How to Make an Oilcloth BackPack – tutorial

6 Feb

I started out this backpack thinking, as I often do, that it will be easy and it will take no time at all.  But juggling the thinking and making of it with a toddler’s sleep patterns, school runs and a first try at a new bag pattern, amongst a few other things, all help add on the minutes to the make.  This is a friend’s birthday present and it was a bit more tricky finding good oilcloth fabric for him, so his partner and I decided on plain fabrics.

Please note:  this is a first attempt at a backpack, so if you have quicker methods or other ideas on some of the steps and or design – do use them.  Also I have omitted the front pocket from the tutorial as it is convoluted enough.  The backpack is unlined.

You will need:

80cm/31″ x 40cm/15.5″ Oilcloth of choice (body)

28cm/11″ x 15cm/6″ Oilcloth (base)

Two pieces of oilcloth roughly 14cm x 7cm (Yin and Yang design or design of choice)

10cm/4″ x 46cm/18″ Oilcloth for Shoulder Straps (X2)

15cm by 8cm Oilcloth for strap fixtures (x4)

72cm/28.5″ x 2.5cm/1″ black webbing for adjustable base straps

5cm/2″ x 36cm/14″ webbing for handle and strap support

Two 2.5cm/1″ Buckles

14 Eyelets

90cm/36″ x 2.5cm/1″ red oilcloth (closure cord)

10cm/4″ x 5cm/2″ blue oilcloth (toggle)

  • Cut out base of 28cm by 15cm, I added central piece to make it more interesting.

  • Cut out two times 40cm by 40cm piece of oilcloth ( blue and red as seen here) or just a single 80cm by 40cm piece for the main body of the bag.
  • Cut out pattern of appliqué.  I chose a Yin and Yang.

  • Cut out the circles of the yin and yan by marking the circle with a sharp pair of scissors to help.

  • Sew the two pieces of the main body together, right sides together, top stitch the seam.
  • Appliqué the pattern onto this front seam placing it centrally so the opposing colours fit.  (Next time I would add the appliqué onto my pocket, or more centrally as the Yin and Yang is a bit hidden behind the strap closure, if you do put the appliqué high remember to leave about 7cm/3″ for the fold down seam at the top)

  • Now put the right sides of the oilcloth body together and sew up the back seam, you can top stitch the seam for a neater finish.
  • Next fold down your top seam.  Oilcloth does not fray.  I folded my seam to measure 3cm/1and a quarter inch. to fit the eyelets. Using straight stitch, hem.

  • For the Base Straps – Take two pieces of oilcloth measuring 15cm by 8cm.  Fold in raw edges on the short sides and hem.  Fold in the raw edges down the long sides, put these folds together and sew together.

  • Place the black webbing in on side and sew to reinforce, like this:

  • Divide your base into quarters and mark with paper clips.
  • Now measure 2″ from the centre paper clip of the long base edge and fasten the strap to the base sewing into place. Repeat this on the this on the other side.
  • Mark your main body into quarters too.  Fit the base to the main body using the quarter markers.  Secure with paper clips.

  • Sew the base and straps onto the main body of the bag.  To reinforce  repeat with a zigzag stitch all the way round the base.
  • For the Shoulder Straps – Take one piece of oilcloth measuring 15cm by 8cm.  Fold in the raw edges down the long sides, put these folds together and sew together. Repeat.
  • Thread one buckle through each of these sewn pieces of oilcloth.
  • Take one 10cm x 46cm piece of oilcloth for one shoulder strap, fold over the raw edges (length wise – TIP – use paper clips to hold in place)  sew together.  Add the short piece of oilcloth  and buckle onto the shoulder strap, reinforce with more stitching. Repeat for other shoulder strap.


  • Sew the straps into place 1″ either side of the back seam.  If you wish add a handle behind the straps and sew into place simultaneously.  (I added blue onto the top of these straps.)

  • Add a further piece of 15cm/6″webbing over the straps to reinforce and neaten off.

  • For the eyelets all tools and instructions should come with the packet.  I used 14 eyelets on this bag, spacing them out at roughly 1and half inch to 2 inches.
  • Sew the cord together, wrong side out using paper clips to hold in place .   This is because oilcloth is sticky and not good for pulling through the eyelets.
  • The toggle is a piece of blue oilcloth measuring 10cm/4″ by 5cm/2″ seamed top and bottom (longer sides), folded over, sewn together and turned the right way round and halved again by sewing.
  • Pull cord through each side of the toggle and tie knots on each side of the cord.

One beautiful backpack – finished!


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