This will create a small hem for the casing which is where you will put your drawstring.

  3. Take one of the panels and lay it down wrong side up. The right side is the side with the print - the wrong side will not have the graphic or it will be lighter. Fold down about 1/2 inch of the fabric from the top. Iron it and fold down again at 1 inch to press, making sure the 1/2 inch is sandwiched between the fabric of the panel and the 1 inch you just folded. This will create a casing for the cord. Sew along the edge the entire width of the panel. If you're unsure how this should look, sneak down to step 4 to see the casing after it's been sewn together.
  4. Place your right sides together, making sure the direction of the fabric is going from the top to the bottom. You will be sewing 3 sides of the panel, leaving the top open. (If you didn't start with directional fabric, you will only sew the left and right sides). Start sewing where the casing ends rather than the top of the fabric. This is what it should look like when you're done:
  5. At this point your bag is 3/4 of the way done. Simple, right? Next, cut your cord in half. You will be using half for each side. Paracord (also known as parachute cord) comes in different sizes such as 325 and 550. This bag is made with a thicker cord (550) but this cord once cut can easily come apart. There's a white cord on the inside and it will slip right out of the outer covering.
    This is a great thing for making ID holders but terrible for cinch bags. So take out a lighter, match, or light up the gas stove and use the flame to burn the edges. Be careful because it does burn if it touches your skin! I use my stainless steel sink to tap it down once I've lit it on fire.
  6. You now have your choice of using your favorite method for stringing this through the casing. There are tools called Bodkins
    You can use a "turn it all." 
    Or you can use a very basic method of just using a safety pin. I've always used this method but came up with a new way using the Turn it All. That's the method I will show here but the methods still apply the same.

  7. Grab the largest tube that will easily fit into your casing. For me, it was the blue one. Slide one end of your cord into the tube and then slide the wooden dowel that matches the size of the tube. Your cord should be wedged between the tube, slightly hanging out, and the wooden dowel.
  8. Choose an end of the casing to start. You will slide the rod all the way down the casing and out the other side.
  9. Making sure you don't pull the entire cord through the casing and eliminating the work you just did, slide the rod through the back casing and out near the first opening.

  10. Now we're going to go to the opposite side. You will use that as your starting point. This is what it should look like there now:
  11. Use one of the openings as your starting point and thread it through and back to this spot. 
  12. In the bottom corners of the bag you will need to cut an X about 1 inch from the side, straight through both layers of fabric. 

  13. The grommets are used in pairs. One side is shorter than the other. I personally purchased 5/8 inch but stores carry them in various sizes. Poke one end up through the hole:
  14. The way these attach is by putting one end of the grommet through the other. A piece of metal will be sticking up from the longer end. You will need to hammer this down. It's best to use a tool because it makes it smoother but if you don't have one, you can always use just the hammer and a flat piece of metal to get it to push down. I once used the fat end of a screwdriver. Very primitive but it got the job done. Here's the tool I used, you can get it from a home improvement store or your local craft store:
  15. Once you have taken your frustrations out on the grommet you can do the opposite side. The finished look will be something like this:
  16. Trust me when I say this, mine have looked a lot worse! Now to hide that ugly backing on the grommet you will just thread the cord on that side of the bag through the hole, making sure the ends are poking out on the ugly side. Tie it into a knot at the end and then do it again. You want it to be large enough so that when it pulls on the bag it doesn't slip through the hole.

  17. Doing the same thing on the opposite side and you're done! Here is my finished bag:
Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Maybe next time I won't ramble on and we can get it done quicker! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.