How to Sew a Backpack

How to Sew a Simple Backpack

The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson

Overview
  • Total Time: 5 - 6 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $25

Sew this simple and stylish backpack that carries all your essentials! The foldover top is similar to a classic knapsack, but the overall style works even as a purse. There's also room to clip your keys to the front of the bag, and the padded straps are easy to adjust.

Sewing your own backpack might feel overwhelming, but this is an easy project to get your feet wet. And you can choose your own fabric to create a custom bag that's just for you!

DIY Foldover Backpack Displayed With Stationery Items

The Spruce Crafts / Mollie Johanson

Notes: Sew all seams with a 3/8-inch seam allowance unless noted. The sewing steps are all simple, but this does have some heavy-duty sewing, so be sure to use an appropriate needle on your sewing machine.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Pins
  • Iron
  • Hammer

Materials

  • 2/3 yard mid- to heavy-weight fabric
  • 1/2 yard lining fabric
  • 1 yard fusible midweight interfacing
  • 1/2 yard lightweight batting
  • Thread
  • 1 1/8 yard 1-inch-wide cotton webbing
  • 6 1-inch D-rings
  • 1 1-inch swivel clasp
  • 2 heavy snaps (and tool for installing)

Instructions

  1. Cut the Bag Pieces

    Cut two 15 x 18-inch pieces from the outer fabric, lining, interfacing, and batting.

    Fuse the interfacing to the back of the outer fabric. Layer the outer fabric with the batting, and baste the layers together. Quilt the outer panels with diagonal lines.

    Cut Outer and Lining Pieces
    Mollie Johanson

    Cut a 2 1/2-inch square from the bottom corner of the outer and lining pieces.

    Cut the Lower Corners Out of the Pieces
    Mollie Johanson
  2. Make the Straps

    Cut two 5 x 17-inch pieces from the outer fabric and batting.

    Layer the fabric and batting, then pin and sew the long edges together with right sides facing.

    Cut two 12-inch pieces of cotton webbing. On each piece, fold one end under two times and sew across to finish the end. Set aside.

    Open the seam on the strap and center it so it lays flat.

    Sew the Strap Pieces Into Tubes
    Mollie Johanson

    Cut two 3-inch pieces of cotton webbing. Slide two D-rings onto the strap and fold it in half. Slip the D-rings into the tube so the ends of the webbing align with the end of the strap. Sew across the end of the strap. Repeat with the second strap.

    Place the Adjuster D-Rings in the Straps
    Mollie Johanson

    Turn the straps right side out.

    Top stitch the straps, starting at the open end, down the first side, across the end with the rings, and up the second side.

    Quilt the Straps
    Mollie Johanson
  3. Make the Pieces for Holding the Straps

    Cut two 2 1/2 x 5-inch pieces of lining fabric and one 2 1/2 x 5-inch piece from interfacing. Fuse the interfacing onto one piece of lining fabric.

    Sew the two rectangles together with right sides facing, using a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Leave an opening for turning. Turn the patch right side out and press.

    Sew a Patch to Secure the Straps
    Mollie Johanson

    Cut a 6-inch piece of cotton webbing. Slide the swivel clasp on one end, then fold the end under two times. Sew across the folded piece near the clasp, backstitching across several times to secure it.

    Sew the Clip Strap
    Mollie Johanson
  4. Attach the Straps to the Back

    Pin the clasp strap and the two padded straps to the top of one of the outer pieces so they extend over the top edge.

    Place the clasp first so it's centered and the raw edge is 4 1/2 inches from the top edge. Place the padded straps side-by-side and wrong side up so they are centered and with the raw edges aligned with the other strap.

    Pin the patch over the end of the straps.

    Position the Straps and Clip on the Back Panel
    Mollie Johanson

    Sew around the edge of the patch, then sew concentric rectangles inside to fully secure the straps.

    Sew Around the Patch to Secure the Straps
    Mollie Johanson
  5. Attach D-Rings to the Front

    Cut a 5-inch piece of cotton webbing. Slide two D-rings on the strap and fold the ends in to meet each other with the rings in the two folds.

    Place the folded strap (with raw edges down) to the second outer piece so it's centered and the top fold is 6 3/4 inches from the top edge.

    Sew across the strap near the first D-ring, along the edge, across, and down the last side. Sew around the strap again so it's fully secure.

    Attach the D-Rings to the Front Backpack Panel
    Mollie Johanson
  6. Sew the Main Backpack Pieces

    Pin the two outer pieces with right sides together. Place the two 12-inch webbing straps from step 2 between the layers so they're 1 inch from the bottom of the cut-out corners.

    Sew the sides and bottom two times to reinforce the seams. You can zigzag the seam, but this is optional.

    Sew the lining pieces on the two sides and the bottom. Use a 1/2-inch seam allowance.

    Pin and Sew the Panels With the Adjusting Straps Between
    Mollie Johanson

    To form the boxed corners, fold the cut corners to bring the side and bottom seams together. Pin the raw edges and sew across two times to reinforce the seam.

    Repeat with the lining.

    Sew the Boxed Corners of the Backpack
    Mollie Johanson
  7. Join the Outer Bag and Lining

    Turn the outer bag right side out and place it inside the lining so the right sides are together.

    Pin and sew around the top of the bag, leaving a 5-inch opening. Turn the bag right side out and then push the lining into the backpack.

    Sew the Lining to the Outer Backpack
    Mollie Johanson

    Press the opening in so the seam allowance is aligned. Topstitch around the top of the backpack 1/8 inch from the seam.

    Top Stitch Around the Backpack Opening
    Mollie Johanson
  8. Install Snaps

    Measure and install two snaps. Position them 4 1/2 inches in from each side and 1 inch from the opening edge. Install them with the smooth button side on the back of the backpack so when it folds over the buttons show.

    Install Two Snaps to the Top of the Backpack
    Mollie Johanson
  9. Loop the Straps

    Slide the two side straps through the D-rings on the padded straps, then fold the straps back and between the two rings to secure and adjust the straps.

    As you use your backpack, simply snap the top closed and then fold it down and clip it in place. The top ring is for the clip and the bottom ring allows you to clip on other items, like your keys or a coin purse.

    DIY Foldover Backpack With Padded Straps
    Mollie Johanson

    This backpack is large enough to hold a notebook or two and a few books, plus a pencil case and other necessities. It's also a good size to use like a purse or a project bag for your crafts.

    Fold the Backpack Top and Clip it Closed
    Mollie Johanson

    Tips for Customizing

    • To make a larger backpack, add a few inches to the basic pieces, but keep the cut-out corners the same. Consider lengthening the side straps.
    • Add extra security by installing a zipper to the top opening instead of the snaps.
    • Give your backpack even more character by sewing a patchwork for the outer pieces or adding a bit of embroidery!
    Foldover Backpack Sewing Pattern Shown on a Woman's Shoulder
    Anna Johanson