There are many drawstring backpack tutorials on the internet already. But when I wanted to make one, I decided it just HAD to have a boxed bottom, and I could not find a pattern that accommodated my little whim. So I made up my own!
The best thing about these backpacks is how quick and easy they are. They only require two pattern pieces, or you could cut the whole lot out with a roller cutter. Creating the boxed bottom adds just a few extra minutes of work.
The drawstring setup makes the straps adjustable, and so this pattern will be appropriate for many ages. It goes around my shoulders just fine and I am a small to average sized woman. For small children, it might be necessary to adjust the pattern, making the main piece shorter.
I took a lot of pictures for this tutorial, so it will hopefully be super easy to follow.
- Fabric for the outside- I have mostly used quilting cotton and cotton drill, but I have also used PUL!. You need a piece 13 inches by the width of fabric. This should give you enough for the main bag pieces and the drawstring casings.
- Fabric for the inside- Most cottons or poly-cottons should be fine. You will need a piece 13 inches by 32 inches.
- Grommet or eyelets x 2
- Rope for the drawstring- whatever you choose, it must be the right size that you can fit 2 strands through one of your eyelets- at least 3m. A larger person may need extra length, so if in doubt, buy a longer length, you can always shorten the straps if they turn out too long.
- Short length of rope, ribbon or twill tape, 10-12cm long
- Scrap of iron on interfacing
- Double sided quilting or sewing tape is highly recommended. Wonder tape is particularly good, but I have used other brands with good results. If you don’t have any, pins will do the job.
Seam allowance can anywhere from 6mm-10mm, depending on your preference. As long as you are consistent throughout the project than it doesn’t matter what you choose. There are a couple of instances where the seam allowance is specified, and these should be adhered to.
Firstly, the pattern:
I don’t use my roller cutter to cut out patterns because I always make a mess. Instead I draw the rectangles on interfacing (bought especially for pattern tracing), using my roller cutter mat to make sure it is square. The piece on the left of the picture is the main piece- it is 13 inches x 16 inches. The piece on the right is the drawstring casing. It is 13 inches x 5 inches. Cut two of each pattern piece.
Next you need to cut the lining fabric. Cut two of the main pattern piece only- no drawstring casings needed for the lining.
It you want to add pockets or embellishments, now is the time to do them. I have sometimes added patch pockets, or zipped pocket. This tutorial by Radiant Home Studio makes putting in a great looking zipped pocket pretty easy.
With this bag, I added some jumbo rick rack to the front piece of the fabric. Since the back of the bag isn’t seen when the backpack is worn, I left it plain.
The next step is to add some interfacing to the inside of the bottom corners of the back of the bag. This is to stabilize your grommets/eyelets. I used pieces approx 1 inch square. Place them just inside of the seam allowance. Place them on the WRONG side of the fabric.
Next we are going to sew the outside pieces together, wrong sides facing. You will leave the top of the bag (one of the short sides) open. Then we will do the same to the lining pieces. The next step is to create the boxed bottoms. The lining will have a conventional boxed bottom, while the outside will be done a bit differently.
Firstly the lining:
It took me a while to get my head around boxing corners like this. There are some good tutorials out there and this tutorial by Craft Apple is straightforward (and minus the pages and pages of ads and unrelated crap). You fold one bottom corner of the lining as demonstrated above. You want to centralise the seam, and make sure that BOTH the seam facing you and the one on the other side of the fabric are in line- otherwise the corner will be wonky. Measure 2 inches from the corner, do not include the small bit of excess fabric, only the seam. Next, draw a line at the 2 inch mark that is perpendicular to your seam. You then sew this line and trim the excess fabric.
The lining is complete for the moment, and if your boxed corners are a little wonky it doesn’t matter as they will not will very visible. In fact, the lining makes a good practice step for the outside of the bag. However, the boxing step for the outside of the bag is different. Instead of boxing the fabric while the pieces are right side together, this time out turn the bag pieces after sewing them together, so that the right side of the fabric is facing out. Then you go through the steps of boxing the corners almost exactly the same way.
Be fastidious amount lining up the seams as any inaccuracy will be more obvious on the outside. Once you sew the box corner DO NOT trim the excess fabric. The corner that sticks out will be where we insert our grommets and anchor the drawstring. Once you have done both corners, this is a good time to add thost grommets. I add them to the portion of that corner tab that is closest to the back surface of the bag.
Be sure that the grommet goes through the interfacing that you placed earlier.
The next step is to sew the lining and the outer bag together at the opening. To do this, place the outside of the bag (right side facing out), into the lining (right side facing in). This way the bag pieces are laying with right sides together. Stitch around the top, leaving 10cm or so open for turning. Because the drawstring casing will cover most of this seam, feeling free to give yourself a generous opening through which to turn the bag.
Once this is done, turn the bag right side out.
Next you will be doing some work with the iron. Pressing the seam you just made makes adding the drawstring casing easier and neater. In the picture below, a portion of the seam has been pressed and sits nice and flat.
At this time I like to take the opportunity to prepare the drawstring casing, though you could do it at any stage. The first step is to fold and press about 12mm in from each short end. This is done to both pieces. The exact measurement is based on the seam allowance to used to stitch the other bag pieces. This fold needs to be 2-5mm larger than those allowances. I then stitch this in place so that they stay put. See the picture below!
Once the short sides are done, fold the casings lengthwise and press. Then, on one of the long edges, turn up a small hem (about 6mm) and press. The other long edge remains as is.
Next we add the small piece of rope or ribbon to the back of the bag. I use double-sided tape to secure it, but you could pin and baste.
Now we start to place the drawstring casing. Firstly, we secure it to the lining of the bag. I use wonder clips to do this. The right side of the long raw edge of the casing sits alongside the top seam. The short ends should be a small distance away from the side seams (see below).
Once you have pinned it in place, stitch with a 6mm seam, as above. Trim any excess rope or ribbon that hang over the seam. Fold the casing up, away from the inside of the bag. Use an iron, or finger press this fold. Fold the casing along the center line that you previously pressed. The folded long end of the casing should just cover the the last row of stitches you made.
I use double sided tape to secure the folded edge just over the previous stitch line. You just need to cover the stitches, so don’t pull it down too much. Once well secured, topstitch 2mm from the casing’s edge. Sometimes I use a zigzag stitch for decorative purposes, but a straight stitch works well too.
Repeat the last few steps with the second casing piece. The backpack is almost complete! The final step is to add the drawstring. I cut my 3m piece in half, giving my two 1.5m pieces. Take one piece and feed it though the casings. I do this by using a large bobby pin on one end. You need to go in one side of the casing, out the other side, then through the other casing. This way, both drawstring ends are on the same side.
Squeeze both rope ends through the grommet on that side. Once they are through, either tie a small knot in each individual rope end, or tie a knot with them together… either is fine. Repeat with the other length of rope, but have the ends come out on the opposite side. These go through the grommet and are secured the same way.
Then the bag is complete! To add a little fabric ‘frill’ to the top of the bag, sew across the length of the casing, either before add the rope, or afterwards. Straight stitch about 20-25mm from the top of each casing, down the entire length.
Here are some other examples:
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