How To Make A Drawstring Backpack (DIY Sewing Guide)

Making your own drawstring backpack is one of the best beginner craft projects. Everyone sometimes needs a simple pack for small items. This article provides fundamental steps/tips to make your own drawstring backpacks with the right size and look for anyone.

A drawstring backpack, aka cinch sack or cinch bag, is a backpack with a cord-tightened closure to its main compartment. The cinch design works well in a variety of situations:

  • Accessibility & versatility
    The simplicity of the build means getting it open and closed is straightforward. The aesthetic is no-nonsense.
  • Designs & styles
    They range from promotional logo bags to high-fashion. Most of the time, drawstring backpacks are less expensive than their buckled or zipped counterparts. If your problem is that you cannot afford a backpack, note that there are really good under-$50 backpacks.
  • Customizable design
    If you are making your own drawstring bag: your crafting skills, materials, and imagination are your only limits.
  • Easy storage & portability
    Drawstring bags are lightweight and less structured than other backpack types, and so they can be folded between uses.

*Note, however, that most cinch sacks cannot handle large, heavy, or oddly-shaped items. Furthermore, the uneven weight balance and thin straps of drawstring backpacks are not best for those prone to shoulder or back pain; perhaps consider a sling backpack instead.


Types of Drawstring Backpacks (& Materials)

Burlap

This is a sturdy but forgiving fabric that gives a rustic look. However, it is not water-resistant.

How To Make A Simple Drawstring Backpack

Cotton

Because of its familiarity, this is a beginners’ favorite. However, beware that thin cotton fabrics (such as T-shirt fabric) tend to give a lot, which makes them harder to work with. Also, it does not offer much water resistance.

How To Make A Lined Drawstring Backpack

Canvas

This is harder to work with as a crafting fabric, but it does give added durability and water resistance.

Mesh

This is the most breathable option, so it is great for a gym sack, to prevent odor build-up.

How To Make A Drawstring Backpack Out Of Fabric

Nylon

This is the most common fabric in manufactured backpacks—it is lightweight, durable, and water-resistant. Unsurprisingly, it also lends itself to customizations and additions such as logos, appliques, and pockets.

Polyester

This is another common fabric in backpack manufacture. It is strong, water-resistant, and easy to work with. However, it is not breathable, so not best for athletic use.

How much fabric you need really depends on the size of the person for whom you are making the drawstring pack. Adult packs usually require at least two rectangular pieces of about 18 by 16 inches; if you want to make an internal lining, you need this much of the liner fabric, too.


How to Make a Drawstring Backpack (Beginners Guide)

Measuring, cutting, and preparing materials

  • Ruler/tape measure
  • 2 x 14 x 12-inch rectangles of fabric (Add/subtract a couple of inches to each dimension for a larger adult bag/a very small child’s, respectively)
  • 2 x 60-inch cords (Reduce 2-4 inches for a smaller bag)
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread (Matching color is usually best)
  • Sewing pins
  • Fabric scissors
  • Safety pin

Making a simple drawstring bag with a sewing machine:

  1. 1
    Hem, about ¼-inch, both long sides and one short side of both rectangles of fabric (The unhemmed side will be the drawstring top.)
  2. 2
    For extra designs, refer to the next section before continuing.
  3. 3
    Fold the top unsewn side down by ½-inch, then fold that down about 2 inches. Sew the fold in place. (This is the casing for the drawstring)
  4. 4
    Finally, sew the two rectangular pieces together, so the interior sides are exposed, leaving about ½-inch margin, avoiding the top fold/drawstring casing. (You will turn this inside out for the finished product.)
  5. 5
    String one cord through the entire length of the casing—with help from a safety pin attached to the end—so that it comes out on the same side of the bag where it started. Repeat this step with the other cord, on the opposite side.
  6. 6
    If you just want to string the cord through the base of the sack to make back straps, all you have to do is make a small break in the stitching and pull the cord through; then, make a knot in the cord and add some stitches to reinforce the opening. Alternatively, if you would rather make the back straps by running the cord through reinforced holes (grommets) in the bottom side of the bag, see “Grommets” below.

Customizations/optional add-ons:

Children especially enjoy personalization; they might want to get involved in choosing, or even making, special add-ons.

Generally, it works best to add customizations to the desired exterior or interior piece before sewing the body of the sack together—avoiding the very top or bottom areas.

You will need:

  • Felt, or other stiff fabric, to make your own add-on design
  • Needle and/or sewing machine
  • Paper (Draw your intended design first)
  • Thread (whatever color you want)
  • Iron (to straighten fabric or to heat adhesives)
  • (Optional) iron-on adhesive appliqué(s)

Grommets:

Grommets (Use included instructions.)

Ideally, install in a lined drawstring backpack for more reinforcement. However, you can also just add in reinforcement where you plan to put the grommet.

When making a grommet hole, think small, since the fabric must stretch around the grommet.

How To Make A Drawstring Backpack

Other Fun Drawstring Backpack Tutorials

  • How To Make A Duct Tape Drawstring Backpack
    Usually, you sew a drawstring backpack out of fabric, but this is the no-sew, fabric-free alternative. Duct tape comes in a variety of colors, so this can actually be a fairly colorful bag. You could easily incorporate reflective tape for safety, too.
  • How To Make A Lined Drawstring Backpack
    This is a great way to make the bag longer lasting and to personalize the interior. For a very simple lined backpack, just sew the lining fabric to the two exterior pieces before sewing the whole structure together.
  • How To Make A Reversible Drawstring Backpack
    Technically, all of these are reversible. However, normally if you turn a finished backpack inside out, you see the stitching, and the back straps are useless as they are inside the bag. There is no way to get around the latter problem, but good sewing technique can overcome ugly stitching:
  • How To Make A T-shirt Drawstring Backpack
    Children and teens especially like this personal and casual look. There are many approaches, some of which are also no-sew drawstring backpacks.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How do you restring a drawstring bag?

Change the look of your bag by using alternatives like ribbon or fabric strips sewn together. Sever the knot or adhesion at the end of the back strap portion and pull the cords out of the casing. String the new material through, as you did originally, then tie off/adhere the ends.

How can you make a drawstring backpack purse?

These can double as purses. However, most homemade drawstring packs have a casual or craft look, which might not fit some situations. For a purse replacement, consider a deep color with a discreet design.

Can you wash drawstring bags?

Most can be machine washed but use a gentle cycle, with settings suitable for the fabric.


Conclusion

Making your own drawstring backpack gives you the power to make yourself—as well as your children, family members, and friends—a useful and meaningful gift. You can even put logos, images, or messages on your drawstring backpacks to promote businesses, organizations, or causes.

  • Updated April 7, 2021
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