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By Betsy Greer on November 24, 2021
Are you searching for something casual, yet different, to carry your everyday belongings in? Or does your little one need their own little bag? The perfect solution might just be a mini backpack.
These small and stylish packs are popular within all age groups, genders and lifestyles– they’re just too cute and versatile! Plus, with just a couple yards of fabric and our free sewing pattern, you can easily make one at home. Follow along as I show you how with our sturdy Dogwood Denim™ and vivid Petal Signature Cotton® Solids.
If you’re stitching a mini backpack for your mini-me and want an extra special touch, stick around until the end for a bonus DIY you can slip in the inside pocket: surprise love notes!
My choice of interfacing is medium weight fusible fleece. Alongside the denim, it provides just enough structure and thickness for a quality bag while also remaining flexible. I’ve also used fusible foam for a more structured back side where the straps sit.
Print, tape together and cut out the Mini Backpack pattern– you should have seven pieces total to work with (A-G). Transfer these to your outer fabric, lining and preferred interfacing and cut according to the instructions labeled on each piece. Fuse the interfacing to the fabric pieces that require it.
Remember, if you’re making a mini backpack for a child, pay attention to the strap (G) measurement. Cut at the “child size” mark instead of using the whole length for adults.
Today, I’m making two backpacks! Animal Cookies by spookishdelight has a perfect pastel palette and has lived in my Spoonflower “favorites” folder for a while, and These Don’t Bug Me by selmacardoso has been on my mind since last year’s Retro Bugs Design Challenge. I’m using these designs for the outer fabric layer and pairing them with lilac and wine Petal Solids for the lining.
Take a strap piece (G) and fold one of the shorter edges in by 1/4” (1/2 cm) to form a small hem. Iron in place, then repeat on the other short side. Grab one longer edge of the fabric and fold it in once towards the middle and iron. Repeat on the other side to where the two long edges meet in the center. Fold the fabric in half with the raw edges tucked inside, iron, then clip or pin together all the way down the whole strap.
Repeat all of the above for the other strap.
Sew a straight stitch down each side of both straps about 1/4” (1/2 cm) from the edges. Set these aside for a quick moment!
Just like we did in step 1 for the straps, take your D-ring tab pieces (E) and fold the long edges in to meet the middle, then iron. Fold this in half and iron one more time.
Now feed these pieces into each of your 1” (2.5 cm) D-rings. Once in, fold the fabric tab over the flat edge of the ring to where the raw edges meet and clip to hold.
Get your straps and tabs ready! Take one of the main body pieces (A) and lay it flat right side up (design side up). Along the bottom edge, measure 2” from the sides and clip a D-Ring tab to that mark. The curve of the “D” should be facing upwards and all the raw edges of both the tab and main pieces should be aligned.
Repeat the above process, but this time along the top edge of the same main piece. Instead of measuring out 2” from the side, measure 1” from the middle point towards the left and right. Place one strap on each mark and clip down.
Sew down the straps and the tabs to the main body piece. For an extra hold, consider stitching over these parts multiple times. I then like to roll the straps up and clip them so they stay put during the rest of the sewing process.
You can find the middle point of piece A by folding it in half longways and making a small diagonal cut on the tip (I’m talking as small as you can). Then when you open it, you’ll have a small triangle as a guide! I use this method throughout the whole mini backpack sewing process to ensure I’m lining my pieces up correctly.
Remember making the straps and tabs? Let’s repeat that process! Take the top handle piece (C) and iron the short edges in 1/4″ (1/2 cm). Fold the long edges towards the middle, fold in half and iron. After sewing down each edge, bring this finished handle piece to your top gusset piece.
Lay the top gusset piece (D) flat right side up. Find the center of the top gusset using the clipping method in the highlighted tip in the previous step. Take both ends of the handle piece and push them inwards so the whole thing curves upwards– like a handle! You can choose how much to push depending on preference, but mine was pushed about 1” (2.5 cm) from each side. Pin each side down, still keeping that curved shape, and sew in place only on the ends connecting the gusset and handle together.
To ensure your zipper is the perfect length for this next step, you can sew a new stopping point by adding a layer of stitches at the beginning or end. I had a 24” (61 cm) zipper laying around, so I cut 6″ (15 cm) off the end and stitched the top closed.
With the top gusset piece facing right side up, place your zipper on top of the gusset zipper-side-down with the bottom edges aligned and clip in place. Then take your top gusset (D) lining piece and place it on top of that, lining up the bottom raw edges, and move the clips to where they hold all the layers together with the zipper sandwiched in the middle.
Sew along where you clipped 1/4″ (1/2 cm) from the edge, being aware of your zipper, then flip inside out and press flat. Finish this seam by topstitching 1/4” (1/2 cm) from the zipper’s edge.
Now take your bottom gusset piece (F) and place it right sides together on top of the finished top gusset piece. Match together the shorter ends and clip in place, the bottom gusset should be a lot bigger than the top gusset so you’ll have some space between.
Flip this piece over where the inside of the top gusset is facing up and the bottom gusset you just attached is on the very bottom. Take the bottom gusset lining piece and place it on top, with short edges lined up, and clip in place– you can just lift up the clips that are already holding the bottom gusset outer piece up and slide the edges of the lining underneath.
Now you should have your lining, top gusset, and bottom gusset sandwiched together… in that order! Notice the layering of the gussets and the lining in the third photo under this step. Sew these short edges so it results in one piece.
Next, flip this piece inside out until the lining is on the inside and the outer fabric is on the outside. This will be the side of your backpack!
To secure the sides, topstitch along the seam where the top and bottom gussets meet on both ends.
Grab the lining pocket piece (B) and fold in half shortways. Clip the sides shut and sew around the edges (minus the top) with a 1/4” (1/2 cm) seam allowance, then flip it inside out. Iron the edges, then fold the top edge inside itself about 1/2” (1 cm). Iron this straight, clip in place and sew shut with a 1/4″ (1/2 cm) seam allowance until you have a clean fabric rectangle.
Place the finished pocket piece on top of one of the main body (A) lining pieces. Center it where you would like and pin in place. Sew around the edges (minus the top), and now you have a pocket!
Now it’s time to sew the main body pieces (A) to the finished gusset piece:
• Flip the gusset around to where the lining is facing the outside and lay it on its edges so it stands up. Take the main body piece that does NOT have the straps and tabs attached and place it inside the standing gusset until it lays flat at the bottom, right side up. You should have the right sides of both pieces facing the inside– clip these pieces together making your way all around the main body piece. Sew with a 1/4” (1/2 cm) seam allowance all around the edge.
• Flip it around print-side-up and use your hands to push in the gusset piece. Press it as flat as you can against the main body piece, then place a main body lining piece (A) that does NOT have the pocket on top, right sides together. Clip around the edges similar to how you did before, but this time leave a 4-5” (10-12 cm) gap at the bottom edge. Sew around the edges still leaving the gap open. When you’re done, you can put your hand inside and flip everything inside out so the raw edges are on the inside! This method is literally called “birthing.”
• When everything is flipped (and starting to look like a backpack), turn it again so the outer fabric is facing inwards. Unzip the zipper if it’s not already, this will ensure we can do our next step correctly. Place the main body piece (A) with the straps and tabs attached and place it right side down into the gusset. Clip these pieces right sides together and stitch all the way around the edge like before.
• Grab the last main body piece (A), the lining with the pocket. Flip your almost-finished bag over to where the other lining piece is facing upwards. Push everything flat, like how we did earlier for the gusset, and place the pocket lining piece pocket-side-down and clip around the edges, leaving another 4-5” gap at the bottom. This will be a bit bulky to clip and sew– just go slowly!
• “Birth” your bag one last time. It may be easier to pull out the straps first, then go from there. Again, this might be a little difficult to pull through at first because of all our layers, but slow is key. Hey, you almost have a finished mini backpack!
You might notice the bottom edges where you pulled the bag through are still raw. Take a hand sewing needle, tuck the raw edges in, and close everything up with the stitch of your choice.
Now everything should be structured together, minus the two straps dangling from the top. Take your two strap adjusters and feed one strap through each one, using the photo below for reference:
Mini backpacks are great for kids, so why not surprise yours with a note of affirmation hidden in the inside pocket? These fabric love notes are super easy to make and we have a set available to DIY right now.