Everyone needs a good bag for summer, especially kids.
Because of swim practice.
Because of day camp.
Because of sleepovers.
Because of rocks and twigs and treasures that need be collected.
Here’s how to make a lined, pocketed, personalized backpack that your little one is going to love toting around.*
*Maybe you can get them excited about carrying in the groceries too?
How to Make a Drawstring Backpack
Tools & Materials
- Sewing machine
- Fabric glue
- 1/4” grommets
Step 1: Cut Out Backpack
Cut out the rectangles that will make up the body of the pack. If you choose to line your pack, cut out four. If you choose not to line your pack, just two. The backpack we made was 12” x 17”. Make it larger if this is for an adult, or smaller if it’s for your cat.
If you want to add pockets to the interior or exterior of the pack, cut those out as well. Ours measured 5” x 7”.
Step 2: Sew on Pockets
Sew on the pockets to whichever panels you’d like. Hem the top of the pocket for a clean finish, then pin it to the backpack panel, folding under the sides as you go.
Sew around the sides and bottom. Do not sew it closed. You’d be surprised how easy this is to do.
I mean, I would never do something so careless.
Step 3: Connect Lining Panels
Pin the lining panels together, right sides facing in. Make sure, if your lining includes a pocket, that it’s facing the right direction. Sew one of the long sides together.
Step 4: Connect Backpack Panels
Pin and sew together two of the outer backpack panels along their long edge, leaving a 2” slit at the top un-sewn. Fold those in and hem them. Trust me – it’ll look so nice later.
Step 4: Cut and Insert Paracord
Cut two lengths of paracord, roughly 68” long. Using a lighter or candle, melt the tips to prevent fraying.
Next, lay out the outer backpack panel that you just sewed together, wrong side facing up. Arrange the paracord straps across the top of one half of that panel – i.e., from the edge to the middle slit.
What I’m doing right now is making it so you don’t have to later thread the straps through a loop in the fabric – one of the most tedious sewing tasks that exists.
Okay – paracord positioned? Fold over the top of the panel. Now arrange the lining, right side out, against the bottom of the fold.
Pin. It. Up.
Sew along that seam, making sure not to sew over the straps.
NOW, shorten one of the cords and pull the opposite end around to do that same procedure on the other side. You want to see a loop and two paracord ends poking out of each opening on the sides of the backpack. If you’re not sure you’ve got them arranged correctly, they should feed through the backpack something like the below picture. Pin everything up and test it out to make doubly sure. The top of the bag should cinch closed as you pull on the straps.
Good? Sew it.
Step 5: Sew Panels Together
With the right sides facing in, sew the backpack bottom and sides together. Use a zig-zag stitch to keep the interior hems from fraying.
Step 6: Add Grommets.
Add a grommet in the bottom corners of the bag, but first make sure they can accommodate the size of the paracord you’re using. Measure roughly 1” from the bottom and side and cut a small hole. Place the guide under the bottom section, add the top part of the grommet, add the top guide and hammer away. A few good bangs should do it.
Follow the directions on your grommet package if they differ from these.
Thread both ends of the strap through the grommet. You may have to cut the tips at an angle to fit them through, but that’s fine. Just be sure to melt them again to prevent fraying. Tie them in a knot to secure.
Step 7: (Optional) Add Felt Letters
All it takes is a little fabric glue to give your bag an extra-personal touch. Cut out felt letters using a template (we printed one up) or freehand and use fabric glue to add them to the exterior pocket. You could also sew them on or embroider letters yourself.
The next important step is to a) try on the backpack and b) fill it with goodies. Like a rad water bottle and fruit snacks. If the straps are a little long, just re-tie the knots at the bottom to shorten.