New pattern: The Compact Backpack (zero waste)

The Compact Backpack

Hi Everyone, I have a new zero waste pattern: The Compact Backpack.

It’s in my little Etsy shop now; please enjoy 25% off during February.

Zero waste Compact Backpack

The Compact Backpack is compact in two ways:

Firstly, the pattern pieces fit exactly into a 105cm/41⅜” x 64cm/25¼” rectangle with zero waste.

The Compact Backpack layout

And, if you make the backpack in a very lightweight fabric it will fold down small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

The Compact Backpack all folded up

The backpack has adjustable straps, a front pocket and a zip.

Compact backpack sketch

This pattern is a little different from my usual ones; it has curves aplenty on it, so all the pieces are in a PDF file to print out, rather than drawing them straight onto the fabric.

The Compact Backpack can be made in a variety of fabrics including denim, canvas, furnishing fabrics, corduroy, nylon ripstop, or even quilting cotton. Lighter weight fabrics make a more compactable backpack, and heavier fabrics will make a stronger, more durable bag.

A nylon ripstop bag folds down very small indeed, and although it’s not the best fabric environment-wise, secondhand ripstop can be harvested from an old tent, tent fly, bivouac bag or synthetic tracksuit.

It’s actually a good project for secondhand textiles. All the fabrics you see in this blog post are secondhand or repurposed. The black one is secondhand nylon ripstop, the denim one was jeans and the floral one (further below) was a curtain. You could use a lightweight tarp, oilskin tablecloth or curtain if the fabric is still good. Clips for the straps could be saved from an old backpack.

An entire backpack can be cut from a pair of men’s jeans:

Compact backpack
This denim version is cut from a pair of men’s jeans which were rejects from the opshop.
Op shop jeans
Here’s what I started with. Men’s W33, L34.
They had worn patches on the seat but otherwise were very good.
Compact backpack cutting layout for using jeans
Here’s how I cut the backpack.
I unpicked the back pockets first and used them as interior pockets on the backpack.
You can see I didn’t use all the jeans and have some spare denim left for other things.

Here’s my original backpack prototype, made from a curtain:

Floral Compact backpack
Compact backpack made from a curtain
Folded-up floral backpack
It still folds up reasonably small.

How I wish I had a backpack like this 25 years ago, on holidays traveling. I could have just done with a compactable daypack, slipped into the corner of my luggage, and brought out to hike/shop/sightsee/etc.

Still, the ripstop backpack fits easily into my handbag in case a spare shopping bag is needed.

Nylon compact backpack
Compact backpack
denim compact backpack


UPDATE: Take a look at Sue Stoney’s backpack here.

UPDATE: @sewandrew did a 2 hour sewalong for @pfaffuk and shows us how to convert the front pocket into a pouch to hold the folded-up bag.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Katharina printed the pattern out at 75% and made a backpack for a 7-year old. She lined it too. She kindly sent some photos to show you:

Compact backpack for a 7 year old
She used a cute doggy print.
Spotty lining for Compact backpack
She lined it in red spotty fabric.
Olive backpack
She made another one at 75% which she says fits an adult quite comfortably. She put 2 darts instead of 1 in the gusset, and interfacing on the back and bottom pieces.


  1. Anthea Martin on February 10, 2021 at 5:32 pm

    Fantastic and great photos

    • lizhaywood on February 10, 2021 at 8:42 pm

      Thanks for being an important part of it Anthea 🙂

  2. Beth on February 11, 2021 at 1:42 pm

    Perfect. I’m going to make one for my sister to use to walk to work 🙂

    • lizhaywood on February 12, 2021 at 12:03 pm

      She’ll love it – I’ve been wearing the denim one for bike rides and it’s very comfortable.

  3. Sam Chandler on February 12, 2021 at 7:58 am

    I love this idea Liz, I’ve been doing regular videos on a Friday called Frugal Friday, focussing on free sewing patterns, discounts & giveaways & will give the pattern a shout out, since you have 25% off.

  4. Bsrkat on February 16, 2021 at 2:55 am

    Very beautiful idea. Nice new pattern .

    • lizhaywood on April 25, 2021 at 10:33 am

      Thank you! Sorry, I only just saw your comment.

  5. mark on April 25, 2021 at 4:47 am

    awesome collection of handmade clothes backpacks. Seems beautiful. eye-catching shape and design forced viewers to buy it at once. Happy to see your great effort.

    • lizhaywood on April 25, 2021 at 10:34 am

      Many thanks Mark, it’s been very popular.

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