Wednesday, July 16, 2008

TUTORIAL: The City Backpack

No longer a sneak it is, step by step as you had wanted it!

If you've come from Craftster or have read my previous blog post, then you'd already know what I'm talking about. If not, you can first read about it here, where there are more photos and details about this wonderful little bag.

Thanks to some really lovely people, I got the boost I needed to make another tutorial. Of course, it took a lot of effort but making it went along pretty smoothly and easier than I initially thought. I do believe online tutorials are much better than store-bought printed patterns, not just because they are free but because you are able to see upfront what you are exactly in for. I've bought patterns in the past and most of them turned out to be disappointments...they were either unclear, too complicated, lacked illustrations or I just did not like the construction in general.

Seems like you are interested in making the city backpack and that is why you are here. Thank you for your trust! I do hope you will get exactly what you are after. Happy bag-making everyone!

Before we begin, some very important things to remember...Please read this carefully.1.
After cutting your fabric pieces for the bag bottom and flap, use a protractor or any curved object to shape the corners, as illustrated. Alternatively, you may want to make a pattern to make cutting fabric easier.

Measure 1 1/2" from your corner, draw the curve, then cut off the corner. Do this for the four corners of your bag bottom and for the two bottom corners of your flap.

Use a 1/4" seam allowance throughout, unless otherwise instructed.
As a prerequisite to this project, you need to know how to install magnetic snaps. If you intend to add a zippered or simple slip pocket on the bag inside, you should also know how to. Here's a link to a useful tutorial.
4. Except for the drawstring, all fabric pieces are interfaced. The bag front/back/side sections, as well as the bag bottom, flap, grab handle, and strap attachment loops are fully interfaced. Instructions on how to interface the back straps and the casing will be provided in the tutorial.
5. Reinforcing the bottom with template plastic is optional. Please refer to these simple instructions on how to use your template plastic.
6. Fabric dimensions are provided at the start of each part of the tutorial. You can cut your fabric pieces as you go along sewing, part by part.
Towards the end of this project, you will be sewing through a thick layer of fabrics. Have an appropriate sewing machine needle ready.
Ready now?
How to Make a City Backpack

What you will need:
1 meter plain medium weight fabric
1/2 meter printed medium weight fabric
1 meter fusible interfacing, appropriate for med-heavyweight fabrics
1 set magnetic snap
4 metal slides
matching thread
template plastic (optional)

Main Bag
Part A. Front Pocket
10 1/2" (W) x 11" (H) plain fabric for bag front
10 1/2" x 4 1/2" plain fabric for pocket outside
10 1/2" x 5 1/2" printed fabric for pocket inside

1. With right sides together, join and stitch the two pocket pieces along one of the long sides.
2. Open the seam and press flat.
3. Fold to join the unstitched long edges, wrong sides together. Press to create a crease on the fold.
4. Open pocket piece. With wrong side up and printed fabric on the bottom, pin this to the right side of your bag front, bottom edges together.
Measure 2 1/2" along the crease from both ends.

5. Stitch as illustrated.

6. Fold down pocket piece along the crease and/or stitched line. Baste along the sides and bottom edges.

Now you have a slip front pocket. You can add a velcro or snap closure for more security if you want to.
Part B. Main Bag Sections
Front section as stitched in Part A
10 1/2" x 11" plain fabric for bag back
2 pieces - 5 1/2" x 11" plain fabric for bag sides

1. Join the bag front, sides and back sections, stitching with right sides together along the long edges. Press all seams open, then turn bag right side out.

You should have something like this at this point...
3. Topstitch 1/8" from both sides of the seam lines. Be sure to catch the open seams on the back. Do this slowly to make sure your lines remain straight.

Part C. Back Straps/Strap Attachment Loops/Grab Handle/Drawstring/Casing**Take note: If you are using really thick interfacing, I would recommend that you half the width of your interfacing for the following parts. If your sewing machine can sew through thick layers of fabric (mine did!), then cut them as instructed.
2 pieces - 4" x 32"-35" plain fabric for back straps (length will depend upon your requirement)
2 pieces - 4" x 5" plain fabric for strap attachment loops
4" x 9 1/2" plain fabric for grab handle
2" x 51" plain fabric for drawstring
2 1/2" x 32" printed fabric for casing
Back Straps1. Cut your interfacing 1" shorter than your back strap length. Fuse to wrong side of strap such that 1" on one end is not interfaced. (Please excuse my terrible cutting skills!)

2. Fold in 1/2" of non-interfaced end and press. This is going to be your finished end.
3. Fold in long edges towards the center and press.

4. Fold fabric in half lengthwise to end up with a 1" wide strap. Press again.
Stitch down close to the edges, starting from the raw edge going down to and around the other short side then down the long edge.
6. Do the same procedure with your other back strap.

Strap Attachment Loops
1. Follow steps 3-5 of Part C/Back Straps to create your strap attachment loops.
2. Slip each strap loop over the lower bar of the metal slides. Baste the short ends together.

Assembling your Back Straps
1. Take a new metal slide. From the metal slide back, insert the finished end of your back strap starting below the upper bar, going over the center, then out the lower bar. Stitch the strap end in place approximately 3/4 - 1" from the bar.

2. Insert the other end (with the raw edge) of the back strap through the back of the upper loop of the slide with the strap attachment loop. (Read that again!) Then slip this same end to the back strap slide, going under the lower bar, then over the center and out the upper bar.

Perhaps this book diagram will make things a bit clearer...
3. Do the same with the other back strap and strap attachment loop.

Grab Handle - Follow steps 3-5 of Part C/Back Straps to create your grab handle.

1. With wrong side up, fold in 1/2" from both short end and press.
2. Now fold lengthwise in same manner as back straps/strap loops/grab handle.
3. Stitch down the middle.
1. Cut your interfacing 1" shorter than your fabric. Center and fuse interfacing to fabric such than 1/2" on each short side remains interfaced.

2. Fold each short side 1/2" in and then another 1/2". Stitch.
3. Fold the casing, wrong sides together then press.

Part D. Flap
7" (W) x 8" (H) plain fabric for flap inside
7" x 8" printed fabric for flap outside
1. Find bottom center of inner flap piece and measure 1" up. Mark this spot. Insert the "male" half of the magnetic snap right above this mark.

2. With right sides facing each other, stitch outer and inner flap together along sides and bottom. Leave top open.
3. Turn flap right side out and press. Topstitch 1/4" from the edge.

Part E. Assembling the Main Bag
10" (W) x 6 1/2" (H) plain fabric for bag bottom, shaped as instructed

1. Baste the strap attachment loops to the bottom edge of your bag back. Position the raw edges of each strap loop 1 1/2 inches from the center of the back section.

2. Pin and baste the back strap ends at the center of the upper bag edge, about 3/4" apart and at an angle. Make sure your straps are not twisted.
3. Pin and baste the grab handle also at the upper bag edge, each end approximately 1/4" away from the back strap.

4. With magnetic snap side up, pin and baste the flap raw edge along the upper edge as well.

5. Locate the center of the casing and pin this to the center of the back upper edge, raw edges up. Continue pinning around the upper edge. Baste.
6. Bring the flap down to the bag front. Press down the magnetic snap on the flap hard enough to leave an impression on the bag front. Mark the center of the magnetic snap impression.
7. Install other half of the magnetic snap (flat side) on the bag front.

8. Turn the bag wrong side out. With right sides together, pin the bag base to the lower edge of your bag. It is good to start pinning from the center of each side, then going around the curves.
9. Slowly and carefully stitch the bag bottom to your bag. Clip the curved corners.
10. If you are strengthening your bag base with template plastic, now is the time to attach it.
**Suggestion/Tip: Adding a corded piping around the bottom edge will give the bag a more finished look!
Bag Lining
2 pieces - 10 1/2" x 11" printed fabric for bag front and back
2 pieces - 5 1/2" x 11" printed fabric for bag sides
10" x 6 1/2" printed fabric for bag bottom, shaped as instructed
**Take note: If you would like to add pockets to your lining, do it now before proceeding to the next steps.

1. Join the bag front, sides and back sections, stitching with right sides together along the long edges.
Increase your seam allowance by about 1/8" (from 1/4"). This ensures your lining will sit nicely inside your bag.
2. Stitch the bag bottom to the main bag in the same way as in Part E/Assembling the Main Bag/8-9. However, this time,
leave a 6" opening on one side of lining bottom to be used for turning later.

Final Bag Assembly1. With right sides facing each other, put main bag inside bag lining. Pin in place, making sure the four vertical seams are aligned. Be sure, too, that the back straps, grab handle, flap, and casing are neatly sandwiched inside and in between main bag and lining.
2. Stitch around the top edge, using a 1/2" seam allowance this time.

3. Pull main bag out of the lining opening. This could be a bit tricky if you had attached template plastic to your bag base.4. Slipstitch close the opening. It is good to press the bag at this point.
5. Topstitch 1/4" along the top edge. Make sure not to stitch onto the flap, back straps, grab handle, and casing.

6. Finish the bag off by threading your drawstring through the casing (use a large safety pin to help you out). Knot the ends of your drawstring.
Hurray, we are all done! Finished bag size is approximately 11 3/4" (H) x 10"(W) x 5"(D). That was a long tutorial but hopefully not as hard as it seemed. Please let me know how it all works out for you! Any questions, feel free to ask.

Enjoy your new bag!


  1. Hi Corinne, Thanks for the make it sound so easy, hopefully my brain and hands have a good day when I try it out and if mine look half way as nice as yours, then I'll be happy as a pig in you know what! Hugs and Happy Sewing. Naomi (AKA Beeshebags) Adelaide, Sth Australia

  2. Hi Naomi! I'm sure it will all work out for you. Let me know how it goes, ok?

    Nice to hear from a fellow Aussie!

  3. Thankyou thankyou thankyou! I love this bag. I'm going to search for my fabric now and use my saturday off to make it. Wish me luck!

  4. Txu so much for the tut! :)Im gonna use this weekend to try mine, I promise to send u picts when I finished.

    Check my blog if u have time,

    Greetings from Uruguay!

  5. I love your pocketbooks! I am making one myslef now and cannot find the metal slider you have on the City Backpack. Where do you buy metal sliders? Thanks!
    Marybeth in NJ USA

  6. Hi Marybeth, I order my sliders from an Australian online shop. I'm sure you can find one that's located near you. Thanks!

  7. Thanks for this tutorial! I made one with a few changes. You can take a look over on Flickr. I have to say that the messenger bag was easier than this one. But it turned out great. I do think I'm going to have to replace the drawstring with a ribbon, though, because it's a bit difficult to pull.

  8. I just finished this and absolutely love it! Thanks for an awesome tutorial! You can see my version at

  9. I liked the first one so much, I made another! Thanks again, I'm going to make the small messenger bag next.

  10. Holka zlatá,šikovná,to by se mi líbilo,ale bohužel ti nerozumím.Ahoj Marie.

  11. can u hand sew this? would the outcome be the same?

  12. HI there, I wouldn't really recommend sewing this bag by hand. You will be dealing with thick layers of fabric.

  13. how long did it take you to make this bag?

  14. Oh my, I cannot recall how long it took me to make this bag. Cutting the fabrics usually takes long but once you have done that, the sewing comes pretty easy. If you've sewn bags before, I would think you could finish this in one day.

  15. hi, thank you so much for the tute, I love your bag, now just need time for making it

  16. Great tutorial! I just finished making this as a birthday present for my sister-in-law - worked out great and she loves it. Here's a pic of my finished product:

  17. absolutely beautiful! and really detailed instructions - just what im looking for ,there are going to be some very happy nieces this christmas :)
    thanks a million
    Jan , ireland

  18. Absolutely amazing. I would like to make one of this kind also but want to add some changes in it. I want to ask if I can change the material.

  19. Certainly! You can use any fabric that suits you. If you choose a heavyweight fabric, you wouldn't even need to use interfacing.

  20. Do you think that you could make a video to accompany this tutorial? I'm sure that these are simple instructions, but I'm a beginner sewer and I'm just not getting it right now. Thanks for taking the time to read my comment!

  21. Hi Faith,
    I am sorry I don't think I can make a video as I am not planning on making another bag like this soon. And also, I hardly have time to sew these days. Hope you understand.

    If you are a beginner sewer, my suggestion is for you to try making simpler bags first (like a tote) just so you can familiarize yourself with bag making basics. I am sure you will then find it easier to follow the instructions for this one.

  22. Thank you so much for making this tutorial! This was my first time sewing a big project like this and your instructions were really clear and made sense, and I am so happy with the results! Well I just wanted to thank you, I hope you have a nice day :]

    This is what it looks like:

  23. Hi. I want to ask is this bag big enough to put some books?:)

    1. Just small books perhaps. The dimensions of the finished bag is at the end of the post.

  24. Hello, I love your bag! I was looking for a backpack purse to make for my mom! She wanted pockets though. Do you think it would be simple enough to add pockets inside?

    1. Sure! Just do so before assembling the lining.

  25. thank you so much for this tutorial!

  26. This was great! Just what I was looking for. Finished making mine with a couple of tweaks this weekend and your directions were very easy to follow! Thank you for doing this. After a small bit of reinforcing, I added D-Rings to the inside to clip a mini purse to that holds my cash and cards, makes it easy to find!

  27. Sorry to bother. But english is not so strong for me and i got confused with the casing.. what is it? where do i put it? i just couldn't understand only that part..

    1. The casing goes on the top edge of the bag. It holds the string that you pull to close the bag.

    2. Ohh i get it. :D Thanks so much. Going to make this in a few days. It will be so cute for the spring. ^.^ I will sned you a picture later. :)

  28. Thanks for this tutorial. Well done. Could you possibly add a link(?) that would print the instructions in a PDF format? I like/need to refer back to the written instructions when making something new. Thanks. Judy

    1. Please go to the Tutorials and PDFs tab (on the top of the page). The link to the downloadable PDF is already there.

  29. I'm lame when it comes to sewing and diy in general but this was super easy. I just made a green one for myself and I'm planning on giving one to my lil' sister. Thanks for the tutorial!

  30. Hello,

    I just wanted to say thanks for your generosity in posting this pattern and tutorial. It's the first time I've made a bag and my first time sewing in about 10 years yet it turned out beautifully, so thank you! :)

  31. it's hard to understand the sewing technical terms but I will try this bag. thanks for sharing!:)

  32. I a little bit understand but still have dark sides, I need more photo. How it's clean in inside? there is no edge!

    1. So sorry but I do not quite understand what you mean. I don't have any more photos to add to this tutorial.

  33. Just finished a bag for my son! He's going to love it when he wakes up (he's been waiting for me to finish for a few days because I can only sew for short bursts at a time with 4 year old twins in the house!). I like that it is small for little ones, but can see how it can easily be made larger for bigger kids. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  34. Hello and great bag, I was wondering what size slider buckle you used on this bag. I am planning on making one with some embroidery on it, but I am not sure about what size slider buckles to order. Thank you Theresa, Texas

    1. The straps are 1" wide so a 1" slider is appropriate.

    2. Thank you for your quick response. I was just making sure about the size.

  35. I tried this tutorial out last summer, and it's great! Really easy to follow and I loved the end result. I posted pictures of it on my blog

  36. Has anyone made a video while making this bag?

  37. What metric units do you use for all the measurements?

    1. Sorry, the measurements are in inches. If you need them converted to centimeters, just by multiply the inch measurements by 2.54.

  38. Hi! I love the look of this bag, and I was just wondering how you would go about making this bag bigger for teens/adults? Thanks! :)

  39. I've just discovered your blog, I love it and this tutorial is fantastic...thank you very much :)

  40. Hola mee registre apenas y lo poco que he visto me encanto, pero sobre todo este bolso. gracias por compartir esta excelente idea.

  41. I just came across your blog! I love all you have created. I am trying this backpack this week/weekend to use as I travel. I live in USA in Ohio!
    Thank You!

  42. Thanks for the tutorial, I'm finnally trying to make my own bagpack.

  43. Thank you for the tutorial, just finished the backpack. Without lining however, because I will be the only user. Next one will be with lining and for my sister :)
    used a thick cotton and some lace as the printed fabric
    Greetings from the Netherlands :)