Backpack progress

Weekend Challenge: The Backpack (part II)


The front of the bag with 2 zippered pockets.

When we left off last week, I was about halfway done with my new backpack. The back and sides of the exterior of the bag were mostly finished.

Next step was to make the front exterior panel. I wanted a couple of zippered pockets on the front – one large one for easy access to a notebook and one smaller one for snacks, pens, and my iPod.

The top pocket goes all the way to the bottom of the bag and is lined with red Cordura® nylon. The bottom pocket with the gray zipper has a gray lining (go figure).

I attached the front of the bag and added the flap and a small handle onto the back to complete the exterior of the bag.

Lining is now attached to exterior

Lining sewn to exterior

Time to make the lining! I used international orange (aerospace) 200D nylon. It’s bright, but not too bright.

I put another zippered pocket in the lining. Because it’s hard to have too many pockets, really.

Once the lining was attached to the exterior, the moment of truth had arrived.



It requires a bit of patience and maneuvering to turn a padded backpack inside out through a hole in the lining. I finally got it turned and everything was in the right place – the flap, straps, and handle were on the outside where they were supposed to be (it kind of sucks to turn a bag and realize that you’ve sewn the flap inside the lining of your bag. Not that I would know from personal experience or anything…).

I sewed up the hole in the bottom of the lining and the bag was done.

All packed up and ready to go to class

All packed up and ready to go to class

On to field testing!

So far, my new backpack has been on trips to the library, a wallet delivery run, and, of course, to class. It’s performed well so far and has gotten a bunch of compliments.

There are a few minor things I am planning to change for round 2, like making the bottom outside pocket deeper and making the bag flap shorter.  I may also play around with a roll-top bag so there’s no gap on the top sides. Overall, though, I’m pretty pleased with this as a prototype.

Time for a new backpack

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…