How To Make A Backpack (DIY Sewing Guide & Design)

Getting a new backpack is always an exciting task, but it can be overwhelming, too. With so many items on the market, it can be a slog to try and find the perfect fit for you.

Modifying an existing bag or making your own is a quick way to make a stylish custom backpack that suits your needs without breaking the bank. Read on to discover how to make a backpack that is right for you.

Common Fabrics Used in Making Backpacks


Cordura is a water-resistant, durable, and abrasion-resistant material commonly used in making backpacks. It is heavier and more durable than nylon, making it most typically used in creating backpack bases.

Cotton Canvas

Cotton canvas is a common material commonly used in tote bags and women's and children's backpacks. It is usually used in bags that will not be used in rough or wet weather conditions.


Made with a PVC or polyurethane coating, nylon is a waterproof and robust material that can take a lot of wear and tear. Untreated nylon is not as common or resistant but allows the fabric and items in the bag to breathe.

Rip-Stop Nylon

Made of a grid-like pattern of closely sewn durable threads, rip-stop nylon is designed to withstand wear and tear while preventing tears from growing over time. This prevents disasters further down the line, like things dropping through large holes in your bag. While it is strong, it is more prone to wear than pack cloth or Cordura.

Polyester Pack Cloth

While not as strong as nylon in either form, polyester pack cloth has a high resistance to ultra-violet degradation. This means increased protection for both the fabric and the items in the backpack.

PVC Fabric

PVC fabric is a durable and colorful material that is often used in workwear. Some types of PVC fabric can be flame retardant, tear-resistant, or both depending on your needs. This material brings added color and waterproofing to backpacks, making it a good option for those who want style and practicality.


A classic material, denim, can be found for cheap by repurposing jeans and other clothing. Denim bags bring a specific old-school statement and are easily customized and artificially worn for a unique style.


Leather is a stylish and timeless material that, while difficult to work with and expensive, can last a long time. Which is why leather backpacks are so popular nowadays. If you want to add leather to your piece on a budget, we recommend repurposing second-hand leather bags and straps from other items to help reduce your costs and environmental impact.

How to Use A Sewing Pattern: Beginners Guide

To know how to sew a backpack, first, you will need a sewing pattern. A sewing pattern is a guide that can help you sew an item or piece of clothing correctly. It typically comes in PDF or printed form, but both serve the same purpose and look very similar. 

Each type comes with instructions and paper with labeled and outlined pieces that need to be cut out and pinned to your backpack fabric. Once they have been carefully cut out and pinned, you can follow the instructions to pin and sew the pieces together by machine or hand.

When using these patterns, you may need to fold the fabric or trace parts yourself, depending on your item's style and needs. We recommend having at least 25 percent more fabric than the pattern states to accommodate size differences or mistakes.

How To Make A Backpack

How to Make a Backpack: DIY Tips and Techniques

Making your own backpack is a fun way to create a unique item that does not have to be expensive. You can repurpose fabrics you already own or use curtains, table cloths, or old bags to bring your design to life for cheap. Here's a general introduction to how to make a custom backpack.

What you need to make your backpack will vary depending upon your design and personal vision. However, here are some things you may need:

  • Needles
  • Threads
  • Thimble
  • Scissors
  • Lengths of your desired fabric/s
  • Décor – buttons, pins, zippers, buckles, and more
  • Seam ripper
  • Thin fabric for the lining
  • Sewing machine
  • Pattern
  • Kneepads if you are working on the floor

Once you know the basics of making a backpack, complex designs will be more accessible to you. We have chosen the following scenario and methods as they should be relatively easy for beginners.

How to make a drawstring backpack:


  • Two pieces of 12 x 15-inch fabric
  • 6 x 10 inches of fabric (outside pocket)
  • 6 x 7 inches of fabric (inner pocket)
  • Two 58-inch pieces of ribbon or cord
  • Ribbon
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread if no device is available
  1. 1
    Iron the fabric carefully.
  2. 2
    Cut out all the fabric pieces.
  3. 3
    Iron the edges on the outside pocket and sew the sides and bottom onto the front piece. Fold over the top or cut a leftover piece of fabric and sew to the non-sewn side.
  4. 4
    Sew the inside pocket onto the back layer on top of the lining layer (if no lining layer, just straight onto the back).
  5. 5
    At the top of the backpack, measure and mark ¼ inch down and sew, leaving the end holes open for the ribbon to go through.
  6. 6
    Place the sides of the fabric together, sewing by starting and ending below the openings at the top.
  7. 7
    Turn the backpack inside out. Attach a safety pin to the end of the ribbon or cord. Thread it through the tunnel until you reach the start through the front right. Repeat with the other ribbon or twine from the front left.
  8. 8
    Tie the ends of the ribbon together.
  9. 9
    Using a seam ripper, make tiny openings in the bottom corners of the bag. Put the ends of the ribbon in there and sew to seal; this makes the straps.
  10. 10
    Trim the ends of the ribbon.
  11. 11
    Attach your decorations and accessories.
How To Make A Drawstring Backpack

DIY Backpack Designs

Do you often find yourself running out of power while using your devices on the go? Making a solar backpack could be an easy and eco-friendly solution. By attaching a solar panel to the outside and connecting a USB cable, you can make sure that your devices are always charged no matter where you are.

Hiking backpacks are often an expensive investment that, while helpful, is not always possible to purchase. Designing and making one yourself ensures that you have all the pockets, bells, and whistles that you need for your gear. Using existing hiking backpacks as inspiration, getting suitable materials, and having some sewing experience under your belt will help here.

Staying hydrated on bike rides or during your day-to-day routine is essential for your health and wellbeing. Making a hydration backpack that can fit a water bladder securely can help you stay hydrated when your hands are otherwise occupied. Sewing a right-sized pocket into an existing bag or designing your backpack are two ways of creating your desired hydration backpack.

Young children love bringing their favorite stuffed toys along with them on their daily adventures. However, it can often be dropped and lost while the kid is distracted. Making their favorite toys into backpacks can be a great way to extend the life of their favorite toy while ensuring it is less likely to get lost. Alternatively, check out some of the most popular childrens backpacks here.

Recycling is a great way to save the environment, but one of the most overlooked fabrics in this area is the tarp. Repurposing your tarp into a backpack can turn a forgotten piece of material into a valuable and stylish item that can be used every day. Try designing a messenger bag or backpack with your old tarp in mind today.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How much does it cost to make a backpack?

The cost of a backpack depends on the materials used, the amount of fabric needed, and other various factors. If cost is an issue, we recommend modifying a preexisting bag or using old clothes and curtains as materials.

How long does it take to make a backpack?

How long a backpack takes to make depends on the complexity of the design and your proficiency in sewing. The more practice you have sewing, the faster you will be able to make things like backpacks

How do you fix a backpack without sewing?

Depending on the issue, you could superglue or tape the bag together until you get access to a sewing machine or kit. Alternatively, you can iron a patch onto the area for a stylish fix. Learn about fixing broken zippers here.

What is a lash strap?

A lash strap is a fastener that is used to hold down your bag's items. It can also be referred to as a tie-down strap or ratchet strap.

Can you put stickers on backpacks?

Stickers do not usually stick to backpacks for long due to the weak glue not sticking properly to the fabric surface. We recommend applying shoe glue or another strong adhesive to the sticker before placing it on your backpack.

What kind of backpack is best for your back?

Ergonomic backpacks with wide straps and even weight distribution are typically best for your back. You can find ergonomic backpack designs online to follow or pick up a pre-made one to modify.        


Making or modifying your own backpacks are easy and cheap ways to create your own stylish and functional item. Knowing how to make a mini backpack can help you learn even more complex designs in the future – be safe and keep practicing for the best results.

  • Updated October 30, 2021