Tutorial Tuesday: Make a Governors Island Backpack

This summer, the {NewNew} will commandeer one of Governors Island's original dwellings and transform it into a one-of-a-kind boutique of handmade treasures. To celebrate this event,  Kimm of KimmChi and I have collaborated on a special Governors Island backpack that will be available in our store. For those of you who won't be able to come to the Island we offer you this tutorial so you can make your own bag for your summer treasures:


  • Two 16"x16" pieces of fabric for the body of the bag
  • One 4" x 7" strip of fabric for the bottom loops
  • Two 4" x 17" strips of fabric for the cord casing
  • Two 2' lengths of cord

Step 1 - Make the Bottom Loops

Take the 4" x 7" strip of fabric, fold it in half left sides together and press it. Then fold the edges toward the middle line you created and press this piece.

Fold the strip in half again and press it. You know have a 1" x 7" folded strip of fabric.

Sew the open edge together with a 1/8 seam. Repeat on the other edge.

Cut the strip in half so you have two 1"x3.5" pieces of fabric.

Step 2 - Put Together the Body of the Bag

The body of the bag is sewn together with French seams as follows: take the two 16" squares, with left sides together and the right side of the top piece facing you, pin the sides and the bottom together leaving the top of the bag open.
Fold the two 1" x 3.5" pieces you just made in half and pin them between the top and the bottom layer about 3/4" from the bottom. These will form the loops at the bottom of the bag that you will use to attach the backpack cords.
Sew the sides and the bottom closed with a 1/4" seam allowance while catching the loop strips on the sides in your seam.

Clip the seam allowance to within 1/8" of the stitches.

Turn the body of the bag inside out with right sides together and the left (wrong) side of the fabric facing you.  Press the seams flat. With a 3/8" seam allowance stitch down the sides and the bottoms. This seam encloses the raw edge of the first seam.

Step 3 - Construct the Cord Casing

The only fabric remaining now are the two 4"x 17" strips of fabric for the casing.

To construct the first casing, fold over 3/8" of the long edge of the casing and press.
Repeat with the edge on the opposite side.
Then fold over 3/8" of the short edge of the casing and fold it over again enclosing the raw edge. Press. Repeat with the other short side. Stitch down one short side.

With right side of the casing touching the left side of the body of the bag, pin the casing to one side of the bag.
Make any adjustments necessary to match the length of the casing to the width of the bag.
Stitch down the other short side.
Sew the length of the casing to the width of the bag.
Turn the bag right side out

Press the seam down, away from the casing, toward the body of the bag.

Fold over the casing to enclose the seam you just pressed down.

With 1/8" seam allowance, stitch this edge of the casing to the bag's body creating a sort of tunnel.

Sew a second top stitch about 1/4" from the first stitch and 3/8" from the casing edge where it meets the body of the bag.

Repeat this process with the second casing.

You now have a bag with a casing that goes all around the top of the bag leaving two openings, one on each side of the bag.

Step 4 - Thread the Cord

Take one length of 2' cord and thread it through the casing all around the bag to exit at the same side where it entered the casing.

Thread one end of the cord through the loop on the same side of the bag and knot the two ends together.
Repeat with the other side.

Cinch your bag together and you're ready to go. Hope to see you on the island.