How to Make a DIY Laundry Bag for the Dorm

  • 01 of 08

    Need to Tote Laundry?

    Photo by Jackie Burrell

    Packing up your kid for the big move to college? Send her off in style - or at least ready to tackle the dorm laundromat without leaving a trail of dirty socks - with this DIY Dorm Laundry Bag. This is the simplest sort of drawstring bag, a yard-long swath of fabric, folded in half, with a lined top and a few embellishments to make it adorable ... or manly.

    P.S. Adorning these bags with fusible fabric pieces is a favorite craft activity at high school Grad Nights and graduation parties too. Find...MORE more tips for doing this project for 10 to 400 kids at the end of the basic instructions!

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  • 02 of 08

    Dorm Laundry Bag Materials

    Photo by Jackie Burrell

    For this simple laundry bag project, you'll need the following:

    • 1 yard of 45" or wider cotton fabric, preshrunk
    • A 12" piece of contrasting, 45" or wider cotton fabric, preshrunk
    • 2 yards or more of grosgrain ribbon, soft rope or other drawstring material
    • Colorful cotton fabric scraps
    • Fabric glue or fusible material, such as Stitch Witchery (Compare prices on Stitch Witchery here.)
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  • 03 of 08

    Step 1: Sewing the Lining

    Photo by Jackie Burrell

    Place the larger piece of fabric - in this case, a sprightly green striped cotton - on your work surface, wrong side up. The contrasting cotton fabric will form a lining at the top of the bag and provide a convenient drawstring sleeve.

    So, measure about 10" from the top and pin the - in this case - pink fabric below that mark, ​on wrong side up. Using a sewing machine, stitch across, leaving a half inch seam allowance and securing the pink fabric to the green. Flip the pink fabric back to the...MORE right side, and press into place.

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  • 04 of 08

    Step 2: Adding the Drawstring

    Photo by Jackie Burrell

    To form a drawstring casing, stitch a line through the green and pink fabrics, about an inch above where you just stitched. Tip: You can thread the drawstring through later, but it's much easier if you sew the drawstring casing with its filling, so to speak, already inside it. Just be careful not to stitch over the drawstring. You want it to slide easily within the channel. Use a few pins to hold it in place while you sew.

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  • 05 of 08

    Step 3: Finishing the Top Edge

    Photo by Jackie Burrell

    The pink or contrasting fabric should now hang over the top of the green stripes by an inch or more. Fold it over the top, using a hot iron to give it a crisp crease. Tuck a half-inch border of the pink fabric under to form a tidy finished edge. Press well. Then sew a line of stitching, about a 1/4 inch from the edge, to hold it in place and add a decorative touch.

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  • 06 of 08

    Step 4: Finishing the Bag

    Photo by Jackie Burrell

    Almost done! Fold the green fabric, right sides together. Avoiding the openings to the drawstring casing, sew the long sides and bottom together, leaving a 1/2" or more seam allowance all the way around. Reinforce the bottom edge by stitching a second seam over the first.

    Turn the bag right side out and press. Reach through the drawstring opening and pull the ends through to the front. Tie the ends of the strings together so they don't escape, and remove any pins.

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  • 07 of 08

    Step 5: Embellishing the Bag

    Photo by Jackie Burrell

    All that's left now is to decorate the bag, using colorful fabric scraps and a fabric adhesive or iron-on fusing material, such as Stitch Witchery. This Mary Engelbreit fabric was left over from a quilting project and I couldn't resist the "Oh No!" girl's editorializing on the topic of laundry, but any cotton fabric scraps will do. Pin the fabric to a sheet of fusible material and cut them out together, then position them on the bag and use a hot iron, without steam, to fuse...MORE them into place.

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  • 08 of 08

    Adapting the Bag for Graduation Parties & Grad Night Crafts

    Photo by Jackie Burrell

    One DIY dorm laundry bag is cool. Ten to 400 bags can be awesome - or nightmarish, if you don't tweak the project a bit. These customizable laundry bags are a great craft activity at high school Grad Nights and graduation parties. Teens will spend a happy 30 minutes picking out colorful fabric embellishments and using fusible material, fabric glue or fabric paint to adorn the already-completed, but plain bags. But you'll want to make a few changes:

    • Find a fabric deal. The fabric shown...MORE here cost $4 a yard, an expense that's negligible for one bag, but truly alarming for 400. It's not a particularly happy thought even for ten bags. So watch for fabric sales, use inexpensive muslin (whose price can drop as low as $1.49 a yard), or look for plain, flat bedsheets via or a similar community swapping site.
    • Recruit sewing buddies. Stitching up even a simplified version of the bag will get old very, very fast, so find some helpers.
    • Simplify the bag. Eliminate the lining and the lowered drawstring casing. Instead, fold the top of the bag over to form a casing - press the raw edge under before sewing. Use an inexpensive drawstring, rather than ribbon.
    • Embellish, embellish. Offer the teens a variety of embellishment options. Fabric paint and rubber stamps with fabric ink stamp pads are fun, as are stacks of ready-to-iron fusible letters so kids can spell out their college, their name or the word "Laundry" on the bags. Purchased letters can be pricey, but if you have access to a die-cutter - most schools have Ellison cutters - try cutting stacks of fabric ABCs. (A single piece of cotton fabric may get stuck in the die, so try cutting several pieces of fabric at a time, or sandwiching them between two sheets of plain paper. Do not use a Cricut.)