How to Make a Drawstring Backpack Out of a T-shirt

About: I'm just a lady who likes making stuff. I got my degree in engineering but also enjoy cooking, sewing, knitting, gardening and backpacking, among other things.

This cute little backpack is the just the right size for cell phone, keys, sunscreen and a water bottle, perfect for a day hiking or at the beach.  And all you need is an old t-shirt!

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Step 1: Collect Materials

For this project, you will need:
-safety pin
-sewing machine or needle and thread

Step 2: Cut Up the Shirt

First, cut off the sleeves off, then cut horizontally across the top of the shirt, just under the collar.  Cut off about the bottom third of the rectangle forming two rectangles, one larger and one smaller.  Then cut the sides of the bigger rectangle even with the holes left by the sleeves so you have a rectangle and not a weird shape.  Cut the seam off the bottom of the smaller rectangle, then cut the smaller rectangle into 4 strips.  the strips will eventually become the straps of the backpack.

Step 3: Sew Straps

After cutting up the shirt, you should have 4 big strips from the bottom of the shirt which are actually loops.  Cut each loop in half so you now have 4 long strips.  Sew two of them together so you now have 2 really long strips.  Fold each strip in half lengthwise and stitch the entire length down (see the 5th picture).  This will keep the straps from stretching out when you put things in the backpack.

Step 4: Sew the Bag Together

Put the right sides (front) of the larger rectangle together so when you sew the bag it will be inside out.  Pin and sew the sides together but make sure to leave about 1.5 to 2 inches at the top.  I used a seam allowance of 5/8 inch but for this project it is not super important.  Open the seams and sew it down flat.  Remember to sew the seam down all the way to the top even though the last 2 inches are not sewn together.

Step 5: Begin Attaching Straps to Bag

To attach the straps, first you have to make the channels to pull them through at the top of the bag.  This is why there are 2 inches open at the top of the sides.  Fold the top down by about an inch, pin and sew.  When you sew this part, make sure to leave a tube at the top for the straps to go through!  Repeat on both sides.
Using a safety pin attached to one of the straps, feed it through one side and then the other.  Pull it until it is even and repeat with the other strap.  The should now be a loop formed by the straps on either side and two long straps on either side.

Step 6: Finishing the Backpack

At this point, the bag should still be inside out with two long straps hanging out of each side of the top.  Take the two straps from one side and put them through the inside out backpack lined up the the bottom up the bag about an inch away from the corner that they are closest to.  Pin in place and repeat with the other set of straps.  Pin the rest of the bottom of the bag together and sew across, making sure to sew over the straps to hold them in place.
Take the pins out, check for extra thread that need trimming, turn the bag right side out, and there you go!  A drawstring backpack!

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    14 Discussions

    I love the idea, but doesn't the bag stretch when there's something heavy in it? Maybe it needs some interfacing or a liner?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I get confused near the end of sewing the bag together and then then attaching the straps ;_;

    2 replies

    Yeah... me too. Could you please explain why I should sew all the way up the bag when the last two inches aren't supposed to be sewn? A little clarification would be awesome.


    4 years ago

    It's great! I can take tshirts the kids outgrew and it's a new hand me down with a memory. Could be a stained Hello Kitty to a trip to the zoo! Thank you! Had to read it couple times. But I understand. Now I know what to do with my old T's. My 5 yr old got a my little pony set for Christmas with tiny parts. She also has old pony shirt she outgrew. Guess we all know what those parts are going to be kept in.

    It was a pretty fast project for me, probably not much more than 30 minutes. You might be able to do it faster or the first few you do might take longer.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Sweet! I desperately need a good carrying bag for all of my electronics and this sounds right in my range! Just a question, if I wanted a tie dye bag, do you think I could dye the bag itself or do I need to tie dye the shirt first? I'd really like to do the primer, as I'd like the straps and edges to be painted, rather than their exposed white color.

    1 reply

    You could probably do it either way. If you wanted to make sure everything got dyed including the straps that are inside the drawstring part I would dye the shirt before you sewed the bag. You could also dye it after sewing it, you would just have to make sure you got all of it, which just depends on your dying technique.