Easy Peasy Drawstring Backpack {free sewing tutorial}



Make a lined drawstring backpack! This easy project is perfect for beginners. Quilt weight cotton is what I used. You could also try something heavier for the exterior.

When I first sketched these drawstring backpacks in my little notebook, I wanted to design them entirely out of fabric. Because sometimes I really want to make something without going to the store for special notions. The casings, loops, and drawstrings are all made of fabric. Of course you can substitute ribbon, twill tape, or grommets for the loops. And you could always use bias trim stitched together, ribbon, or rope for the drawstrings. But if you have plenty of fabric in your stash (like me), you will probably appreciate an all-fabric project too.

UPDATE: This blog post has been converted to an optional PDF thatโ€™s optimized for printing. Find it here. The blog post below is totally free to read, print, and sew! Just hit CTRL +P on your computer to print. The PDF download for $2 is totally optional.

free backpack sewing pattern

And don’t you love a project that you can sew for a boy or a girl? I made my boy’s backpack from Sports Fan by Blend Fabrics. The girly backpack is sewn from The Makers, also from Blend Fabrics. Ask your local quilt shop to carry them, or look for them in the online shops of our sweet site sponsors.

One more great thing about this project is you can sew the backpack from all one fabric, or use 4 or more fabrics like I did.

You will need about 1/2 yard for the exterior, 1/2 yard for the lining, and 1/4 yard for the drawstrings. So let’s start the easy sewing tutorial…


From coordinating fabrics, cut:

  • 2 exterior rectangles 17” x 15”

  • 2 lining rectangles 17” x 15”

  • 2 casing rectangles 3” x 14”

  • 2 loop squares 3” x 3”

  • 3 strips for the drawstrings, each 2” tall x width of fabric (42-44”)


Press a 1/4” hem on both short ends of the drawstring casing rectangles. Stitch.

Set these aside for a few minutes.

Fold and press the 3” squares in half. Fold and press the edges the the center and then press in half again to make strips that are 3” long and 3/4” wide. Topstitch close to both long edges.

Fold one of the casing rectangles in half wrong sides together (press if desired), and center it along the top edge of one of the exterior pieces. Lay a lining rectangle over the exterior rectangle, right sides facing with the casing sandwiched in between. Pin.

Sew all seams with a 1/2” seam allowance.

Stitch along the top edge. Repeat with the other exterior, lining, and casing pieces.

Press the seam towards the lining, and then fold the fabrics with the wrong sides together and press the lining and exterior away from the casing.

Open the pieces again, and lay one on your workspace. Fold the 3” long tab strips in half and pin them 2 1/2” from the bottom edge on either side. Baste to secure within the 1/2” seam allowance.

The tab pieces are pinned and basted to the exterior fabric only, not the lining.

Pin the other exterior/lining piece on top, matching the exteriors and the linings.

Stitch all the way around, leaving a 4” opening in the lining for turning.

Clip the corners and turn right side out.

Press the edges of the opening to the inside, and sew the opening shut. Tuck the lining inside the backpack.

Press around the top of the backpack, and topstitch around the top edge, under the casing.

Make the drawstring.

Remove the selvages from the 3 drawstring strips. Cut one of the strips in half. Sew a shorter strip to each of the longer strips to make 2 strips each about 66” long. Press the seam allowances open.

The drawstrings are pressed the same way as the 3” loops. A 1” bias trim maker tool really helps with this, but you can also do it by hand.

If you are pressing by hand, first press the strip in half lengthwise. Then fold and press the long edges to the center. Then fold in half and press again.

You may also fold and press the short ends to the inside. Since the ends will be tied, I didn’t fuss with that.

Stitch down the length of the ties to secure. On the girly backpack I stitched along both edges of the ties. They look cute that way.

To assemble the backpack, use a bodkin or large safety pin to pull one drawstring through a casing and then back through the opposite casing.


Thread one drawstring end through the loop and then tie both ends together. Trim them with scissors to neaten.

Thread the other drawstring through both casings from the opposite direction. Then you are done!

Happy backpacking!


Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  1. Katharine Tate says:

    THank you so much!! I have been trying to find an easy one of these.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Fabiana Costa says:

    I love the ideia and your tutorial is well made, I would like to know that…
    Do you think I can use the burlap for outer parts??
    thank you

  3. Michelle Perryman-Ford Copley says:

    having problems downloading the pdf, the link to the pdf just reopens this page for me.

  4. Michelle L. Jensen says:

    Yep, not able to download the pdf but love the design!!

      1. I am not able to access the link. I would like to purchase the pdf.

  5. Gerda Davis says:

    Thinking about using discarded blue jeans and recycling them into the backpack. Do you think this pattern can be modified?

    1. I have been using mine for a year and have not had any issue with the loops. I sometimes stuff the bag very full.

  6. Margaret C. says:

    Just wanted to tell you that my husband, ( he put the cords through & tied the knots) successfully made 65 of these for Christmas presents for family members & the 44 employees that I have under my care. It is a joy to see them using them everyday. Thank you so much!

    1. I would love to see some pictures! Did you make them all with the fabric? Great idea!

  7. As a fairly new sewer I found the first bit really helpful. Unfortunately at the point that I needed help the pictures showed nothing and the description didn’t make sense!
    The problem with this is that us ‘neebies’ loose confidence doing simple sewing and I’d really hope it’s these people that should be encoraged!

  8. Selena New To Sewing says:

    This looks awesome but the Craftsy link no longer works. Is there another way to access the pattern?

  9. Jean Wesley says:

    This was the first tutorial I’ve read on making the drawstring backpacks that was complete and made sense and I have spent a lot of time reading others. I can’t wait to get started. Thanks!

  10. I just made one of these for my son’s gym bag and it turned out great. An easy to follow tutorial with fantastic results. Thank you so much!

  11. B Nicovich says:

    Thanks for the great pattern. Our church’s sewing group made a couple dozen of these for inclusion in Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

  12. I agree with Novo g!

    If you follow these instructions: "Pin the other exterior/lining piece on top, matching the exteriors and the linings. Stitch all the way around, leaving a 4” opening in the lining for turning. Clip the corners and turn right side out." You end up with it stitched all the way around and therefore closed at the top! I wish I could attach a picture of what my project currently looks like. No bag here! I still have to figure out what you actually meant. Obviously other people got it. I didn’t . HELP!

    1. Hi Lisa,
      After you turn the bag right side out through the opening, the lining needs to be tucked inside the bag for it to look right. You can do this to check, but then make sure you pull the lining out again to sew the opening closed.

      Good luck!


  13. THANK YOU!

    I think some more photos are needed in the tutorial! It makes sense now!

  14. I figured out the problem. My pdf print out doesn’t have the sentence, "Tuck the lining inside the backpack." (like this webpage does)


  15. Just found this tute and made the bag for my nephew in about an hour! I used cording for the drawstrings. Great pattern, I am sure I’ll use it again . Thank you so much.
    Susan in CT

  16. This is a great tutorial. I made one a year ago for my niece and she took it everywhere. I finally got around to making a matching one for my daughter today. After a year of use, one of her drawstrings had come untied and she’d lost it (I made her a new one while I was making my daughter’s today), otherwise, still going strong.

  17. Great tutorial. I needed a small bag and saw that others in my group had these "cinch sack back packs." I did a search, and then found I had already saved your pattern to my Pinterest board. It was easy to make and I am thinking about making some for my friend’s Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. It will be a great use of fabric pieces that are too big to throw out and too small to do much with. Thanks again.

  18. sorry, i’m a little confused. The main pattern pieces say to cut 15 X 17, however, no where in the instructions does it say which measurement is the length or which is the width.

  19. Hi, this is Mary again, i also wanted to you know i signed up for an account, but when I posted this comment about the width or length, i tried to post it as a member but it did not recognize my email or password.
    thanks, Mary

  20. Jeanette T says:

    I just finished making this backpack and I must say you made it so easy to follow. I cheated and used ribbon for the drawstrings and loops though. I’m not an expirenced sewer so I am happy with the outcome ๐Ÿ˜ŠIMG_8504.JPG

  21. Brenda Sawrey says:

    Thank you for a great pattern, easy to follow instructions. I have made 2 bags today with brilliant results. 2 happy granddaughters. Brenda S

  22. Lynette Darwish says:

    How can I add some bulk to this ? Can I add iron on fusible flece ? And if so would I iron it on to the outside fabric or the inner liner ? Thanks a bunch.

  23. Gladys Adkins says:

    I am a 4-H Sewing club leader and we are using this pattern to make bags to donate to homeless shelters around us and to be filled with all kinds of personal items they may need. I just wanted to say that I absolutely love this pattern and your directions were very easy to follow. I posted the one I did a test with to show our members and they were very excited. Thank you so much for sharing your pattern!

  24. Thank you so much! Your pattern is exactly what I was looking for. With a few minor modifications I made Minnie and Mickey versions perfect for a Disney Cruise. If I could figure out how to post a picture I would. They are mainly black. One has red and white polka dots on the bottom with a bow at the top. The other has a red bottom with two big white buttons. The strings are yellow. They turned out very cute. Again, the pattern is much appreciated!

  25. I made this using an old blanket and black paracord!
    Question: Are we allowed to sell ones we make or is that a copyright infringement?
    By the way, I love my backpack I made following your instructions!

    1. Yay! I’m so happy you love your backpack from my pattern. You are welcome to sell products that you made using any of my patterns. I only object to corporate manufacturing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Woohoo! Thank you for the reply!
    Think I might make a few for a test sale at the local swap meet in a couple weeks.

  27. Diane Mosteller says:

    Thanks for the great tutorial! I made a few mods and my daughter is going to use it as her dance bag. She loves it!

  28. Thank you for this great and easily understandable tutorial. I made one for each of my 4 grands for their library books and about 20 for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes last year and now I am at it again. Thanks again!

  29. Just turned in my Operations Christmas Child boxes for this year and saw this wonderful pattern, so made one tonight for next years boxes….only 6 more to go….thanks for this quick and fantastic pattern. I love it! And I can feel good about using up my fabric stash to make others happy!

  30. Just made three backpacks today. Very easy pattern. Excellent instructions. No where to post pictures or I would show you. Thank you.

  31. Linda Badurek says:

    Thank you! Iโ€™m making 15 of them for my church Young Women (12-18) to take to Girlsโ€™ Camp to carry their Smash Journals everywhere with them while at camp!

  32. Pam Suther says:

    So is the only way to access the free pdf pattern through Blueprint and do you have to be a member to download it?? Thanks-love the pattern!

  33. Since this pattern was originally releases a couple (?) of years ago I have made at least 18 or more of them. I use one of the several I made for me every day and everyone I gifted one to uses theirs regularly. One of the best tutorials I ever used. I even did a blog on them https://selinaquilts.blogspot.com/2018/08/

    So thanks and I hope many of your followers enjoy the process.

  34. Yazhi Smith says:

    Wonderful pattern, really easy to follow for beginners! Thank you so much for this

  35. I lined my first one with fusible fleece interfacing. I wanted to make it stronger. Have you has any problem with them tearing out with heavy books?

  36. Why can’t I just cut 2 strips at 66"? Why am I cutting 3 strips and then cutting 1 of those strips in half and sewing an extension onto the 2 others to make 2 66" strips for the drawstring? That’s just a bunch of extra work and I already cut my strips cause I was following the directions.

    1. You absolutely can cut 66” strips if your fabric allows. Most fabric is only 40-44” wide, and that’s what my instructions are written for. ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for the instructions. I enlarged and left off the straps to make a bag for one of those kid tent/tunnel contraptions. I figure my sister in law will be a lot happier with the gift because it has a container ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you!

  38. What fabric do you recommend for this, 100% quilting cotton or something else?

  39. Andrea Kenner says:

    Hi Caroline! What kind of fabric did you use for the drawstrings? It looks like you used some kind of crushed velvet. Do you recommend that? Thanks!

  40. Andrea Kenner says:

    Wow, I finally got my first one made! It really was easy, and it looks really nice! Thank you!

  41. Andrea Kenner says:

    I got my first one made! Your instructions were really good, detailed, and easy to follow. I’m going to make 10 more for the members of my breast cancer walking team!

  42. Thank you so much for this easy fun pattern! I had scraps from 2 baby quilts to use up, and made book bags for 2 big sisters in a few hours. This was the design I had in my head, but it was so much easier to follow your directions! I will definitely be making more!

  43. Thanks for the fantastic tutorial. I had a little bit of trouble figuring a few of the steps out, but appreciated that you have kept the instructions to a reasonable length so it wasn’t too daunting. I am really thrilled with the outcome. Thanks!

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