Make It on Monday! (Drawstring Backpack Revisited)

Last week I shared a tutorial for a patchwork drawstring backpack that I made for my daughter. Now that my son is a little older and doesn’t need quite as much “gear” when we go places, I decided to make a slightly larger backpack for him. The idea was that it would hold his things for the church nursery but would also serve as a diaper bag for both children when we’re out and about.

Dozer's Bag (18)

I took the design I made for my daughter’s bag and modified it slightly for this one, and it’s just enough different that I thought I would share it with you as well. As I said before, please let me know if you need clarification on anything. I’m always happy to find ways to improve my tutorials. We’ve been using this bag a lot, stuffing quite a few things in it despite its size, and so far I have no complaints.

Simple Drawstring Backpack with Applique

Dozer's Bag

You’ll need:

    Outer fabric: Two pieces 10.5″ x 11″.

    Lining fabric: Two pieces 10.5″ x 14.25″ plus whatever you need for your applique.

    Double sided fusible web (whatever amount you need for your applique).

    Matching thread.

    Two lengths of at least 50″ of coordinating or matching rope or cording for the drawstrings. I’d recommend starting with more and determining an exact measurement when you’re finishing the project. More on this later.

    Grommets/eyelets large enough to fit two thicknesses of your chosen drawstring material.

    Cutting tools.

    Ruler or tape measure.

    Sewing machine.


    Grommet/eyelet setting tools.

Step 1: Cut your fabric pieces to size.

Dozer's Bag (2)

Step 2: On your fusible web, draw whatever shape you want to applique onto the backpack. I used varying sizes of jar lids to trace circles.

Dozer's Bag (3)

Attach the web to your applique fabric per the manufacturer’s instructions and cut out your shapes. Then lay out and attach your applique shapes to the piece of fabric that will be the front of your bag.

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Step 3: Using whatever stitch you prefer, sew your applique pieces to your bag. I chose to use the zigzag stitch to help prevent fraying because I didn’t fold under the edges and because it’s a little more decorative.

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Step 4: Place your front and back outer fabric pieces right-sides-together and sew both long sides and one short side with 1/4″ seam allowance.

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Step 5: Clip your corners and turn right-side-out. “Finish” your seams with a zigzag or other method if you wish.

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Step 6: Take one of your lining pieces and measure 1 1/2″ down from the top of the piece; make a mark along one of the sides at this point. Then measure 1″ below the first mark and make a second mark. (You may need to adjust this measurement based on how thick your drawstrings are.) Do the same on the other side. These mark the openings for your drawstring, so when you sew, you’re going to want to stop and restart your seams at these marks.

Place your inner lining pieces with right sides together, and sew both long sides and one short side with a 1/4″ seam allowance, leaving a small opening (about 3″) on the short side to allow for turning. And don’t forget to leave the 1″ opening that starts 1 1/2″ from the top on each side!

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Step 7: Press the side seams so the fabric will fold in at the drawstring openings when the bag is right-side-out. If you want to zigzag or otherwise “finish” your seams, do it now, but remember that the edges of the openings need to stay open and folded in, so you won’t want to zigzag them together.

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Clip the corners. Leave the lining inside-out.

Step 8: Place the outer fabric (right-side-out) inside the lining (still inside-out) so that right sides are facing each other. Sew the pieces together all around the top with 1/4″ seam allowance. Note that the lining piece is longer than the outer piece right now. I promise this will make sense in a minute.

Dozer's Bag (11)

(By the way, you might have noticed in the last tutorial that I had you turn the outer fabric inside-out and the lining right-side-out, opposite of what we’ve done here. It doesn’t really matter which way you do it as long as you’re sure you’ve got the right sides facing each other. I just do it however works best for me on each project.)

Step 9: Using the opening you left in the lining, turn the bag right-side-out and push the lining back down into the bag. When the bottom of the lining meets the bottom of the bag, you should find that the lining fabric sticks out of the top of the bag and folds at the top, creating a 1 3/4″ border on the outside of the bag. The drawstring openings should be pretty much folded in half, opening toward the top of the bag. Press all around the top to make a nice crease in the lining/border.

Step 10: Top stitch around the top of the bag close to the edge, but do not go across the drawstring openings—you want your drawstrings to be able to move unimpeded!

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Then top stitch again about 1/2″ down from the top of the bag, or wherever the bottom of your drawstring openings fall. This measurement may need to differ based on the thickness of your drawstrings. (This creates your casing for the drawstring.)

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Step 11: Using a needle and thread, close the opening you left in the lining using a blind stitch.

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Step 12: Add grommets to the bottom corners of the bag. (Follow the instructions that came with your grommet setting tools.)

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Step 13: Now’s the time to get your drawstring ready. You need at least enough of each piece to go from the bottom to the top of the bag, the whole way around the casing, and back down to the bottom of the bag. For this particular bag I ended up with lengths of about 50″, and when the bag is open, the straps are only as long as the side of the bag, but they get longer when the drawstring is pulled. I’d recommend starting with a longer piece than you need so you can adjust it if the person who will be wearing the bag needs a longer strap.

Attach your drawstring material to a safety pin and thread it into the casing through one of the openings. Being sure to leave a tail, take the drawstring the whole way around the top of the bag (straight across the other opening) and out the same side you started it in. With your second drawstring, thread it into the opening on the other side, go the whole way around, and out the same side you started it in. Each drawstring will now have both loose ends coming out of the same opening in the casing.

Dozer's Bag (16)

Take both ends of each drawstring and thread them through the appropriate grommet, tying them together in a knot once they’re through the grommet. (You may need to finish off the drawstrings with tape or by “melting” them just a moment with a match—carefully!) When you pull on the “straps” of the backpack, the opening of the bag should draw closed easily.

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And that’s it. You’re done! Pat yourself on the back! These really are fun to make, and quick too. Give it a try!

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6 Responses to “Make It on Monday! (Drawstring Backpack Revisited)”
  1. Katy says:

    Great bag, Gretchen! Your sewing looks so professional.

    written on August 31st, 2009, at 11:36 am
  2. Alison says:

    So clever, and it looks great too :)!

    written on August 31st, 2009, at 1:03 pm
  3. Rachel says:

    Aww! I love both of them but these appliques are just darling! Thanks so much, I’ll be linking.

    written on September 1st, 2009, at 6:29 pm
  4. tea with lucy says:

    So glad I found this tute. I’d planned to make one this weekend, for a gift. You’ve given me some good ideas. Cheers!

    written on September 4th, 2009, at 12:43 am
  5. Drawstring Backpack Bag says:

    […] […]

    written on September 8th, 2009, at 3:00 pm
  6. Christa Rodriguez says:

    I’ve been planning on making one of these for a friend for Christmas, but have been too lazy to look into how to make them. Now I know :) Thanks for sharing.

    written on September 13th, 2009, at 11:07 pm
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