How to Make A DIY Drawstring Backpack – Sewing Tutorial

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I’ve been wanting to make my daughter a DIY drawstring backpack to carry her ballet gear for ages now. As a trial for this project, I repurposed an old men’s dress shirt to a drawstring backpack.  This helped me come up with my drawstring backpack pattern, which I’m sharing now in this tutorial.

This simple sewing project takes less than 30 minutes and requires limited sewing machine skills.  So, read on to learn how to make your own drawstring backpack!

Free drawstring backpack tutorial

Drawstring Backpack Materials:

  • 2 pieces of fabric, prewashed and ironed, measuring 16.75″ x 16.75″
  • Sewing machine and thread (I love my Brother CS6000i!)
  • Sewing scissors and iron
  • Pins or Clover Wonder clips (one of my favorite must-have sewing supplies!)
  • 2 small ropes or strings, 60-65″ in length.  My drawstring was 1/4″ thick.
  • 2 pieces, each 4 inches long, of coordinating ribbon.  My ribbon was about 3/8″ thick.

Notes Before Cutting Fabric and Strings

The final dimensions of my sewn DIY drawstring backpack are around 14.5″ x 15.5.” I mostly used 1/4″ seam allowances, and the casing for my string is 1″ in size. If you want a different-sized backpack or prefer a different seam allowance, adjust your beginning fabric size as needed.

If you’re choosing a larger rope or string, you will need to make a larger casing as well.  Thicker rope requires a longer rope since tying at the ends takes more rope.  Depending on where you want the backpack to hang when worn on the back, you may need to adjust your rope size as well.

How to Make a Drawstring Backpack

I think pictures speak better than words for this drawstring backpack tutorial, so I’ve included a lot of them!

First, line your two pieces of fabric up with the right sides facing each other. I like to hold my fabric pieces together with Clover Wonder clips. With two kids around, I prefer to avoid pins at all costs!

clipping the two pieces of fabric

Sew the two pieces together along the bottom with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Finish your edges as desired. I like to use an overcasting stitch with the overcasting presser foot to sew and finish seams.  Press the seam open or to one side with your iron.

While you’re finishing edges, go ahead and zigzag or overcast stitch around the four sides of your new fabric rectangle.  Finishing your raw fabric edges is optional, but I find it gives a prettier appearance for gifted items and helps fabric survive repeated washings.

Next, on each of the long sides of the rectangle, fold 1/4″ of the fabric over onto the wrong side of the fabric and press.  Don’t stitch quite yet.

drawstring backpack DIYs

After that, you’ll want to make your casing.  Fold the tops both down 1 1/4″ onto the wrong side of the fabric.  Press or pin to hold.

drawstring backpack DIY

Straight stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance along the casing.  Here’s what your drawstring backpack is looking like about now right before the stitching.

drawstring backpack DIY

Fold the backpack back to where the right sides are facing again if it’s not already like that.  Now, it’s time to insert the ribbon.

First, fold the ribbon in half with the right sides facing out and press.  Then, insert and clip or pin as shown in the pictures below.  You’ll want the edges of the ribbon on the outside of the backpack with the fold on the inside.  The ribbon will go in about 1/2″ from the bottom of the backpack and stick out about 1/2″ as well.

drawstring backpack DIY

drawstring backpack DIY

Now, you’ll sew the seams of your backpack.  Using a small seam allowance, edgestitch up the sides of the drawstring backpack.  Make sure to stop stitching right before you hit the casing.  If you stitch over this, you won’t be able to get your drawstring in later.

You can then press the seams to make things prettier and clip the part of the ribbon hanging out.

drawstring backpack DIY

After that, turn your fabric backpack back with the right side facing out.

Now, for the hardest part to explain of this drawstring backpack tutorial: adding in the drawstring itself to the casing.

First, you’ll want to pass the drawstring rope through one of the ribbons.  Next, pull the rope through the top casing closest to you.  I did this by attaching a safety pin to my rope end and pulling it through that way.

drawstring backpack DIY

Once you get to the opposite side of the casing, feed the string through the other casing going back towards the side you started on.  Then, take the rope all the way back down to the ribbon.

drawstring backpack DIY

Tie a knot in the two ends like this:

drawstring backpack DIY

You’ll now need to follow the exact same steps above to place the drawstring through the other side of the backpack.   You may need to adjust the length of the drawstring depending on how thick your string is and how much sag you want in the bag.

The Finished Drawstring Backpack

Here’s the finished product!  I made a few of them to gift to other girls since my daughter loved her backpack and they turned out so cute.

Hopefully, this tutorial explains how to make a drawstring backpack clearly enough for you to make one yourself! And, if you plan to make your backpack using ripstop fabric, check out some tips for sewing with nylon ripstop.

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