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Corinne's Thread: Liberty Backpacks

School is out and the parks are full of kids throwing water balloons, eating soft-serve, and having the time of their lives. Every bit of it reminds me of how much fun those long, hot days of my childhood summers were. Lately though, my summer days feel, well... just long and hot. 

Wanting to rekindle that carefree summertime spirit, I made these simple Drawstring Backpacks that are reminiscent of the small sacks we all toted around at summer camp. It's still the perfect carry-all for all my July necessities: a great paperback, sunscreen, and a few dollars for the ice cream truck!

It was an easy choice to pair this classic bag with the most classic of all fabrics, Liberty of London's Tana Lawn. Playful, summery prints plus a barely-there lightweight cotton makes Liberty just right for a hot weather tote. And another a little reminder of my 1980’s childhood: a pop of neon for the straps!

Knowing that everyone in my family (and yours!) would want in on these sweeties, I made them in three sizes, from toddler to adult. So to outfit everyone for some summertime fun, pick up a Materials for Drawstring Backpack kit, and since they only take about an hour to make, you’ll be back at the park in no time.  - Corinne

The Materials

One Materials for Drawstring Backpack kit includes:

These are enough materials to make two of the small or medium sized bags or one of the large bags (see Finished Measurements, below).

Choose from three colorways:

Mint Mirabelle

Coral / Aqua Edenham

Light Blue Betsy

The Pattern

Finished bag Measurements

Small/Toddler: 10 inches by 12 ½ inches

Medium/Child: 11 ½  inches by 13 ½  inches

Large/Adult: 13 ½  inches by 16 inches

Pattern Notes

Prewash and dry all fabrics before starting.

All seam allowances in this project are ½ inch unless otherwise noted.


For the Small/Toddler bag:

Cut two 11-inch by 2 ½-inch pieces from the Liberty. These are for the drawstring channel.

Cut two 11-inch by 12 ½- inch pieces from both the Liberty and the Cambridge Lawn. 

Cut the cord into two 45-inch long pieces. 

For the Medium/Child bag: 

Cut two 12 ½ -inch by 2 ½-inch pieces from the Liberty. These are for the drawstring channel.

Cut two 12 ½ -inch by 13 ½- inch pieces from both the Liberty and the Cambridge Lawn. 

Cut the cord into two 50-inch long pieces. 

For the Large/Adult bag:

Cut two 14 ½ -inch by 2 ½-inch pieces from the Liberty. These are for the drawstring channel.

Cut two 14 ½ -inch by 16- inch pieces from both the Liberty and the Cambridge Lawn. 

Cut the cord into two 63-inch long pieces. 

Sewing the Bag and Lining


Pin the lining fabric pieces with right sides together along the two long sides and bottom short side. Sew the pieces together along these three sides, backstitching at the beginning and end of the seams. Trim corners at a 45 degree angle.

To press open the seam, fold out the raw edge of one layer of the seam allowance toward the body of the bag and press flat.

Turn the bag over and do the same on the opposite side. 

Pin the outer fabric pieces with right sides together along the two long sides and bottom short side. Sew the pieces together along the bottom short side. Starting ½ inch from this sewn line, sew along the two long sides. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the seams. This 1/2-inch opening is where you will insert the backpack straps. 

Trim straight along the sewn line until you reach the side seam. Cut down to bottom edge at a 45 degree angle. ‚Äč

Fold out the raw edge of one layer of the seam allowance toward the body of the bag and press flat. 

Turn outer bag right side out. Slide the lining inside the bag, matching up their side seams. Pin the lining and outer bags together along the top and stitch 1/8 inch from the raw edges.  

Sewing the Channel

Use a zigzag stitch to sew around all four sides of both channel pieces. 

Fold in the two short sides of the channel ½ inch towards the wrong side and press.

Fold in the two long sides of the channel ¼ inch towards the wrong side and press.

Fold the channel in half, with wrong sides together, lining up the two folded edges.

Pin one channel piece to one side of the bag as follows: Starting at the side seam, fold the channel over the top of the bag so that its raw edge is encased in the channel's fold. Pin in place. The channel should fit perfectly from one side seam to the other. If it runs short or long, refold the sides so that it measures correctly. 

Repeat with second channel on opposite side. 

Sew the two channel pieces to the bag with an edge stitch, starting at the side seam, making sure to catch both sides of the channel pieces as you sew.  Backstitch at both side seams to secure the ends of the channel pieces.   

Threading the Drawstring

Tie a knot at all ends of your cut cording to prevent fraying. Secure a safety pin through the knot on one end of one piece of cording. 

Thread the cording through the channel on one side of the bag and then back around the other side so that both ends of the cord are on the same side. 

Repeat with the other piece of cording, starting on the opposite side. Pull the cord through so that the pieces are even. 

Trim the knots off all ends. With the flame from a lighter or match, lightly singe the cut edges of the cord. This will seal the threads and prevent fraying. 

Tuck the cord ends about ¼ inch into the open space at the bottom of the bag. Topstitch through all layers along the edge of the fabric’s folds, backstitching to secure. Repeat on opposite side. 

Throw in your summer necessities and you’re ready to go! 

Reader Comments (15)

Great tute and as on my list to do soon I'm going to use your tute, thanks!! Xo
July 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHannapat
These are so much prettier and probably much more comfortable than the usual nylon version. I live in Florida where it is hot most of the time--I will definitely be making a few of these. Thanks for the great pattern!
July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrigit Dermott
plus, these would be great gym bags!
July 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersharon
Oh my gosh! I can't tell you how long I looked for this simple backpack! I finally found a nylon version at Outdoor World. However, had I had this pattern, I certainly would have picked my own fabric and made a few of them!
Thank you!
July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
This is excellent. Thank you. My yoga backpack fell apart (thankfully, it was hideous) and I whipped one of these up in less than an hour. Using some fabric I had forgotten I had, and using the cord from my old yoga backpack - so technically, it was free as well! And with the the lining, it feels really robust.
July 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKarina Kayes
What a wonderful pattern for back to school. If I wanted to make the adult version from different fabric, what is the yardage?

Thank you
August 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPerry air
Hi Perry -
Thanks for writing in!

To make one adult size bag, you would need 1/2 yard of fabric for the outer bag and 1/2 yard for the lining.

I hope this helps!
August 19, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Aww! These are gorgeous! I must make one right away! Perfectly in time for our Aussie summer :) I'm in LOVE with your blog and your photos and layout are so cute!
September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
i'd really like to make these by hand, is that possible? I don't have a sewing machine. thanks!
September 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHande
Hi Hande-

I don't think a handsewn version would be sturdy enough, unfortunately!

Sorry about that!

September 11, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Hande!
When I was a child my mother did not have sew machine and made my cothes by hand.
With that in my mind I think that you should try to make the project using double strand of 100% nylon thread (instead cotton), and make small stitches...
Good luck!

September 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa
Hello! I was just making a backpack, and it's going great so far! I was just wondering, when you add the channel pieces to the main portion of the pack, do you want the raw edge right against the fold of the channel piece, or should you leave a space for the drawstring? (I hope my question makes sense) Thank you for the great tutorial by the way :)
September 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTsubasa
Hi Tsubasa

You should leave room between the fold of the channel piece and the raw edge of the pack piece so that there is room for the strings to move freely when cinched.

Thank you for your question!

September 13, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hello! I featured your DIY tutorial on my blog Little City Style.
September 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatie Gariepy
Thank you so much for the clear instructions. I am not a very experienced seamstress but I managed to produce a beautiful bag out of the kit I received from purl soho yesterday. I am sure my niece will be very pleased with it when she receives it for Christmas.
October 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKamilla Heden Henningsen

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