Making My Backpack

Eva Lewandowski
Last year I decided that I needed to replace my backpack. Since I have made quite a few bags over the years, I decided to take on the project of making my own backpack, and I wanted to do it entirely from reclaimed or reused materials.
When I sew, I prefer to make things that are exactly suited for me, so I often skip pre-made patterns and design my own. The pattern that I created for my backpack was pretty simple; it only contained nine pieces (although some would be used multiple times). If you’ve never created your own pattern, I would highly recommend it. It’s much easier to create something that is the perfect size and shape for you if you do it from scratch, rather than trying to make adjustments to an established pattern. When you do start to design and create patterns, it’s helpful to have an existing item to look at for inspiration and guidance. I had my old backpack out the entire time I was designing the new one, and it really helped me imagine how the pieces would fit together and what shape I was aiming for.

I wanted a small backpack, just big enough for a binder, a book or two, and my lunch. I also wanted an inside and an outside pocket, a pocket for my water bottle, and my signature piece- the padded banana pocket. I like to eat a banana daily, but I realized years ago that tossing one in a bag leads to a bruised and beaten banana at best and a bag covered in mashed banana at worst. So lately I’ve been adding in a small padded pocket for my bananas; the padding ensures that nothing inside or outside the bag will damage the fruit!

As I mentioned, I was hopeful that I would be able to use reclaimed and reused materials for the construction of the bag. Luckily, I was almost entirely successful! Here’s what I used:

  • Bag exterior – I cut up some reusable shopping bags made from recycled plastic, which had the added benefit of making my backpack fairly waterproof.
  • Bag interior, straps, accents – I had cut up some very sturdy curtains for another project, and I had just enough left over to use here.
  • Zippers – These were reclaimed from old clothes that were no longer wearable.
  • Shoulder pads – These really aren’t in style any longer, so when I get a blouse from a thrift store or a clothing swap that has them, I tear them out and save them for later use. For my bag, I put them in the shoulder straps and used them as the padding for my banana pocket.
  • Thread – It’s pretty difficult to reuse thread, but I had received a large collection of fabric and supplies from a friend who no longer sews, and I used some of the heavy duty thread for this project. Not exactly reclaiming, but I did save it from the trash.

Now, I have a backpack that fits perfectly, meets all my needs, and was made entirely from materials I already owned!

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