DIYdiy projects

Back to School: DIY Minimalist Backpack

by Jessica Marquez

If there’s one question I’m always asking, it’s “Where are my keys/wallet/phone?” Always. I’m constantly changing my tote bag or not using one at all. So I made this backpack to help me keep everything (hopefully) always in the same place. Who knows, it might work.

I’m a pretty no-fuss person when it comes to bags. I don’t need lots of mesh pockets, zippers, and clips — just a place to keep those three items, a notebook, and miscellaneous little things and I’m good. Although this guy can hold quite a bit of stuff.

This backpack is great for everyday running around and carrying essentials for school. Kids and adults can use this because it’s so functional and easy to customize. This particular backpack is stamped, but what about dip dyeing a natural canvas, or embroidering a monogram? I’m all about little details, like a triangle stamp, that makes simple items special. The sewing instructions were made with ease in mind, so you’ll be able to whip this up in a few hours. –Jessica Marquez


-preshrunk heavyweight material (canvas, linen, denim)
-rotary blade
-sewing pins
-sewing thread
carving block or stamp
-fabric ink
-paint brush
grommet kit with ⅜” grommets
-no. 7 & 7/32” dia. cotton clothesline (I found this at the corner hardware store, because bigger hardware stores only had a polyester cord.)



Cut two pieces of fabric measuring 31 x 11.5” and 12 x 11.5”. The long piece will be the main body of the backpack and the smaller piece is the pocket.

Press, pin and sew a .5” seam, folding it twice, on the bottom of the main piece and the top of the pocket.


Stamp a design on to your pocket. I created a simple geometric repeat by cutting a triangle shape out of a carving block with an exacto blade. Super easy. You can also use a regular stamp or even a potato to cut your own, too. Paint the ink on and press in place. I varied the amount of ink used and how often I re-inked to get subtle variations in the pattern. Let dry. Heat set according to your fabric ink’s instructions.


Measure 12” from the sewn end of the main piece, fold and score with your fingernail, or press, to create a crease. This is the bottom of your backpack. Press a .5” seam on the bottom of your pocket. Line up these two seams by placing the pocket (wrong side up and upside down) on top of the right-facing main piece (seam is pointing up). Pin in place and sew along the seam.


Add four grommets to the four corners of the main piece. Measure them 1” from the top and bottom, and 1.5” in from the sides. To find the top edge, just fold the top fabric over the pockets and score with your fingernail. Follow the grommet kit instructions to add the hardware.


Fold the backpack, with right sides facing, pin, and sew a .5” seam from the top of the pockets down on each side.


Flip inside out. The top flap sides will naturally want to turn in now. Press them down with an iron, folding twice. The seam will taper where the flap meets the pockets. Pin in place. Press and pin a .5” seam, folding twice, at the top edge of the flap. Sew around the three sides of the flap.


Cut a long length (mine measured about 53”) of cotton cord. Fold in half and create a loop through the bottom grommet. Run the cord out of the top grommet, knot and lace through the loop. Cinch the loop tight.

Done! Just add your keys, wallet, and phone.



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