A Drawstring Rucksack with a Pocket to be Proud Of

How to Make a Drawstring Rucksack with a Pocket to be Proud Of

Kind people give me things.  I receive quite a lot of fabric donations from people who know me locally and want to support a good cause.  Sometimes though, it’s not immediately obvious how to make good use of them.

As I have a limited amount of storage space,  I need to have a clear-out from time to time.  For me, that means finding a project to make use of what I no longer have room to store.  This weekend, I was looking for a way to use up thick fabric that I can’t use for doll making and is too large to waste in small projects which can easily be sewn from smaller pieces of fabric.


Debbie Dalston's Dreamy Donation - in my Fabric Store

While I was travelling in Croatia recently, I saw a cute rucksack with a doll sewn onto it.  It seemed like it could be the perfect project for thinning down my growing stash of donated fabric?

Drawstring Rucksack

This my version of the rucksack I saw when I was on holiday.  I challenged myself to make a lined rucksack – for durability and strength.  I also wanted to turn the doll into a useful pocket, but with no sewing/seams visible.

There are LOTS of “How to make a drawstring rucksack” videos on You Tube, but it took me quite a while to find the right one for me.  Many are not lined.  A lot use French seams which I love for doll making but found to be too bulky for this project when I wanted to line the bag as well.  

I found the video below to be by far the best for making a neat and strong drawstring rucksack.  I have included some photos below that show you each of the steps I took to create the bag and make the doll for the front (which isn’t part of the You Tube Video).  If you are looking to make a drawstring rucksack yourself, then this You Tube video is a great place to start.  I didn’t add a zipper to my bag.

Drawstring Rucksack - What You Will Need

  1. 2 Pieces of Outer Fabric – 20″ x 16″
  2. 2 pieces of Lining Fabric 20″ x 16″.  You can make it waterproof if you choose a suitable fabric for the lining.
  3. 2 pieces 10″ x 9″ for the pockets
  4. 2 pieces of fabric 4 1/2″ square, for making the loops.  Alternatively, you can use 5/8″ grosgrain ribbon.
  5. Around 180cm (depending on the size of your bag) of drawstring cord.  You can use parachute cord, but I chose to use 100% natural cotton 3mm macramé cord for my bag.  You will need 4 x the total of the length plus the width of your bag and around 4″ for knotting the ends.
  6. Scraps of fabric for making your doll.
  7. Fusible Web
  8. Thread
  9. Pins
  10. Scissors – or better – a rotary cutting wheel and cutting mat.
  11. A large plastic needle or safety pin, for threading your cord through.
  12. Materials to make the face – You can paint it or hand embroider it or use a machine embroidery pattern.  If you chose machine embroidery, you will need some stabiliser on the back.
  13. Wool/thread for hair.
  14. Sewing machine
  15. Overlocker
  16. Iron and Ironing Board
  17. A pair of haemostats is really useful – for turning.
Drawstring Rucksack - Fusible Web
Fusible Web - for Appliqué

Drawstring Rucksack - Step by Step Instructions

Making the Pocket

Making a Face for Your Doll

The doll is created by using fusible web to secure the dress, hat, neck and face to the front of the pocket.  I then stitched around the edge to keep all the pieces neatly in place.

You can draw a face or hand embroider it, but I chose to use a machine embroidery design H4762 from the Embroidery Library.  This is a great way of using scraps of skin coloured cotton left over from doll making.  I starched the fabric before I completed the embroidery to give it a bit more body.  I used a lightweight stabiliser and reduced the design size to 80%.  It’s fun to experiment with different lips and eye colours for your dolls!

Drawstring Rucksack - Embroidered Doll Face
Drawstring Rucksack Scraps of Skin Coloured Cotton
Scraps of Skin Coloured Cotton

Making the Arms and Legs

The doll’s arms and legs are made from T shrt fabric.  This is also part of my stash that I find difficult to use.  Stretchy fabrics have their place, but I usually find them difficult to use in doll making/crafting.  This was an ideal opportunity to make good use of them.  I started with a skin coloured T shirt but found that coloured ones actually work just as well and give the doll a rather fun and flirty look?

Thin/cheap T shirts work best – you don’t want too much bulk.  I cut 4 strips of T shirt fabric 5cm wide and 18cm long.  Fold it in half with right sides together and machine down the centre.  I used an elastic stitch (stitch 11 on my Bernina 590) to do this.  Once machined, you can turn your strips inside out – haemostats are great for this.  The surplus material gets tucked inside and gives a bit of shape to the arms and legs.

Tie a knot in the end of both arms and trim it off neatly.  My arms measured 10cm long.  

Drawstring Rucksack - T Shirt Scraps
T Shirt Scraps make arms and legs

For the legs, you need to sandwich the end of each leg into your foot/shoe.  I found felt scraps to be perfect for making a little shoe.  With your leg sandwiched inside, simply sew all around the edge – very close to the edge – to secure the leg in place and make the foot/shoe.  Backstitch a couple of times over the leg to make sure it doesn’t fall off when in use!

It's Time to Dress Your Doll

This is the really fun bit!  Turn out your box of scraps and enjoy mixing and matching to make a beautifully co-ordinated outfit.

Lots of the dolls I make are rather grand and wear layers of crisp cotton.  These dolls are fun, flirty and feisty, so bright colours seemed to suit them well.

A bag of scrap lacey trims and a box of ribbons saved from cosmetics/cards etc. – and the ribbon loops from the inside of clothes – all came into their own for this project.

Drawstring Rucksack - Making the Doll
Drawstring Rucksack - Use Scraps to Dress Your Doll
Drawstring Rucksack - Doll Pocket
Make the Doll on the Pocket Front

Start by pinning the arms and legs in place on your pocket front and stitching them into place with a couple of rows of stitches at the tops on your sewing machine.  I placed the skirt so that the bottom edge would line up with the raw edge of the pocket.  That way, when you machine the pocket later with a 1/4 inch seam, the lace can be flipped down over the top to conceal the sewn edge.

The legs need to be placed 4cm apart.  Check they are centred by measuring the material you have left and right of them – it should be the same.  I sewed the legs so the feet pointed outwards, because I liked the quirky, fun look of that.  5 cm of the legs are covered by the dress.

The dress, hat, little neck and face are ironed onto fusible web before they are cut out.  You can now peel the paper off the back of your dress, neck and face and iron them into place, centred over the legs.  I tucked the neck under both the face and the top of the dress a little before ironing them all into position.

Sew all around the dress, close to the edge and sewing right over the arms and legs to hold them into place more firmly.

I like the way the arms and legs swing a bit as the bag moves – they give the doll some life?

Next, create a hairstyle for your doll.  Drape the wool/thread around her face and secure in three places with two rows of machine running stitch.

Trim the hat as you choose and iron that into place over the top of the hair.  The hat needs to sit around 1/2″ from the raw edge of the pocket top so it doesn’t get caught in the seam.  Sew all around the hat to secure it in place.  You will be sewing over your doll’s hair to give that more staying power at the same time.

Drawstring Bag - Sewing the Pocket
Sewing the Pocket - Keep her legs well out of the way!

Now you have created your doll, it’s time to make the pocket for her to sit on.

Sewing the Pocket

Place you second rectangle of pocket fabric over the doll with right sides together.  Pin up her legs and the lace trim on her dress so they don’t get caught in the seam.

Stitch all the way around the edge in a 1/4″ seam LEAVING A GAP OF AROUND 2″ UNDER THE CENTRE OF HER SKIRT FOR TURNING!

Drawstring Rucksack - Sewing the Pocket - Leave a 2" gap for turning
Sewing the Pocket - Leave a 2" gap for turning
Drawstring Rucksack - Sewing the Pocket
Drawstring Rucksack - Sewing the Pocket - Pink edges to neaten before turning

Pink the edges to neaten and press you pocket flat.  Now turn inside out and press again.  Haemostats are a great tool for this too – especially for making the corners neat.

Next – attach your pocket to the front of your bag making sure that you line up the pocket in the centre.  Hand folding the outer bag is a nice and easy way to find the centre.

Attach the pocket to the bag front by top stitching un a “U” shape, leaving the top open.  Sewing underneath the lace will sew your gap neatly shut.

Drawstring Rucksack - Attaching the Pocket

Making up the Drawstring Rucksack

How to Make the Drawstring Rucksack Loops

Take two pieces of fabric 4 1/2″ square.  Fold them in half and then fold each half into the middle.  Sew down each of the long sides to make your loops.

Drawstring Rucksack - Making the Loops
Drawstring Rucksack - Loops
Drawstring Rucksack - Making the Loops
Make 2 Loops

Making the Drawstring Rucksack

Following the You Tube video tutorial at the top of this post, this is how to make a fully line drawstring rucksack to show off your doll pocket.

  1. Serge/Overlock the long edges of the front and back of the bag.
  2. Place the back and from outers together with RIGHT SIDES FACING.
  3. Serge/overlock the bottom edges.  Make sure it is the bottom of the pocket, not the open end and keep her legs out of the overlocker!
  4. Fold your loops in half and place them at the bottom of each side of the outer front with the loop pointing inwards and the raw edge facing to the outside.  Check your width – you will need to be able to get two pieces of cord comfortably inside the loop later on.
  5. Machine the loops into place using 3 rows of stitching for strength.
  6. Trim off the raw edges.
  7. Mark 4″ from the top of the bag on each side and sew the seams together (Right Sides Together) beneath this.
  8. Turn the overcast edges above the seam to the wrong side and press in place.  You will have 4 edges to neaten – 2 on each side of the bag.
  9. Stitch the folded edges in place close to the edge.
  10. Do exactly the same to make the lining.
  11. Turn the outer bag to the right sideband press.
  12. Slip the outer inside the lining so that RIGHT SIES ARE TOGETHER inside the bag.  Your lining bag will be on the outside now, with the wrong side and seams showing.
  13. Sew across the raw edges on both sides of the bag.  Pink to neaten and turn the bag inside out through the opening on one of the sides.
  14. Push your lining inside the bag and press.
  15. Fold the top of your bag over to the inside to make a casing for the cord.  Machine in place.
  16. Thread your drawstring cord through a loop, all around the casing and back through the loop, finishing with a secure knot.
  17. Do this on both sides.
  18. If necessary, sew a row or two of stitches across your loop to make sure the knot doesn’t get pulled through it.
Drawstring Rucksack - Finishing the Top Edges
Drawstring Rucksack - Finishing the Top Edges
Drawstring Rucksack - Making the Casing
Drawstring Rucksack - Making the Casing
Drawstring Rucksack - Cord

A Drawstring Rucksack with a Pocket to be Proud of - Heart UpCycling

Your cute rucksack is now complete – ready to be enjoyed by a little girl in your life.  Or – have a heart and donate it to your local charity shop?

Charity shops are a great place to shop for the remnants you need to make the rucksack too.  Duvets are often donated and come in such pretty fabrics.  One duvet is enough to make several rucksacks.

Birmingham Hospice Logo

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