Convertible Tote/Backpack Tutorial

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Finished bag in tote mode.

It’s a tote, it’s a backpack, it’s either and both! The secret is in the placement of the straps. Stitch up this gem in a jiffy and you’re ready for any occasion. I suggest using a somewhat heavy fabric, such as canvas or denim. I used canvas fabric that was custom printed from my own design on Spoonflower.  If you choose a more lightweight fabric, consider interfacing it before you begin the construction process.

Materials to sew a convertible totebag/backpack:

  • Main body  14″ x 36″ of fabric
  • Straps (2)  6″ x  28″ of fabric
  • Strap Carriers (2) 3″ x 4″ pieces of fabric
  • Thread to match fabric and carriers, 40wt or 50 wt
  • Machine Needles, size 90
  • Sewing Machine in good working order. I used a BERNINA 770 QE

As a reference, here’s an overview of how the straps and carriers will be aligned and sewn on the back of the bag. You can refer to this as well as the photos below.

backpack illustration complet diagram

How to make a convertible tote backpack.

Step 1: Cut out fabrics according to list above.

Step 2: Fold up ½” on the end of each strap.

Convertible tote backpack 1200 x 1600 BERNINA WeAllSew Blog step 2

Step 3: Make straps by folding each in half vertically and pressing the folded edge. Open the strap, then fold each raw edge into the center crease. Press again, then topstitch both long edges.

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Step 3: Fold straps to prepare for stitching.

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Step 3: Topstitch long edges of straps.

Step 4: Align and pin one end of each strap on the bag back as seen in the overview diagram and photo below. In this photo the bag is folded in half. After pinning the straps, unfold the bag fabric, then stitch across the ends of the straps through the single layer of fabric.

Convertible tote backpack 1200 x 800 BERNINA WeAllSew Blog strap placement

Step 5: Prepare strap carriers. Fold in ¼” on each side to produce a 2 ½” by 4″ rectangle. Fold in half, wrong sides together, with the 2 ½” sides matching. Unfold, then fold each end into the center and fold in half again.

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Step 5: Folding carriers to prepare for stitching.

Step 6: Topstitch around each carrier. Each carrier should now measure 1″ x 2 ½”.

Convertible tote backpack 1200 x 800 BERNINA WeAllSew Blog carrier top stitching

Step 7: Press the top edges of the bag down ½”, then ½” again to serve as a guide when finishing the top in Step 10.

Step 8: Sew the side seams, right sides together, with a ½” seam. Finish the edges with a serger or by zigzagging over the edges.

Step 9:  While the bag is still inside out, trim both bottom corners of the bag as shown below.

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Step 9: Trimming Corners

Step 10: Match the cut edges and sew with a ¼” seam. Zigzag or serge to finish.

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Step 10: Boxing corners.

Step 11: Turn the top down twice, using pressed fold lines as a guide. Topstitch the finished edge.

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Step 11: Turn down top edge twice, then topstitch.

Step 12: Turn bag right side out.

Step 13: Sew strap carriers to the top edge on the same side as the straps are sewn as shown in the photo below and the overview diagram. Each carrier should be 2 ½” from the side seam, with 3″ between the strap carriers. Attach each carrier with two parallel lines of stitching, with each stitching line about 1/4″ from the short ends of the carrier. Keep the stitching far enough apart to allow for the straps to thread through the carriers.

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Step 13: Carrier placement on top edge of back of back.

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Step 13: Sew strap carriers to the top edge of the outside of the bag.

Step 14: Thread the straps through the carriers.

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Step 14: Thread the straps through the carriers.

Step 15: Sew the ends of the straps to the top inside edge of the opposite side of the tote. Note that I used clear tape to hold the strap in place for stitching. With the bulk of that many layers of fabric it’s difficult to get a pin to hold everything flat.

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Step 15: Sew the ends of the straps to the top inside edge of the opposite side of the tote.

Depending on how you pull up the handles, you can use this bag as either a tote or small backpack.

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Straps pulled up to create backpack option.

Here it is in action!

Easy Convertible Totebag/Backpack Tutorial Backpack mode in action.

I hope you have fun with this easy and versatile tote.

4 thoughts on “Convertible Tote/Backpack Tutorial

  1. I like this project for my church’s local outreach mission. We have a huge demand for backpacks. Purchased backpacks can get pricey. I have plenty of fabric to spare for a few of these. Lol.

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