How To Make A Drawstring Backpack–Beginner Sewing Project 3


Four of my children’s bags–two made by them, two made by me.

Instructions for Backpack-14” wide x 16 1/2” long–This tutorial is pretty straight forward and is a nice step up from the basics taught in project one and project two. There are a couple new skills used–making a casing and then stringing the cording through, and top stitching for extra strength (as well as giving the bag a nice detailed look).  Match your thread to the base color or use a coordinating thread that stands out; you can’t go wrong either way.   


Gather materials and supplies

backpack materials

Materials and thread

  • two 15” wide by 14” long fabrics for main body of bag
  • one 15” wide by 10” long contrast fabric for base of bag
  • two 72 ” (2 yards each) strips of 1” grosgrain ribbon thread, or parachute cording
  • straight pins, 2 safety pin, fabric pencil or chalk, scissors, iron–ONLY USE IRON IF FABRIC WON’T MELT, otherwise press with the edge of scissors, (like when creasing paper)

Prepare Sewing Machine                                                                                                    

Check that your machine has correct needle for this project. Wind bobbins if necessary, and thread your machine.

Pin and Sew Base to Body of Bag


1) With wrong sides together, pin bottom of body fabrics to base fabric, on 15” sides. Pay attention if fabric has a directional pattern–avoid upside down error!


2) Stitch using a 3/8” seam allowance and iron seams towards center.  Backstitch at start and stop to reinforce all seams.  Iron seams towards center as shown.


3) On right side of fabric, topstitch on base fabric through both layers.  You will do this twice–once for each edge of base.

Make Casing and Sew Side Seams


4) With wrong side facing you, fold over each of the 15” top edges 1” and pin in place.  Switch machine to a medium width zig-zag stitch.


 5) Zig-zag stitch between the center and the raw edge of fold.


6) With right sides together, pin side seams matching base seams and upper edges evenly. Switch machine back to straight stitch.

bp7with red

7) Make 2 chalk marks, each 1 ¼” from bottom of bag (as red lines above). Using 3/8” seam allowance, stitch side seams from top of bag to chalk mark, back stitching/reinforce stitching at start and stop. 

bp8 (2)

8) Press side seams open with iron.


9) On side seams, make a chalk mark 2 ¼” down from top casing seam (as red line above)–one mark for each side. With wrong side facing you, start from the top of bag and sew down the center of the seam allowance to the chalk line. Pivot and sew across chalk line to the center of the other side seam allowance. Pivot and sew up to the top.


10) Fold the top down 1 ¼” all the way around the top of bag and pin in place.


11) Starting at one of the side seams, stitch the folded and pinned fabric in place using a 1/8” seam allowance.  Reinforce stitch at each seam (in picture below notice the extra stitching–do this on both sides)


 12) Use a seam ripper to carefully open the casing sides by removing the stitching above your reinforced stitching.  Well done!  You have just made the casings for the straps to go through.

Insert Ribbons and Stitch Base


13) Attach a safety pin to each end of one length of ribbon. Use one pin to feed the ribbon through one side of the casing.  The second safety pin keeps the other end of the ribbon from being pulled through the casing also. 


14) Go from one casing immediately to the other casing without fully removing the safety pin. Be careful not to make a twist in the ribbon. Starting from the opposite side, repeat steps 13 & 14 so a ribbon is coming out each side as pictured below.


15) Adjust the ribbons so they are untwisted and even in length. Pin the ends together.


16) Stitch the ribbon straps together where pinned at about ¼ to 3/8” from raw edge.


 17) Holding the ribbon end, careful not to twist it, insert it into bag and out the opening on bottom corner. Pin in place. Repeat for other side.


18) Stitch with 3/8” seam allowance meeting up with rest of seam. Reinforce with back stitching the entire ribbon seam–most bag weight will strain this point of the straps; don’t overlook the importance of reinforcing this seam as done above.


19) Lay corner of bag flat with side seam centered and ribbon to one side; pin in position. Make a chalk line above ribbon, around 1  1/2″ from corner.


20) Stitch in place remembering to reinforce with back stitching and to move ribbon aside so it does not get caught in stitching. Trim any hanging threads and ENJOY! 

Finish Turn right side out. Close bag by pulling straps away from bag. Open again by inserting two fingers in top and pulling outward. Do this several times to “loosen” up straps.


Voila! Your new bag is stunning and so are you!

fyi:  This tutorial backpack is made using cotton upholstery weight fabric.  My children’s (in the first picture) were made using nylon waterproof rip-stop fabric.

More in my ‘How To’ series of tutorials and worksheets…

*How to Make a Picture Pocket Pillow–Beginner Sewing Project 1

*How To Make A Reversible Book Cover with Pen Holder and Bookmark–Beginner Sewing Project 2

*How Well Do You Know Your Sewing Machine?–Beginner Sewing Worksheet 1

*How to Worksheet 2–Basic Tools for Beginner Sewing


    • Thanks 🙂 . I think I make time for the things I love most. I am so happy to be able to teach sewing, a plan for years before it came to fruition. Truth is, there are probably things around me that could use a little more attention I just don’t focus my writing time on them.


    • An excellent tutorial for a quick project. I wish I could’ve understood what she was saying, she obviously had a great personality. I curiously clicked on another video when the first one ended and her baby was on the floor with a hugemongous snake! Ha, ha, didn’t see that coming! Thanks for sharing with me. I am only on fb personally and really not even on at that. Do you sew?


  1. Pingback: How To Make A Lined Zipper Pouch–Beginner Sewing Project 4 | The Aran Artisan

  2. Pingback: Sewing Summer Camp for Children | The Aran Artisan


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: