See it in action: Watch a video of editor Linda making this T-shirt backpack here.
No matter whether you call it a sackpack, a drawstring backpack, or a cinch bag, we’ve got some tips on how to make a drawstring backpack out of a T-shirt. So, here are tips and tricks as promised in our video on how to make a T-shirt backpack.
6 Tips for Making a T-Shirt Backpack
- The size of the backpack is determined by the size of the T-shirt and the size of the logo you want to feature. Figure out how large you want the backpack to be, knowing that it can only be as large as the T-shirt.
- To avoid cutting off the logo, be sure there is extra space around your logo for the seam allowance.
- You will be ironing the woven fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the T-shirt front and back. Fuse a larger rectangle of fusible to the T-shirt, so that when you cut the desired finished size, the whole piece is stabilized by the interfacing. It’s easier to cover too large of an area than not enough area.
- When ironing or pressing, keep the logo facedown on your ironing board, so the hot iron doesn’t come into contact with the screen-printed logo. For extra caution, place a Teflon pressing sheet under the logo on your ironing board.
- If you have a serger sewing machine, you can serge many of the seams on this project. Be careful when sewing the cords into the side seams, as that section can get bulky. You may want to serge that section a second time to add extra security to the cord ends.
- Be sure the cord you purchase can fit through the hem of the T-shirt twice. You will use the hem of the shirt as the casing, so it has to accommodate two thicknesses of the cording in order for the drawstrings to work.
Materials for One T-Shirt Backpack:
- One T-shirt (we used a men’s large)
- 1-1/2 yards of woven fusible interfacing
- 4 yards of cording for straps
- Drawstring threader or large safety pin
Finished T-shirt backpack: approx. 17×23″
Note: If you’re making a backpack from a smaller T-shirt for a child, you’ll need less cording and interfacing, so adjust accordingly.
Assemble T-Shirt Backpack:
- Determine finished size of backpack. For cutting, add 1/2″ to both the desired finished width and length. (We used 1/4″ seam allowance. If you use larger seams, add 1″ to desired finished width and length and sew with 1/2″ seams.)
- Cut hem off T-shirt, cutting 3/8″ from stitching line. This will become the top casings.
- Cut T-shirt up sides to the shoulder seam. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse one piece of interfacing to wrong side of T-shirt front and another to wrong side of back.
- Centering the logo, trim front and back to the cutting size.
- Cut two casing pieces from hem, 1/2″ shorter than the cutting size width. (Our bag cutting size is 17½”, so our casing length is 17″.)
- With right sides facing and cut edges aligned, center one casing piece on top edge of backpack front (casing ends will be 1/4″ from side edges of bag). Sew casing to the bag front. Repeat to sew a casing piece to bag back.
- With right sides together and all edges aligned, sew together bottom edges of backpack.
- Pin side seams. Sew side seams, leaving a 1″ opening at lower edge of each side for casing. Make sure casing pieces don’t get caught in seam.
- Cut two 2-yard pieces of cording. Thread one cord through casing pieces, beginning and ending on left side of the piece. Even up ends, then bring ends inside the bag and out opening on left side. Pin ends in place.
- Starting from right side of the bag, thread second cord through casing pieces; you’ll be going in the opposite direction as you did with the first cord. Even up ends, then bring ends inside bag and out opening on right side. Pin ends in place.
- Sew openings closed, sewing cording in the seam, and reinforcing the seams.
- Turn backpack right side out to finish.
In the June 2015 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting, designer Jean Wells teaches us how to expand our piecing horizons with a new technique — skinny insert strips — and shows us how to play with color. The editors were so excited to learn this technique and create their own projects. See what they made below and share your own creations inspired by Piece & Play using the hashtag #apqlearnalong on Facebook and Instagam. And follow along with new projects and inspiration at www.allpeoplequilt.com/learnalong.
Elizabeth Tisinger Beese, editor of American Patchwork & Quilting
Elizabeth says: ”For my zippered bag, I started with pinks, corals, and browns from my palette box, then added in a tiny bit of orange for a little kick. I found out I LOVE this technique of skinny insert strips! I even used leftover pieces cut off my blocks from the first Piece & Play assignment and used those as skinny insert strips. This is my favorite technique yet!”
Jill Abeloe Mead, editor
Jill says: ”Nature inspired this little doodle cloth. It was constructed during one of those “what if…” moments, trying out color and proportion and various sewing techniques. The teal strip at center was the same width as the teal strip to its left. Random pintucks “shrunk” the width and added texture. Adding a skinny strip, such as the sliver of lime green, isn’t easy, but the zing it adds to the color scheme is well worth the effort.”
Lindsay Fullington, assistant multimedia editor
Lindsay says: ”I tried really hard to get skinny strips. But as I’ve said in past posts, I’m just not a fan of tiny pieces. I definitely need to practice this one a little more, because I love the look! Even in the teal strips (about as tiny as I could get on my first try), I think the little peek of color and the dramatic curve of the fabric adds so much interest with the patterns and colors of the fabric (fabrics from the Hadley collection from Dear Stella). The geometric flower print is once I haven’t used from my palette box yet and it really pulls all the colors together.”
While we didn’t know which fabrics would be used in which design when we chose the palettes, we did want to choose a background or sashing-type of fabric for each palette. For the White Plight palette, Weeks Ringle had several tips for making the choice. “You need contrast with your field color,” she says. “When you have a whole bunch of different colors, it’s going to be a challenge to find something else that’s going to work and not distract.” We auditioned batiks, small prints, and solids, and, in the end, we had a difficult time choosing just one. So we thought we’d share all three along with the reasons why each could work.
We started with an aqua that was a little too similar to the ground in some of the prints, so we would have needed to remove those prints and we didn’t want to change the selection. By trying an aqua that was just 10 percent darker, we could keep all of the prints while still providing contrast. So the darker aqua was in the running.
Next, we tried a print that contained more blue and compared it to the darker aqua. We preferred the darker blue, as some of the prints contained small amounts of blue, but not enough that the blues in the print would connect to or bridge out into the background, altering the appearance of pieced design. The blue would be our wild-card choice.
For a more traditional option, we auditioned a print and a solid that were nearly the same hue, value, and saturation–an oatmeal or linen hue. We felt the solid offered a little more contrast, while the print receded more, so, in the case of these two, personal preference would be the deciding factor and we opted to purchase the print.
We wondered what a darker neutral would offer, so we brought in a cocoa brown solid and found that it offered more contrast than the lighter linen hue while still supplying that neutral we wanted to try. Since it’s a muted hue, the piecing and prints will still be showcased.
Which would you choose? Or would you have chosen totally different options?
When we first selected the fabrics for the Bold Fears ailment, we had included these four fabrics. After all, they shared similar hues–the oranges or pinks and greens. As Weeks Ringle and I selected fabrics, we found that some of the original choices stood out. Here’s why we chose to remove them from the assortment.
- Daisy print, top left: While this print contained the pink and orange found in some of the others, the ground was white and the print was sparse, so the print didn’t work with the others that contained little to no white. Also, due to the amount of white, the print read as high contrast, since there were navy blue accents in the fabric, so this higher contrast print was contrary to the lower contrast prints in the assortment. (For more on using fabrics with a white base, see the White Plight ailment on page 26 of the June 2015 issue.)
- Black floral, top right: Again, while this print had colors in common with the other prints, the black ground and white accents makes this print higher contrast. Also, it is a highly saturated print, unlike any of the other prints. When viewed with the others, it stands out and becomes a focus, so it was removed.
- Soft floral, bottom right: This soft floral is much less saturated than the other prints in the assortment. In addition, it features primarily lavender and yellow hues rather than the oranges and pinks that are more visible in the others.
- Aqua and white stripe, bottom left: While the hues were on target with many others in the stash starting point, the bold white stripes, the heavily saturated print, and the high contrast of the fabric make this a less pleasing option for this palette.
It was love at first sight when I had my first peek at Lissa Alexander’s Rainbow Rows. Four-Patch blocks? Yes! Sign me up. The first step was narrowing down the color palette. I pulled out my huge stash of polka dot 2-1/2″-wide strips. The brights spoke to me…especially the red, orange, pink, and occasional purple dotted fabrics. I’ll combine these cheerful dots of all sizes with white-on-whites.
I like to sew together oversized pieces and trim them down to make uniform units. That’s the beauty of using the (already cut) 2-1/2″ strips. I sewed each dot strip together with a white-on-white strip, and cut the resulting strips into segments. I joined segments in a very random fashion to make oversized Four-Patch units. Yes, this method means a lot of trimming to size. But, the big payoff is that any irregularities in seams won’t show. Every single Four-Patch unit will be exactly the right size.
There’s another bonus of using 2-1/2″-wide strips. When I crosscut the strips, they are perfect 2-1/2″ squares, just the size needed for the alternating squares in each block.
On the design wall you get an idea of how the blocks will look. Next step, I’ll start sewing the blocks. Any guesses on the finished size of this project?
Something else I love about this project is that the units are simple enough that I can sew a few strips together in between other tasks. Sewing strips together is a great way to make use of “leader strips.” If the machine balks when I’m sewing the strips, I can just trim that part off, using the remainder to make segments for Four-Patch units.
–Jill Abeloe Mead, editor American Patchwork & Quilting