In my earlier post about this being a handmade holiday, I mentioned that I made a teardrop backpack to give away as a gift.
In the spring I went hiking with my best friend, and she asked to borrow a backpack. I have a few, so I lent her one made of pink denim with purple webbing that is the shape of a teardrop (sort of…). Since she doesn’t have one of her own, I figured that I would make her one for the holidays!
The bag isn’t intended to carry a lot of weight – it’s a small bag that’s good for a sweater, a camera, an extra pair of mittens, wallet and keys. It has two deep outside pockets which have magnetic snaps and flaps, an interior lining, and a key clip inside to keep keys from getting buried under the rest of the contents. The strap is adjustable in length and has a clip at the bottom so that it can be unhooked if needed (like to get on and off even with the thickest winter coat). The bag can be worn over the shoulder with the strap to the front or the back, but I like to wear mine cross-body. When worn cross-body the zipper is towards the wearer, limiting ease of others getting access to the contents of the bag. I also did a wide strap lead at the shoulder and made the lined pockets out of a contrast black pleather over the green bottom-weight cotton.
Want to make your own? Read on!
- Bottom-weight material (you could also use outerwear material, or anything with a little body to hold the shape)
- Pair of magnetic snaps
- Slider for the adjustable strap
- Clip and D-ring for the strap
- Thread, scissors, etc to cut out the pattern and construct the bag!
- A pattern – buy a similar one or draft your own!
Cut out the pattern pieces
- 2 backpack body pieces
- 2 backpack body pieces (lining)
- 1 long strip for the main gusset
- 1 long strip for the main gusset lining
- 2 long strips for the zipper gusset
- 2 long strips for the zipper gusset lining
- 2 pockets
- 2 pocket lining pieces
- 4 pocket flaps
- 2 wedge-shaped pieces for the shoulder support (optional)
- 2 strips of braid, trim, or webbing to trim the pocket flap tops
- webbing for the shoulder strap
- Fusible interfacing for the pocket, pocket flaps, zipper gusset, and shoulder support
- Webbing, ribbon, or trim & a clip for a key carrier (optional)
Note on lining: You can easily do this bag unlined if you want… I lined my first one with a typical lining fabric, which worked well. This version I self-lined with more green cotton bottom-weight fabric. If you don’t want to line your bag, you can serge or overlock the edges or do a Hong Kong finish on the seams.
Note on the pocket lining: If you do the magnetic snaps, you’ll want to line the pockets, but if you decide to do a button/buttonhole or some other kind of closure, you might not need to line the pockets.
Construct the bag
- Fuse the interfacing to the pattern pieces.
- Start by sewing the pocket to the pocket lining right sides together along the top edge. Flip, press, and top-stitch.
- Sew two (each) pocket flaps right sides together along the curved edges, leaving the top edge of each open. Turn, and press.
- Line up the pocket and pocket flap, and install the magnetic snaps according to the directions on the package. (Or, if you are me, you threw out the package ages ago because it took up too much room, and you’ll just wing the installation.)
- Sew the pockets onto the lower edges of the bag body along the curved edges.
- Line up the pocket flap using the snap, and sew the top edge down.
- Cover the top edge of the flap with decorative trim, ribbon, binding, or webbing. This would be a great place for reflective tape if the bag is for a child or anyone who wants a bit of reflectiveness at night.
Zipper, gusset & strap
- Fuse the zipper gusset pieces
- Fold the seam allowances on one side of each of the two zipper gusset pieces and press down
- Top-stitch the zipper in place. I used two extension pieces of fabric to extend the length of the ‘zipper’ because my zipper was a bit shorter than I designed the bag for – but I was making this during a bit of a blizzard, and didn’t want to pause the project to wait to get to the store to buy a longer zipper…
- Cut a short length of webbing, and fold it over your D-ring, sewing the fold down (this is just to make the next step easier for yourself – you could also just pin it in place).
- Line up the zipper gusset (with the closed end of the zipper- the bottom of the bag) with the bag gusset, right sides together, and slip the D-ring webbing into the seam allowance, and sew the seam. (The D-ring should be between the two pieces of fabric when you sew.)
- Assemble the strap, first by sewing one end around the bar in the middle of the slider, then weaving the strap through the clip, and then back through the slider. I’d recommend using some fray-check on the end of the webbing that goes around the bar when you cut the webbing. Sew the free end of the webbing to the shoulder support, then sew the shoulder supports together right sides together, leaving the large end of the wedge free. If you don’t want to make a shoulder support, skip that step, and treat the free end of the webbing like I’m treating the shoulder support. At this point it might be a good idea to bundle up the strap and tie an elastic around it just to keep it together while you complete the next steps. I didn’t, but if you’re worried about keeping track of where that strap is, it might be a good idea.
- Next, sew the zipper gusset and gusset together with the right sides together, slipping the shoulder support (or free end of your webbing) into the seam allowance like the D-ring.
- Turn the whole gusset right side out, press and top stitch as needed, and then sew to both body pieces, which will complete the outer shell of your bag!
Construct the lining
The lining is optional – you can serge your seams to finish the inside of the bag, or bind them to do a Hong Kong finish if you like, but it definitely looks better to have a lining. If you want interior pockets, the lining is a good place to make those as well. Do those pockets before proceeding with the rest of the lining construction.
One tip when picking your lining fabric – don’t go with black. Use a colour or a pattern; the reason is – a colourful or patterned lining won’t be seen a lot, but will make finding things in your bag much easier! How often have you dug through a black-lined bag for your black phone or black wallet? With a coloured lining, this is a lot easier!
If you are making a lining, this is a great place to put an internal key carrier. This makes it easy to find your keys (instead of digging for them at the bottom of your bag) and is more secure than popping them into your pocket.
For mine, I took a length of the same trim I used on the outside of the bag to trim the pocket flaps, and folded it in half length-wise. I slipped the now narrow band through the top of the clip. (I like these spring clips with the swivel, because they don’t tangle up, and are easy enough to open up with thin gloves on.) Then I folded the narrow band up width-wise, and top-stitched it to secure it.
The photos above show the carrier before installation, and poking out of the finished bag.
Like the D-ring and shoulder support, this is inserted into the seam of the gusset – though make sure you do it from the top rather than the bottom!
Lining the bag
Assemble the gusset, zipper gusset, and body pieces of the bag lining similarly as you did with the bag, omitting of course the zipper.
You have two options – leave a small opening in the lining and then sew the zipper opening by machine, ‘bagging’ the lining, or fully sewing the lining, and then attaching the lining to the zipper partially by hand.
I also did a few hand-stitches inside the bag to secure the lining to the bag at the top, to ensure the lining wouldn’t droop if keys were attached to the key carrier. (Optional)
Clear up any stray threads, unbundle your strap (if you bundled it!) and clip the strap to the D-ring. You’re done!
Here are some photos of the final, finished bag. Click for larger versions!