Introduction: Sew Easy Fashion Backpack

About: I teach computer science and I do graphic design for printed bags, clothing, housewares, and much more. (, and…

This one is for one of those little drawstring backpack bags that are so popular. But I've added a couple twists to bring it up a notch: 1) it's completely lined; and 2) there's a flap that you can embellish with buttons and stuff.

Also, (as a personal challenge) this pattern does not require any notions, or fancy stitches. You can do the whole thing by hand, with just two third yards of fabric, needle and thread.

| Like the idea, but lack the materials, time or motivation?
| You can buy this purse (and others like it) at my etsy
| store, ArtsiBitsi.

Step 1: Materials and Gear

The only material that is essential is the two quarter yards of fabric, needle and thread.

I found this red velvet and satin in the remnants bin at Joann's. I think that they were scraps from someone else's 'Fourth of July' project. Together they cost about $2.

Scissors, straight edge and a marking tool are necessary tools.

Stuff that might make the job easier:
  • Pins - straight and safety pins. I keep mine on a magnetized sheet.
  • Seam Ripper - the most important tool a sewer can own.
  • Steam Iron
  • Sewing Machine - not essential, but makes the task easier. You really only need a straight (satin) stitch, but if you've got a zigzag stitch, I'll tell you when it's useful.

One more thing. If you want to skip the NINE+ FEET of sewing in step three, purchase about 9.5 feet of pretty ribbon or cord that is no more than 1/2 inch wide.

Step 2: Measure and Cut

Can you cut a rectangle? Sure, I knew you could.

Here are the rectangles that you'll need to make a 7" wide x 10" tall bag. For a wider bag, add to the width of your rectangle, for taller, add to the length.

If you are making the bag wider, you may need more than a quarter yard of fabric.

NOTE: It's a really good idea to iron your fabric before cutting.

From the cover fabric, cut
  • one 8.5"x29"
  • two 1.5"x48"
  • two 1.5"x8.5"

From the lining fabric, cut
  • one 8.5"x29"

Step 3: Over Nine Feet of Sewing

Get the tedium out of the way early. The most time consuming part of this effort is making the drawstrings and the loops for the ties.

Oh, why didn't I just go out and buy some pretty ribbon or cord for this? Because I was making a point about using as few different materials as possible, that's why. Darn my integrity anyway.

If you don't mind compromising my principles, you can use purchased cord or ribbon. Go on. I'll wait.


What? You're still here?

Okay, then I'll tell you what to do with those long strips. First, make sure that your iron is hot and that you have plenty of thread.

1) Hem the ends by folding, pressing and sewing.
2) Fold each strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Press them flat.
3) Open them up and fold the sides to the center. Press flat.
4) Fold in half lengthwise again. Press flat (again).
5) Sew up the center.

Each long strip is 48", or four feet long. There's two of them. So that's eight feet of sewing. The two smaller strips are about 17" total.

Total sewing distance for this step: nine feet, five inches. Use this time to meditate on how to become a better person.

Step 4: Flappify the Rectangles

Make a pattern for the flap using a straight edge and something round, with a small diameter. Mine is about 7"x7".

You can make yours triangular or free form. I picked a simple rectangle.

Cut the flap out of both pieces.

Step 5: Notch Yer Bag

When you're done (in about four more steps), there'll be a channel for the drawstring at the top of the bag. And there'll be a place where the drawstring exits the channel. In this step, we try to make that spot look a little nicer and more finished.

I measured in about a half inch from the top and bottom of the main rectangle and cut a one inch notch out of my cover fabric. Then I pressed back the edges and sewed a tiny little hem.

You can probably save yourself a lot of grief, if you skip the cutting and just press back and sew.

Another alternative would be to use that zigzag stitch to just keep the edge from unraveling. (I couldn't use the zigzag stitch because I was trying to avoid "fancy" stitches on principle, remember.)

Step 6: Assembly - Part 1 : Flaps and Bottoms

Now you have all the prep work done, you can finally start to put the bag together.

First, put the two pieces right sides together.

Sew across the bottom, leaving a small space between the seam and your bottom notch.

Then, sew around the top - just the flap section. Leave the flap section open at the bottom.

Snip triangles into all the curves so that they'll lay flat.

Turn right-side out. Poke out the corners on the flap.

Press the flap and bottom seam flat.

Step 7: Assembly Part 2: Drawstring Channels

Make some pockets for the drawstrings.

Sew one straight seam along the bottom of the flap.

Sew another straight seam along the bottom of the first set of notches.

Sew one last straight seam along the top of the bottom set of notches.

HINT: I didn't want to mark up the inside of my bag, so I used my iron to press a crease into my fabric as a guide.

Step 8: Assembly Part 3: Sew Up the Sides

Find those two short loops that you made back in step 3.

Pin them to the right-side of the cover fabric, as shown. The loops should be a little less than half way down the main rectangle. The loops should be pointed at each other, and the open ends should hang over the edge.

Carefully fold the bottom up over the top of the rectangle. The right-side of the COVER fabric should be inside the fold. The right-side of the LINING fabric should be outside the fold.

Make sure that the fabric is all smooth inside and out. Mine wanted to slide around and bunch up a lot. It probably would have made my life easier if I had used some fusible interfacing to hold the lining and the cover fabrics to each other. But what if you, dear reader, didn't have some? Would you think that you had to run out and buy a package because I did? I can't handle that kind of pressure. So I used pins.

Sew up the sides of the bag, from the bottom up to the drawstring pocket.

Don't sew over holes for the drawstring.

Step 9: Assembly Part 4: Thread the Drawstrings

OOOoh. We're so close to being done... the suspence is killing me.

Turn the bag right-side out. Press the seams flat. (flat seams make everything look better -- this wisdom came to me when I was doing 9+ feet of sewing earlier)

Thread the straps into the pockets, as shown. You can put a safety pin on the end of the strap to make the threading job a little easier.

After threading, each channel will have two straps running through it. The straps will pull in opposite directions.

Tie the loose ends of the straps to your loops.

Step 10: Partay!

Your little backpacklet is ready to get down and boogie.

Why not decorate the flap for an even more individual look? You can pin on buttons or charms. Or a big old rhinestone broach. Or iron-on applique' (see

You have lots of options (color, size, fabric) and it is sew easy to make. Make one out of the leg of a too-small pair of pants, for example. You can have a different bag for every day of the week, or every month of the year.


| Like the idea, but lack the materials, time or motivation?
| You can buy this purse (and others like it) at my etsy
| store, ArtsiBitsi.

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