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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Belly Dancing: How to Make a Drawstring Zill Bag

by Shira


A zil bag is a nice convenience for carrying your finger cymbals between home and belly dance class. Some belly dance supply vendors sell them, but they're also easy to make.




  • 1/8 yard (11.5 centimeters) of sturdy fabric such as velvet, brocade, velour, poplin, broadcloth, or velveteen
  • Fray-check
  • 1/2 yard (46 centimeters) of gold or silver metallic cord, or satin rattail cord
  • Thread
  • Optional decorations (shells, beads, sequins, shisha mirrors, etc.)




Making the Pattern

Measure the diameter of your finger cymbals at their widest point.

Cymbal Diameter

Width of Pattern Piece

Height of Pattern Piece

2 inches
5 centimeters
4 inches
10 centimeters
3.5 inches
9 centimeters
2 1/2 inches
6.5 centimeters
5 1/2 inches
14 centimeters
5 inches
12.5 centimeters

If your cymbals are not one of the sizes shown above, use these guidelines:

  • For the width (side to side), add 2 inches (5 centimeters). This will be the width (side to side) of your zil bag.
  • For the height (top to bottom), add 1.5 inches (4 centimeters). This will be the height (top to bottom) of your zil bag.




Click on the diagram to the right to see more detail.

Use your pattern piece to cut 2 pieces of fabric.

  • Optional: Decorate the bag by sewing beads, shisha mirrors, shells, or sequins on it.
  • Place your rectangles right sides together.
  • Sew a 1/2-inch (1.3 centimeter) seam along 3 of the 4 sides as follows: Sew one short side, then across the long bottom edge, then up the other short side.
  • If the fabric is bulky, cut across the corners on the bottom diagonally near the seam to remove the corner fabric, as shown by the red lines in the diagram. This is known as clipping corners and will reduce the bulk inside when you turn it right-side out.
  • Turn the top edge under toward the wrong side about 1/4 inch (7 millimeters), then another 3/8 inch (1 centimeter) to make a casing. Stitch into place close to the edge, but leave about 1/2 inch (1.3 centimeter) at one side seam open — that's where your casing will go.
  • Take a medium-sized safety pin and pierce one end of the cord. Push the safety pin into the casing, and push it all the way through until it comes out the other end.
  • Pull the cord through into position so that ends of equal lengths remain outside the casing.
  • Turn the bag right side out.
  • Place the cymbals inside the bag, pull the ends of the drawstring, and tie in a bow.

If the fabric is bulky, instead of turning under the top edge to make a casing, you could use bias tape, as described elsewhere on this web site.

Depending on your taste and your sewing skill, you could alternately make an envelope-shaped finger cymbal bag that fastens with a snap, or you could make a zippered bag. It's up to you.

Another option could be to round off the bottom corners, to make a U-shaped bag.



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