Beach Towel Backpack

My friend Liz (who blogs over at Think Thanks) handed me a contraption she picked up at a thrift store and told me it would make a great blog project. Liz is the type to take on new challenges and jump at new opportunities so there was a little bit of pressure for me to say “sure! I can reverse engineer someone else’s product without actually taking it apart and figure out how to make it on the cheap myself!” And it was, I thought, a total lie. Sort of like when Stephanie Plum threatens to shoot people but rarely has her gun loaded.

I wasn’t lying. My gun was loaded. Er, my sewing machine was set up and I tackled the project. This is a beach towel that then folds up into an easy to carry backpack (with enough room for a swimsuit and googles too!) No more toting a huge stack of towels around or having kids drag them on the ground! Genius.

Perfect timing, too, as I was able to get beach towels on clearance for $2-$5 each. And we know how I can’t resist a clearance bin.

Materials needed:

Option A: 3 beach towels (will make 2 complete backpacks)


Option B: 1 beach towel, 2 matching LARGE washcloths, and a third scrap towel that coordinates. This will make 1.

The benefit of option A is that you get 2 backpacks when you’re done. The benefit of option B is that there won’t be unfinished edges to clean up.

The pictures may help… or may make it worse. I have made a few of these so I picked the best pictures I could from the various attempts. But it really would be easier if I could show you. Can’t you all just come over for a sewing lesson? I’m free most Wednesdays.

If you are using option A, set aside 2 of the towels and if you are using option B, set aside the main towel. You will not be cutting it because, well, this is your towel.


Option A: Take one of your towels and cut 2 strips off the bottom, measuring 4 inches each. Fold the edges to the middle, fold edges together, and then sew it closed. Do this with both straps. You can trim at least 3-4 inches off of the end of the strap. I didn’t, and Eden can wear hers even if she gains 200 pounds and grows 4 feet taller. If you don’t feel you need so much flexibility for size increase, trim them down.

Edges to the middle. Now fold along that middle and sew down the edge to make a strap.

Option B: Using your scrap towel, do as explained with option A.


Option A: Take the same towel you used to cut the straps from. Fold it in quarters. Cut to about 18 inches long. Be sure not to cut the folded edge. Cut along the loose bottom edge.

Then cut along the folds to form 4 separate pieces. These will form 2 separate backpacks.

Option B: No cutting needed. Your two washcloths will form the backpack.

On the top of all backpack pieces, front and back, you will need to make an open casing for a drawstring. I suppose this is optional but handy to keep googles and swimsuit from falling out.

If you are using Option A, you will have to finish the edges. Otherwise the open edges of your casing will fray. I just folded it over and did a zig-zag stitch.

Quick, easy, and makes the world of difference on the finished product.

For both option A and option B: Fold over the top of your back pack pieces and stitch about where my thumb is, all the way across. Do this on the front and the back pieces of the backpack. I used a zig zag stitch to be sure I caught the folded under edge. This is for your drawstring.

Now it’s time to piece it all together!

Put the front of the backpack right side up. Lay the straps on top of it with the bottom of them at the corners.

Place the back of the backpack right side down on top. Sew around the 2 sides and the bottom of the piece, being careful not to stitch closed the casing. And also make sure you only sew the straps in place at the BOTTOM. You want them loose for the next step.

Turn the bag right side out. Join the loose strap ends in the middle of the back of the backpack. Sew them in place.

And I realize I have absolutely no picture of the straps being sewn in place. You’re going to have to use your imagination. Or come over for a sewing lesson.

Now, turn your bag inside out again. Take out your original, pristine condition beach towel. Lay it right side down. Position the backpack in the upper corner — completely flush with the edges of your towel. I found it best to put the side where the straps connect face down to hide the unpleasant stitching.

Sew the sides and bottom down. Sew the layer touching the pristine towel at the tippity toppity of the casing.

Add a drawstring and you have a backpack that doubles as a beach towel that doubles as a not-dragged-in-mud pool accessory!

And additional step if you used option A: you can use your overlock stitch to finish any lose edges. Since this project is designed to be turned inside out, it does give it a nicer look.

Clear as mud? I told you — you should come OVER and I’ll teach you. Or I’ll figure out how to do a video doohickey thing.  Let me know if you make one!

These would make great bags for the pool!

A video doohickey thing, haha! This is super cool. And I love the Angry Birds! I think your directions are enough to figure it out. I’ll let you know, ’cause I definitely plan to make some for the kids by next summer!


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