How to add a zipper closure to a Drawstring backpack

Hello, my crafty friends! Since the release of my free Drawstring backpack pattern, I have received a few comments/requests to make this a top zipper backpack. I totally understand! The zipper adds security, making it easier to access what’s inside the backpack, and it is more practical.

I knew straight away that adding a zipper is 100% possible, but at the same time, this meant that we no longer need a top trim to insert a cord/rope. As you know drawstring backpack is an open-top backpack that closes by pulling on the drawstring cord that runs along the top and sides of the backpack. Aside from securely closing the backpack, the drawstring closure also functions as a handle or as the shoulder straps.

I was contemplating for a while how to adapt this backpack and still use a cord/rope for the shoulder straps. I could have added a separate loop at the top or a D-ring to run the cord/rope through, but quickly disregarded this idea, because adjusting the length would have been a nightmare. Feel free to disagree, but I thought a regular adjustable straps are better suited when the zipper is added to the top.

What’s new/different?

Once I decided to add regular adjustable shoulder straps, I have asked myself “how to attach them to the backpack?”. I did not want to add them to the top seam, because that is where the zipper was going to be, and I was worried that the straps would get in the way when closing/opening the backpack. Not too mention, I wanted to avoid the extra bulk and uneven seam. To keep the changes to the minimum, I decided to use a similar technique that is seen on the Mini McFly backpack, where I used a back trim to cover the raw edges.

Since adding a zipper to the top completely transforms the shape of the backpack I also added a handle, so it is easier to hold it.

For this backpack I have made two-tone adjustable straps with the external (Harry Potter) fabric as an accent on the top and a webbing underneath. For no real reason I have also used swivel hooks, which are clipped at the sides. This is silly if I’m honest, because the straps cannot be removed at the top 😅. Don’t waste your hardware and skip that, or also add D-rings and swivel hooks to the top in case you want to be able to completely remove the straps.

If you are not sure how to make the two-tone adjustable strap watch the Isha crossbody bag video.

If you want to use the same technique as me, you will need to cut extra pieces that are not included in the Drawstring backpack pattern: W/H

  • Straps x 2 from external fabric (when using webbing) or 4 (without the webbing). I used a 2.5 cm (1″) hardware, so my straps are 5 cm (2″) wide and 100 cm (39 1/2″) long.
  • Handle x 1 from external fabric, 27 cm / 10 cm (10 5/8″ / 4″).
  • Back trim x 1 from external fabric (you can use an accent fabric like me), 40 cm / 6 cm (15 3/4″ / 2 3/8″).
  • Zipper tab x 1 from external fabric, 10 cm / 5 cm (4″ / 2″).
  • Strap connector x 1 from external fabric, 15 cm / 5 cm (6″ / 2″). The height of this piece is double the width of a D-ring.

What not to cut? Top trims and loop.

The rest of the pattern pieces are exactly the same, so follow the cutting information in the sewing instructions from the Drawstring backpack pattern.

If you prefer more sturdy backpack, you can add medium weight stabilizer to the back of the external fabric. I had fused fleece and quilted the Harry Potter fabric, because it was very lightweight cotton. For the bottom panel (and the back trim) I used faux leather which I did not stabilize further and I used a waterproof fabric on the lining.

Sewing steps

To begin the project first you need to make the external pocket so follow steps 6-21. After that go to steps 25-26 to add the bottom panel to both Front and Back pieces.

Now you need to make the shoulder straps, handle and strap connectors, then you can attach them to the back panel.

To make the strap connectors follow steps 1-5, but remember to insert D-rings.

Watch the McFly backpack video tutorial if you need help putting all those pieces together.

Now it’s a time to install a zipper to the top and finish the backpack. To make this process easier I have filmed a video tutorial to guide you through all the remaining steps, so check it out.

I would love to see your versions of this backpack so don’t forget to tag @allsewpetite #allsewpetite on social media and if you haven’t done so already join the Allsewpetite – makers group on Facebook.

I have other tutorials and free patterns so check them out 😉

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1 thought on “How to add a zipper closure to a Drawstring backpack”

  1. Pingback: Molly zipper pouch – free sewing pattern by Allsewpetite – Allsewpetite

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