Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

I have always wanted to make a 'just the right size' backpack bag because as a city dweller it's good to have a nifty bag that will securely hold the essentials, but will leave your arms free so you can more easily fend off the maddening crowds carry your bags of shopping.  

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

Here is the backpack in all of it's oilcloth glory it's: 30cm tall x 17cm wide x 11cm deep.  Of course you can make this backpack in normal fabric (which will make things a bit easier), but if you've done a bit of sewing before you'll be fine sewing this in oilcloth - honest!  The bag has a mag snap flap (say that fast 3 times) and drawstring closure.  Do you like the little green dots on the ends of my ties?  :)

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

I haven't used oilcloth for the straps because it's too sticky for strap sliders.  The adjustable straps use this slider and these matching rings.

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

I want to point out that this bag is not entirely my own design.  I have had some help in the shape of this Japanese tutorial.   All I have done is to add  a mag snap and a drawstring closure (there were no instructions for a closure on the Japanese tute?)  Anyhoo, I'm pretty chuffed with my first backpack especially as my Japanese is worse than my Chinese and the end result is indeed 'just the right size'.  It's also a good size for little ones too.

This bag is not the easiest ever bag to make, but then it's not very hard either.  There's just a fair few steps.  I hope you'll think that they are worth it; I know I do.  I do love this bag.  

When sewing with oilcloth you'll make your life much easier if you get your hands on a jeans needle and a Teflon coated machine foot (non-stick foot) and they look like this...

In this project you will pick up/apply these bag making skills

    Sew with oilcloth – durable, waterproof, and pretty
    Sew a drawstring casing in the bag lining
    Sew a flat base into a bag - so stuff doesn’t roll around in the bag
    Sew a adjustable fabric strap - with D-rings and a slider

Here’s How I put it all together

Shopping list (as if you were shopping and not using your own stash fabrics)

     ½ yard of oilcloth (or your choice of fabric) for the exterior and (optional) outer pocket. And matching thread.  
    1 yard of cotton fabric for the lining and straps for the exterior, straps, and ties
    1 yard of heavy sew-in interlining
    2 x 1” silver flat rectangle rings
    2 x 1" silver flat rectangle slider
    1 x 18mm silver magnetic snap

 NB: all seam allowances are 1cm (3/8”) unless otherwise stated. Pattern includes 1cm seam allowance.


    HSI - heavy sew-in interlining
    RST/U/O - right side together/up/out
    WST/U/O - wrong side together/up/out
    COTOS - cup of tea one sugar

1. Cut out your main body pieces – cut out these pieces as shown below...

Main body pattern dimensions = 27.5cm wide x 30cm tall. Cut 2 pieces each of lining, oilcloth, and HSI.

2. Make up flap pattern and cut out flap pieces - cut out these pieces as shown below...

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

Flap pattern dimensions = 18cm wide x 17cm tall. The freehand curve starts and stops 4cm up and 4cm along the bottom corner.  From this pattern cut out one piece each of lining fabric, oilcloth, and HSI.

3.  Cut out your front pocket pieces -   cut out these pieces as shown below...

Pocket pattern dimensions = 22cm wide x 13cm tall. From this pattern cut out one piece each of lining fabric, oilcloth, and HSI.

4.  Make up pattern for the bag base - as shown below...

Cut out a 19cm wide x 13.5cm tall sheet of paper and fold it into quarters as shown above.  Ensure the loose corners of the paper are on the bottom right hand side and draw curve starting and stopping 6cm along and 4cm up.  Cut the curve and open the paper out.  You should end up with a pattern piece like the one below...

Yes I know it it looks like this pattern is 20cm wide, BUT we'll ignore that, your pattern needs to be 19cm wide..  From this bag base pattern cut one each of oilcloth, lining, and HSI.

5.  Cut out handle, straps, casing and loops - from the lining fabric and HSI. Cut out these pieces as shown below...

    Grab handle = one of 24cm x 10cm from lining and one of 24cm x 5cm from HSI
    Strap loops = two of 20cm x 10cm from lining and two of 20cm x 5cm from HSI
    Casing = one of 51cm x 5cm from lining and also from HSI
    Straps = two of 80-90cm x 10cm from lining and two of 80-90cm cm x 5cm from HSI (depends how tall you are, make them too long and trim if neccess.)

6.  Make up the grab handle, straps, and loops -  make up all of the straps as shown in this tutorial (step 3) except this time we are substituting the double sided fleece for HSI and you do no not have to fold down the raw edge ends when making the straps - with the exception of one of the ends of the long straps - fold down one of the raw ends of the long bag straps as in the strap tute.

7.  Make up pocket and stitch pocket to bag exterior front piece -  make a pockety sandwich: starting from bottom lay HSI on table then the lining right side up (RSU), and finally oilcloth wrong side up (WSU).  Sew sandwich all around sides and bottom leaving a 8cm gap in the bottom.  Snip off the corners to make turning right side out easier.  Turn pocket right side out through the gap.  You can press the pocket on the lining side on a med heat (not too hot, don't wanna melt the oilcloth!).  Position and stitch the pocket to the bag front exterior piece as shown below...

Place the pocket in the center, 4cm up from the bottom edge (I know that in the picture the pocket looks higher than 4cm up, but that is because I later messed up the base of the bag and I had to trim the bottom edge off...harrumph!).   On the pocket ensure the long edge with the gap is  at the bottom of the pocket.

Use sticky tape to 'baste' the pocket to the bag front.  We can't use pins because that will scar the cloth.  Now attach you Teflon foot to your machine sew the pocket to the bag front by topstitching the sides and bottom of the pocket (sewing the gap shut as you sew). Remove the sticky tape.

8.  Make up bag flap - lay the bag flap HSI onto the wrong side of the lining bag flap piece and treat as one layer.  Apply the non-magnetic half of the magnetic snap 2.5cm up from the bottom edge.  Bring the bag flap lining (with the mag snap half attached) and the oilcloth RST and stitch all around the sides and bottom.  Clip the curves as shown below...

Clipping the curves on any curved corners will give you a smoother result for when you turn things right side out.  Set bag flap aside.

9.   Make up casing for ties -  lay the casing HSI onto the wrong side of the casing fabric and treat as one layer.  Fold the short edges of the casing 2cm and stitch as shown below...

Fold in short edge by 2cm and stitch down.  Set aside.

10.  Baste the HSI and strap loops to the bag exterior base - make central markings on the HSI as shown below...

Make central markings on the bottom and side edges as shown then lay the marked HSI onto the oilcloth bag base and treat as one layer.  In fact, if you stitch the HSI to the oilcloth (all around) a few mms from the edge you'll save yourself from a lot of grief for when we come to step 10. so do it now.   

Now thread one of the silver rectangular rings onto one of the strap loops , repeat with the other strap loop and silver ring.  Position and baste the strap loops onto the bag base as shown below...

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

Fold each strap loop in half (with ring attached) so that raw edges meet and place on bag base 8cm apart.  Baste into position and set aside.

11.   Stitch bag exterior front to bag exterior back - create a sandwich with the oilcloth main body pieces RST in the middle (as the filling) and the HSI on the outside (as the bread).  Stitch along the long side edges only.  Now make small central markings on the bottom edge of the HSI side of the main body (like you did on the bag base earlier).

12.  Make up the adjustable bag straps -  take one of the long straps and check out the picture below...

Starting from the top:  thread the stitched  end of the bag strap in through your slider and stitch the end down (in a box shape for strength) to secure.  Next thread the raw end of the strap through the silver ring on one of the strap loops.  Finally thread the same raw en of the strap in and through the slider.  You should now have an adjustable strap ready for basting to the exterior bag back piece.

13.  Baste the bag straps and grab handle onto the exterior bag back piece - position all straps as shown below...

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

I have put my long straps at angle.  Baste the ends of the grab handle either side of the long straps.

14. Baste the bag flap onto the exterior bag back piece - position and baste the bag flap as shown below...

Place the flap lining side up onto the center top edge of the bag back (on top of the grab handle and straps).  Baste flap into place.

15. Now is a really good time to have a COTOS - (and how about some caramel shortbread while you're at it?) because this part is the most awkward bit.  Have a nice brew and we'll come back and work slowly through this bit together...  OK, nice cuppa was it - what cake or biccie do you have)?

We are now going to stitch the bag exterior base to the bag exterior body and because we are working with curved corners (aren't we all, heh!) and oilcloth it's little tricky.  Start by pinning the right sides of the bag base to the side seam of the main body as shown below...

This where the markings we made in step 8 really come in handy.  IMPORTANT: ensure that the strap loops (on the bag base) are NOT on the same side as the pocket on the front of the main body - pocket will be on front of bag; straps will be on back of bag.  Match the short edge central marking to a side seam on the main body and pin with a couple of pins in the seam allowance.

I found that it is fine to just pin one side of the bag base (with the 2 pins) before'll see what I mean in a minute.  As we are using oilcloth it will to too awkward to pin all around (if you are making this bag with normal fabric you should be fine to pin all around).

16.  Stitch bag exterior base to bag exterior main body - even though we are not going to stitch on the oilcloth side you'll find that as we sew the oilcloth on the side seams will most likely stick to the stitching plate on you machine so to prevent this I just place a little piece oilcloth WSU onto the bobbin cover of my machine like this...

This little piece of WSU oilcoth is sticky enough to stay in place on top of my bobbin cover thus preventing my oilcloth work from sticking to the work surface of my machine as I sew.  You might need a larger piece of oilcloth than I do, just experiment to see what works.

Righty, start sewing the side edge of the bag base as shown below (make sure the strap loops on the bag base remain tucked out the way)...

In this pic I have stitched along the straight edge of the side edges of the bag base and main body.  You can see that I am just about to approach one of the 4 curved corners ooooeerrrrr!!   Just kidding, it's not that bad.  All you have to do is lift up your presser foot (with needle in the down position) and take the main body in your right hand and sort of force it it into the curve of the bag base like I have below...

I'm taking the main body in my right hand and I'm forcing it into the curve of the bag base by stopping and lifting up my presser foot doing a bit of re-positioning and stitching...

Continue to stop and start in this way until you show that bag base curve just who is the boss in this relationship!!!  Soon enough you'll have beaten that curved corner into submission and you'll hit a nice ans easy straight long edge ahhhh....

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

Here is another of those central markers, this time on one the long edges of the bag base and the main body .  If the markers meet each other as in the pic - you can rejoice because all is well :)  Continue stitching all around base, only another 3 corners to go... After you have filled your swear jar to the brim finished turn the bag right side out.

17.  Stitch the casing to the top edge of the bag exterior - position and stitch the casing to the bag as shown below...

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

Fold the casing in half RSO by bringing the long raw edges together.  Fold in half width ways to find the center point of the casing (as in my pink dot).  Place the casing on the center top edge of the bag flap (at the back of the bag) and baste the casing to the bag all around the top edge.

18.  Apply the magnetic half of the snap to the bag body front - with the bag front facing you bring the bag flap down and press hard so as to leave an mag snap impression on the bag front.

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

Here I am pressing the mag snap down hard onto the bag front (and doing some pretty nifty fabric  matching at the same time).  This will leave a mag snap mark on the bag front so I know where to apply the other half of the snap.  Push the snap prongs through both the oilcloth and the HSI layers....

This should be the result.

19.  Make up the lining bag - and stitch it to the exterior bag.  Make up the lining bag as in steps 11, and 15-16.  Except you have to leave a 10cm gap in one of the long edges of the bag base for pulling through.  
Insert the exterior bag into the bag lining so that the right sides of both bags are now touching each other and pin (in the seam allowance only).  Stitch the bag lining to the bag exterior at the top edge with a 1.5cm seam allowance.  Now pull the exterior bag through the gap in the lining...

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

Yep, I always love this bit.  Pull out the exterior bag completely through the gap in the lining.  Sew the gap in the lining by pushing the raw edges into the gap and topstitching close to the edge for a neat finish.

20.  Make the up the tie - in the same way as the bag straps except there is no HSI needed. Use a big paper clip to thread the tie through the casing. To finish off the tie you can knot the ends, or use beads, or if you want you can use oilcloth discs (like I have).  Cut out 4 discs and trap a tie end in between 2 of the discs and glue together.

Hurrah! You're all done! You have to admit it; that's one dinky-doo backpack you've just made :)

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

The bag is compact, but it will hold your essentials and a brolly  because summer isn't summer without torrential rain, thunder, gales, plagues of locusts...

Backpack Bag DIY Tutorial

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