Sunday, June 24, 2012

Totetorial: The Hobo Sack

Welcome back to our third tote tutorial (see the others here and here)! I think this may be one of the easiest kinds of bags to make--the simple drawstring bag. The kind that you hang off the end of a large stick when you're running away from home and hopping trains. But this one isn't big enough for running away necessities, so if you make one of these for your kids have no fear--they won't get very far :)  You could very surely make one of these for any age and any thing, but I think their simplicity and very handy cinched-in top works well for kids. Not much to fuss with to access the inside, and a pretty secure top to keep the goodies safe. You can make them in any size at all and can completely change the look just by changing the fabric. Isn't that one of the best things about sewing? You change from a fun cotton to a more serious tweed and you've got a whole new kind of project, even if that's the only thing you've changed! OK, let's get going before I keep going on and on...

You don't need much for this tote--less than a half yard each for the lining and outside. This is the type of project that would look really great in scraps, too. So if you've been hoarding....I mean...SAVing...some little bits that are too cute to toss you can make your bag a little patchworky bit of fun. Be mindful of your pattern if you're using directional fabrics. For this bag I used some pre-packaged bias tape for the drawstrings, but you could make your own tape if you prefer, or use twill tape or any other kind of cord that suits your fancy. You'll need about 60 inches total of whatever you use (more if you make a larger bag). Please note that we'll be using a 3/8" seam allowance throughout, and we'll be back-stitching at the beginning and end of each seam (that gets really boring to keep writing, so I'm boiler-plating it here :)

Start by cutting from both your outer and lining fabrics 2 pieces each that measure 13 inches wide by 15 inches high. This will make a pretty nice kid-sized bag, but if you've got other motives size up or down accordingly. Before we sew anything we're going to make a few little markings on the bag. Make a mark one inch down from the top of the fabric on each side, and then another mark a little more than an inch down from the first mark. Do this on each of the sides of your bag pieces for both the lining and the exterior. I made you a drawing so you can see what I mean:

 The black dots are your markings, and the red lines are where we'll be stitching. 

Take your outer pieces, put them right sides together, and sew across the bottom. Press that seam open. Keeping your pieces right sides together we're going to do the side seams. Start sewing until you reach the first mark you made one inch down. Backstitch. Then skip ahead to the next mark you made about an inch away. Start sewing again (make sure you backstitch here). Sew straight down to the end. Do this on the other side seam as well, making sure you leave that little one inchish gap (this is where the drawstring will go). Hopefully you can see in the picture below where I've left my gap--

Now press the side seams open. This next step isn't totally necessary, but it's quick to do and keeps the raw edges of the fabric from getting too agitated by the string when all is said and done. We're going to sew around the little gap we left, making a long rectangle around it. I keep my stitching about 1/4 inch away from the hole all around--

Do this for both sides. Here's what the outside should look like---

And here's the inside.

Now we're going to box out the corners by smashing them into a triangle. Your bag should be inside out. Bring the side seam and the bottom seam together making sure they're lined up perfectly. If this part is crooked it makes everything look crooked, so take care with this part.

I want my bag to have a depth of 3 inches, so I measured across 3 inches, making sure my 1.5 inch mark is right on the seam. If it was off, I'd have to check and make sure my seams were stacked up just right.

Mark this line, put in a few pins, and sew. Repeat for the other corner. Put them up against each other to make sure they're the same. Once you're satisfied that they're even, trim the corner off--

If you turn your bag right side out you'll see that you now have some lovely boxy corners.

Now do everything we just did to your lining pieces. You should end up with 2 identical  shells--one for the outside and one for the inside. Place one inside the other (it doesn't matter which) with the right sides facing each other. Check that your little holes line up--if they don't now is the time to make adjustments.

Match up the side seams, and pin around the top. Sew, leaving about a 5 inch gap in the middle of one of the pieces. Once you're all stitched, reach inside the gap and coax everything through the hole, right side out.

Shove the lining down inside the outer bag. Pin your top edge nice and neat, being sure to tuck the raw edges inside the gap we left. You might want to give a little press here (mind that you don't melt your pins!). Now topstitch about 1/8" away from the edge of the bag, all the way around. This does our top-stitching and closes the gap in one step.

OK. Here's the last bit of sewing on the bag. We need to make a casing for our drawstring. First make sure both layers are nice and flat against each other, and that the lining isn't pulled up higher or vice-versa. We're treating this as one layer so it needs to be neat. Line up your needle with the top line of the little rectangle we made around the gap.

Take note of the measurement on your sewing machine, as this will be your "seam allowance" for this part. If your machine is lacking in measurements put a piece of tape on your machine to place the edge of your bag against so you can keep everything lined up. Sew all the way around, keeping that seam as straight as possible.

Now you're going to do it again, matching up your needle with the bottom of the little rectangle, noting the measurement/putting down some tape, and then sewing around again. One note here--you may not match up the top of the skinny rectangles on each side. If you do, then wow! You're precise! It's more of just a sewing guide so we know where to sew our lines, and not something that anyone will ever notice if you're slightly off (especially if your thread matches your fabric). And I know what you're thinking--yes, I'm just saying that because mine weren't exact on the other side :)

Here's what it should look like--two rows of stitching for the casing, and one for our topstitching. OK, that's all the sewing done. Now we're going to feed the strings through. I'm using pre-made bias tape, which is open along one edge. I stitched the edge shut, and then sewed along the folded edge as well, just because I liked the way it looked. If you're using cording or twill tape you won't need to stitch.

To feed my tape through, I stuck a pin in one end, fairly close to the edge--

Start on one side. Feed the tape into the hole, going in between the outside and the lining, using the pin to lead. When you get to the opposite side gap, pretend it doesn't exist and keep feeding, until you come all the way back around and through.

My tape was just exactly the right length, so I knotted the ends together right away so they wouldn't pull out.

Then repeat this process, going in and out through the other side gap. I knotted again right here, but if my drawstring was longer I would have fiddled with it a little more. It should allow you to pull open the top of the bag fully without too much extra being visible. When you tug the cords to close the bag, they should be just the right length for carrying. Play with yours a little to see what length you'd like the cords to be. Then knot the ends together.

And that's it. These are so easy I made one for a little boy, too, using regular rope cording for the drawstring.

Aren't they just the right size for all the wee little junks kids love to tote? Good for a few snacks and toys when you know the kiddos might need to be occupied for a bit (doctor's office, trips, visiting Great Aunt Hilda who won't let you touch anything...). And for the grownups--toiletries? the latest portable craft project? whiskey for visiting Aunt Hilda who won't let YOU touch anything either?).

 Awwww look!! They're on a date!!!

Next week we'll be stitching our final tote--one of those cute little drawstring backpacks. I'm going to switch things up and sew with BOY fabrics for a change!! I know!!!! What the...?

If you have any questions on this or any of the other totes please don't hesitate to ask. They're fairly straightforward bags, but if you're new to sewing (or new to sewing bags) things can be a little confusing until you get the hang of it. See you soon!

Linking up here:


  1. Oh I just found your blog via another one that I was looking at this morning. Thanks for sharing this tutorial. I adore owls and my brand new blog has a few cartoony owls on it too!
    The owl fabric is gorgeous I guess it was bought in the US? I'll be back xx

  2. Oh and one thing I forgot to mention, my Son has just sent us lots of USA sweets over and my Daughter loves the red sweedish fish! x

  3. Fun tute, but never mind the kids, I think my dad could do with a couple of these in his stocking at Christmas, he can never have too many wee bags for things...

  4. I love the owl print! such a comprehensive tutorial too! (I'm still a bit scared of my sewing machine!)

  5. These are so cute. I loveeeeeeeeee the owl fabric.

  6. Thanks for the close up photos. It makes following sewing tutorials so much easier. =)

  7. Great tutorial & cute bags! Learning to sew is on my To Do List. Followed you from Creative Bloggers Party & Hop :)

  8. These are so cute! and they look fairly easy too! I love that owl fabric. I'm a new follower! I love sewing projects and Id love for you to share this {and anything else you'd like} at my link party.

  9. Wow.. these Hobo sacks look very cute! I really love the way you wrote your 'totetorial': very clear instructions and lots of useful tips with a touch of wit and humor (the Aunt Hilda bit was pretty funny!). Thank you ever so much for kindly linking up your post to my Girly Mondays link party. I hope to see you again next week! Have a great day, Delhia x

  10. I love these! I think I may make one with a vinyl or water resistant lining and use it as a wet bathing suit bag!

  11. This looks fantastic! I just love the sweet owl fabric and the tutorial is amazing.. I've always wanted to try to make one of these bags and you make it look soo simple I just might!
    Thanks so much for sharing with the Pink Hippo party!
    Amie @ Pinkapotamus

  12. Love these Hobo Sacks!!

    Thanks for sharing @'Sew Cute Tuesday'.
    I'll be featuring you tomorrow, so be sure
    to stop by and grab a 'featured' button!

  13. Simply Adorable..............! My daughter will love this craft idea.thanks for sharing.

  14. So cute! we are featuring this today, by the way!

    thanks for sharing and have a fab weekend! see you at the party this week.




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