The Lazy Lady’s Guide to DIY: Easy Drawstring Backpack

Let’s get a few things out of the way right off the bat: I am terrible at sewing, I find cutting straight lines difficult, and even if I measure once and cut twice, I always end up measuring wrong. That all said: I made these little drawstring bags in about a half hour, and they are very forgiving of mistakes.

What you need:


  • About a half a yard of fabric per bag or less, depending on how big you want your bag.
  • Cord or ribbon (I used cord that’s sold for sweatshirt drawstrings). You’ll need two pieces, each twice as long as the length plus width of your fabric. (If you’re making 20″ x 15″ bags, each piece of cord will need to be 70″ long.)
  • Sewing machine and thread that matches your fabric.
  • Straight pins and one safety pin.


Picture of folded blue fabric and matching cord.
Fabric and matching cord. Pretty, right?

Making the bag:


  • Cut two pieces of fabric the same size. For my first bag, I used fabric that was 19″ wide and 21″ long. You’ll lose about a half inch to the seam along the bottom and sides, and an inch to the top seam. If you’re extra lazy like me, you’ll just use one piece of fabric folded in half along the bottom, eliminating the need for a bottom seam.
Piece of fabric on a cutting mat.
The beginnings of the bag.
  • Pin the pieces together, wrong side out, and put a pin an inch from the top at both side seams. This top inch is going to be where your drawstring lives, so you don’t want to sew it shut yet.
  • Find your sewing machine, set it up with your matching thread, forget how to wind a bobbin, search for your manual, wind the bobbin, and get everything threaded.
Picture of a sewing machine, spool of thread, and bobbin being wound.
Oh, right. THAT’s how you wind the bobbin.
  • Stitch the bottom seam (if you have one). Stitch the side seams, starting about a half inch from the bottom (you’ll see), remembering to stop at your pin an inch from the top.
  • Remove your bag from the sewing machine and, keeping it inside out, pin that top inch down on each side.
Picture of fabric with top hem pinned down.
Clearly, I also suck at pinning.
  • Stitch along the bottom of your pinned hem, making a tunnel-type thing that has openings at the side seams through which you can string your drawstring.
Close-up picture of a sewing machine needle, sewing a hem.
Obviously, my stitching isn’t perfect, but that’s OK.


Adding the drawstring


  • Turn your bag right side out. Safety pin one end of one of your pieces of cord or ribbon. Laying the bag down flat, start threading it in through your top hem at the left hand seam from left to right, then continue along the back of the bag, thread it from right to left. You’ll be left with the two ends coming out of the same side. Pull until your ends are of equal length.
Picture of bag with drawstring.
One side of the drawstring done.
  • Repeat on the other side so you’re left with four lengths of cord coming out of the top hem, two at each side.
  • Remember how we left about a half inch of each side seam unstitched? Take the ends of your cord, knot them together, and poke them through the hole on the same side that they’re trailing out of the top hem. (The cord feeding out of the top right seam goes in the bottom right hole.)
  • Flip your bag back inside out, and stitch that bottom hole closed, stitching the cord in place while you’re at it. The knot will be just inside the seam.
Picture of nearly completed drawstring bag.
One side stitched into the bottom seam.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Flip your bag back right side out.


Hey, look! You made a bag!

Picture of finished backpack on the back of a chair.
I didn’t have a spare person in my house to model, so my kitchen stool is wearing this lovely backpack.

I had fabric left over, so I made my bag a baby sister. (The second one took about a third of the time of the first one, and came out better.)

Picture of two drawstring backpacks of different sizes.
Two bags! It’s almost like I know what I’m doing!

[All images author’s own.]


6 replies on “The Lazy Lady’s Guide to DIY: Easy Drawstring Backpack”

While I really wish you lived close to me so you could stand over my shoulder and teach me how the hell to use my sewing machine- step 1: take it out of the box, perhaps- I am going to give this a shot this weekend. It’s time for that machine to get it’s ass in gear.

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