Nobody wants to get sacked. But if you’re looking for a brand new bag then why not sew up something special with this back to school sling backpack pattern. If you’ve got kids or teens heading back to the books, giving them a personalized backpack to celebrate a scholastic milestone is also a fun frugal gift idea.

These simple school backpacks are fabulous for lugging light books from class to class or for carrying a frugalicious homemade lunch to the cafeteria.

back to school tips backpacks

But you don’t have to be a kid to want a sling backpack. I’ve made several of these backpacks for friends. The guys tend to use them as rough and tumble backpacks or as a simple canvas rucksack for a light hike. I’ve used mine as a backpack purse, a shopping bag, a tote bag, and as a reusable grocery bag. If you’re into the yoga or Pilates scene, then change the dimensions on the pattern for use as a yoga mat bag. How’s that for a flexible free pattern?

Backpack Front

free tote bag patterns free bag patterns tote bags

Backpack Back

free tote bag patterns free bag patterns

To keep this craft uber thrifty, skip the fabric store and stick to fabric remnants, cut up an old pair of jeans, or reuse used clothing for a custom and unique backpack design. I often keep my backpack simple, but sometimes I like to add appliqués, names, or initials to personalize the gift. This is also a fun weekend craft to do with kids since you don’t need to be an expert sewer to string together this pattern. To be honest, Carl put this one together himself. He’s the man (with a backpack purse)!

Backpack Materials:

This list may look a little long, but chances are you’ll have everything you need already in your home!

backpacks sew your own backpack

Stuff You’ll Need:

  • 0.5m (1/2 yard) of heavy canvas, nylon, or ripstop fabric
  • 2m (2 yards) of sturdy cord
  • thread
  • large safety pin
  • two grommets (or eyelets)
  • grommet kit (around $5)
  • hammer (for pounding the grommets)
  • sewing machine
  • measuring tape, pencil, pins, scissors

DIY Backpack Instructions:

1. Using a measuring tape, scissors, and a pencil: cut your canvas fabric into a single piece measuring 45 cm X 83 cm (18 inches X 33 inches). Measure twice, cut once. 😉

canvas rucksack backpack

2. Lay your canvas fabric flat, with the wrong side facing up. Fold and pin a 1 cm (1/2 inch) hem along each short edge. Sew 0.5 cm hems for each short edge. Go ahead and remove the pins.

school backpacks sling backpack sew diy

rolling backpack sew DIY

3. Make a channel for the cord to fit through: Lay the fabric flat, with the wrong side facing again. Fold and pin a 4 cm (1 1/2 inch) hem along one long edge. Sew a 3.5 cm (1 1/4 inch) hem. Go ahead and remove the pins. Note: if your cord is thicker, be sure to pin and hem a wider channel.

backpacks back to school tips

4. Sew the back of the bag shut by facing the wrong sides of the fabric together. Just fold the fabric in half widthwise and pin the short edges together. Starting 3.5 cm (1 1/4 inches) down from the channel, sew over top of the hem stitching. Be sure not to sew the channel shut. Go ahead and remove the pins.

sew diy backpack

5. Sew the bottom of the bag shut by turning the bag inside out and laying it flat so the seam runs down the center. Pin the bottom closed. Sew a 1 cm (1/2 inch) seam along the bottom of the backpack. Go ahead and remove the pins. Turn the bag right side out.

back to school sling backpack kids backpack

6. Get your grommets ready to pierce through the canvas fabric. With the cord channel at the top, measure and mark 2.5 cm (1 inch) from the bottom of both backpack corners. Punch a grommet (or eyelet) into each marking. You may need a grommet kit to punch the grommet through the fabric.

grommet kit eyelets backpacks canvas rucksack

7. Use a large safety pin to thread the cord through the channel. Hopefully you chose the right sized cord to fit into your channel hem.

backpacks sling backpack cord

There are many choices of cord available. I used a simple white cord in this example, but feel free to get creative with glow-in-the-dark and multi-colored ropes of varying sizes. Just head to your local hardware store for a selection. I’ll be using my green glow-in-the-dark rope for a trick-or-treat bag this Halloween as part of a fun Halloween costume. Boo!

canvas rucksack backpacks

8. Thread the cord through each grommet and tie a knot in each end. Go ahead and fray the rope ends for a more casual feel. Otherwise, you may need to burn the cord ends to prevent fraying.

grommet eyelet sling backpack

9. Pull the backpack opening closed and try on the bag. If the handles are too long, retie the knots for a better length and trim the edges. Smaller kids may need shorter handles.

backpack kids backpacks

10. Personalize the backpack to suit the wearer. Sew on appliqués, use lettering, apply iron-ons, or use pins to customize the backpack. Have some fun with the design!


I often stuff my sling backpack with a good book, a frugalicious snack, and then head out for a short hike with my dog.

backpacks school backpacks

Now get sewing, get creative, and sling together a frugal back to school backpack for your kids or for yourself! 🙂