I searched for tutorials and reviewed a whole bunch (many, many available if you Google) and then, with an understanding of how drawstring backpacks are constructed, I designed my own version. Even though it’s very similar to others, I thought I’d share a tutorial in case you like my version. I highly recommend reading the whole thing through before you start to avoid getting ahead of yourself, as I so often do! So, without further talk, here it is.
- Outer fabric: Enough fabric in coordinating prints to make twelve 3.5″ x 5.5″ pieces.
- Lining fabric: 2 pieces at 9.5″ x 10.5″ (or amount needed for size desired).
- Matching thread.
- Ric rac, buttons, whatever you want to use for embellishment.
- Two lengths of at least 45″ 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 outer fabrics to size. I chose to cut twelve rectangles that could be patchworked into larger rectangles. You can always adjust the size or number of pieces to alter the size of the finished bag.
Step 2: With right sides together, match a long (5.5″) side of one rectangle to the long side of another rectangle and sew with 1/4″ seam allowance. Match the long side of a third rectangle to one of the remaining long sides on the two joined pieces and sew together.
Now repeat this step three more times so you have four strips of three rectangles each.
Step 3: Press open your seams.
Then, with right sides together, match a long edge of one of your rows to the long edge of another row and sew together with 1/4″ seam allowance.
Repeat once more with the other two strips so that you have a front and a back piece (6 rectangles each) for the outer part of the bag. Press open the seams.
Step 4: If you’re going to sew on ribbon or ric rac, now’s the time to do it.
Attach to whichever piece is going to be the front of the bag.
Step 5: Place your front and back pieces right-sides-together and sew both long sides and one short side with 1/4″ seam allowance.
On each of the long sides, at the “open” end of the bag, make sure to stop your seam about 1″ from the open edge. (You may need to adjust this amount based on how thick your drawstring is. Two thicknesses of my drawstring fit perfectly in a 3/4″ opening, which is what this makes. If you need a wider opening, stop your seam sooner.) This is where your drawstring will go in and out.
Step 6: Press the side seams open (at least at the top), including the parts at the top where you stopped your seams so that when you make your casing, the openings will have clean edges, with the raw edge folded in.
If you want to zigzag or otherwise “finish” your seams, do it now, but remember that the unseamed top edges need to stay open and folded in, so you won’t want to zigzag them.
Step 7: Clip your corners.
Step 8: 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″ or so) on the short side to allow for turning. Finish your seams with a zigzag or other method if you wish.
Clip the corners and turn the lining right-side-out.
Step 9: Place the lining (right-side-out) inside the outer fabric (still inside-out) so that right sides are facing each other. Sew the pieces together all around the top with 1/4″ seam allowance.
Step 10: Using the opening you left in the lining, turn the bag right-side-out and push the lining back down into the bag. It’s nice, but not necessary, to press around the top for a nice, crisp edge.
Top stitch around the top of the bag close to the edge, and then top stitch again about 3/4″-1″ down from the top of the bag. (This creates your casing for the drawstring, so you’ll just adjust this measurement to be wherever the bottom of the casing openings are.)
Step 11: Admire your handiwork for a moment.
Step 12: Using a needle and thread, close the opening you left in the lining with a blind stitch.
Step 13: Sew buttons or other embellishments to the outside of the bag.
Step 14: Add grommets to the bottom corners of the bag. (Follow the instructions that came with your grommet setting tools.)
Step 15: 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 45″, 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.
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.
Tada! You did it! A simple but pretty drawstring backpack that’s just the right size for a toddler’s needs.