Sunday, June 26, 2011

Toddler Backpack "Winging it" Tutorial

What is a "winging it" tutorial, you may ask? Isn't that an oxymoron? Perhaps it is.

While searching for directions or patterns to make Tobias a little backpack for his birthday, I found several very cute backpacks and the directions to make them. None of the patterns looked quite like what I was thinking, and I'm a little scared of doing zippers. So I ended up "winging it" and making my own pattern.

I took pictures of what I did so that I would be able to finish the second backpack (for his friend). Here are some simple instructions of how I did it so you can make one too, in case completely winging it isn't your style.

You will need an unspecified amount of canvas (I used misc. scraps), 2 buckles or sets of D rings, an unknown amount of webbing, and some elastic. The seam allowances for the main seams of the body and top flap are 1/2 inch. Pockets and details have smaller seam allowances. Use a heavy duty needle for canvas or denim, or be prepared to go through a lot of needles.
  1. Cut 11" x 6" rectangle of canvas or sturdy cloth for the bottom of the backpack
  2. Cut 35" x 14" (or desired height plus 2 inches) for the body of the backpack
  3. Cut 2 pieces, 12" x 5", for the straps.
  4. Cut a piece of newspaper 10.5" x 7.5". Then round two of the corners to make the paper into a "D" shape. This is the pattern for the top flap of the backpack.
  5. Place your D-pattern with the long straight side on the fold of the fabric and cut that out.
  6. Create the straps by sewing the pieces into tubes, turning right side out, and then pressing them with the seam in the middle (this seam will be towards the child's body when wearing the backpack, or towards the outside if you prefer). If desired, place a small rectangle of fleece inside the top of each strap for padding, avoiding the very top inch or two that will end up being in the seam allowance. I used a pencil to shove the fleece into the tube and flatten in out.
  7. Press one end of each tube into the pointed shape shown in the picture below by pushing the side of each strap towards the inside of the tube and then ironing into place. (I have 4 straps because I was making 2 backpacks, if you are making 1 backpack you should have 2 straps!)
  8. Fold the tips of each piece of fabric towards the inside of the tube and press. All the raw edges on this end of the strap should now be pressed to the inside and it is ready to sew to the webbing portion of the strap.
  9. Sew 6.5" or 7" piece of webbing onto each buckle or set of D-rings.
  10. Insert the other end of the webbing into the folded tips of the canvas straps. Topstitch to secure the webbing in place and continue topstitching around the edge of the entire strap.
  11. Cut a front pocket, if desired, 12.5" or 13" wide by 8" tall. The finished width of my pocket is 8" and height is 6". Each side has a "bellows pocket" type pleat in it to give it a little depth. Hem the top of the pocket, zigzag stitch the side edges if desired so they don't ravel inside the pocket, and press the sides into the pleated shape. There should be 6 vertical folds in your pocket. I put a few stitches in the middle of the "M" pleat so that it stays pleated. The picture below shows the finished pocket from the top so you can see the shape of the side folds. You can do another style of pocket if you prefer, or another size.
  12. Add a small piece of velcro to the center of the pocket (if you forget like I did, you can still do it later).
  13. Sew the bottom piece of the backpack to the center of the body piece of the backpack,
    including the bottom of the pocket in the seam.
  14. The sides of the pocket will still be un-sewn, topstitch them down.
  15. Finish sewing the body to the bottom and then sew up the back seam. Trim any extra fabric from the back seam and zigzag inside seam edges to prevent fraying if desired. It should now look somewhat bag-like.
  16. Make a loop of elastic for the top that, when stretched, will allow the bag to fully open.
  17. Press the top of the bag to form a casing, then sew with elastic inside. Here's a picture of the elastic casing on the finished backpack.
  18. Sew straps and hanging loop to the top back of the bag, right underneath the casing.
  19. Make top flap: sew a seam around the edge of your D-piece, leaving a hole to turn right side out. Turn, clip curves, press, and topstitch. I did two rows of stitching for a decorative effect.
  20. Topstitch the flap onto the body of the backpack, right over top of the topstitching that attached the straps and loop in step 18.
  21. Cut two 8.5"-9" pieces of webbing. Finish one end (by sewing or using no-fray solution).
  22. Seam rip two small openings in the bottom back seam for these pieces and sew them into the seams. Attach to buckles or D-rings.
  23. Make a pull-tab from extra fabric or webbing. Attach pull-tab and velcro pieces to top flap. I used a square-and-X design to firmly attach the tab, and hand-sewed the velcro to the tab in order not to make extra stitching marks on the front of it.
  24. Attach the opposite pieces of velcro for the top flap and the pocket.
  25. Insert firm rectangle (cardboard or plastic) into bottom of backpack if desired to help hold shape. Make any needed adjustments to the backpack and try it on the child!
There, only 25 steps. Simple, right! I would love to hear from anyone who has found this tutorial useful. Please comment with questions, suggestions, and variations that you came up with.


Anonymous said...

this is awesome thanks for the tutorial. it's on my list to try but alas i'm new to sewing and have a list of what i want to make and few ideas come to fruit from my imagination.

Hannah said...

We've been using the backpack for a month or two now. If you plan on putting a lot of heavy things in it (like, a lot of board books), you might want to use something stronger than velcro to hold it closed. If I have it filled with lighter things (diaper + jacket + little cars + 1 book) then there is no problem.

Anonymous said...

Did you have to use a sewing machine for this or can u just do it by hand?

thesleeplesscreativemom said...

I have been looking for an easy to open backpack for my twins. This one is perfect. Thank you so much!