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Sewing a Rucksack: Free Backpack Pattern

Hi creative friends! We’re happy to share this free backpack pattern with you along with the step by step instructions for sewing a rucksack.

free backpack pattern

Making a functional canvas backpack

While I do love the outdoors and hiking especially with the family, our hikes are more on the casual side with many “photo-ops” and plenty of stops for snacking. I picture this canvas rucksack coming in handy for our fun outings. Although a true rucksack will have hip belts and likely chest belts, these additional straps can easily be added to your rucksack if you desire. 

free backpack pattern

I chose this rustic olive green color of canvas from Canvas Etc. line of 100% cotton duck-dyed canvas.  With it’s fire, water, weather and mildew resistant properties, this canvas is durable enough to withstand the toughest of hikes in the great outdoors. I also selected coordinating buckles, velcro and some grosgrain ribbon from their line of accessories to complete the project. 

The finished bag measures 20” high x 12” wide x 8” deep.  And although we have made our share of bags at Sustain My Craft Habit, such as this upcycled leather bag and this canvas drawstring bag, this new rucksack will hold a lot more things making it perfect for day trips and weekend getaways. Now that I think of it, my repurposed denim checkered picnic blanket would fit nicely inside this rucksack!

free backpack pattern

Materials Needed for Sewing a Rucksack:

How to Make a Canvas Rucksack:

Prewash and dry the cotton canvas prior to cutting and sewing. Remove it promptly from the dryer to minimize wrinkles and creases.

Cutting the free backpack pattern:

Download the free backpack pattern.

Print off the rucksack pattern onto 8×11 sheets of paper and tape all the pages together to form the pattern. The measurements of each pattern piece are listed on the pattern for reference and the pattern pieces are color coded for easier matching.

Place fabric on a smooth, flat surface. Next, place the pattern pieces on the fabric and pin in place while being aware of which pieces are cut 2, cut 4 or cut 1. Also, be sure to align the grain lines on the pattern with the fabric grain.

Cut along all the solid lines. The dash lines represent the sewing lines.

Be sure to mark the notches on all the pattern pieces. These will come in handy later when sewing. Mark all dots (for pocket placement) on the pattern using a piece of washable chalk of wax. Poke the center of the dot with a pin, lift pattern up and mark on the fabric where the pin meets the fabric. This step will help you position the pockets properly later on. 

Always remember to save your scrap fabrics when cutting out the fabric!  These deconstructed pencil case and fabric flowers would turn out great using this canvas. Other examples of projects using scraps include our scrap fabric pumpkins (no-sew), homemade lavender sachets and this pretty scrap fabric heart garland.

Cut the grosgrain tape into 6 pieces with these measurements:

  • x3 at 6” long
  • x2 at 20” long for the straps; 
  • X1 at 15” long
  • x1 at 3” long

How to Sew a Rucksack

Sewing the Shoulder Straps

Using one buckle for each strap, loop a 6” long cut grosgrain tape through each of the buckles. Stitch the looped grosgrain lengthwise as shown. 

With right sides facing up, place the prepared ribbon at the bottom of each strap aligning the cut edges. Stitch in place.

With right sides together, sew the two sides of each shoulder strap together at ½” seam allowance. True the seam allowance to eliminate bulk pefore turning the stitched straps right side out. Press flat and add an edge-stitch around the entire perimeter of both straps. 

Place prepared shoulder straps on the lower center back (CB) panel piece aligning the notches as shown.  Stitch the straps in place. 

Position a 6” long cut grosgrain tape at the center along the same cut edge spacing the ribbon ends 3” apart. Stitch in place to form locker loop.

Position the 20” long grosgrain ribbon along the CB side panel, 5” from the bottom hem as shown. Stitch in place and repeat on the other side with the other 20” long grosgrain ribbon.

Loop the ribbon ends through the other buckle pieces and stitch the ribbon ends with a double fold. You’ll know if the ribbon is looped through the buckles properly because it will lock in place when pulled.

With right sides together, sew the upper center back (CB) panel piece to the lower CB panel piece, sandwiching the shoulder straps and locker loop in between.

Using a serger or zig zag stitch, clean finish all cut edges to avoid fraying.  Alternatively, you can do this step at the very beginning prior to starting.

Sewing the Zipper

With right sides facing up, align the two lengthwise edges of the upper pattern piece. Place the vislon zipper over top and pin to the fabric, working on side of the zipper at a time. 

Sew one side of the zipper to the fabric and then repeat along the other side. 

Put piece aside until the rest of the bag is assembled.

Sewing the Pockets

Place pocket pieces on a flat surface with right sides facing up.

Loop the remaining 6” grosgrain ribbon through the buckle. Stitch the looped grosgrain lengthwise as done with the shoulder strap buckles.

Place the prepared ribbon at the center top of the large patch pocket piece. Stitch in place.

Align the upper pocket piece with the lower pocket piece, sandwiching the ribbon in between and sew pieces together. Fold seam allowance up and edge-stitch in place.

Sew one side of the hook and loop tape to the pocket facing.

Sew the pocket facing to the top edge of the pocket, fold seam allowance upward and understitch the seam. 

Fold the facing flap inward and topstitch in place just below the lower seam line.

Sew the other side of the hook and loop tape directly on to the front bag piece at the marked position.

Position the pocket onto the front of the rucksack, aligning the small dots. Topstitch pocket in place along all 3 sides of the pocket. For added reinforcement, add a triangle stitch to both corners of the pocket opening.

Assembling the Rucksack

With right sides together, sew the prepared back piece with the front piece along the sides and bottom edge.

Working one bottom corner at a time, fold the corners inward with the side seam aligning the bottom seam forming a peak as shown. 

Draw a straight line using removable chalk and a ruler intersecting the notches. Sew over the marked line. 

To reduce the bulk, you can choose to cut off the excess fabric from the peak and clean finish the cut edges with a zig zag or serge stitch. 

With right sides together, position the upper zippered piece with the opening of the bag aligning all notches. Sew pieces together, pivoting at the corners. 

Open the zipper and turn the rucksack inside out.  What do you plan to use your rucksack for?

If you’re looking for more sewing projects and free sewing patterns, check out these tutorials:

Like it? Pin it for later!

free backpack pattern

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Tuesday 8th of March 2022

Hello, I was able to download the pattern but cannot get the instructions to print. Please help, I don't have access to my computer in my sewing room...

Quentin Raisor

Tuesday 1st of March 2022

I Love this pattern but there are a couple of questions that I have but I am not sure who to contact would Love a video follow along


Saturday 5th of February 2022

This looks great. I do not understand the placement of 20' ribbon. How about a picture of backside as the front is very clear, but not the back. I have a great piece of canvas just the right amount all waxed and ready to go. Your pattern pieces are great especially since you also put cut measurements on them. Looking forward to getting this done. Thanks much

Jane and Sonja

Saturday 5th of February 2022

Hi there, I just added a sketch of the back of the rucksack so I hope you will find it more clear. I will send the visual to your email as well. Many thanks for your feedback and suggestions. Kind Regards, Sonja :)

Beatrice Coleman

Sunday 31st of October 2021

Good Afternoon, I saw this pattern for the rucksack and decided to make it as a Christmas gift for one of my nephews. I had no problem printing out the free pattern, thank you very much for that, however, when reading the instructions, I am a little confused with the measurements on cutting the Grosgrain tape. In the "Materials Needed" list, the pattern calls for one yard of 1" tape, however the instructions state cut the tape into 6 pieces: 3 at 6", 2 at 20", 1 at 15" and 1 at 3". I've checked my math and the cut pieces are longer than the one yard measurement. Also, the instructions are very clear except for the placement of the 3" piece of grosgrain tape and the two pieces of the 20" grosgrain tape. Am I missing something? Thank you in advance for answering my inquiry. Beatrice

Jane and Sonja

Monday 1st of November 2021

Hi there, thanks for your question! You're correct, the math does not add up...the total length of grosgrain ribbon tape should say 2 yards (not 1 yard). Also, I've added image in the post showing where to position the ribbon along the CB panel, 5" above the bottom edge. I hope this helps! Let me know. Many thanks, Sonja


Thursday 25th of March 2021

I also cannot. Is there a better link to those patterns?

Jane and Sonja

Thursday 25th of March 2021

Hi there, sorry for your trouble! I reloaded the link hopefully that will fix the glitch. Otherwise, please send me an email to [email protected] and I can forward the pattern PDF to you directly.

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