Cinch Bag DIY by Karmic Chaos

Bag "cinched"

You know those cute little cinch bags that kids seem to wear as an accessory these days? My kids (especially my son) love them too. In fact, I bought a cool Notre Dame cinch bag for my son for his birthday – this one actually, NCAA Notre Dame Fighting Irish Sprint Pack, Small, Team Color. Thankfully it was cheap and I’m handy with a sewing machine because it came apart along one seam within two days. I repaired it, of course, but it’s not quite the same because some of the mesh frayed too much to make a seamless repair. My son is a bit disappointed.

The big lesson here is that handmade items (when done well) will generally hold up a lot better. I’ve got a cinch bag that has lasted more than ten years! That’s right, I used these puppies before they became cool! Needless to say, when my daughter needed one for camp, we opted to make our own. Or rather, I made this one to teach her how. She insisted I do a post to teach others. Never fear, if you aren’t crafty enough or simply don’t have the time to make your own,  we will be bringing them to our Etsy store soon!

In the meantime, I promised a DIY!


Supplies for Cinch Bag
  • 1 yard 45″ wide fabric or 1/2 yard of one fabric and 1/2 yard for lining
  • 1/4 yard contrast for straps
  • thread
  • scissors
  • sewing machine
  • needle
  • pins
  • iron

Cinch Bag Straps

Start with the 1/4 yard of fabric for the straps. Trim the rough edges away and cut the piece in half the long way so you have two pieces 4 1/2″ wide by 45″ long.

Trim off the rough ends of the straps
Trim off the rough ends of the straps

Now you’ll need your iron and preferably an ironing board. With one strap on the board, fold the long sides in so that they meet in the middle. Press.

Folding the cinch bag straps
Fold the long sides to meet in the middle and press.

Bring the folds together so that the unfinished edges are in the middle and press again. This will give you sturdier straps with a finished look.

Fold strap in half and press
Fold strap in half and press

Repeat with the second strap and then stitch. I tend to stitch up one side and down the other for a more decorative appearance but as long as you stitch along the open edge to finish it, you will be fine.

Stitching one strap along the open edge
Stitching one strap 

The straps are done, set them aside but keep them close!

Building the Cinch Bag

If you opted to use one base fabric like we did, cut the yard of fabric in half. One is your outer bag and the other is in the lining. Cut approximately 3″ off of one of the halves (this will be your lining), fold it in half right sides together, and stitch along the edges with 1/2″ seam allowance. Set aside.

Cinch bag lining
Cinch bag lining

For the outer bag, fold it in half right sides together. Insert one end of one strap at the bottom of one side and one end of the other strap to the other side and secure with pins. Be sure to keep the straps pushed to the inside of the bag.  Stitch along the sides leaving several inches at the top of both sides. We went with 5″ to be safe. This is how you will form the casing for your straps.

Secure one end of strap near base of the bag
Secure one end of strap near base of the bag
Stitch from the bottom of the bag to approximately 5" from the top
Leave the top of the cinch bag open on both sides.

Grab one strap and stitch it to the wrong side of the bag a few inches from the top as shown. Fold the edge of the bag over the edge of the strap to create a finished edge.

Attaching strap to bag
Create a nice finished edge while securing your strap.

Make sure you really reinforce your strap so you don’t accidentally pull it out when using!

reinforce the strap
Reinforced strap

You will leave the other side open so that your strap can be pulled to cinch the bag. Forming the casing is a bit tricky but it’s actually harder to explain that it is to do!

The other end of the strap is left unstitched
The other end of the strap is left unstitched
Prepped to form casing
This is what it will look like.

Lay the bag flat and stretch the strap out so it is flat. Fold the other side down so it is out of your way. Fold the top of the bag over the strap to form a casing. Being careful not to catch the strap in your stitch, secure the casing above and below the strap. You will have to leave a raw edge for stitching in the lining later so keep that in mind.

Stitch very close to the upper edge
Stitch very close to the upper edge
Stitch beneath the strap
Stitch beneath the strap

Repeat with the other strap but make sure it is on the opposite side so that the bag pulls closed properly. Then, stitch the lining to the bag, right sides together (careful not to catch any of your straps in the stitches) and leaving a 5″ opening on one side so you can pull the bag to the right side.  Pull the bag through the opening and either stitch it closed with a needle and thread or use your machine. Make sure you reinforce the top of your bag above the straps.

Finish off the tops of your bag.
Finish off the tops of your bag

The Finished Cinch Bag

Autumn loves this bag and is using it at camp as we speak. Naturally, it’s Doctor Who fabric with TARDIS blue straps. Hopefully when she returns we will have some pictures of her using it!

Bag open
Bag open


Bag "cinched"
Bag “cinched”

Any question or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments or email us at!