August 27, 2014

The Annual Backpack, 2014

The annual backpack. It started when The Peanut began preschool at the tiny age of two and half, I wanted to send her with something reminiscent of my favorite school bag ever, a yellow, Snoopy-adorned satchel. I couldn't find anything like it, so I decided to sew one. It was supposed to get her through the preschool years, but she had trouble opening it herself. So the next year I sewed a more traditional, if little-kid sized backpack. And that one was supposed to get her to kindergarten. But then she started a second program the following year which required a tote bag. And that is how the school bag accidentally became an annual tradition. One which I now plan to continue for as long as she'll let me.

The Annual Backpack, 2014 | A modified Kids Backpack by The Sterling Owl in outdoor fabric & duck canvas. | The Inspired Wren
She chose the chevron all by herself from the entire wall of Outdoor Fabrics at Joann Fabrics. I chose the yellow.


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The school supply list for kindergarten specifies a "backpack big enough for a large library book." The pattern I used two years ago is not that big. But I like the details and the construction. So I took The Peanut to LL Bean and Pottery Barn kids where we tried on backpacks until we found a good size for her back and for large library books: 12 x 5 x 15. Then I snapped a pic of the label to note the size and we left empty-handed. We do a lot of this kind of "window shopping" these days.


The Annual Backpack, 2014 | A modified Kids Backpack by The Sterling Owl in outdoor fabric & duck canvas. | The Inspired Wren
Those straps are contoured and foam-padded, thankyouverymuch.

The old, smaller backpack never really opened wide enough for The Peanut to master getting her things in and out on her own. Therefore when I extended the height on the pattern, I kept the old height of the side panels and added three inches to the top and two inches to the width (and one inch to the depth), and I also re-drafted the top to be less round. This meant carefully measuring and calculating the new top/zipper portion of the backpack. I used a flexible, curve drafting ruler [Amazon affiliate link] to measure the original pattern and when I understood how the zipper portion was calculated, I repeated the measuring and calculating on my new pattern. Happily it worked on the first attempt. 

I also kept the height of the front pockets from the original pattern and ...I sort of regret that. I think the proportions aren't as nice now (makes a mental note to adjust that piece taller for next year). I may yet add a patch with her initial above the pockets to balance the look of the bag.


The Annual Backpack, 2014 | A modified Kids Backpack by The Sterling Owl in outdoor fabric & duck canvas. | The Inspired Wren
I love the front two pockets, but they were never used on the previous backpack. I'll be curious if these see any use.


But! I had grand success with the straps. The pattern calls for batting but I had foam on hand (from a robot costume), however the foam sticks to itself so it becomes impossible to turn. On the older backpack I opted to simply make a fabric/foam/fabric sandwich, cut off the seam-allowance and bias bind the sides. This year I figured out that basting a piece of quilting cotton on top of the foam meant the foam couldn't stick to itself and the quilting cotton slid easily, okay not easily, but slid and I was able to turn the straps.  

But by far the best part of making this fourth school bag was using Clover Wonder Clips [Amazon affiliate link] for the first time instead of pins. Where have these things been all my (sewing) life?! Seriously rocked my world. And I highly recommend them for anyone doing any kind of heavy duty/thick sewing. Also, I only broke one needle this year -- I tend to push the thick stuff through, instead of letting the machine do the work -- and that's a record for me. Probably because for the first time I completed it over a week in advance (instead of 12 hours before the school bell).

The Annual Backpack, 2014 | A modified Kids Backpack by The Sterling Owl in outdoor fabric & duck canvas. | The Inspired Wren
I love the all-yellow interior, bright and hopefully easy to find things.


Fabric

Waverly Sun N Shade Outdoor Fabric, Panama Wave in Azure
Duck Canvas Fabric, Yellow & Navy (on the bottom)
  

Love

The double pockets on the front (one with a zip, and behind that another one with velcro) and the name window inside the bag. And the pops of yellow. Also those foam padded straps!

Notes

I still prefer the way the pockets hit higher on the front of the bag in the original pattern. Paired with the rounder top, it's a sweeter look.

The Annual Backpack, 2014 | A modified Kids Backpack by The Sterling Owl in outdoor fabric & duck canvas. | The Inspired Wren
A certain kindergartner thought the backpack would look better for my pics if it had some things in it. "I'm testing it out," she declared. You can see her blurry hand in the upper right as she adds more.


Ren Murphy writes for The Inspired Wren.
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50 comments:

  1. This looks great! I thought about making backpacks but it does seem like a lot of work. You have inspired me to add it to my list :-)

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    1. As I sit here right now, I cannot remember why I didn't sew her an outfit for her very first day of school ever. I got it in my head to sew a bag instead -- I think I thought it would be easier/faster. Ha!

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  2. This is awesome, and I love that you've made a tradition out of it, which makes it special for your little one! Great colors :)

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    1. Thanks! And she chose the colors (from early on her favorite color has been blue) and the last few years, she's chosen the fabric herself.

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  3. Wow, this is fantastic! And every year! My son's Rae Toddler Backpack is going on year three (looks a bit worse for wear but he's not asking for a new one!) and I'm working on one for my little daughter. They are a lot of work, and this one in particular is just impeccable! Look at all of those wonderful details! Well done!

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    1. It was NOT supposed to be every year. I honestly have no clue what we're going to do with all these bags because I already have a hard time donating/handing them on.

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  4. Love your backpack, and the tradition:) Hope you are keeping pictures of each years backpack - perhaps you could fill each previous years with memories specific from that school year?

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    1. VICKY! That's brilliant. I have pics of each one next to her on each first day of school -- but keeping each as a time capsule from that school year is a great idea!

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  5. Great, well-made backpack! I wonder what you will sew next year :)

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    1. We shall see. I've got my eye on neoprene or ripstop nylon...

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  6. Wow such a gorgeous backpack. It makes me want to make one.

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  7. Adorable backpack! Wish, I could make one.
    Roopini,
    Let's Make It Lovely

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    1. Roopini, with the right pattern, I bet you could!

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  8. nice! I bet she loves it too :) 200% better than the ones sold in the store! Thanks for explaining how to edit the pattern!

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    1. She does love it. So I will keep doing it for as long as she does.

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  9. this is REALLY sophisticated! I bet my 16 year old would love this in black and white...do you take custom orders?

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    1. Thanks! I do not take custom orders. I nearly buckle under the stress of making it just right for The Peanut, I think I'd collapse if I attempted to make one for a fee.

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  10. Well, you show great workmanship with that backpack. I'm not sure I would even think of making such a piece. Your backpack has a professionally-done look. I personally don't think the front pockets too short as they are almost even with the yellow pieces on the side. Everything look well balanced to me!

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    1. Thanks. She's used it for almost a week now, and I don't notice the balance being off anymore. Maybe it was just my back-to-school, starting-kindergarten stress talking.

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  11. What a fun idea! I love the look of it!

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  12. My son asked me to make him a backpack this year but I didn't have a pattern. Now I can make him one next year! It's a beautiful backpack!

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    1. Amy, I've got my eye out for a full size pattern. It's nerve-wracking modifying a smaller one bigger. Ask me in August if I've found a full-size one.

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  13. I only sew quilts, but I love this backpack. Nice work!

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    1. Thanks! I'm soaking in all the quilt visuals I can. I anticipate a day when The Peanut won't want me to sew for her, and then I'll be ready for a new sewing challenge and so I'll finally try my hand at quilting.

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  14. Ren that is a great backpack and you did a fabulous job making it!

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  15. Amazing! I don't know that I would be so brave. This looks wonderful!

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    1. It started with just one seemingly, simple one. And each year it gets easier.

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  16. I'm so jealous of your skill. :) Really it looks great! Thanks for linking up to Gingerly Made.

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    1. Thanks, Ginger. However, you'll notice there are few close-ups of the inner seams. I got very wobbly near the end of construction.

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  17. Thank you for sharing this post at City of Creative Dream's City of Links last Friday! I loved this post so much that I chose it to be featured for this weeks party. :) Go grab a button you deserve it!

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    1. WOO HOO!!! Thanks for the feature!

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  18. I'd be lost without Clover clips. I use them all the time. You've done an awesome job making this backpack, Ren!!! Peanut did well choosing the chevron fabric. I hope she lets you sew for her for many years to come. Mine wanted store bought as they entered the teenage years.

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  19. Super cute backpack! Great fabric choice!

    Navy Wifey Peters @ Submarine Sunday Link Party!

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  20. You are one talented seamstress! I love the pockets and patterns of this pack. How cool!

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    1. Thanks, Elise! The bags are getting easier each year. Like anything does, I guess.

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  21. Really beautiful finish!! I bet she loves it!

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    1. Thanks so much, Sarah! She loves the backpack -- going to school, not so much right now.

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  22. Wow! I've never seen a homemade backpack look so professionally done. This inspires me to pay a little more attention to the details in my own sewing projects. I'd love for you to share this project at the Make it Monday party over at Etcetorize.

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    1. Thanks so much. You'll notice I don't show too many close ups of the interior seams though. ;)

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  23. Awesome job! Love the colors and the name tag slot!!

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  24. this is great, so professional looking!!! visiting from Threading My Way - would love a visit back *wink*

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    1. Thanks so much Donna. Each year the bag comes together a little more cleanly which makes me happy.

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