Sip Sew Savannah


Back to School: Lilly Backpack Tutorial

I've been searching for the perfect backpack since moving to Savannah, and have had little luck with what I want at a cheap price. So instead of continuing my search, I decided to go ahead and make my own! Before I moved to Savannah, I was working in NYC as a pattern maker for a small accessories company. I learned a million different ways to make pouches, wallets, tote bags, etc. but I never patterned a back pack! So bear with me on this post, since it is my first of many sewing tutorials, and I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I promise they will get better as I continue to blog, but only with your help. Let me know if there is anything I can do to make them easier to understand, and as always, send your questions to my inbox!

-3/4 yd sturdy fabric (I used canvas and a Lilly pattern for contrast)
-1/2yd lining fabric
-1/4 yd fusible interfacing (optional)
-Drawstring cord
-50" nylon webbing (for straps)
-Pattern paper

I first started by drafting the pattern on dot paper. Each pattern piece has the seam allowance included, which is 1/2". The 8"x8" top flap pieces need to be rounded on two edges, which can easily be done by tracing the bottom of a cup, or just free handing one side and tracing it onto the other if you don't have a curved ruler available. The above pattern does not include the layout for the lining fabric! All you need to do for the lining is cut the body (two sides, bottom, front and back panels) out of a lighter weight fabric, such as seersucker or cotton. 

Cutting list:
-Front panel (1 self fabric, 1 lining fabric)
-Back panel (1 self fabric, 1 lining fabric)
-Side panel (2 self fabric, 2 lining fabric)
-Bottom panel (1 self fabric, 1 lining fabric)
-Pocket (1 self fabric)
-Pocket contrast (1 self fabric OR contrast fabric, 1 fusible interfacing)
-Top flap (2 self fabric OR contrast fabric, 1 fusible interfacing)
-Drawstring pocket (1 self fabric OR contrast fabric, 1 fusible interfacing)

Start by cutting the pieces out and fusing the interfacing onto the contrast fabrics with a low iron and pressing cloth (about 30sec-1min)

Sew lining together. Start by stitching the front and back panels to the bottom panel (right sides together) at 1/2" S.A. Then sew the side panels onto the bottom panel. Continue the lining by sewing the sides to the front and back panels, starting from the top of the fabric, and working down to the bottom panel. You should have a rectangular box now, which is the inside of the backpack.

Next, begin sewing the contrast fabric onto the pocket, with right sides together. Iron down, and flip the edge up to 1/2" and top stitch. This will make a clean edge for the pocket!

Sew the pocket onto the front panel of the backpack at 1/4" S.A. to hold it in place.

Sew the two top flaps with right sides together, leaving the straight side open. Flip inside out and press to make curved edges smooth. Sandwich the nylon straps (each cut to 25") between the top flap and the back panel of the backpack. The space on each side should be 2 1/2". Stitch from end to end at 1/4" S.A. making sure to catch the straps underneath the top flap. Next, stitch the bottom of the straps to the back flap at 1/4" S.A. 1 1/2" from the side. 
 Follow the same steps for the outside bag that you did for the lining, making sure that all straps and flaps are tucked in and not catching in the machine!

Next we are going to sew the lining and self together. Make sure that the bag is turned inside out, and the lining is right side out. Put the bag inside the lining, matching up any seams, and stitch around it at 1/2" S.A. You should now be able to flip the bag right side out and have a raw edge at the top.
Next, prepare the drawstring loop by sewing the two open edges together at 1/2" S.A. making a loop. Find the center and make two button holes in the fabric where the drawstring will be able to come out. Make sure you are measuring with your seam allowance in mind! You will be folding this piece in half long ways to make a pocket that the drawstring will fit into.
Sew the pocket onto the top raw edge of the bag at 1/2" S.A. making sure the buttonholes are in the center of the front of the bag. Fold over the 1/2" S.A. and top stitch around. Next, take your drawstring cord and feed through the buttonhole and into the pocket using a safety pin on the end. Feed it all the way around the edge until it comes out the other buttonhole, and center the string. Tie ends so that it can't feed back through!

Your finished backpack should look a little something like this! 

You can customize your backpack any way you want. I chose not to add a magnetic snap closure, but I'm thinking of adding some sort of button or snap to hold the flap down. Let me know how your backpack turns out, and as always, email or comment with any questions!

This backpack is currently FOR SALE in my etsy shop! Click the "Shop" tab at the top of the blog to check it out :)

x Maxime


  1. Thank you! I made this, without the lining, for my grandson's birthday. I am sure he'll love it.

  2. Thank you! I made this, without the lining, for my grandson's birthday. I am sure he'll love it.

  3. Is the lining fabric the contrast???

  4. I'm making this but its confusing where the straps go. I would have loved a photo of the back of the bag.

  5. Esta muy linda esta mochila y se nota que es espaciosa. Muchas gracias por tomarse el tiempo de explicarlo, sobre todo la parte del patrĂ³n de las piezas de la mochila. Todo esta muy claro, muchas gracias desde ya es uno de mis proyectos.

  6. I have made this bag and love your simple directions !! 2 changes that I made were : for the outside pocket, I added 2 seams, making it into 3 pockets and added a snapping flap to the center one. It makes a perfect cell phone holder. I also used upholstery fabric to is would be die - hard (for my granddaughter) and, because it was so stiff, I added a strip of the softer lining fabric around the top for the drawstring. That worked great !!

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  9. Hi there! Could you tell me how much draw string cord is needed for the bag. I didn't see it anywhere in the instructions