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The Ultimate Guide to Drawstring Backpacks

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The Ultimate Guide to Drawstring Backpacks

In the past couple of years, drawstring bags have become a trendy item because of their versatility and their customizability. They have a long and interesting history. In this article we’ll show you where you can purchase one or show you how to make your own drawstring bag. They come in several different materials, sizes, and you can use them for a variety of occasions. This post will tell you everything you need to know about this fun, durable, and customizable bag. We'll also link you to several pages where you can purchase your own drawstring backpack.

The History of the Drawstring Bags

Drawstring bags or cinch bags have been in use for centuries. There are ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs depicting men with small pouches tied around their waists with a long cord. Even though they’ve been around for so long, they didn't begin to gain popularity until the 13th and 14th century. The first drawstring bag was an ancient cloth or leather pouch that men traditionally used to carry coins or their valuables.

The Rise of the Girdle Pouch - 14th and 15th Century

Since pocket had yet to be invented, in the 14th and 15th centuries, both men and women would attach small cinched bags to the front of their girdles to hold their valuables. The cord's length would be dictated by the wearer's social standing, lifestyle, and current fashion trends. Women, in particular, began using beaded, jeweled, or ornate cinch bags to hold their valuables.

These drawstring bags had a twofold purpose. Aside from being a fashion accessory, they were also a betrothal tool. Girls were taught to sew and embroider, and they would do so on these small, ornate bags. Usually, they would stitch love stories into the fabric of the pack. They were also used to hold small religious items and trinkets.

Swete Bagges - 16th and 17th Century

Due to the expanding skirts, these centuries are known for, the smaller girdle bags would get lost in the additional fabric of the women's dresses. So the girdle bag evolved into a small bag that women would wear under their skirts. These bags often contained sweet-smelling herbs, dried flowers, spices, perfumed cotton balls, or powders.

These bags also became an indicator of one's social status. Ladies often had long, bejeweled or beaded drawstrings that attached to their bags. In addition to the herbs and flowers, they carried small gifts, jewelry, and coins.

Embroidered Bags - 18th and 19th Century

The 18th century saw a rise in popularity for the drawstring bags, as dresses began to have a more slender silhouette. Both men and women favored them and began using them every day to carry the things they needed. Additionally, they also saw a rise in popularity as a betrothal or marriage tool due to the amount of time the women put into customizing and embroidering them.

These bags were typically attached to the women's waist via a long drawstring and a decorated buckle. They usually carried coins, jewelry, or keys. The 19th century also saw women with multiple cinch bags in a variety of colors so they could color coordinate their bags to their outfits.

Femininity and Youth Culture - 20th and 21st Century

The early 20th century saw a rise in small, beaded personalized drawstring bags. The roaring 1920s brought dance halls and the need for a small bag that could attach to the waste for security. The 1950s saw another surge in popularity as the smaller handbags became synonymous with beauty and femininity. By the mid-1980s the interest in unisex cinch bags spiked because of their association with sporting events and high-fashion. A black nylon cinch bag was released by Prada, and this touched off a buying craze. Today, this versatile drawstring backpack is used by everyone from college students to industry professionals.

How the Drawstring Bag Differs from a Traditional Bag

There are several key differences between traditional bags and drawstring backpacks or bags. These are very important to the overall functionality and versatility of this bag.

  • Accessibility: A drawstring bag is easily accessible, and you simply pull the top of the bag to open and pull the string to secure it. Normal bags have a multitude of clasps and zippers that can make them harder to get into in a hurry.
  • Compartments: A drawstring backpack has one main compartment. This makes it easier to find whatever you're searching for, since you won't have to look through multiple compartments like a traditional bag.
  • Customization: You're not able to customize most traditional bags, but with a drawstring bag, you are. You can have it manufactured to a special logo, color, or monogram.
  • Mobility: A drawstring bag is easy to grab and go, and its smaller size makes it more portable. A traditional bag is typically bulkier, and harder to carry for extended periods.
  • Security: You know your drawstring bag is secure because it cinches tightly at the top of the bag. A traditional bag has multiple zippers, and the possibility for something falling out is higher.
  • Space Saving: Traditional bags are usually bulkier and take up more space. A cinch bag usually lies flat, and it can be tucked into smaller spaces.

Where Can You Purchase a Drawstring Bag?

Since these bags are so popular, you can purchase them at a variety of box stores, shops or directly at ToteBagFactory which was recently named as one of the most convenient places to purchase them online. ToteBagFactory is so popular because it offer a large variety of blank tote bags and drawstring bags, it also allows you to customize the bag to fit your lifestyle. You can choose college themes, sports themes, or monogrammed for a personal touch.

Many big box stores carry a variety of these bags year-round, but you typically see a large supply of them around back to school time. Students like these bags because they're convenient, versatile, and affordable. Additionally, many smaller chain and sporting goods store stock a variety of drawstring bags.

College campuses are another place you can find them, and they're available at almost any college book or merchandise store. Those will generally have the college's logo or mascot on them, and they're usually done in the school's colors.

ToteBagFactory lets you personalize drawstring backpacks to suit your personality and color preferences. You may also be able to get a deal if you purchase more than one.

How to Choose the Correct Size for Your Drawstring Bag

Drawstring Bag

Today there are dozens of sizes of drawstring bags available, as well as different cord lengths. This can make it difficult to find the correct size you'll need, and this goes double if you're making your own cinch bag.

Bag Size

The first thing you'll have to do is estimate the size of the largest product you want to put into your drawstring backpack. As a general rule, you want to add at least 0.5 inches up to 2.0 inches larger in size than the largest items you want to carry. This will give you enough room to pack your things in without feeling constricted.

The same goes for the length of the drawstring bag. You want to have at least two inches of room to maneuver your things around. So you start by estimating or measuring the size of the largest objects and purchasing a bag that is two inches or more longer than your object. This allows you to have enough space to cinch the bag closed safely.

Drawstring Length

Most drawstring lengths are standard, and it will take some maneuvering to shorten them. You can get a general idea of how long you want the drawstring to be measuring your torso length and comparing it to the drawstring length. To get your torso length, start by finding your C7 vertebra, or the bony spot where your shoulders and your neck meet. You can tilt your head forward to feel this area better. Next, slide your hands down until they're resting on the top of your hip bones. Point your thumb backward and draw a line across your back to the center of your spine. Have someone measure the distance between the C7 vertebra and the line that was formed across your hip bones. This is your torso length, and you can compare it to the drawstring's length to get the correct fit.

Make Your Own Drawstring Bag by Hand

If you'd rather make your own cinch bag by hand, we have instructions for this as well. You can make this personalized drawstring bag to fit you, and it can be any color or size you want. More and more people are choosing to make and carry DIY Drawstring Backpacks. If you’re not sure how to make a drawstring backpack, follow the steps below!

Step One: Choose Your Material: This is a critical choice, as the material will dictate how long the bag lasts and how difficult it is to sew. You should also consider what you'll be carrying in your bag as well as how often you'll use it. Cotton is a popular choice for homemade drawstring backpacks.

Step Two: Choose Your Drawstring Material: Again, you have as much freedom as you want to choose the material for your drawstrings. Cord, ribbon, paracord, leather strips, or thick twine can all work well.

Step Three: Cut for Fabric to the Desired Size: Once you've chosen the size you want for your drawstring bag, measure and cut your fabric to two rectangular shapes. They can be as big or as little as you want it, but always cut it at least a half of an inch to an inch larger than you want your bag for sewing purposes.

Step Four: Form and Sew a Hem for the Drawstring: Turn your fabric, so the wrong or backside is facing out. Before you pin the pieces together for sewing, fold one to two centimeters of fabric down on the top to form a channel. Do this on both sides, pin it, and carefully stitch along the edge of the hem.

Step Five: Match the Fabric up and Sew: Lay your fabric back to back with the wrong side facing out and your hems matching up. You can pin the two pieces together for added stability, but it's not mandatory. Sew along the sides and the bottom, making sure to leave your hemmed end open. When all three sides are stitched, turn your bag out, so the front of the fabric is on the outside.

Step Six: Adjust as Needed and Add the Drawstring: Make sure your sides are even before you add your drawstring. The drawstring needs to be two times as long as your bag's opening. Thread your first piece of drawstring through a darning needle, and thread it through the channel you formed in step four. Do this on both sides, leaving string available to tie on both ends. Knot them together at the ends on both sides of your bag to finish the project. Following this drawstring backpack pattern will help you make your drawstring bag just the way you want it!

Make Your Own Drawstring Bag with Liner by Sewing Machine

If you want to make your drawstring bag more permanent, you can add a liner for added stability. A sewing machine will give you more freedom with fabric choices as well. For this project you'll need:

  • Two 3-inch by 10-inch Fabric Pieces - This is the top pieces of your bag of the bag that the drawstring goes through
  • One 10-inch by 16-inch Piece of Fabric - This is the outer shell of your bag
  • One 10-inch by 22-inch Lining Fabric - This will line the inside of your bag. Muslin works well, or cotton.
  • Two 1-inch by 24-inch Drawstring Material
  • Sewing machine, scissors, safety pins, thread, rotary cutter, ruler, cutting mat, and an iron

Step One

Start by pinning the two pieces of 3-inch by 10-inch fabric to the large 10-inch by 16-inch piece of fabric with the right sides facing each other. Leaving one-fourth of an inch on each side, sew each long side and use an iron to press the seams open.

Step Two

Take your muslin liner and lay it on top of the newly sewn outside fabric piece with the right sides facing outward. Take your long edge and fold it down one-fourth of an inch and use your iron to press it. Repeat with the opposite long edge. Once that is finished, fold it over one-fourth of an inch again for a neater appearance and sew along these edges.

Step Three

Take the short edge and fold it over one-fourth of an inch. Next, use your iron to press the seam and sew along the edge, making sure to leave one-fourth of an inch for the seam. When the short edges are finished, fold them over at 1.25 inches and use your iron to press the seam. Begin stitching at around the one-inch mark, leaving .25 inches for your drawstring.

Step Four

Take your bag and fold it in half with the right side facing in. Get your sewing machine and sew straight up the sides of your bag, stopping before you sew your drawstring pocket. With the bag still inside out, attach your drawstring material to a pen and thread it through the pocket. Once that's through, thread the other side of your drawstring piece through the other side of your back. Take your second drawstring piece and thread it through the pockets in the opposite direction. Snip and tie off your drawstrings to their desired length and turn your bag right side out.

How to Personalize Drawstring Bags

There are dozens of ways to personalize your cinch bag. If you make your own, the possibilities are endless. However, if you order a drawstring bag online, it’s also makes it very easy to personalize it. You can choose different colors, fabrics, logos, and even print names on your bag. Additionally, different sports teams, brands, and colleges have drawstring backpacks that you can purchase to show your pride in your school or your team.

Lengthening or Shortening Your Drawstring Bag

The only way to lengthen or shorten your bag is by lengthening or shortening the strings. Shortening them is easier than lengthening them. To shorten your drawstring bag, look for the toggle. Once you've found it, tighten your strings to the desired length and set the toggle. Cut the strings and reattach the toggle to the bag. You can also knot the strings for a quicker process.

To lengthen a drawstring, you may have to restring the bag. Start by removing the old drawstring. You can also use this for a base measurement and add-on for a longer cord. Tie your new drawstring to a pencil or a darning needle and thread it through where the old drawstring was. Once it's even, tie it off and test the length.

How to Fix Drawstring Bags

Fixing Your Drawstring Bag

Fixing a hole or a tear in your drawstring bag can be done by either patching it or sewing it back up. If you choose to patch it, you can use a durable fabric or specialized patch material that is thicker to reinforce the spot. Cut two pieces of the patch material, so it is roughly one inch larger than the spot you need to repair. Place it over the tear and stitch around the patch with a straight stitch. You can also use fabric glue to reinforce the torn area or hole before you apply the patch. Then flip the bag inside out and stitch the second patch to the inside of the first patch.

If you want to sew your torn area, you'll want to reinforce it first. This is especially true if the tear is in a high-stress area of the bag. Again, you can use patch material, or even strong duct tape works. Prep the area by washing it and letting it dry to remove any dirt. Cut two pieces of duct tape until they're roughly one inch larger than your torn area. Place one on the outside and one on the inside of the bag and place your patches over the top. Sew the patches with a straight stitch to finish.

Fixing Your Drawstring

If you’re not sure how to fix a drawstring, we’re here to help! Start by removing the broken drawstring from your bag. Purchase a similar cord material and use the old drawstring to measure the length you need. Cut it to your desired length and attach a safety pin to the end. Thread your safety pin through the hemline and guide the new drawstring through until you've restrung your bag. Finally, tie the drawstring together at the ends.

How to Clean / Wash / Care Drawstring Bags

Most of the material that a drawstring bag is made out of is machine washable, and this makes them easy to care for. Cotton, nylon, and canvas are examples of this material.

  • Step One. If your cinch bag is made out of nylon or another synthetic fabric, you'll wash it in warm water. Any natural fabrics and canvas will be washed in cold water. Fill your wash with either hot or cold water and add the proper amount of detergent for the laundry load size. You can pre-treat your bag with stain remover in this step if you choose to.
  • Step Two. Take your bag and place it in a lingerie bag that has a zipper closure. This step will prevent your bag's drawstrings from getting caught or wrapped around any clothing as it washes.
  • Step Three. Place your lingerie bag into your washer with a load of colored clothing. Once it's gone through the wash cycle, keep it in the lingerie bag and put it in the dryer. Switch the dryer to permanent press or warm and tumble dry.
  • Step Four. When your bag has finished drying, take it out of the dryer and out of the lingerie bag. Give your bag a shake to remove any wrinkles that may have formed while it was drying.

What Materials are Used to Make Drawstring Backpacks

What are drawstring backpacks made of? Drawstring bags can be made of any number of materials. It all depends on what you want to use them for and how long you want to use them.


Burlap is a strong, easy-to-care-for material that a lot of canvas bags are made out of. It is easy to customize, and they are eco-friendly. It has also been used for centuries for crafting.


  • Eco-friendly and biodegradable
  • Durable


  • Darker material
  • Not water resistant


Cotton is another popular material to make cinch bags out of. It is easy to care for, and the stretchier material helps the bag to stand up to everyday wear and tear.


  • Easy to find, you can recycle old shirts
  • Material is stretchy


  • Cotton is usually a thinner material
  • May be more difficult to sew


Canvas material is gaining popularity for cinch bag construction. It is an inexpensive option and it takes paint well for easy customization. Canvas is known for maintaining its flexibility as well.


  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to customize with paints or markers


  • Stiffer material
  • May be difficult to sew by hand


For bags that are more for indoor use, mesh is a breathable material that is very inexpensive. It comes in a variety of colors, and it is very lightweight.


  • Mesh is very lightweight
  • Comes with a tighter weave


  • Possibility of ripping the holes
  • Won't keep your things dry


Another very popular material for drawstring backpacks is nylon. This slippery material comes in a variety of colors, and it is more stain-resistant. Nylon is also very easy to care for.


  • Resistant to Stains
  • Tight weave, can withstand water


  • Can melt at high dryer heat
  • Not biodegradable


Polyester is a durable fabric that is fade-resistant. It is a lightweight fabric that resists puckering and stains. You can wash and dry this fabric on low heat.


  • Holds color for a long time
  • Light enough to float


  • Fabric does not breathe
  • Tends to retain odors

Occasions to Use a Drawstring Bag

You can use drawstring bags every day for a variety of occasions. The fact that they're all easily customizable and you can purchase them in bulk makes them excellent for large and small occasions.

  • Birthday Parties: Drawstring bags are a convenient and easy way to grab them and go when you're in a hurry. This makes them the perfect option for birthday parties, or parties where there is limited space to store bags. Nylon, mesh, or canvas would be a good choice because they'll withstand repeated use without tearing or breaking.
  • Campus Events and School Pride: Whether you want to showcase your school colors, sorority, fraternity, or your school mascot, drawstring backpacks are an excellent option. Most of these bags are made out of nylon because it's durable and easy to care for. They'll withstand long periods of use, and they can handle heavier loads.
  • Charity and Fundraising: When you have a large event, drawstring bags are a good option to give your guests momentos or carry your essentials to and from the event. Cotton or canvas bags are a good choice for these types of events because you can have them easily customized and they're inexpensive but durable.
  • DIY Gifts or Craft Night Making or customizing a cinch bag for craft night is an inexpensive and easy way to get together with friends and enjoy a fun night or afternoon. Burlap, canvas, and cotton are all good to use if you plan to paint, draw, or embroider on them.
  • Fundraising and Promotional Event: When you host a fundraiser or a promotional event, you want people to remember it. Customizing drawstring bags with your event or business name and contact information is one way to keep it in mind. Nylon, canvas, burlap, or polyester are good choices because they're durable and will hold up against repeated use.
  • Military: Cinch bags are an excellent tool for military personnel to use because they're extremely durable, come in a variety of sizes, and they are easy to store. Historically, burlap and canvas have been the bag material of choice because it's easy to care for.
  • Travel: If you plan on traveling, a drawstring bag is an easy way to store all of your essentials. They're lightweight and small enough to take on a plane, and they fit in almost any size compartment. They'll also withstand various bumps, conditions, and uses. For travel, nylon, polyester, canvas, or burlap would be good for their durability and versatility.

Drawstring bags are a versatile and durable option for anyone who wants to be able to pack their daily essentials and take them everywhere quickly and easily. There is also the fact that they're smaller than traditional bags, and they can fit in a variety of spaces. The drawstring bag has a long and colorful history that dates back centuries. They're easy to customize, and you can buy them in a variety of colors. All of these factors make the drawstring bag marketable, and they are here to stay.

Written by Priscilla Greene — December 3, 2020