Introduction: Lanyard Collage Bag

Over the past few years, I've accumulated a big pile of lanyards in my junk drawer from various conferences/camps/tournament. I didn't really want to throw them away, but I didn't have a good use for them either. Eventually I came up with this bag! I like to think of this bag as a collage, because it's composed of lanyards from a bunch of different events I went to. It ended up being quite rainbowy. It would be a cool graduation gift. Since lanyards are generally thicker than cloth, the bag is pretty sturdy. I've been taking it with me on bike trips.

Some notes on this Instructable. It took me about three hours to finish this bag, and this 'ible assumes you possess very basic sewing skills. I created sketches to supplement the pictures for each step because some of the pictures are a bit chaotic, since the bag has a bunch of neon stripes. A couple of the sketches display as partly cropped until you click on them. Throughout this Instructable, please take care to remember whether you're working with the bag inverted or normal! Note that many of the lanyards I used were double sided.

Let's get started!

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Materials List:

  • Lanyards: My bag required 20 lanyards of various widths, which I accumulated in my junk drawer over a few years from various conferences/camps/tournaments. They can be all sorts of materials; some of mine are woven, printed, and screen printed. Keep in mind that whatever colors of the lanyards you use will end up being the colors of your bag. Some of the lanyards I used were pretty skinny (around 1 centimeter). I was concerned that they might be difficult to sew, but it wasn't a problem. I also ended up using a few lanyards that have seen better days (one of which was sitting outside on my broken down car for at least a year.) This also wasn't an issue; it's not noticeable that some of my lanyards are a bit faded. If they have a clip on the back, they're still usable. You’ll just have to cut it out in a later step. Last note about lanyards: I used a bunch of repeats. It would certainly be cooler not to, but I didn’t really have a choice.

What if I don’t have that many lanyards?

This project could be completed with other materials, like ribbons or a jelly roll. When I was running out of lanyards, I considered cutting off the cloth part off of medals (as in the type that hang around your neck). Hockey skate laces would make a snazzy bag, though it would be difficult to gather enough. Just keep in mind that the material needs to be strong enough to handle some wear-and-tear and flexible enough to bunch up around the drawstring.

  • Thread: Try to find a discrete color if you can.
  • Drawstring: The project requires around 144 inches of drawstring. I took mine off of an old duffle bag I had, but it could also be bought at a sewing store.
  • Tie: Optionally, you can add a tie to the top of your bag with 22 inches of cord.

Tools List:

  • Sewing Machine
  • Ruler
  • Scissors or Fabric Cutter
  • Iron
  • Sewing Pins
  • Safety Pin

Step 2: Remove Extra Clips

If you are using any lanyards with a clip in the back, then you will have to remove it before sewing together the rest of the lanyards. Cut out the clip so that you have two bits of lanyard. Lay the lanyards on top of each other so that the lettering is touching and the bottom of the lettering lines up (if they have lettering). Sew the end back-and-forth a few times, then trim any extra behind the stitches.

(Click on the diagram to display the entire photo.)

Step 3: Sew the Lanyards Together

Cut off the name tags on all of the lanyards. Lay out the lanyards on a table side-by-side. The resulting rectangle should be about 14 inches wide and 28 inches long (at its shortest). If not, go find more lanyards.

Pick two lanyards. Lay one on top of the other so that the sides with lettering are touching each other. Line up the edges of the lanyards and slide the top lanyard so you can see about half a millimeter of the bottom lanyard along one of the long edges. This should prevent you from sewing on the top lanyard without hitting the bottom lanyard. Stitch the lanyards together 1.5 millimeters from the edge.

Once the lanyards are stitched together, unfold them and check that they’re sewn together along their entire length. If not, refold them and add more stitches over the hole.

Repeat the process with all the lanyards. If you had to cut clips off the back of some of your lanyards, the process is still the same. You should end up with a 12 by 28 inch rectangle (roughly) when laid flat.

Step 4: Ironing

Iron the lanyards so they lay flat. This is an important step because when the lanyards lay flat you have a larger rectangle of fabric to work with. After completing this step, the lanyards should no longer curl up.

Step 5: Trimming

Using the ruler and fabric cutter (or scissors), trim the ends of the rectangle so the edge is straight. Cut as little off as possible.

Step 6: Sewing the Sides

Fold the rectangle so the ends line up and the bag is inside out. Mark each side two inches from the top of the bag.

Stitch the sides together until you reach the two inch mark. To keep the stitches from unraveling, add half a centimeter of stiches perpendicular to the sides at the two inch mark (see the picture).

Step 7: Drawstring Openings

Next, you’ll modify the edges where the drawstrings enter and exit the bag so they look nice. On the sides of the bag, fold the top two inches over (along the side edge) about 5 centimeters and stitch them down. This step isn’t very difficult, but it’s hard to describe in words, so check out the pictures.

Step 8: Drawstring Fold

With the bag still inside-out, fold over the top edge of the bag and secure it with safety pins. The distance from the fold to the end of the lanyards should be an inch. The end of the lanyards should line up the perpendicular stitches you put on the sides of the bag in Step 6: Sewing the Sides. Line up the edges of the lanyards to keep the fold square. For example, on my bag I checked that the left edges of the green lanyard were right on top of each other on the fold.

Stitch down the fold, removing the pins as you go along. Be extremely careful to not sew the two sides of the bag together.

Step 9: Drawstring Holes

The drawstring holes are simple enough. Turn your bag so its right-side-out. Set your sewing machine to zig-zag stitches, which should prevent fraying. You’ll need to sew a square of zig-zag stitches with an inner side length of around 8 millimeters. The outer side length of the square will depend on the thickness of your zig-zag stitches. On a piece of scrap cloth, measure the thickness of the zig-zag stitches. The outer length of the square will be 8 millimeters plus two-times-the-stitch-thickness. (See the diagram.) Mark the corners of the outer square with a Sharpie on your bag.

Rotate the wheel on the sewing machine so the needle is the farthest right it will ever be, so it will move to the left. Start stitching the mark you made at the corner closest to the corner of the bag, which is up 5 mm and over 10 mm. Continue stitching until you reach the next mark you made. Repeat this process for all four sides of the square, then flip over the bag and do the other corner.

After you have created a square, use a knife to cut an X shape in the middle of the square. The drawstring will slide through this X. Do not attempt to remove more of the fabric! It won't work, and you will hate yourself forever!

Step 10: Adding the Drawstrings

Cut your drawstring in half, so each piece is 6 feet long. Pick one piece and attach the safety pin through the end. Push the safety pin with the string as far through the drawstring fold as possible, then pinch the end of the safety pin that is closest to the opening. With your other hand, push as much of the fabric around the safety pin as possible, so it’s all bunched up around the safety pin. Then pinch the end of the safety pin that’s farthest from the opening, and let go of the other end of the safety pin. Use this process to thread the drawstring through the fold inch-by-inch.

You need to run the first drawstring through one opening and all the way around the top of the bag so that it exits the same side it entered. Do the same thing with the other drawstring, except on the other side of the bag. Then run each drawstring through the respective holes on each side of the bag and knot them.

Step 11: Add a Tie

Finally, the finishing touch: add a tie. After I’d finished my bag, I decided it needed a tie because I couldn’t pull the drawstrings quite as tight as I wanted to. The tie you’ll create in this step consists of two loops, each attached to opposite sides of the bag. When knotted together, the loops keep things from falling out of the bag.

Cut your lace into two pieces, each 11 inches long. Pull the drawstring on your bag tight and experiment with the placements of the two ends of the lace until you find one you like. Remember that there needs to be enough slack to allow you to tie the bag. Notice which lanyards the ends of the lace should be attached to. Loosen the bag. Sew the ends of the tie in place over the stitches that created the drawstring fold on the inside of the bag. Make sure to do a couple rows of stitches so they don’t break.

Step 12: Finished!


You’re finished!

Let me know if you have any questions or ideas!

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