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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Summer Backpack

If you've ever carried a dark-colored purse in the Summer, you know that dark colors absorb heat. With this in mind, I went looking for a white backpack to use at theme parks.  No such animal existed, so I made my own.  Last Spring I made my first bag.  It was a success till the string broke two weeks ago.  Since it also had an ink stain from a leaking pen, I opted to make a new backpack, but this time, I added a pocket on the inside for smaller items that tend to get lost once several items are placed in the main section of the backpack.  Use my directions to make your own.  The designs were embroidered using a Brother embroidery machine, but you can use your imagination to make your bag "yours".

  • 1 yd of sport nylon (it's more than enough for 1 bag, but not quite large enough for 2)
  •  12 inch nylon zipper
  • thread
  • 3 1/2 yards of 1/16 in. twist cord
  • 2 sets of large eyelets
  • 1 inch square of leather or non-raveling         ribbon or fabric
  • small scraps of interfacing or stabilizer


Cut two pieces of sport nylon  1 - 20 long  x 18 wide  and 1- 18x18

Inserting the Zipper:
Fold the 20 x 18 piece in half and stitch 1 inch seam along the fold across the fabric.  Smaller stitches can be used at the beginning of the seam for about 2 inches, longer stitches in the middle, and smaller at the end.  This seam will eventually be cut open for the zipper, so if the stitches are not so tight, it will be easier to open the seam.  The ends of the seam will not be opened, so they can be tighter.

Cut along the fold and lay the seam flat.

Lay the zipper, face down, and center it along the seam.

Using a zipper foot, stitch the zipper in place.  My actual bag did have better stitching around the zipper.

Using a seam ripper, carefully open the seam JUST over the front of the zipper.

I'm right handed, so I prefer to have the zipper open from right to left.  Turn the top in the direction in which you want to open the zipper and mark it with a sticky dot, or if you intend to decorate the front, now would be a good time to do so.

Forming the Outside Zipper Pocket:
Measure the distance from the raw edge of the seam to the bottom of the bag.  It should be about 9 inches, but it's better to measure, than just cut the fabric for the zipper pocket.  The width of this piece will be the same as the bag; 18 inches.  In the photo, you can see, my zipper pocket piece ended up much closer to 10 inches.

Lay top of the zipper seam even with the rectangle you just cut.  Stitch along the top, catching the zipper, one layer of the outside fabric, and pocket fabric, about 1/4 inch.  Stitch again using a zig-zag stitch or overcast stitch.  Sport nylon ravels if you look at it, so overcasting the seams will extend the life of your backpack.  Better yet, if you have a serger, stitch along all the edges before you assemble.

Stitch along the sides and bottom to close the pocket.  I added a side seam from the edge of the zipper to the bottom.  I wanted to make it impossible for small items to move to the far corners of the pocket.

Use a piece of sport nylon to make a pocket for the inside.  My wallet is more rectangular than square, so I cut it about 7.5 inches long by 5.5 inches deep.  Hem the pocket on all three sides and use a narrow hem foot finish the top.  If you don't have a narrow hem foot, just fold over the edge twice and stitch the fold.  Basically, you want a finished edge.

Place the inside pocket piece just slightly below the center on the backpack back piece (18x18), and stitch along the bottom of the pocket.  Move the sides of the pocket in about 1/4 inch so that the pocket gaps a bit. Stitch down each side.  The gap makes it easier to place something in the pocket and prevents the back from being pulled out of shape.  Now stitch along the three sides again, but this time, make sure you are just to the left of the raw edge which you may just see through the pocket.  This encases the raw edge and gives a bit more strength to the pocket.

Notice that the sides do not form a 90 degree angle.  They angle in just a tad to give the pocket a gap.

Assembling the bag:
Place the right sides of the front and back together.  Trim the bottom edges so they are even. Stitch 1/2 inch seams along the sides and bottom.  Serge or overcast the seams.

Serge or overcast the raw edge of the top of the bag.

Making the cord openings:
Measure down from the raw edge of the bag 1 1/2 inches.  Sew large button holes (an inch or so), parallel to the raw edge, on either side of each side seam.   The buttonholes will be the opening through which the cords will enter and exit the casing.

Making the cord casing:
With the bag right-side out, fold the top to the inside 1 inch.  The buttonholes will be showing on the outside of the bag.  Stitch along the raw edge.

Fold the nylon cord in half, and wrap the cord with clear tape.  The tape keeps the cord from fraying while putting it through the casing.  Cut the cord in half over the tape.

Thread the cord through the casing, starting at one end and ending up at the buttonhole next to where you started. A bodkin is handy for this, but a safety pin will do.  Thread the second piece of cording the same way, but start at the opposite side of the backpack.

Fold a 2 inch piece of  of interfacing or stabilizer and place it inside the bag,  between the front and back of the bag near the zipper.  Make a large buttonhole through all layers of the bag near the outside edge.  It will need to be large enough to fit the center of the eyelet.  Using the tools suggested on the package, attach the eyelets to the bag.  You could skip the button hole, but I thought this would keep the eyelet from tearing through.

Thread the cords through the eyelets.  Adjust the length of the cords for comfort.  You can tie a large knot at the end of the cord, or fold a piece of leather, or other fabric that won't ravel, over the cords and stitch across the cords several times.

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