How to Sew a Fish Shaped Laundry Bags {free sewing pattern}


Sew up adorable and useful drawstring laundry bags that are shaped like fish! This easy sewing tutorial includes free pattern templates. Get started now with just a yard of fabric. I have used this pattern to make a backpack too!

This blog post has been converted to an optional PDF that’s optimized for printing. Find it here. The blog post below is totally free to read, print, and sew! Just hit CTRL +P on your computer to print. The Optimized for Printing PDF download for $2 is totally optional. Y

In addition you can see me make it this video.

I listened to my readers who wanted this fish shaped drawstring bag to have 2 pattern pieces for lots of opportunities for creativity. On this particular fish, I used Hex Mesh fabric from Canvas Etc on the bottom portion. I originally got this mesh fabric to sew new camper curtains, but when it arrived I was disappointed by how stiff it is. I’m not sure if I’ll still use it for the curtains, but It makes a great drawstring bag!

On the all-fabric bags I added just a touch of embellishment. You could topstitch some lines, but I decided to sew simple narrow pintucks with contrasting thread instead. They add a little bit of texture – I love it.

This sewing tutorial includes instructions for making 3/8” wide fabric ties, but feel free to use 1/4”-1/2” ribbon or twill tape instead if you like. I really hope to see lots of different fishy laundry bags on Instagram – be sure to tag me @sewcanshe or #sewcanshe.

So let’s get started!

Fish Laundry Bags sewing pattern

Approximate dimensions: 26” x 18”. All seam allowances are 1/2”.

You will need:

  • 1/2 yard (or 2 fat quarters) of fabric for the top of the fish

  • 1/2 yard (or 2 fat quarters) of fabric for the bottom of the fish


  • 1 yard of fabric for the whole fish body if you don’t want a seam (like my blue fish bag)


  • less than 1/4 yd fabric or 2 yards of ribbon/twill tape for the ties

  • felt scraps for the eyes

  • a bodkin or large safety pin for threading the drawstring

Download the Fish Laundry Bag Pattern Pieces here.

Print up the pattern pieces at 100%. You’ll have to tape the pieces together as shown above.

If you want to cut the fish out in one piece (see my blue fish laundry bag), overlap the pieces by 1” and tape them together.


1. Cut 2 from each pattern piece on the fold.

2. Cut 2 strips 2 1/2” x 17” for the drawstring casings or fish ‘lips.’ I used the same fabric as the fish head, but you could use coordinating fabric if you want to.

3. Cut 2 strips 1 1/2” x  40-42” (fabric width) for the drawstrings.

Make the Drawstring Casing (a.k.a. the ‘fish lips’):

1. Fold each end of the 2 1/2” x 17” casing strips to the wrong side by 1/4” twice, and press. Stitch close to the fold to make  1/4” hems on all 4 short ends.

2. Fold these strips in half lengthwise, wrong sides together and press.

3. Center a folded strip along the slightly narrower mouth side of a fish head piece with the raw edges aligned and pin.

4. Stitch with a 1/2” seam allowance. Finish the seam with a zig-zag stitch or a serger, if desired. You could also trim the seam with pinking shears to finish it.

5. Press the seam allowance toward the fish head.

6. Topstitch along the fish body 1/4” from the seam.

Note: I used heavy duty contrasting thread for all of my topstitching and pintucks – just to add some interest.

Repeat all of these steps to sew a casing to the other fish head piece.

Sew the Fish Body:

1. Pin each fish head piece to a fish body piece, right sides together. Stitch with a 1/2” seam allowance. Finish the seam as desired.

2. Press the seam allowance toward the head and topstitch.

3. Tail embellishment (if desired).

Topstitching lines are marked on the pattern piece. You may use them or sew narrow pintucks like I did.

To sew pintucks, fold a fish body in half wrong sides together. Place a pin 7” from the end of the tail to mark the top end of the center pintuck.

Sew from the tail to the pin about 1/8” from the edge. backstitch neatly.

Fold and pin 2 more pintucks 3” above and below the first. The second and third pintucks should be only 6” long.

Repeat this embellishment (or topstitching) on the other side of the fish, if desired.

4. Place the two fish pieces right sides together and pin all the way around. Stitch.

5. Cut clips and notches all the way around the seam, or trim 1/4” away with pinking shears. I used pinking shears because this is a way to finish the seam too. Clip to the stitching at the center of the tail.

6. Turn the fish right side out and press.

Make the Drawstrings:

1. Fold the drawstring strips in half and press. Fold and press the long edges to the center. Fold in half again to make a 3/8” wide strip.

Note: you could fold and press the short ends to the inside too. Since I’ll be tying my ends in knots, I didn’t fuss with that.

2. Topstitch along each strip close to the folded edges.

3. To insert the first drawstring, attach a bodkin or large safety pin to one end. Push it through both casings and tie the ends together.

4. Repeat the same process from the other side of the bag for the second drawstring.

5. Cut out or trace the eye circles from the pattern piece to use as templates for felt eye pieces. Sew in place.

Who will you make these for??? Tell me in the comments!


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Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂

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  1. Nikki in VA says:

    Thank you so much for the tutorial. I am going to make one for my grandniece to use when she goes swimming at her grannie’s house. I am going to make another one for a little girl with cancer who wants to be a mermaid when she grows up. Then I will make at least one for me!

  2. Woooooooohooooooooooooooo Winner Winner Chicken Dinner I love this tutorial – I’ve seen many adorable fish bags on Pinterest and have pinned quite a few of them for inspiration. I cannot, however, draw to save my life, so this tute is just perfect – thank you so much 🙂

  3. I tried downloading the pattern but it failed both times with a network error message. I’m not sure where the error lies. Probably my end. Thanks for putting the pattern out there though.

    1. So glad to see this Mermaid laundry bag pattern! I think kids could also use it as a beach bag for their wet towels!

      A!so can’t wait to see this month’s tutorial and pattern of the hanging storage file.

  4. My Great-Nephew (4) loves Sharks. I’m going to make him one of these Laundry Bags. He’ll love it.

  5. I’m going to make this for my Grandson who loves to fish; he can carry his fishing ‘things’ back and forth inside. Thanks so much for your time and effort for all your tutorials and patterns.

  6. The Fish bags are going too be a hit, as daughter,hubby are really into boating, fishing, surfing , thanx great colors an design by

  7. I am making this for my grandchildren boys age 3 they will be excited I can see them dragging the fish on the floor ready to go to maw maw house for the night. Thank you for the blessing. I don’t have a printer available

  8. I can see these being great to help with the laundry in the kids rooms… we’re about to move somewhere where there won’t be room for a basket in the bathroom anymore.

  9. I made my first fish today! It’s sooooo cute, lol. I blogged it and linked back to you – thanks for doing this for us!

  10. HI!
    Love the tutorial!! Just wondering if the eye placement on the pattern is the right place or just a template? I think I will sew the eye on first before I put it together. Thanks!!


    1. The eye placement on the pattern is where I have been putting it. But you can really put it where YOU want it. 🙂

  11. Made five for my daughter, her hubby and their 3 kids for Christmas gifts. They live in Alaska and live to fish in the summer, mostly for salmon and halibut. Loved the tutorial. I was able to use up some of my fish fabric. I used decorative netting on one for an outside pocket. The white and found blue netting for other outside pockets. Had so much fun making them. Thank you

  12. I’m going to make one with a gill flap with an opening under the gill to store my excessive stash of plastic grocery bags. Thanks so much for the tutorial! I sew appreciate (get that? He he!) when other sewists share their ideas. Thanks again!

  13. Wonderfull fish!!! Thanks a lot!

  14. Thanks for the great tutorial! Just making one of these for our grandson to store his fishing game that I’ve made him.

  15. I am SO going to make one of these to accommodate my snorkle, mask and fins!!

  16. I downloaded the fish bag pattern but it would not print. I printed other things before and after trying several times to print this pattern. could you please tell me what I could be doing wrong? I have never had this problem before! Thanking you in advance Pat M

    1. I’m not sure how to help. Maybe you could download the file again in case it got corrupted the first time?

      Good luck!

  17. Big fan of these! The one thing that drove me nuts, and looking at your photos for three days, was the lack of clarity on which side of fabric to add the "lips" fabric for the drawstring. I took a chance, and was wrong, and threw away my first attempt. I couldn’t tell whether to add the strip to the wrong side or right side of the fish head fabric. Now that I got it, it’s super easy! Thanks so much for the tutorial!!

  18. Hi, Caroline. Thanks for the great tutorial. I plan to use this to make bags for my great grand children to carry their wet stuff to the beach in the summer. They are super cute.

  19. These are adorable. I can’t wait to make some for my grandkids. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Barbara (AKA Momo) says:

    I made my own pattern before you designed yours, and it is about 26 inches long. I made the lovable laundry bag from one piece of broadcloth, and appliqued an eye on it. I’m going to make another smaller one with a mesh insert for lingerie. I just love these! We plan to buy a camping trailer next year and these will go with the nautical decor I plan for it! Well, of course they also fit right in anywhere here in Florida! I think I will make more than one of the small one with a mesh insert as a shell-collection bag for the grandies (so the sand falls right through), and I’ll use some really bright colors/patterns. Your idea of using fat quarters will be perfect!

  21. Making three of these for my niece and 2 nephews!!! Goodbye scrap fabric!!?excellent use for those large scraps that are still too small to really do much with.

  22. I made one for my granddaughter who loves fish. I ordered a fish towel so she can use them when she goes to the pool. thank you!

  23. Thank you for the pattern! I am making these during my "no spend month" out of scrap fabric to give to my kids for their swim lessons. Perfect size for a towel, goggles and swim suits. I am making it for my 5 and 3 year old so I did adjust the size of the pattern to fit them better. Very easy pattern to follow!

  24. Going to make for my two grandchildren, thanks so much! Tutorial is great!

  25. Love these fish bags and plan to make them for my grandchildren. One question though. You said 1/2 yard of the mesh fabric is needed but if the mesh fabric is 60" wide x 18" long (1/2 yard), how can I get 2 bottom pattern pieces out of a half yard if each piece needs to be 19" x 18". The 60" fabric would be folded in half length wise making it 30" wide. Thank you. Love your tutorials. Sally

    1. Hi Sally,
      The pattern piece is only 18” in the shorter direction, so as long as you have 1/2 yard (18”) of mesh, you can fold the mesh as needed to cut out the pattern piece.


  26. I am teaching an 8 yr old little girl how to sew and I found this pattern on line. Well the first day Bella is going strong (although overcasting the seams is not her favorite). She loves the "eyes" and keep asking about the lips. She is so excited about what she has accomplished on her 1st day of sewing a project & is very excited to finish it. Thank you for the pattern.

  27. I can’t wait to make these for my nieces and nephews! They go to lake all the time, to fish and swim, and I think these would be perfect!

  28. HI all I am trying to get to the page to print the pattern but am getting a page error…Help?!

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