A Drawstring Backpack for a Birthday Girl

A couple weeks ago, Quinn and I visited our good friends Amy and Chloe. Amy likes an inexpensive sewing craft as much as I do and always has a big stash of fabric waiting to be transformed into something lovely. As we were looking at a turquoise and pink thrift shop skirt that Amy picked up somewhere along the way, she mentioned the hobo sacks I recently made and how she’d love for Chloe to have a little backpack for toting around her toys and snacks.

You know it was about one hot minute before I stuffed that skirt in my purse and hatched a plan for Chloe’s backpack (don’t worry, Amy gave me the okay to swipe her skirt). Even better, Chloe’s birthday party was just a couple weeks off. Perfection!

Warning: there are a lot of steps coming at you below, but they’re all really easy and quick. I plan on putting together a detailed tutorial for sewing this drawstring pack sometime soon. For now, just read on through and if you’re inclined to give this pack a try, just reference all the tutorials I used to help me along.

Here’s where I started: two rectangular pieces of fabric (10″ x 13″) cut from the thrift shop skirt.

Next up, I wanted to add some detail to the front of the pack. I cut out a circle of turquoise knit fabric (just chopped up an old tank top sitting in my own fabric stash) and stenciled on a big “C” for Chloe. I used Dana’s freezer paper stenciling tutorial, which is a really simple way to make custom designs on all sorts of fabrics. I use this technique for customizing onesies all the time.

In case you’re curious about the stencil, I used the Tabitha font at size 400 and just traced the “C” onto the freezer paper. Dana gives you all the details of freezer paper stenciling, but I just wanted to highlight the point about making sure all of the edges of the stencil are well-adhered to the fabric. If not paint slides underneath and the design won’t look as sharp.

After the stencil was attached to the turquoise fabric, I slid cardboard underneath to protect the table as I painted the “C.” I started by mixing some Tulip brand Berry Red and White paint to make dark pink and then added some silver glitter on top for a little sparkle. An hour after painting, I pulled up the freezer paper and had a pretty pink “C” with nice sharp edges and no bleeding. Phew! Don’t forget to iron over your completed stencil to seal the paint!

If you’ve worked with knits before (knits are the comfy, stretchy fabrics most often used for t-shirts, leggings, etc.), you might’ve discovered that they can be challenging to sew. All that comfy stretch can make for wonky stitching. By adding interfacing (a paper-like material that adds stability to fabric) to the back of the fabric, sewing with knits becomes a whole lot easier.

I use a brand called Wunder Under that has a bonding agent that sticks one fabric to another. A little ironing here, a little ironing there and my knit fabric is firmly attached to the front pieces of Chloe’s pack. It was then easy peasy to sew the fabric on. I opted to stitch around twice, once in yellow and once in pink just for a little extra flare.

Okay, finally on to sewing the backpack! This part was really fast and easy, and very much the same as sewing a hobo sack. Just follow along with Dana’s tutorial like I did here and here. The only difference is that you skip the first sewing step that creates the bottom surface of the bag. We won’t need that as we’re just making a pack with two surfaces, front and back, without a bottom surface.

Now Chloe’s bag is all sewn up. Just two final steps to go! First, I add eyelets to the bottom of the bag so that we have a place to anchor the strings for our drawstring backpack. I had already bought an eyelet kit (Dritz brand, size large) to make a couple Peep Bunny door hangers (aren’t they cute?!), so no extra expense there.

After the eyelets are hammered in, all we’ve got left to work on are the strings. Jo-ann’s only has a few colors of cord that will work for a drawstring bag. Sadly, they’re all icky colors: gray, beige, white (I imagine white getting dirty fast), and a few others. I decided to buy the white string and then dye it. The only color I had in the house was aquamarine, which I thought would be more turquoise than blue, but you get what you get and it looked much better than white.

Just one more step; so close! We’re going to loop the drawstring through the top pocket in Chloe’s backpack and then anchor the strings through the eyelets. Due to my lack of visualizing skills, this looping business really perplexed me. Luckily, the internet is brimming with helpful bloggers and this post clearly guided me along in no time at all. Notice below that I left the strings long in case Amy decides she’d like to adjust them to best fit Chloe.

Whew! We made it! It looks like a really long, complicated process, but I actually made Chloe’s backpack over just a couple days, maybe only two to three hours of active crafting time. Plus, the project budget was only about $2–the cost of the string– as everything else was thrifted, free, or already purchased.

Hopefully Chloe will feel like an independent woman of two years old with her new big girl backpack! Happy Birthday Chloe-girl!

16 thoughts on “A Drawstring Backpack for a Birthday Girl

  1. She’s going to love it! I remember how thrilled I was as a kid to get something with my initial or my name on it. And I think the dyed cord is genius — it coordinates so well! Thanks for the links and the tutorial — I’m inspired to try to make a version of these with a waterproof lining for my kids to haul their swimsuits back and forth in. I’ll put it in my ever-growing queue of things to try.

    • Waterproofing the bag is brilliant! In addition to being perfect for swimming gear, it makes sense for the littler ones who like to put their sippy cups everywhere… Also, after reading your comment, I remember loving the personalized things I received as a kid as well. Made me feel so special! Thanks for your note!

  2. OMG! I read the stencil link and I’m so doing this tonight! I have to customize some onesies and wasn’t sure how I was going to do it but this is perfect-o. Talk about good timing. The baby shower is tomorrow! PS: I made my first diaper cake- I’ll post some pics soon :)

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