Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Last One

Kate is off to school this fall. Preschool is still school, right?

In keeping with tradition, I made her a backpack. 

Emily very generously offered Kate her old one, which she'd outgrown, but I thought Kate needed her own. After all, this is a big step for a feisty little three-year-old who's been waiting and waiting to go to her big sisters' preschool. Whenever we were visitors in Jenna's classroom, Kate would park herself at the craft table, grab the scissors, glue and markers, and get lost in her own projects. When the big kids were out playing at the playground or in The Big Room, she'd whisper to me, "Can I play, too, Mama?" She knows the class pet, the teachers, the toys, the books, the songs. Oh, our little Katydid has been ready for preschool for months. So while most people would throw their proverbial caps in the air at the end of their school career, Kate is almost certain to punch her fist skyward, on the very first day of hers, thinking, "YES! I made it! The Day has come at last! It's finally My Turn!"

I'm excited for her, of course. But I'd be lying if I didn't also confess that I'm a little sad that she isn't a baby anymore. She's marching purposefully into another teacher's classroom, her entire being ready to devour every experience that was her sisters' before her. With a mission like that, someone needs her own coming-of-age bag, don't you think?

So that was how I talked myself into cutting out yet another of those time-consuming, multi-pieced, crazy-fiddly backpacks. Each time I make one, I tell myself, "Next time, just go buy one, for goodness' sake." But when  the time comes for the next little girl to take that big step, I dissolve into a lump of defenceless sentiment and I sew them their backpacks. 

Last year I didn't give you the grand tour because I rushed Jenna's off the sewing machine months before the fall so she could take it on the plane to Singapore. So lots of photos in this post to make up for that.

All the fabric is home-dec weight or canvas/duckcloth. Under that, I added sew-in interfacing and some pieces I cut out of an old, lightly padded bassinet mattress protector. 

I threw together random (i.e. not by the same designer; in fact, not even from the same store) prints and solids. You might recognize this combination from Emily's sunhat.

The back has a big stripey pocket and ergonomically curved straps.

There are stretchy mesh side pockets for a water bottle and small stuffed animals/leaves/acorns,

a reinforced base,

and a handle.

There are also chunky zippers everywhere.

What makes this backpack fiddly and time-consuming is the lining. I like the raw edges tucked away where no one can see them

and that slowed me down some, because I had to skip around the various pieces to get them assembled in the right sequence. 

But I'd always enjoyed that part of sewing bags, anyway. I'm forever trying to discover new ways to get the insides to look increasingly neater, especially where there are zippers. I started sewing bags long before I owned a serger and even though I now do, I don't intend to ever use it with my bags. 

Kate screamed when she saw her backpack. She immediately put it on, then realized she had nothing (yet) to put into it, so took it off and resumed play-cooking as if nothing had happened.

Three sisters. 
Emily, 2009 (second year, preschool - yes, I made her backpack a whole year late)
Jenna, 2010 (first day of school; backpack not in photo)
Kate, 2011 (two weeks from The Big Day)

Three backpacks 

in three years. 

Didn't someone once say good things came in threes? 

P.S. Updated to add, in response to the questions in the comments: the pattern for the backpacks was something I drew up myself. I'm sorry it isn't a commercial one that I could direct you to buy. I'm also not planning to make mine available as a pattern for sale, because it's not a design that most people would enjoy sewing. It's a lot of work, and you'd have to have quite a bit of bag-making experience to make it worth your time working on it (5 days working on a dress is perfectly OK, but 5 days working on a bag isn't for everyone). And, also unfortunately, I'm not selling these in my shop ready-made. Sorry there are so many nays, folks. I didn't even think to mention all this in the main post when I wrote it.


  1. It's sooooo perfect :)

  2. wow..i love this backpack!!where can i get the pattern???or is it a creation of your own?
    i want to sew a backpack for my doughter and this one is sooooo cute!!

    best regards<3


  3. Love this post! N's first-day-of-school bag is a cheap-charlie yellow and fuzzy winnie the pooh one, which she got from Nani (my mother). She's still carrying it. It's falling apart. I think you might have just shamed me into making a new one for her.

    Btw, N has the exact same water bottle, in purple, of course.

  4. Adorable backpacks! I'm a sucker for making things that are so time consuming that I can't believe I didn't buy one in the first place. But seriously they are so cute how could you not make one.

  5. Such cute preschool backpacks! I can't believe Lily starts preschool next fall!

  6. Lovely. So cute; I'm sure your little girl is thrilled!

    I must agree about the insides of bags looking neat. I do that with mine as well. You might be one person who could actually appreciate this recent creation of mine:


  7. Beautiful packs!

    I make backpacks for my kids too, and this year they asked if I would just buy one for them.
    I declined to purchase any of the super-cheaply made plastic backpacks for either one of them, but I did cave and I'm putting a Hello Kitty applique on my daughter's new messenger bag.

  8. Simply stunning. I am totally in love with the backpack! Can I ask you if you have any idea how long that took you to make? I know it's your third one which probably took a lot less time than the first, but... I mean I can't even fathom making something that complicated. Certainly not with all those zippers! Great, marvelous, wonderful job!

  9. This is so much better than anything you would buy at the store. Of course she needs her own first day of school backpack!

  10. I am so impressed - great backpacks and unique to your girls!

  11. @Michelle
    Michelle, I think it took me about 5 days. This is in Mother Time, of course, meaning I worked on them maybe an hour or two a day. Day#1 - cut out the pieces, Day#2 - Sew the straps and back zippered pocket, Day #3 - Sew the front pocket, Day #4 Sew the main zipper and gusset (outer and lining), Day #5 - attach back and front panels (outer and lining).

  12. They are all super cute! Courtney saw them, and she wants one just like Kate's. Hmmm... now look what you've done!

  13. Those backpacks are adorable! Beautiful job! I would like to ask where do you find stretch mesh like you used for the side pockets? I have been looking everywhere and can't find it. Love your blog ~ so inspirational.
    Thanks for sharing.

  14. @Sue
    Sue, I bought mine at Mill End Textiles, a local chain store. You can get the white sort (I've not seen other colors) at JoAnn, too. Look in the "utility fabrics" section - they call it laundry bag fabric. Alternatively, you can buy a dollar-store laundry bag and cut it up. The kind I use is not stretch mesh. It's generically called "athletic mesh". It has some "give" by virtue of its holly texture, but the fibers themselves are not stretchy. The pocket I made is stretchy because I pleated it and used fold-over elastic at its opening. For real stretch mesh, try googling "power mesh" (for lingerie) or "knit mesh" (for dance wear). Both have much finer holes.

  15. Thank you so much for the info. I just tried searching stretch mesh on Etsy and none there. I have kept laundry bags and used them before but would like to get a lot more. I use them on my golf towels (you can see on my blog if you like dreamscapestudio.blogspot.com or Facebook)
    Again, these backpacks are beautiful. Do you sell them - haven't checked yet :) Have a great day. Will be back for sure to follow.

  16. I love this backpack, so individual and well made - at least you know these will last.
    I would love to know where the pattern for this bag is (hint, hint)
    Also your Kate sounds like me and my Kate - both bulls at a gate and wanting to be where our big brother is. My mum tells the tale of me at 2 and 3/4 saying to anyone who would listen that I would be 4 next birthday. And when mum corrected me and said I would be 3 I turned to her and said 'No! I will be 4 then I can go to kindy!'
    Good Luck at school Kate and love every minute of it.

  17. Love the back packs. I would love to have this pattern. Can you share with us where you got it? Thanks

  18. San and Pam: I'm sorry I can't direct you to a commercial pattern - this was one I drew up myself. I added in an extra paragraph in the post about this, after the requests and questions in the comments.

  19. I absolutely love them, Lorraine!! I haven't attempted making bags yet, but I do have some commercial patterns to try (all Simplicity as part of something else), but not even close to what you did.

  20. The bags are all so pretty, so feminine without being blindingly pink or shiny like the stuff that is marketed to little girls.

  21. So cute!
    Love your attention to detail. The piping and little netting pockets are perfect.
    It does look like a project that would try my patience, though.
    But I guess when the recipient is such a cutie, it makes it all worth while, doesn't it? :-)

    Beautiful work!


  22. I Like these back packs, they're so neat and aptly done for the kids!

  23. These backpacks are fantastic! Very nice design.

    Hope my skills improve enough someday to made something like these.


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