Drawstring Backpack with Pocket

on July 3 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 12 Comments

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!

Supply List:
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)
6. Thread
7. Large button (about 1 inch in diameter)

Optional Supplies:
1. Heavy nylon thread for sewing button (Silamide or something similar)
2. Size 90 stretch needle for stitching pony elastic
3. Binder clips

Cutting:
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

Pocket Assembly:
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!

Loop Assembly:
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
sides.

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!

Final Steps:
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!

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12 Responses to Drawstring Backpack with Pocket

  1. Julie says:

    What a great tutorial! I added 2 inches to all of the bag and pocket measurements to make it a little larger and it worked great! I just wish the fabric store was open right now so I could go get cording and a button…. that’s what I get for starting a project after 8pm! Thanks so much for sharing this!!!

  2. Sara says:

    I love this bag! My daughter made one with Maris in her studio and it turned out wonderfully. She uses it all the time.

  3. Kim says:

    The bag looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing it. I love tutorials with lots of pictures. This could even be a great school library bag, which we need.

  4. Anne Marie says:

    Love this pattern.

  5. Brittany says:

    What a great idea! Will be trying this with mixed bohemian and tribal prints!

    –http://soulalien.blogspot.com/

  6. Kim says:

    I made it today and it was one of my first sewing project, so didn’t went very smooth or fast ( sewed the loops to the wrong side, find out way too late). But I learned so much and I love the result, it’s pink with white dots and an rose fabric inside the pocket. Thanks for sharing the pattern !

  7. erinmalia says:

    Another adorable tutorial, SMS! However, I think there’s a small problem. In the section titled, “Main Bag Assembly,” I think steps 2 and 4 are switched. The picture looks correct, but as written, you have the main piece, THEN the loops, and then the pocket. If this is how someone (cough, cough, ME) does it, the loops are tucked inside the pocket. :) Thankfully it was an easy fix, but just thought you’d like to know. My son is super excited to take his on the plane and hasn’t taken it off since I finished it. Thanks so much!

  8. Hanna says:

    This is so cute. I love the whole design. :)

  9. Jan says:

    What a great project – thank you so much. And the fabric is fabulous – what collection is it from?

  10. Sondra says:

    adorable! Great fabric choice. Thanks!

  11. Sharon says:

    I made ones similar to this years ago. I used an old clear shower curtain with balloons on it for beach bags. Added light weight denim to the top and for the bottom. That way they could see what they were looking for. It was a big hit with my grandchildren.

  12. This is a really great tutorial! I need to show it to my older daughter – she hasn’t sewn in a couple of years but she really enjoys sewing bags like this. Maybe she’ll be inspired to start up sewing again. Thanks for sharing!

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