Maris Olsen from Sew Maris shows you how to create this fun and easy Drawstring Backpack with Pocket. The backpack is an easy beginner project and it’s perfect to take along on all of your summer adventures! Maris is a sewing instructor and self-professed “sewing nerd”; she’s been sewing for over fifty years and loves it! Learn more about Maris in her introduction, and stop by Sew Maris for lots of informative tutorials, information on classes and sewing camps in the greater-Seattle area and more.
I love teaching students of all ages to sew. One way that I try to really “hook” new sewists is by offering fun, modern and stylish projects that they can make with beginning sewing skills. Once they experience the thrill of making something beautiful AND functional with their own hands; they usually can’t wait to start the next project!
I designed this simple drawstring backpack for beginning sewists. It is very easy to sew, and yet it still has handy features like an outside pocket for “quick access” and a swivel clip to hold a key ring.
The finished backpack measures approximately 13 inches wide and 15 inches long, and is a great size to hold your essentials. Let’s get started!
1. ½ yard of main fabric (bottom-weight fabrics such as denim, light home dec, or sturdy twill are good choices)
Note: If you use 45” wide fabric for the main bag pieces, measure and cut carefully as you will use almost the full width of your fabric!
2. 3/8 yard of contrast fabric for pocket lining and loops
3. Swivel clasp
4. Ponytail elastic in coordinating color
5. 4 yards of narrow cording (no larger than the diameter of a pencil)
7. Large button (about 1 inch in diameter)
1. Heavy nylon thread for sewing button (Silamide or something similar)
2. Size 90 stretch needle for stitching pony elastic
3. Binder clips
1. For the main bag, cut 2 pieces of the main fabric 14 inches wide X 16 ½ inches long.
2. For the outside pocket, cut 1 piece of the main fabric 14 inches wide X 11 ½ inches long.
3. For the pocket lining, cut 1 piece of the contrast fabric 14 inches wide X 12 ½ inches long.
4. For the fabric loops, cut 1 piece of the contrast fabric 2 inches wide X 14 inches long.
Seam allowance is ½ inch and is included in all measurements.
Abbreviations: RS = right side, WS = wrong side
1. Place the contrast pocket lining on top of the outside pocket, RS together, and pin along the top edge only. The contrast lining fabric will be 1” longer than the main pocket fabric.
2. Using a ½ inch seam allowance, stitch across the upper edge of the pocket.
3. Press the seam allowance toward the pocket lining, and then flip the pocket lining over the seam allowance. After the “flip, the WS of the main pocket fabric and pocket lining should be touching.
4. Press the top edge of the pocket, making sure the pocket lining and the main pocket fabric edges meet and are even along the sides and the bottom edge.
Note: At this point the outer pocket should measure 14 inches wide x 11 ½ inches long, and from the outside only ½ inch of the lining fabric is visible. Cute, and easy, huh?!
5. With a pin, mark the center of the upper edge of the pocket.
6. Fold the pony elastic in half and secure it to the pocket lining at the marked center of the upper edge of the pocket.
7. On the main bag fabric, stitch in the ditch at the upper edge between the main fabric and the contrast lining.
8. Using a triple stitch, secure the pony elastic to the pocket. Stitch slowly! If you are using a thick elastic, try stitching with a size 90 Stretch needle. To learn more about which sewing machine needles are best for your projects, check out this post at Sew Maris.
9. Your pocket is complete. Nice work!
1. Press the long edge of the contrast fabric strip for loops in half, WS together.
2. Open the strip, and press both long, cut edges to the fold line in the center, WS together.
3. Press the strip in half lengthwise again.
4. At this point you should have a strip of fabric ½” wide x 14 inches long
5. Topstitch on both long edges of the loop strip.
6. Cut 2 pieces 5 inches long, and 1 piece 3 inches long.
7. Your loops are finished!
Main Bag Assembly:
1. Place one piece of the main bag fabric on your table, RS facing up.
2. Place the pocket on top of the main bag fabric piece, lining side against the RS of the main bag fabric. Be sure to align the bottom edge and the side edges.
3. Fold each 5 inch loop in half, and pin to the RS of your pocket. Each loop should be placed approximately 1 inch up from the bottom edge so they won’t get caught in the bag stitching.
4. Baste the loops into place.
5. If you want a key clasp, thread the 3 inch loop through a swivel clasp, fold in half and pin under the pocket along one side. Baste in place.
6. Using a ¼” seam allowance, baste around the pocket, securing it to the main bag piece. The front of your drawstring backpack is done!
7. Place the second piece of main bag fabric on top of the front, RS together. Pin along both sides and the bottom edge.
8. From the top edge, place a pin or mark a line 2 inches from the top on both
9. Backstitching at both ends and using a ½ inch seam allowance, stitch from one marked point down the side edge, across the bottom, and up the second side to the other marked point.
10. Following the same stitching path, zig-zag the seam allowances together down both sides and across the bottom to reduce raveling. Be sure to check out this post at Sew Maris for loads of different seam finishing options.
11. Stitching just along the top edge of the front and the back sides of the bag separately, zig-zag these two raw edges. Make sure you do not stitch them together, or you will have stitched your bag closed!
12. At each marked point (2 inches from the top edge), clip into the seam allowance no more than ½ inch. Fold each seam allowance back to the inside and press.
13. Stitch each folded edge closest to the raw edge . This will keep the drawstring from “pulling” the fabric to the outside of your bag.
14. Create a casing for the cording by folding down the upper edge of the bag front to the inside by 1 inch, and press. Repeat on the back of the bag. (Hint: the casing needs to accommodate two cords, so make sure it is wide enough for the cording size you are using for the bag.)
15. From the inside, stitch close to the zig-zagged top edge of the front, backstitching at both ends. Repeat for the back of the bag.
16. The casing is finished, and you are almost across the finish line!
1. Attach the button, centering it near the top of the pony elastic. This button will be taking some wear and tear, so a strong thread like Silamide, buttonhole twist, or other strong thread is a good idea. Here’s a really great and FAST method of sewing a button.
2. Insert the cording through one side, and repeat though the second side.
3. Tie the cording ends onto the loops at the bottom of the bag.
4. Dip each cord end into white glue and let dry. This will help prevent fraying.
5. Enjoy your great new bag!