Fifth Annual Back-to-School Backpack!

Canvas & Laminated Cotton "Inside Out" Backpack | The Inspired Wren

You didn't think I let school start up again without forging another shield of protection out of Mother's Love, did you?

This Sewing Showcase post aims inspire with a unique combination of sewing pattern and fabrics.
Scroll to the bottom of this article for full details.

It was a close call this year. Right around June, The Peanut asked why I always make her backpack instead of buying one. I told her because I love doing it, but we could always buy one if she'd prefer. She made it clear that's exactly what she would do this Fall. I held my tongue.

In August I told her we could buy any backpack she wanted, OR I could make her one out of any fabric she chose, maybe this Inside Out fabric?

Canvas & Laminated Cotton "Inside Out" Backpack | The Inspired Wren

Cut to me, surrounded by too many poorly labelled pattern pieces from the last two backpacks, quickly followed by:
  • 1 strip of Velcro
  • 1 scrap of clear vinyl
  • 1 short length of piping
  • 1 package of bias tape, plus some scraps
  • 2 zippers
  • 2 strap adjusters
  • 2 different types of Pellon vinyl
  • 6 pieces of webbing
  • 7 pieces of heavy interfacing
  • 36 pieces of fabric (thirty-six!)
And then I still had to sew!

After I laminated the Inside Out fabrics -- with matte vinyl on the dark blue, and shiny vinyl on the polka dot -- my first step was to piece together the front pocket. I did my best not to decapitate anybody, making sure all their feet were standing on the same horizon line. I'm proud of that final panel, even if Joy is holding Fear's pants.

Fussy-Cut & Pieced Front Pocket | Canvas & Laminated Cotton "Inside Out" Backpack | The Inspired Wren
Fussy-cut, laminated, and then carefully pieced front pocket ensures all the emotions are represented.

Next I created a patch from the text on the fabric. It was terribly fiddly to construct; pressing narrow seams under a press cloth to protect the vinyl may take a few tries, is all I'm sayin'. It was worth it though. The matte vinyl laminated patch looks leathery against the indoor/outdoor canvas. Sitting above the two front pockets, it also serves to balance the proportions on the front of the backpack which had bothered me last year.

Two Front Pockets + One Perfect Patch | Canvas & Laminated Cotton "Inside Out" Backpack | The Inspired Wren
The front panel is constructed with a Velcro pocket, a zipper pocket, and one perfect patch.
The top and side panels are both indoor/outdoor canvas, while back panel is cut from one solid piece of the navy Inside Out fabric laminated with matte vinyl. This year the side zipper pulls are made from the nylon webbing. And the contoured straps are once again padded with 1/2-inch green foam using the same turning technique as last year.

Contoured, Foam-Padded Straps | Canvas & Laminated Cotton "Inside Out" Backpack | The Inspired Wren

Contoured, Foam-Padded Straps | Canvas & Laminated Cotton "Inside Out" Backpack | The Inspired Wren

The innards of the bag feature polka dot Inside Out fabric laminated with shiny vinyl, paired with the yellow & white striped indoor/outdoor fabric. I used navy bias tape because that's what I had on hand, but I think it adds a preppy feel, no? And of course there's a name card holder, too.

Canvas & Laminated Cotton "Inside Out" Backpack | The Inspired Wren

Name Card Holder | Canvas & Laminated Cotton "Inside Out" Backpack | The Inspired Wren


Kids Backpack by The Sterling Owl, modified from preschool to elementary size -- a direct repeat of the 2014 Backpack


Outdoor Fabric: Patina Cobalt, Solarium; Outdoor Fabric: Baja Stripe Yellow; Character Cotton: Emotions Everyday; Character Fabric: Emotions Polka Dot (all from Joann Fabric and Craft)


This was my first attempt using the Pellon iron-on vinyl; it was a leap of faith so that we could use the quilting-weight cotton character fabric yet have a durable backpack. It took a little trial and error to master the vinyl -- too cool and you could see iron marks, dents, or pale streaks where it didn't fully adhere (on the navy); too hot and it melted . Likewise, the final turning of the bag to the right side out created some vinyl creases and pale spots that, luckily, easily ironed out. So far it's holding up well, though it's only been a week of wear and tear.
If you'd like to see the whole bag come together from pile of fabric to finished backpack waiting at the bus stop -- including every piece of foam and step in between -- check out the #annualbackpack hashtag on Instagram.


Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Disgust! Plus those polka dots...come on! What's not to love this year?

Canvas & Laminated Cotton "Inside Out" Backpack | The Inspired Wren

PS -- Stay tuned for the matching lunch bag...once I finish making it!

Ren Murphy writes for The Inspired Wren.

You should really see all that goes into each project!
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