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Weekend Challenge: The Backpack (part I)

Late Friday evening I decided to make myself a backpack to carry my martial arts gear to and from class. I’ve got a heavyweight uniform, plus a water bottle, snacks, glasses, iPod, some pens, and a small notebook.

I thought I’d try to make the bag on Saturday before my next Ju Jitsu class. That meant I’d have about 4 hours to plan the bag, cut the fabric, and actually sew it all together. To make things even more interesting, I’ve never made a backpack before. I’m making it all up as I go along – no patterns or tutorials, though I am using my current backpack as a reference for some technical details.

Spoiler alert – I did not finish the backpack before class. I did, however, make a huge amount of progress on a prototype and I like it quite a bit so far.

I’m using 1000D Cordura® nylon for the outside of the bag. I’ve got a shipment of some lighter weight nylon that’s supposed to arrive on Monday and should be perfect for the lining.

After making some notes about size and features, I cut out the pieces for the exterior body, flap, and straps.

Padded straps with fancy red stripes.

Padded straps with fancy red stripes.

Then I started in on the straps. I wanted padded straps so I used 3 layers of 1/8″ closed cell foam that I stitched together about an inch from either end to avoid shifting. I had some trouble actually getting the foam inside the straps. I ended up attaching a binder clip and some string to the foam, feeding the string through the empty strap tubes, and pulling the foam through.

It's starting to look like a backpack!

It’s starting to look like a backpack!

After I got the straps all sorted out, I moved on to the back. I decided to make padded back panels so I cut some more foam and nylon. I made a couple of pockets for the padding with a vertical 2 inch gap between them that should run along my spinal cord if all goes according to plan. I attached the tops of the straps to the top of the back panel and sewed some small triangular panels near the bottom of each side of the back panel to connect to the bottoms of the straps.

By the time I attached the exterior gussets to the back it was time for class.

To be continued…

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