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Mini Backpack Project

Mini backpack project

Mini Backpack Project designed by Esther Pickard

This mini backpack project is ideal as a child’s school bag, or a backpack for a petite adult. You can use the same fabric for both the exterior and interior, or use a different fabric for the lining. We’ve used a contrasting fabric for the lining to help make the instructions easier to follow, and to add a pop of colour. 

You will need:

Strong fabric e.g. denim:

Same fabric for outer and lining version: 0.75m (29.5 inches) of 150cm  (59 inches) wide fabric

Lined version: 0.6m (23.6 inches) of 150cm (59 inches) wide fabric

Cotton lining (if applicable)- 0.4m (15.75inches) of 112cm (44 inches) wide fabric

25mm (1 inch) strap adjuster buckles x 2

Zips x 2 – 1 x 13cm (5 inch) & 1 x 35.5cm (14 inches)


A sewing machine

An iron


Fabric scissors

Measuring tape

Tailor’s chalk

You can find some lovely denim fabrics online at Calico Laine, Fabric Godmother and Raystitch

Pattern: Download and print the Mini backpack- pattern A4


Sew seams together with a 1cm allowance, back tacking at each end & trimming off loose threads, unless otherwise indicated.

Pins perpendicular to the seam line can be sewn over.

The ideal sewing machine needle size is heavy duty 100 (16).

All the zips are sewn in an easy way in this kit so you don’t need to change to a zipper foot on your machine– woohoo.

If you are making the all denim version then please ignore the lining references throughout the instructions, as you will be using denim for everything.

Position your thread reel on your machine so that the thread feeding your needle doesn’t catch on the nick in the reel, as otherwise the thread may break. 

Sewing lingo:

Back tacking = stitching a few stitches backwards at the start and end of a seam to secure the stitch.

Topstitch = a row of stitches sewn on the material RS.

RS = right side of material.

RST = right sides of material together.

WS = wrong side of material.

WST = wrong sides of material together.

Cutting guides

The seam allowances are included in the pattern pieces.

Iron your material before you cut out the pattern. 

Cutting layouts

Cutting layout for if you are using a different lining and exterior fabric. 

Exterior fabric

Exterior fabric cutting layout for backpack

Lining fabric

Kid's backpack pattern

Cutting layout for if you are using the same fabric for both the exterior and lining

Sew a backpack
Sewing a zip
Bag sewing techniques

Joining the long zip to the zip bands (A x 4)

Take the long zip and open it halfway from the left.

Pin the zip WS on 1 x zip band RS (A- lining) long edge but 0.5cm (1/4 an inch) below.

Place 1 x zip band (denim) on top RST and pin along the same edge. 

Sew a denim backpack

Start and end sewing 2cm (an inch) in from the short edges.

Sew through all 3 layers to just before the zip opener.

Insert the machine needle into the material (if it already isn’t), then remove the pins from the 1st sewn section.

Move the zip opener back to the beginning and continue sewing until 2cm (1 inch) from the end.

Sew a child's backpack

Turn inside out and iron the material on the RS.

Bagmaking skills

Now pin the unsewn side of the zip WS on 1 x zip band RS (A- lining) long edge but 0.5cm (quarter an inch) below. The zip opening will be on the right-hand side this time though.

Pin the remaining zip band on top RST.

Sew with heavier weight fabrics

Sew along the pinned edge. Start and end sewing 2cm (an inch) in from the short edges again.

As the zip is on the right-hand side you can sew 3/4 along and then remove the pins from the sewn section and move the zip opener to the sewn section so you can continue sewing until the last 2cm (1 inch).

Attach a bag zipper

Turn inside out and iron the material on RS.

Free backpack sewing pattern
Sew bags for children

Joining the belly band (B) to the zip band (lining & denim)

Pin the upper zip band ends and zip tails out of the way.  Take 1 x belly band (B- lining) and pin one of the short edges to the two underneath halves of the zip band (lining) RST.

Align the outside corners and pin the zip band folds as they are. If the belly band and zip band width don’t quite match up then you can trim the belly band. Stitch along the pinned edge but not the zip.  Remove all pins.

Install a bag zip

Open the zip slightly and pin the lining/sewn section out of the way.

Pin the other belly band piece (denim) to the same side upper two halves of the zip band (denim) RST, including this zip tail this time.

Pin the folds of the zip band again and the two zip tails as close together as possible. Stitch pinned edge.


Free bag projects

Repeat these steps for the other side of the belly & zip bands, ensuring that you’ve got the correct belly band for the upper and lower sections on the zip band.

Free backpack tutorial

Turn RS out and lay the lining and outer material flat on each other. Pin the material around the zip flat (denim & lining). It’s helpful to pin this with the material circle around the end of an ironing board.

Topstitch a zip

Topstitch around the whole zip, with the zip head on top.

Pivot your sewing on the machine needle on the corners so you have one continuous topstitch all the way around. 

TIP – When topstitching, use one edge of your machine foot as a stitch width guide (unless otherwise instructed).

Sew a bag lining

Bag lining front & back (2 x C)

Fold 2 x bag front & back (C- lining) in half widthways and mark the top, centre point on the RS curved edge.  Also, mark the centre points on the underneath zip bands (A- lining) x 2.

Take 1 of the C’s and pin RST to the lower, lining material layer under the zip, starting in the top, central point and following the curve of C.

Pin the seam where the zip and belly band join flat.

Lined mini backpack to sew

Stitch the pinned area, ensuring that you only stitch the pinned sides and don’t get the material underneath caught

Repeat the above for the opposite lining section on the underside of the zip.

You now have a complete lining!


Make a bag pocket

Front pocket (D & E)

Take 1 x pocket top & bottom (D & E- denim).

Pin both RST on one of the long edges.

With a 2cm (1 inch) seam allowance, stitch for 2cm (1 inch) across only at the top of each side. Do not sew the central, top section.

Tacking stitch

Now tack a 2cm (1 inch) seam (large stitch) across the unstitched middle, top section, ensuring that the stitching does not touch the 2cm (1 inch) side stitching so can be easily removed. You don’t need to back tack on the tacking.

Change your stitch size back to normal.

Sewing with denim

Iron this seam open on WS.

This will be the outer section of your front pocket.

Sewing for kids

On the remaining top & bottom pocket pieces (lining), iron a 2cm (1 inch) seam allowance WST on one of the long edges only.

Pin the ironed top and bottom pocket pieces RST over the front of the pocket, aligning the outer raw edges.

The ironed edges should be on the zip.

Kid's backpack tutorial

Stitch around the outer edges with the normal 1cm (1/2 an inch) seam allowance.

Free sewing patterns

Trim triangles off the corners.

Turn inside out to RS and iron.


Sew a schoolbag

Place the closed zip RS centrally over the WS seam (lining side). The zip should open from the right.

Pin both halves of the zip up until 2cm (1 inch) from the zip head.

How to sew a bag

This bit is quite tricky but stick with it!

Turn the pocket over (denim/front RS) and starting at the opposite end to the zip head stitch around the zip on a 1cm (1/2 an inch) seam until you are 2cm (1 inch) from the zip head. 

Insert the machine needle into your sewing, lift the machine foot and remove the pins from the sewn section.

Then you need to lift the material and move the zip head past the needle and pin the end of the zip in place from underneath.

Topstitch a zip

Lower the machine foot and continue sewing until you are near the zip head again. Then insert your needle into the sewing again, lift the foot and material and move the zip head back to the end but from underneath the zip this time.

Continue sewing to complete the topstitching.  Trim the zip ends so they are shorter than the pocket.

Unpick tacking over zip seam. Hard bit over… phew!


How to make a backpack

Adding the pocket onto the front of the bag (C)

Pin the pocket lining side onto 1 x bag front RS (C- denim), 5cm (2 inches) up from the bottom and with a 3cm (1.25 inch) gap at either side (centrally).

Topstitch around the pocket close to the edge, to secure it to the body.

Free sewing projects

At the top of this bag front piece, mark the top, central point on the RS and also on the top section of the zip band that is closest to you when the long zip is closed and on the left side (denim).

Pin these pieces together RST, starting in the centre and working outwards.

Stitch the pinned area.

Sew rucksack bag straps

Handle & strap adjusters (F & H)

Take the handle (F) and iron in half lengthways WST. Open out and then iron the long edges into the centre fold WST. Then iron in half lengthways so that F is now a quarter size (2.5cm – 1 inch).

Take the 2 x strap adjusters (H) and iron a 1cm (1/2 an inch) seam WST on one the short edges. The other edge will be sewn into a seam and can stay raw.

Iron in half lengthways WST, open out and then iron the long edges into the centre fold WST. Then iron in half lengthways so that H is also now a quarter size (2.5cm – 1 inch).  Starting on the long edge on both, topstitch around all edges, close to the edge.

Bag straps made from denim

Straps x 2 (G) & plastic buckles

Following the same method as with the handle and strap adjusters, iron a 1cm (1/2 an inch) seam WST on one of the short edges of the straps. Then iron in half lengthways WST. Open out and then iron the raw long edges into the  centre fold WST. Then iron in half lengthways so that the straps are now a quarter size (2.5cm – 1 inch).

Topstitch around the 2 straps, close to the edge.

Adding adjustable straps for a backpack

Take a plastic buckle: the flat, curved section should be facing up and at the bottom.

Thread 1 x strap (the seam end) into the top hole from behind and then into the 2nd hole so that strap folds back on itself. The open edge should be on the right.

Turn over and pin the strap end 6cm from the fold onto the back of strap. Repeat for the other strap & buckle but position the open edge on the left.  Stitch a 2cm (3/4 an inch) rectangle onto both the pinned strap ends, with a sewn cross in the rectangle centres for strengthening. Follow the topstitching seams already in place.

Sew a backpack with straps

Adding the straps & handle to the back body (C)

Take the remaining C and on the RS mark the centre point widthways at the top and bottom.

Pin each short edge of the handle to the top of C RS, 1cm (1/2 an inch) from the central mark and aligning the raw edges.

Pin the 2 x strap short edges next to the handle, 4cm (1.5 inches) from the central mark. Ensure that the buckle is the correct way up (folded section underneath). Also pin further down the straps so that they sit straight.

Sew across the top of the handle and the straps.

Denim backpack tutorial

Pin the 2 x strap adjuster raw edge ends onto the back piece RS bottom edge, 6.5cm (2.5 inches) either side of the central mark.

Position the left strap adjuster open edge on the right and the right strap adjuster open edge on the left (so the open edges are both facing inwards).

Mark 1cm (1/2 an inch) and 3cm (1.25 inches) up from the bottom of the strap adjusters and stitch 1cm (1/2 an inch) across from the bottom to secure the back piece. Then stitch a 2cm rectangle above this, with a cross in the centre. 


Free sewing projects

Adding the back piece to the main body

Pin the back piece RST to the remaining unstitched edge on the zip & belly band, starting at the top, centre again. Leave a gap of 10cm unpinned at the bottom so you can turn the sewing inside out once finished.

Ensure that the handles and straps are all flat. Sew the pinned section, starting at one side of the 10cm (4 inches) gap. 

School bag sewing tutorial

Turn inside out to RS through the gap.

Small backpack to sew

Turn in the 1cm (1/2 an inch) seam on gap and pin closed.

Stitch the opening closed, close to the edge and ensuring that the lining is out of the way.

Sewing adjustable bag straps

Thread the strap adjusters into 2nd hole on the buckle from behind and then back through the 3rd hole.

 High Five – You’ve finished! Fill your bag up and wear it with pride. 

For other bag projects visit our free projects page and click the bag tag.