Sunday, July 1, 2012

Totetorial: Lined Drawstring Backpack

Welcome back for the last in the easy-tote series. I really wanted to call this the 'Itty Bitty Ditty Bag' but I doubt anyone would ever use those search terms. I have to admit--I didn't know how to go about making this one. Every drawstring backpack I've seen is unlined, or the insides are serged, or grommets were used. I didn't want any raw edges or special equipment to be needed, so I slept on it and woke up knowing what I was going to do. Perhaps I should plan ahead next time. But that wouldn't be fun and you know it :) OK, onward.

If you made last week's hobo sack you'll recognize a lot of these steps. We won't be doing any boxy corners with this one, so it should stitch up lickety split. Here's what you'll need:
  • Exterior: 2 pieces of fabric, 14 by 15 inches
  • Lining: 2 pieces of fabric, 14 by 15 inches
  • Drawstring: either bias tape, cording, twill tape, etc. I'm using twill tape for this (since it's wee it'll work ok--if I was going larger I'd probably use regular drawstring cording). You'll need 52 inches per cord, so a total of about 3 yards. 
  • We'll  be using a 3/8" seam allowance throughout, backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam, as well as the gaps.

We need to make a few markings on our fabric. Take your lining pieces. Make a mark on the sides 1 inch from the top, and then slightly over 2 inches from the top. The graphic below shows you where you're leaving gaps and where you'll be stitching:

Take your exterior pieces and make those same markings from the top of the bag, AND from the bottom of the bag, so we'll have two gaps on the each side:

Let's do the outside first. Right sides together sew across the bottom. Press that seam open. Then sew each side, being mindful of the gaps. Press those seams open as well.

This next step applies to the gaps near the top only. In order to keep the fabric edges from being too distressed once the drawstring is in there we're going to sew the seam edges down around the gap. I go about 1/4" from the opening all around. When you're finished the outside should look like this:

The inside should look like this:

Take your lining pieces and repeat. Stitch across the bottom, BUT make sure you leave a 5-6" gap in the center. This gap is essentail for applying our drawstring in a little while. You should now have an exterior piece with two gaps on each side, and a lining with one gap on each side and a big gap across the bottom.

Put one inside the other, right sides together. Matching up the seams, pin all around the top. Now is the point you want to make sure your drawstring gaps line up, and to make adjustments if they don't.

If everything is good, then stitch all around the top. Reach into the gap we left in the lining, and pull the bag right side out.

Push the lining down into the bag. Pin and press nice and neat around the top edge of the bag.

Topstitch about 1/4" down from the top edge. Now we're going to make the casing for the drawstring. We're treating the lining and exterior as one layer now, so make sure everything is super neat. We're going to make the top part of the casing line up with the top part of that little rectangle we sewed around the gap. Line up your needle with the top of the rectangle, and note where the edge falls--that's your "seam allowance" for this part. If you don't have measurement markings on your sewing machine put a piece of tape on your machine to use as a seam guide. It should look like the below once you've sewn around:

Do the same for the bottom part of the casing. Make these lines as neat and straight as you can. Now we're going to do the drawstring. Cut whatever you are using so that each piece is about 52" long. Put a pin in one end, like so--

Using the pin to feed the string, insert it in the gap on one side of your bag, making sure it's in-between the lining and exterior. Feed it all the way around, coming out from the same gap it went into. Even out the ends, making sure the drawstring isn't twisted (if you're using bias or twill tape). Do the same for the other drawstring, going into and out out of the gap on the other side. You should now have something that looks like this:

Take the drawstring ends coming out of one of the gaps and sew them together about 1/4" from the edge. Do the same for the ends on the other side. Here's the part that's slightly fiddly, but entirely doable. Take the ends of one of your strings (now sewn together), make sure everything is straight, and feed it into the bottom gap on the same side--

Stick your other hand into the gap we left in the bottom of the lining. Feel your way over to this part, and hold onto the seam and the cord as you pull it back through the gap in the lining--

Neaten up that section so it's nice and flat. I like to have my drawstring overlap the edge just a bit (for security :)

Sew this part of the gap closed. I start by going over a few of the previous stitches and then continuing on, ending by going over a few of the previous stitches on the other side of the gap. I also go over the cord itself several times, as this is a stress point that could use a bit of reinforcement.

Do this for both straps. It should look like this from the outside--

We're finished with that gap in the lining now. So tuck in the raw edges, stick in some pins, and sew the gap closed, getting as close to the edge as you feel comfortable. Give it another press if you wanna, and that's it. We're done!

Cute, right? Now, this one ends up being on the smaller side (as it's for a kid), but it's easily adjustable for larger sizes. Other than your fabric cuts, the only thing that will change is your drawstring length. That's easy to figure out. All you have to do is measure across the top of your bag, then measure from the gap at the top to the gap at the bottom. Add those numbers together, double it, and add a couple inches for wiggle room. That's your measurement for one drawstring, so you'll need double that length.

So that's it for our tote series. Hopefully I've taught you a few things along the way, and now you've got a few cute and easy bags to show for it. If you've stitched up anything using these I've love for you to add them to the  Flickr pool (link in the sidebar).

If you have any questions at all please let me know!

Linking up here this week:


  1. Great tuto! I have a different way of making them. Will try and write it down soon too! Great how different methods just work!
    Have a great Sunday!

  2. Another cute bag. Thanks for all the tutorials. I will get to make them eventually when I clear some more UFO's

  3. I loved your tutorial, it's all very well explained and the pictures are of great help. Is now on my list of things to do, thanks again!!!!

  4. This is a fabulous tutorial!! :o)

  5. Great tutorial! I love the fabric you chose. :)

  6. Very cute! :) Thanks for sharing the how-to!
    Happy Day!

  7. What a great project! I know people think these are for kids, but I find them really useful for me too if I'm out shopping!

  8. Oh, I love this! Will definitely make one of these.... Thanks for a great tutorial!

  9. Thanks for this - it's a wonderful tutorial. I just made my first bag!
    I just wondered though - having had a look at the finished product - does the lining really need the upper gap and all the work that goes with it? Since the bag isn't reversible, the straps only need pop out through the outer layer?
    Just curious...
    Love it!

    1. I honestly never thought about that, but you're absolutely right! Since it's not reversible you could nix the gap in the lining. If you had concerns about your fabric fraying you could still tack down the seam edges (or pink them). But you could definitely save yourself some time and effort by doing away with the gap. Thanks for sharing your idea! My nephew wants one of these, so I'll have to try it that way!

    2. That's so funny-I just finished my first one of these and I had the EXACT same question! Doing away with the lining gap at the top edges makes it so that you can't even see the cord/ twill tape from the inside. I think it looks a bit more tidy that way and will save a little extra time. Great tutorial and pictures!

    3. That's why I love the online sewing community--so many tips and ideas from people everywhere. I may still be keeping the gap in the lining if not for the comment :)

  10. These turned out so cute, Bethany! I am totally pinning this.

    thanks for sharing and have a fun weekend!


  11. I was freaking out this evening trying to find one of these drawstring bags in town for a decent price. The best I could find was $30! So after an hour of searching, I decided I should just try to make one on my own. I have lots of fabric left over from back in the day when I thought it would be fun to teach myself to quilt!

    This tutorial is amazing! Beautiful pictures and perfect descriptions! Thank you, thank you, thank you! <3 Actually your tut was more helpful than ANY of the videos I found while searching for help on Google.

    Ended up taking me about 2.5 hours though! I jumped into the project without reading all the way through to see that this was a childs size backpack! Haha! So after sewing the tubes of fabric, fighting with them for several minutes to invert them right side out... I realized they weren't going to be long enough. No way they were going to fit through the lining and then be able to put my arms through them. So I had to go back and re-sew new straps twice the length of the first ones! And voila! I have a new super awesome homemade drawstring bag!

    Thank you sooooooo much again for this tutorial!

  12. Your backpack it's so beautiful, I like it vey much, I also bought on at omega watches for women
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  13. I've made 3 of these in the last 2 days. They are so cute and are perfect as the wrapping for a birthday present -- and obviously part of the present itself!! The only change I made was making the bag an inch and a half longer, and putting the upper gaps down a bit lower down the side so when it is cinched up you can see more of the lining.

    1. Oh, fabulous! I love when things are easy to sew but are cute and useful when they're done. And good idea for not wasting wrapping paper--the wrap is a gift, too. My wheels are spinning for Christmas :)

  14. Great pattern and easy to follow. Have just finished one for my son's library bag. Thanks!

  15. This is a great tutorial. We ended up making 10 of these and they turned out awesome! The kids love them and use them for everything.Thanks for doing this.



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