Upcycling shorts to a funky soft backpack

I had a few pairs of soft shorts that didn't fit very well. I've had them a few years and really like the bright colours so wanted to make something fun with them.

Here's how to made a funky soft backpack:

First cut the seams and trims off the shorts to get panels of fabric in various sizes, plus the drawstrings:

Then place the pieces roughly together to make 2 rectangles which  form the main outer parts of the bag:

Then trim and square off the pieces before stitching them together.  The long waistband pieces are used for the bag straps - 2 waistbands stitched together for each strap.

So with my shorts I ended up with 
2 rectangles measuring 42 x 34 cm (16.5 x 13.5")
And for the straps
2 pieces measuring 168 x 12cm (68 x 5")

For the lining of the bag, cut 2 more large rectangles the same size as the outer pieces - I used an old sarong:

For the lining:
Place the two rectangles right sides together and pin around 3 sides leaving the top short edge open.  You also need to leave a gap of a few inches on one of the longer sides to allow you to turn the bag out at the end.

I chose to add a clip to the inside of my bag here. It was a plastic clip I had salvaged from something years ago. I threaded a piece of the shorts cord through this and stitched it into the seam of the lining:

For the outer bag:
Once again, place the two rectangles face together, pin then stitch around 3 edges - 2 long one short.  This time you need to leave a gap near the top edge of the bag on both sides which will be where you thread the straps through:

You also need to add the loops at the base of the bag for the straps to thread through. I used 2 pieces of the shorts drawstring for this - each was 15 cm (6") long. Simply loop this in half and place one in each bottom corner of the bag. Run the stitching over these several times for added strength:

Putting the bag together:
Leave the lining inside out, but turn the outer bag part right side out, then push inside the lining. The right sides of both bag parts should now be facing each other:

Pin then stitch all the way around the top edge.

Turn the bag out through the gap in the lining, and stitch the opening closed:

To make the casing for the drawstring strap:
At the top opening of the bag, run two rows of stitching all the way around the bag on either side of the gaps in the side of the bag:

To make the straps:
Iron the strips of fabric in half, 

Fold both short edges in before you iron:

then open out and iron the outer edges towards the centre. 

Finally fold the fabric in half again to completely enclose the raw edges. Top stitch around all 4 edges. Repeat for the other strap.

Now you just need to thread the straps through the casing in the top of the bag.

Using a large safety or nappy pin, push one strap into the casing on one side of the bag, thread right through and out the same side.  Make sure the strap is even, then tie both ends to the loop at the base of the bag on that side.

Repeat with the other strap on the other side of the bag:

All done!
I made a mini drawstring bag with the left over scraps from the shorts. 

I can clip this into the inside of my backpack for money, keys etc.

I'm really pleased with my new backpack.

It's bright, colourful, comfortable and different on both sides!

Not a bad transformation - don't you think?

For the free downloadable PDF version of this tutorial - click here.

To see more ideas for shorts upcycling, you can take a look at my Shorts Upcycling Pinterest Board.

Or you can check out over 600 ideas for upcycling any clothing by visiting the long term linky here. Please feel free to add your own clothes upcycling projects too. It's a very popular resource - visited hundreds of times every day.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, then why not have a look at my other free sewing tutorials


  1. Hi, Jill! Thi swas one of the best "makeovers" of old clothing I've seen! wonderful job, the bag is just too good!

  2. I love the mix-n-match color blocking you created from the multiple shorts! What a fab upcycle!

    1. Thanks Mich - I'm loving the bright colours!! :)

  3. Awesome upcycle - it looks great!

  4. Love this!!! I'd love it if you'd add it to our link party @ http://thecraftiestallie.blogspot.com/2013/11/its-that-time-again-friday-follow-along.html

  5. Such a cheery bag! Who would have thought that it's made from old shorts!


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