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Fat Quarter Drawstring Backpack

on Oct 22, 2009 in accessories, Accessories Gallery, Gallery, sewing, tutorial | 12 comments

Its tutorial time again around the ReannaLily Designs blog- DRAWSTRING BACKPACK. This backpack has finished seams (without using a serger) and is perfect for that fat quarter of fabric that you just HAD to have, but don’t want to cut into little pieces.

For this project you will need:

  • one quilter’s fat quarter (rectangle of fabric measuring 18″ x 22″)
  • 52″ of ribbon, 1 inch wide. {sized for a kiddo}

And you’ll also need regular sewing items like

  • rotary cutting tools
  • scissors, thread, sewing machine, Seamingly Accurate seam guide
  • iron, ironing board
  • jumbo safety pin
  • AND- for this project I used the rolled hem presser foot attachment

Fat quarters are usually sold folded in some fancy merchandising fashion. You’ll need to open the fabric up and press it.

Next up, and this one might surprise you- You will want to trim the edges of the fabric, with your rotary cutter, to remove the selvage and to ensure that the fabric has 90 degree angles on all corners. I bet you thought fat quarters come to your home all squared up and fabulous… they don’t.

Next you will need to switch the sewing machine presser foot from the regular open zig zag foot, to the rolled hem foot. Your sewing machine manual will let you know exactly which one it is.

Now, using one of the 18″ sides of the fabric, with the right side facing down, feed about 1/4″ of the fabric edge into the “curly” part of the rolled hem presser foot. {This will make sense as you are doing it. You might want to practice a time or two on scrap fabrics.} OH- here, I just found this rolled hem video for you. The fabric will catch on the sewing machine feed dogs and guide the fabric through the presser foot giving you a fabulous finished edge. NOTE: If you do not want to do the rolled hem or do not have the presser foot, you can either fold the edge 1/4″ twice and stitch a narrow hem or simply zigzag over the raw edge. I do recommend you try the rolled hem, if you have the foot.

Here’s what it looks like from the right side of the fabric:

Pretty sweet right? I bet you’re going to want to “roll hem” all sorts of stuff now. Repeat this rolled hem treatment on the other 18″ side of the fabric.

Now, press the top edge. First, fold down one of the 22″ sides one half inch. Press.

Fold the edge again, down 1 1/4th” and press again. This will form a casing or “tube” for the ribbon to be drawn into.

Take the fat quarter over to the sewing machine and stitch the casing in place. Work from the wrong side of the fabric and stitch close to the lower folded edge. I used the Seamingly Accurate seam guide to make sure my casing was the same width, across the entire top.

Lay the fat quarter on your work surface. Fold it in half, matching right sides AND matching those rolled hem edges. Pin along the rolled hem edges.

This will become the center back seam of the back pack. Start stitching right below the casing. Back-stitch a few times to secure your stitching line at the casing. This point will get alot of stress during the life of the bag, so back-stitching or lock-stitching or securing is very important. Sew along this center back seam using a 1/2″ seam allowance, made easy with the Seamingly Accurate guide. {You can see the back-stitching in the picture below.}

With the bag still folded in half, you will need to find the center front of the bag. On the lower edge, make a small clip or notch with your scissors, so that you can find this point again later.

Press the center back seam open. Match the center back seam and center front notch while at the ironing board. Give a little press on the right and left sides at the lower edge, so you’ll know where to place your ribbon ends, later in construction. {Trust me.}

Now, add the jumbo safety pin to one end of the ribbon. This will be the guide as you push the ribbon through the casing at the top edge of the back pack.

Turn the bag right side out, if it is not already. Once the ribbon is all the way through the casing, remove the safety pin. Lay each of the ribbon ends, flat, onto the lower edge of the back of the bag. Place the ribbons right next to that side seam fold you pressed in earlier.

Sew across the lower edge of the bag using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Match the center back seam and center front notch, again. You are making a fancy french seam to finish the lower edge of the bag- so yes, you will be sewing with wrong sides together and ribbon pinned in place. Sew with the bag back facing up, so you can ensure your ribbons are straight as you sew.

Unlike a traditional French seam, we will NOT be trimming any extra fabric away from this 1/4″ seam allowance. Instead, just turn the bag wrong side out and press the lower edge.

Ah, there ya go. Make sure the ribbons haven’t twisted around on you in there or anything. Head back over to the sewing machine. And use a 1/2″ seam allowance to sew the bottom edge, this time right sides together (just like in the picture.) I sew with the center back seam facing up, so I can make sure the seam allowances don’t fold while I’m stitching.

Last thing- Turn the bag right side out and press the lower edge. That’s it. That’s all.

OH WAIT- one other little thing- if you have a bells-and-whistles embroidery machine, you’ll want to do whatever embroidery BEFORE you sew that lower seam shut. I hear its easier. I don’t embroider, but my friend does. {You cannot really see the name on the far left bag in the photo, its stitched in red.}

Thanks for taking this tutorial for a test drive! I hope you love it. I hope you have it with enough time to make up some Happy Trick-or-Treat bags to hold *just* the right amount of candy!

Updated to add: OMG- this backpack was mentioned on a webisode for Shine with MARTHA STEWART!!! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


If you make it, feel free to share it in the ReannaLily Designs Flickr pool.

For more accessories sewing patterns, check out ReannaLily Designs pattern shop.


  1. Very cool! Looks very easy too. If you lined it, would he be harder to make?


    October 23, 2009

  2. Leigh, I'd think that lining it wouldn't be any more difficult than lining any other bag.


    January 27, 2010

  3. I just made one for my 2 1/2 year old to take to kindergarten and was pleasantly surprised how easy it was! Your instructions are excellent! It took me about an hour to make up (with lots of looking at the instructions). Thank you, and my daughter thanks you too!


    February 23, 2010

  4. 😀 Wow, Excellent instructions! I'm not much of a sewer, but this is such a cute project, I'm only 16 but I'm probably going to use this bag for myself ^^.


    June 6, 2010

  5. Great tutorial! I just made one for my 3-year-old to carry her tap and ballet shoes to class (she thinks she is hot stuff, let me tell ya'). I lined it and used some thick fusible interfacing. I do NOT recommend using the batting/interfacing! It made it quite thick and difficult to pull the ribbon through at the top when using it. Of course my daughter thinks it is the greatest thing ever made, but that is because she is my biggest fan 🙂 and loves anything I make her. If I was to make another one, I would still use the lining, but only use the thinnest of interfacing, if at all necessary.


    August 30, 2010

  6. Just rediscovered this tutorial (thanks to you putting up pics of all your lessons). I am going to pass this on to one of my Girl Scouts. She's thinking of making bags for kids….this would be perfect!!!


    October 4, 2010

  7. hello
    love th e bag!! want to make a ffew for Easter gifts. do you have a printable version??


    March 31, 2011

  8. I made the backpack and it was easy. i used some of my favorite fabric. then i tried it on. i didn’t see anywhere in the directions that it said child-size! well it is too small for me. then i thought well i’ll just send it to my neice. Then as I was folding it up, i discovered the fabric was upside down 🙁
    guess i will tear it apart, redo it and send it to her after that.


    July 24, 2012

  9. p.s. i am going to try it for me with 2 FQs – one for front one for back side… crafting n tweeking it. thanks


    July 24, 2012

  10. Hey there! Love the tutorial! I am making 1 for my mom as we are going on a trip at the end of this month. I am embroidering her name on it right now. 🙂 (I don’t want her to lose it..hahaha) Again, thanks for the great tutorial!


    August 14, 2012

  11. Would you be able to help me out with a two colored book bag? My nephews play for a traveling baseball team and the colors are orange and blue. Got as far as step three in this tute and realized I have two colors I need to work with. Any suggestions would be wonderful.
    Thanks for a great project!


    April 23, 2013

  12. I love this pattern! I’ve used it more times than I can count! It’s the perfect little bag for carrying camp manuals and water bottles, bug spray etc around camp! I’ve made dozens of these for teenage girls to use at camp. I just made the ribbon strap longer. I’ve added appliques to make personalized gifts! Could I use your pattern for retail purposes?
    – A very big fan


    August 16, 2018


  1. Drawstring Backpack and Girl Scouts | ReannaLily Designs - [...] of the popular tutorials on this site is the Drawstring Backpack.? It is made from a fat quarter of…

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