How to sew a DIY Backpack part 3 – Patterns and sewing. 

Last post I went over the creation of the templates used and the logic behind the fabric choices in this DIY Backpack. This post I’ll show you how I cut out the templates, and the some basic seeing techniques.

DIY Backpack

This picture has a couple of tips in it. First, when setting up the fabric, use a weight or some tape to hold the fabric in place. Then line the template upon the fabric. The idea is to be as economical as possible. Don’t set the template in the middle, work from the edge out, this way you’ll ensure that you have enough fabric to finish the project.

You’ll notice the chalk pencils are bound together, that’s to give an automatic 1/4 inch of hem. Using this on  all sides will give you a 1/2″ hem.

So using this pencil line up the long straight edge of the template on the edge fabric, and trace the remainder withe the unsharpened pencil butted up against the template. You’ll need to do this will all the templates. Remember it’s ok to have more hem allowance, you can always trim, it’s hard to add fabric.

When the tracing is done, go ahead and cut the pieces out with the rotary cutter, or scissors. Please don’t use the knife, but if you do send me pictures of the cutouts.

Once all the big pieces are cut out, you have a few options. You can make pockets, straps, whatever you want on there, or just make a super simple pack by sewing it all up after attaching the shoulder straps. Those of you that just want a simple tube backpack can sure do that now if you feel you have some sewing experience, or you can wait till closer to the end of this series to see how I make the shoulder straps, and then go from there.

Those that want a pack with external pockets and have good sewing skills can skip this next part, where I explain the two types of stitches I use on a back pack.


The first and most common stitch is the straight stitch. This is the stitch you will use for nearly everything. 90 % of the time you are joining two pieces together you are using this stitch. On the Brother that I mentioned it’s either 00 or 01. Leave the tightener on 4 with this stitch for this pack, you don’t really need to go much tighter.

DIY Backpack
This is where you adjust the Stitch Taughtness. IDK if that’s even a word.
DIY Backpack
1 – This is the Stitch selector 2 – The Stitch Length selector 3 – The Stitch Width selector

The above photo is one that you will see again later, but I’m using it to show you the other controls.

Really the only stitches that I use are 00, 01, and 03. The configuration above is to create a Bar Tack, and I’ll show you where that is useful later.

The next article will cover general pocket ideas and placement, and the shoulder/waist straps.

Past Articles in this series:
Part One   Part Two


How to DIY a backpack part 2 – The Begining

In the last part I talked over planning the DIY Backpack in your head and the materials I used to make the pack. But I want you to know that materials are TOTALLY SUBJECTIVE AND SHOULD BE BASED ON THE PACKS INTENDED USE. You don’t want to make a pack out of 1.1 rip stop nylon and then take it on a bushwhacking adventure, similarly don’t make one out of cotton and then go on an extended backpacking trip in the Pacific Northwest.

The material you use warrants some thought. There are several good all-around fabrics, and a few specific ones, and I’ll be covering what my thought process is/was.

The first and most glaring choice is “Do I spring for DCF(Cuban Fiber) or not?” DCF in the weight and durability I wanted is available from ZPacks, and its about $15 per half yard. $30 isn’t much for a Cuban pack, but I’m not super confident dealing with it yet. And the robic was only $12.

The other option besides the Robic I finally went with is X-Pack, and while this would have been just as good in my opinion, it isn’t available through I didn’t want to make more than one order, and it was a little more expensive if I recall correctly.

The Robic was what I went with. Its a good price for the material, and it’s very durable. I think as far as a starter fabric it’s very forgiving, inexpensive and waterproof. Exactly what I wanted. Later I can play with DCF, but I want to get this pack down.

Making the templates. 

From here it’s time to make the plan. First, we need to know how big the pack going to be. I’m aiming at around 30 liters without accounting for the outside pockets. So to do that I found a bag that I like and I copied the dimensions.

The Gossamer Gear Kumo is the pack I modeled this one after. I like it because it’s a great platform for a UL to SUL pack. Anyway the Specs for the main body are:

  • 22″ tall
  • 11″ wide
  • 4.5″ deep

Add a half inch to each side for hems and we get:

  • 23″ Tall
  • 12″ wide
  • 5.5″ deep

This means that the front and back need to be around 23″ tall by 12″ wide if you are doing a drawstring, velcro, or button closure. If you are doing a roll top like me you will need to add somewhere around 5″ to the height of each of these. One important thing to remember is that this is for me, and if you are shorter or taller than me (I’m 6’3″) you should measure the distance from the top of your shoulder to the crest of your hip. This will tell you how long the pack body should be. Another option is to go to an REI and get yourself fitted. If you are shorter and want the same overall volume, just make the pack deeper. Take a look around for a pack that would fit you in the volume you want and use those dimensions. The overall themes here will still suffice to allow you to make the pack.

The bottom panel is easy, just a 12″ wide by 5.5″ rectangle.

I like to use cardboard for my templates, I feel it’s easier to hold in place than a cloth one, and I can find it easily. Others like paper bags, or even Tyvek.

DIY Backpack
The Template for the back/front panel I made.

This part is on you. Decide what you can get your hands on easiest and use that for the template. In the above picture I have laid out the plan on the panel. Since the Back and front are the same size I only made one template and then I planned out the pockets and straps using the folds of the cardboard, and a maker to label what went where. This is where you can see your pack start to take shape.

DIY Backpack

Next post is going to cover cutting out the templates, and then sewing basics for this and most outdoor projects.

Past Articles in this series:
Part One   Part Two

How to DIY a Backpack part one – The Outline.

This is my third time sewing a DIY Backpack, and I’ve learned some things. Mainly I learned that none of the how-to articles I found online are exhaustive enough. So this will be exhaustive. Let’s Start.

First you need to know what size you are aiming for. This is a 30ish liter pack, you can increase the size if you need it bigger, just add more inches to the templates. This will also be a framed pack, if you want it to be frameless, simply skip the frame installation.

DIY Backpack
My First DIY UL Pack

I bought all the fabric from Here is the list of ingredients I used to make the pack.

1 yard of 420d Robic fabric.

.5 yards of pocket mesh. I could have used less.

.5 yards of 3d mesh. I could have used way less.

You will also need: buckles for the belt, roll top, and shoulder straps (4), shock cord (1/8th and 1 Section) , and webbing (1 section). I hit up my local thrift store for this stuff.  Just find a 7 dollar backpack with 4 buckles and a waist belt. If you do it right you might even get one with straps and a belt you like, then you can just pull those off and use them on this pack.

Side Note: If you want to use a wider webbing than 1/2 inch for the waist belt, you will need to order a different buckle for that belt. You should use a wider webbing if you are sensitive in the waist, or if you are going to have a load over 20lbs. You don’t need wider webbing if you are putting hip belt pads on though.

I also recommend some power stretch Lycra if you want some stretchy pockets. You can find this online here or, if you want to be thrifty, use an old pair of stretchy boxer briefs or a stretchy dress. Wash them first.

I’m also going to save wight by using Zing-It (1 section), to make the bottom of my shoulder straps, but this is optional.

From Wal-Mart I bought this:

2 carbon fiber arrows,  the Allen Eliminator model. (This Amazon link is a better deal per shaft.)

A roll of green foam camping mattress.

A universal Zipper.

Things I already had:

Camouflage and blue Hexxon fabric. 

If you don’t have a Sewing Machine I recommend this one very highly, It’s a great value for what you will be doing, and handles fabric from the heavier main body of this pack to the super light stuff I am using on my tarps with no issues.

Also you will need a Dremel or an Angle Grinder with a cut off wheel to cut the arrows to length.

When Sewing a pack there are really only a couple of ways to put it together. You can sew everything on a flat section of cloth, sew the two ends together to create a tube, and then seal the bottom and create some type of opening seal on the top. Or you can create the sides, front, back and bottom in what I’m calling panels, and then attach them together.

This series of how-to posts will show you the panel method, and later I’ll do a tube method. Maybe. Now the panel method is most common, and has a million way you can vary the size, shape and number of panels as well. I will use 5 panels. Two sides, a front, back and bottom because it’s easy.

In order to make this pack you need to know what you want out of it.

I want it to have a roll top closure, because it can add compression, and it is a better seal against rain than a drawstring. I also want to have a long side pocket, an under pocket, a big back pocket, a mesh web on the lower back  for wet things, and hip belt with a square zip pocket on one side, and a dump tube on the other. Lastly I want it to have mesh water bottle holders sewn into the shoulder straps, and I want the water bottle holder to have built in stretch pockets. Oh and a super light frame. Oh and it needs to be waterproof.

This is a beautiful thing. I know of no manufacturer that makes a pack like this. I know of a few that would make one, but it would be hundreds of dollars, and if something wasn’t quite right you would have to send it back to get it fixed. That is why I’m making my own.

Part Two will talk fabrics, then we will move on to making templates.



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