I've had a busy week making Sarah's backpack for school. We headed on over to Hancock Fabrics and she picked out some fabric for the exterior and interior lining, while I picked up the notions - zippers, webbing, etc. I hoped this was going to turn out sturdy, spacious, and nice for my girl, because the last 2 bookbags she has used for school have been terrible. That said, I got busy designing my own bag, inspired by bags on the market and various backpack patterns. The result - a great backpack and one that I modified a bit in size and function for my own pattern.
Sarah picked out some heavy fabric from the upholstery, home decor section - the brown plaid. This is the type of fabric you want to use when making your own bag, unless you quilt it, then you can use regular cotton fabrics. Still, heavyweight cotton and cotton blends like you find on large rolls (60") are the best choice for the exterior of the bag because of the sturdiness of the fabric. Sarah also picked out a bright Batik orange cotton fabric for the interior lining of the bag, a heavyweight 30" double-zipper for the top of the bag and another 14" zipper for the pocket on the front, and webbing for the straps.
I cut out all my pieces after I made some adjustments to the pattern I was using. TIP: Always label each pattern piece - what it is and the dimensions if you cut it for size and not directly from a pattern piece. That way, you're less likely to mess up when piecing the bag together.
When sewing in a zipper, it is a good idea to leave a little extra on the end with a safety pin until you are sure you've got it put together right and are ready for the next step.
This double zipper had to be turned around so that the zippers faced each other and the bag would open from the center out.
The difference between making a backpack and making a purse is that the lining does not sit freely in the bag. When making a purse, you make the exterior first and then make the lining and place in on the interior of the bag. In this case, the lining is applied to each and every piece of the puzzle individually from the start, then you sew each piece together.
I made tabs for each end of the zipper. It makes it easier to zip and unzip the backpack.
I made a little pocket for Sarah's iPod or cell phone on the interior of the bag. I thought Sarah would like that. After I got the backpack done, though, I thought I should have added a similar pocket to the exterior side too. I think I'll do that for my next bag. After pressing on the heavyweight interfacing to the back of the bag, I pinned on the lining.
I've seen a lot of backpacks with stitching designs on the back, so I added this one that was part of the pattern I was using. I liked it, but I didn't stop there. I worry about my child's spine, so I added cotton stuffing to the spine of the bag so that when she has heavy books in the bag, at least something soft is against her spine. Don't make it too stuffed though, or it will be a hard knot up against your child's spine! You want it to be soft and fluffy.
For the shoulder straps, I added 2 layers of cotton batting for comfort as well.
When you are making your backpack, remember where the stress points are and add extra stitching. I sewed back and forth over the webbing about 5-6 times for stability. I don't want the straps ripping out.
I could have left the straps alone after the first stitching, but I thought I would tuft it more with 2 more lines of extra quilting. The straps came out nice.
After I got the straps done, I pinned each to the top of the bag, but only after I measured a few inches from center on each side for placement onto the back panel of the bag.
I had looked around for adjusters and every place I looked had those black plastic buckles and sliders. I didn't want those. I wanted some nice metal adjustable sliders. I found them at Strapworks.com.
For the handle at the top of the bag, I used the interior cotton fabric for contrast, but because I knew that the handle would have a lot of stress on it carrying 532 lbs of books, I used 2 layers of heavyweight interfacing on the inside of the strap before stitching it together. Also, don't forget to go over the handle and the shoulder straps 5-6 times at least for stability and strength.
On to the top of the front pocket ...
and messing up the zipper. I knew I couldn't get through this entire project without my seam ripper. I stitched the zipper on backwards on the top of the pocket. I hate that when that happens.
Next was the placement of the front pocket. I eyeballed the positioning before stitching it to the front of the backpack.
Now for the fun part - Not. Stitching in the gusset (that's the part that gives the bag depth.) I found my centers and marked them with a safety pin.
I did the same for the front and back sections of the bag too. You find the centers by folding them in half and then marking them with a pin.
Not just North-South centers, but East-West centers as well.
I stitched on the gusset with the zipper to the front and back of the bag. Then I added bias binding to the exposed seams. I made the bias binding out of the left over cotton fabric from the interior of the bag. The binding in the original pattern was too narrow. So, I made a 1" bias binding with 2" of bias tape instead. It fit much better.
Nice handy handle.
Double stitching and ribbon pulls.
I added back triangles for the adjustable straps.
And I curved the shoulder straps so that they fit comfortably around the side of the bust and under the arms. I made an adjustment to the original pattern for more comfort on the shoulder straps and less stress on the side and under the arms.
See how comfy? It's all in the design. Pay no attention to poor Ethel here. Ethel is my dress form and she has pins in her neck.
Sarah will have a good 6.5+ inches to the depth of the bag and another 2 inches to the front pocket.
The interior is spacious. I added a pocket for folders on the back of the bag. I didn't add a pocket to the interior front of the bag but I think I will do that next time.
And there is the iPod / cell phone pocket tucked away in the corner.
And here it is! The finished bag. I even added a little orange pull-tab ribbon to the front zipper and green ribbons to the top zipper. I suppose I could have matched the pattern for the front pocket, but I didn't think about it when I cut it out. Oh well.
So what do you think?