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Fold Over Backpack
Whether you’re heading to school or just heading across town, this dynamic fold over backpack is deep enough to hold everything you need and is super comfy to wear. We used the 1½” Dritz Belting in a bright red for both the backpack straps as well as the straps that hold the front Swivel Hook and D-Ring closure. Pick an eye-catching print and put your fussy cutting skills to work for the most striking finish.
Commercial backpacks sometimes have so many pockets, zippered sections, flaps, and-and-and, it can be overwhelming to try to find anything. This backpack has one exterior pocket and one lining pocket, but is essentially a structured sack so you can immediately spot what you want when you need it. What did Mom always say? “Simple is best… now go clean your room.
The top of the bag is meant to fold over by about 4” for the optimum clasp, but still has enough flexibility to allow you to fill it up a bit more.
The look and feel of Dritz Belting is very similar to a natural fiber, although it’s actually tough 100% polyester. At the generous 1½” width it won’t cut into your neck. We attached the Adjustable Slide Buckles towards the bottom of our backpack straps, so the tops lay soft and smooth across your shoulders. It’s extremely comfortable to wear, even when filled to the brim.
One to the most eye-catching elements of this bag is the fussy cutting. Especially when working with a large motif, it makes all the difference to take the time to match up colors and designs. If you are brand new to the technique, we have a full tutorial you can review prior to starting. There’s also a separate sub-tutorial on Matching a Pocket to a Background Panel.
The backpack’s inset base gives this “sack style” tote good structure so you can set it down without it immediately tipping over. We show you all the steps for this classic bottom-of-the-bag technique.
We also love the handy upper handle loop, which is great to grab and carry or to help swing the pack onto your back.
Our Fold Over Back Pack finishes at approximately 21” high when fully upright and open, 17” high when folded over and latched x 11” wide x 5” deep.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1½ – 2 yards * of 54”+ wide home décor weight print fabric for the upper exterior panels, exterior pocket, and lining pocket; we originally used 54” Mayan Raleigh by Premier Prints
* NOTE: We are showing yardage as a range because the final amount will depend on the size/color pattern of the motif of your chosen fabric and the precision of the fussy cut. We used almost a full two yards to get our very best look.
- ⅓ yard of 54”+ wide home décor weight print fabric for the lower accent exterior panels, D-ring tabs, base panel, and carry handle; we originally used 54” Mini Swiss Cross in Storm by Premier Prints
- ⅝ yard of 44”+ wide quilting weight in a coordinating solid for the lining panels; we originally used 44″ Kona Cotton in Ash
- ½ yard of 45”+ fusible fleece; we used Pellon Thermolam Plus
- ½ yard of 45”+ mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Decor Bond
- 3 yards (two packages) of 1½” Dritz Belting/Strapping; we used red
NOTE: The packaged Dritz Belting comes in 2-yard lengths, we recommend two packages in order to insure each of the required adjustable strap pieces can be cut as a full length
- TWO 1½” Dritz Rectangle Rings; we used black
- ONE 1½” Dritz D-Ring; we used black
- ONE 1½ Dritz Swivel Hook; we used black
- TWO 1½” Dritz Adjustable Slide Buckles; we used black
- Seam sealant, such as Dritz Fray Check
- All-purpose thread to match fabric and belting
- See-through ruler
- Measuring tape
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- DOWNLOAD PATTERN: Download and print the ONE Strap Loops pattern piece. All other pieces are straight cuts as listed below.
IMPORTANT: This pattern download consists of ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
- Cut out the pattern piece along the solid line.
- Cut the Dritz Belting into the following lengths:
TWO 45” lengths for the backpack straps
ONE 7” length for the top front strap
ONE 9” length for the bottom front strap
Seal both ends of each length with Dritz Fray Check
- From the exterior fabric, carefully fussy cut the following:
TWO 17” wide x 14” high rectangles for the main exterior front and back panels
FOUR 17” wide x 5” high rectangles for the exterior upper panels that will become the fold-over section
TWO 8” wide x 10” high rectangles for the exterior and lining pockets
NOTE: As mentioned above, if you are using a large and bold motif, like our Premier Prints Mayan Raleigh, fussy cutting is very important. Taking the time to match the upper and lower exterior panels as well as the pockets makes the finished bag extra special.
- From the accent exterior fabric, fussy cut the following:
TWO 17” wide x 5” high rectangles for the lower exterior front and back panels
ONE 12” wide x 6” high rectangle for the base
ONE 3” x7” strip for the carry handle
Using the pattern, cut TWO strap loops
- From the lining fabric, cut the following:
TWO 17” wide x 18½” high rectangles for the main front and back panels
ONE 13” wide x 6” high rectangle for the base
- From fusible fleece, cut the following:
TWO 16” x 17¾” rectangles for the main front and back panels
ONE 11” x 5” rectangle for the base panel
- From fusible interfacing, cut the following:
TWO 16” x 3¾” rectangles for the upper fold-over sections
TWO 7” x 8” for the pockets
ONE 1” x 6” strip for the carry handle
Using the pattern, but cutting on the seam line instead of the outer line, cut TWO
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the strap loops and carry handle
- Find the two strap loop pieces and the two matching interfacing pieces. Press each fabric piece in half to set the main center crease line. Unfold and press back each long straight edge ½”.
- Place an interfacing piece against the wrong side of each fabric piece. The raw edge of the interfacing will butt up against the fold along each long side and there will be ½” of fabric extending beyond the interfacing at each end. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Refold along the original center crease line.
- Repeat these steps with the carry handle and its interfacing strip
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the accent fabric in the top and bobbin. Edgestitch along the folded edges of both the two strap loops and the one carry handle.
Create the exterior and lining pockets
- Find the two 8” x 10” pocket panels and the two 7” x 8” interfacing panels.
- Because we’ve specified a heavier home decor weight fabric, we opted to not line either pocket. However, our fabric did have a tendency to ravel so we took the time to finish all four raw edges of each pocket panel. We used a standard zig zag stitch. If you are new to machine sewn seam finishes, we have a full series you can review.
- Place the interfacing on the wrong side of each fabric panel. There should be ½” of fabric showing beyond the fabric along both sides and across the bottom. There will be 1½” of fabric extending along the top. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- On the lining pocket, press back both sides and the bottom ½”. Along the top, create a simple hem. To do this, fold back the raw edge ½” and press, then fold an additional 1” and press again.
- On the exterior pocket, press back both sides ½”. The bottom remains raw. As above with the lining pocket, along the top, create a simple hem.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread that best matches the main exterior fabric in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Stitch across the top close to the inner fold.
Place the exterior and lining pockets
- Find one of the main lining panels. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface. Place the lining pocket (the one with all edges finished), also right side up, on the lining panel. The pocket should be centered side to side and the bottom finished edge of the pocket should sit 4½” up from the raw edge of the lining panel. Pin the pocket in place along the sides and across the bottom.
- Keeping the slightly lengthened stitch from above, edgestitch the lining pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Use a substantial back stitch at both upper corners. These are the pocket’s stress points and it’s always a good idea to add some extra strength.
- Find the main back exterior panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface. Place the exterior pocket (the one with three finished edges and a raw bottom edge), also right side up, on the exterior panel. The pocket should be centered side to side and the bottom raw edge of the pocket should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the exterior panel. Pin the pocket in place along the sides.
- Find one of the bottom exterior accent panels. Place it right sides together with the main exterior panel, sandwiching the pocket between the layers. If you have a directional fabric, make sure you are aligning the top raw edge of the accent panel with the bottom raw edge of the main panel. Pin in place.
- Re-set the stitch length to normal. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across through all the layers.
- Press the bottom accent panel down into place. Press the seam allowance down towards the bottom accent panel.
- Find one of the 16” x 17¾” fleece panels. Center it on the wrong side of the assembled back exterior panel. There should be ½” of fabric extending beyond the fleece along both sides and across the bottom – a bit more than that along the top to keep it out of the fold-over seam. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the fleece in place.
- Re-set for a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Edgestitch along both sides of the pocket through all the layers.
NOTE: Waiting to this point to stitch through both the fabric and the fleece gives the pocket more stability.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, topstitch horizontally across the back panel within the accent panel. Remember to re-thread the machine if necessary with thread to best match the accent panel fabric, but keep the slightly lengthened stitch.
Place the lower front Belting strap and front accent panel
- Find the front exterior panel and the 9” length of Belting.
- Place the Belting on the right side of the front panel. It should be centered side to side and the bottom raw edge of the belting should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the fabric panel.
- Find the remaining exterior accent panel. As you did with the back panel, place the accent panel right sides together with the main panel, sandwiching the Belting between the layers. Pin in place.
- Re-set the stitch length to normal. Stitch across the panels through all the layers. Press the accent panel down into position and press the seam allowance down towards the accent panel.
- Find the remaining 16” x 17¾” fleece panel. Center it on the wrong side of the assembled front exterior panel. There should be ½” of fabric extending beyond the fleece along both sides and across the bottom – a bit more than that along the top to keep it out of the fold-over seam. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the fleece in place.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch across horizontally within the accent panel – matching the topstitching you did on the back panel.
Place the strap loops, carry handle, and backpack Belting straps
- Find the two finished strap loops and the Rectangle Rings.
- Find the back exterior panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Slip each strap loop through one of the Rectangle Rings. Pull through so the ends of the strap loop are flush with one another. Place a loop on each side of the back exterior panel. Each loop should be placed so the raw edges of the loop are flush with the raw edge of the panel, the edgestitched side of the loop is facing up, and the top edge of the loop is 1” down from the main/accent horizontal seam. Pin the loop in place then repeat on the opposite side. We sketched in a ½” seam allowance with our marking pen and then machine basted each loop in place within that seam allowance.
NOTE: We created a pattern for the side loops in order to insure they had the upward angle shown. This allows the back pack straps to pull up in a more natural fashion when finished.
- Still working with the back exterior panel right side up and flat, find the finished carry handle strap.
- With the edgestitched sides facing in, form a loop and center that loop on the upper raw edge of the exterior panel. There should be a 5” spread from outer edge to outer edge. Pin each raw end in place.
- Find the two 45” lengths of Belting. Place one raw end of each length along the top raw edge of the exterior panel. The raw end of the Belting should be flush with the top raw edge of the fabric panel. The inner side of the belting should be ¾” from each end of the carry handle loop. Pin in place.
- Machine baste across the top of the exterior panel to secure both lengths of Belting and the carry handle in place.
Attach the upper exterior sections to the front, add the upper Belting and Swivel Hook, finalize the position of the lower Belting and D-Ring
- Find the two 17” wide x 5” high upper front and upper back exterior sections and the two 16” x 3¾” interfacing panels. Center an interfacing panel on each fabric panel. There should be ½” of fabric extending beyond the interfacing along both sides and across the top, along the bottom there will be a bit more fabric showing in order to keep the interfacing out of the fold-over seam. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Find the 7” length of Belting and the Swivel Hook.
- Place the Belting on the right side of the upper front exterior section. The Belting should be centered side to side. One raw end of the Belting should be flush with the top raw edge of the fabric panel (the edge that will be seamed to the main exterior panel).
- At the bottom of the panel, fold up the raw edge of the panel ½”, simulating the ½” seam allowance that will eventually go along that edge. Slip the free raw end of the Belting through the Swivel Hook, feeding it back on itself about 2”. The goal is for the Swivel Hook to fall slightly below the final seamed edge of the fold-over top of the bag. In the photo below, you can see we adjusted our Swivel Hook so it would fall about ¼” below our simulated ½” fold.
- Find the front panel, which has the lower Belting strap secured into the accent panel seam but is otherwise just pinned in place.
- Find the D-Ring. Slip the free end of the lower Belting strap through the D-Ring, pulling it back and behind itself about 2½”. Pin in place.
- As a double-check for the top Swivel Hook position and to determine this final position of the D-Ring on the lower Belting, with the front panel still right side up, place the upper section, with its Swivel Hook pinned in position, right side up over the main panel. Align the top raw edges of the two panels and again create that ½” fold-under along the upper section to simulate the final seam allowance. Hook the Swivel Hook onto the D-Ring. Adjust the “pull back” on each Belting section as necessary to get a comfortable clasp of Hook onto Ring .
- With the upper “pull back” confirmed, remove the upper Belting from the fabric panel. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the Belting in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Stitch across the Belting through both layers as close to the Swivel Hook as possible.
- Re-pin the upper Belting into its original position on the upper section.
- Layer the upper section right sides together with the main back exterior panel, sandwiching the Belting between the layers. Pin in place.
- Re-thread with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set for a normal stitch length.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across through all the layers. For extra security, we recommend stitching across again directly on top of your previous seam.
- Press well, pressing the seam allowance down towards the main body of the bag.
- With the upper section pulled up and away from the main body of the bag, make sure the Belting is laying flat against the fabric.
- Re-thread with thread to best match the Belting in the top and bobbin. Re-set for a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Edgestitch along both sides of the Belting, stopping to cross over 1” above the existing Belting seam that secured the Swivel Hook.
NOTE: You need to stop higher up as shown in the photo above because you need enough “play” in the Belting to be able to lift the Swivel Hook up and out of the way for the final topstitching around the top of the bag.
- Attach the remaining upper front section (the plain panel) to the main front exterior panel in the same manner.
- On the lower Belting on the front panel, edgestitch along both sides. Finish the top with a ½” X Box.
NOTE: If you are brand new to this securing technique, check out our X Box Tutorial.
- Here are the front and back exterior panels ready to go. You can see that we bundled up the ends of the Belting against the back panel to keep them out of the way of the final construction steps.
Attach the upper sections to the lining panels
- Attach the remaining two 17” x 5” upper sections (the ones without interfacing) to each of the lining panels – remember, one of the lining panels should already have a pocket stitched in place.
- Re-thread with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set for a normal stitch length. Use a ½” seam allowance to stitch across.
- Press well, pressing the seam allowance down towards the lining panel.
- Slightly lengthen the stitch. Topstitch across each panel, within the lining fabric section, securing the seam allowance in this down position. The photo below shows this topstitching. That’s the base panel hanging out on top… it’s coming up below.
- Find the exterior and lining base panels and the base fleece panel.
- Center the fleece on the wrong side of the exterior base panel.
- Layer the lining and exterior base panels wrong sides together, sandwiching the fleece between the layers.
- Baste around all four sides within the standard ½” seam allowance.
- Find the center point of each side. Clip into the seam allowance or place a pin at each center point.
- Set aside the base panel.
Assemble the exterior and lining panels
- Re-thread the machine if necessary with thread to best match the lining and then the exterior for the steps below. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Place the lining panels right sides together. Pin along both sides. Be careful to align the seams of the upper sections. Using a ½” seam allowance stitch both side seams.
- Repeat to place the exterior panels right sides together. In this case, you need to be careful to align the seams of both the upper sections as well as bottom accent panels. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both side seams.
- You now have two tubes that are open on both the top and bottom.
- Keep the exterior tube wrong side out. Turn the lining tube right side out. Slip the lining tube inside the exterior tube so the two tubes are now right sides together. Align the side seams. The top raw edges of both tubes should be flush. Pin around the top.
- Using a ½” seam allowance stitch all the way around the top. If you have a free arm on your machine, now is a good time to use it.
- Pull out the lining and press the seam super flat.
- Push the lining back down inside the exterior, making sure that top seam is flat and even all the way around. Once again, press very well.
- Slightly lengthen the stitch. Make sure the machine is threaded with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Topstitch all around the top edge of the bag, approximately ⅛” from the finished edge. If you have the ability to adjust your needle position, this is a good time to move it to the left in order to create a tighter seam allowance. This the point where you need to lift the Swivel Hook up and out of the way to stitch past.
Topstitch through all the layers along the upper/main seam and insert the base
- Make sure the lining is smooth and even inside the exterior. Then machine baste through all the layers around the bottom opening.
- Re-set for the same slightly lengthened stitch you’ve used throughout.
- Topstitch through all the layers along the upper/main seam within the main section. This topstitching seam is only about ⅛” from the main seam. This is another good opportunity to use a free arm and to slightly adjust your needle position.
NOTE: This does leave a double seam line at the inside of the bag. For a clean finish, you can opt to NOT topstitch seam allowance down into position on your lining panels as described above. Instead, just press down the seam allowance. Then, this final line of topstitching is a single line on both the exterior and the interior.
- Find the exact center point along the bottom of both the front and back.
- Place the base panel right sides together with the tube. It’s a little like you’re setting a lid upside down into the opening of a box. Align the center notch/pin points on the base panel with the bag’s side seams and center points, then fill in between as needed.
- Starting ½” in from one corner, stitch each side’s seam independently, stitching across to the opposite corner and stopping ½” in from that corner. You are using a ½” seam allowance.
- In order to create the flattest base possible, clip into each corner. Snip into the corner at diagonal at a depth of about ⅜“. You are clipping right up to but not through your stitching line.
NOTE: We have summarized the steps of this standard technique. If you are brand new to inserting a flat base panel, we have a full step-by-step tutorial you can review prior to starting this project: How to Insert a Rectangular Base into a Tube.
- This method leaves an unfinished seam allowance at the bottom of the bag. No worries, the bag is very deep and the seam allowance almost completely disappears. However, we do recommend finishing the raw edges of the seam allowance with your favorite method. We used a simple zig zag, an overcast or serged edge are other options. As mentioned above, we have a full series you can review on Machine Sewn Finishes.
Attach the final Dritz Hardware to complete the back pack straps
- Find the two Adjustable Slide Buckles.
- Unbundle the two lengths of Belting at the back of the bag.
- Slip the free each of each length of Belting through the Adjustable Slide Buckle, going up and over the center bar. Then insert the free end through the bottom D-Ring from front to back.
- Pull the Belting away from the center bar, creating a loop, and bring the free end back up to the center bar. It’s important to move that first layer of Belting out of way so you can access the center bar of the Adjustable Slide Buckle.
- Bring the free end all the way around the bar, pulling it back on itself about 1¼”.
- Pull the upper and lower layers of Belting completely out of the way so you are working with just the overlapped end. Bring it to your sewing machine.
- Re-thread with thread to best match the Belting in the top and bobbin. Keep a standard stitch length. Stitch across the overlap at least two times to secure. We stitched across four times.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever
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I made a version of this backpack and am so pleased with the way it turned out. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial! Also I appreciated that you provided a link to more detailed instructions on inserting the base. This was my first time trying that technique and the extra steps helped a lot. I’m not on social media, but I did post my project on Lettuce Craft if you’d like to see a photo.
Hi! Thank you so much for giving us a peek at your cool “tropical” version of this project. It’s go cute – and we are thrilled to know the instructions helped you through it! Okay… time for the next one, right??
Thanks for the tutorial! Was lots of fun seeing this come together, and the process was far less intimidating once I’d started. The pictures here were a huge help, it was really handy to have something to compare to. As well, the constant links to skill tutorials really helped this project flow for me. Two questions: 1) If I want to enclose the seams on the bottom of the bag, what would you suggest? Binding tape? 2) I used a plastic buckle rather than the Dritz metal one (I live aboard and unfortunately can’t easily get Dritz products), and the… Read more »
Hi Dee – thanks for adding all your comments, and we’re glad to hear you had such success with our pattern. You’re right about the webbing – any time there is polyester in it, you have to be careful when pressing! For the seam allowances at the bottom of the bag, yes; if you want to finish those, I’d say binding for the cleanest finish, but a nice tight overcast stitch could also work. And on the weight of the buckle, I’m not sure I have a 100% solution for that. A magnetic snap would certainly help add some weight.… Read more »