Liz’s Hazelnut backpack.
I have always wanted to try making a rucksack so when it came to my next blog for Felicity Fabrics I used it as the perfect opportunity to give it a try. The pattern I decided to use for my backpack project was the Cocowawa Crafts Hazelnut backpack as I had already bought this pattern a few years ago when it was first released. The pattern is available as a PDF pattern and currently costs £13.11. The pattern offers 3 different sizes and lots of options to choose from. Padded or normal straps, gusseted or patch front pockets and even a laptop compartment and ‘anti-theft’ pockets are just some of the alternatives you can go for to make it. All versions are lined, they come with two front pockets and an internal one. You’ve also got the option of adding a zip at the top.
I feel fairly confident sewing most things but did feel apprehensive when tackling the bag pattern. I knew I would learn some new skills but felt completely out of my depth having never tackled a backpack style pattern before. So to alleviate my nerves I decided to read the instructions thoroughly before getting started. Ana’s instructions always include a few pages of really detailed tips before you begin sewing and there is also a video tutorial of the construction of the bag on Youtube. This came in really handy for me when I got round to sewing up the pattern. As a visual learner I found it really helpful to see Ana complete the steps – it helped me to understand some of the written instructions better.
With the pattern decided I then turned to my favourite part of sewing – choosing the fabric. The pattern suggests the following fabrics:
Outer fabric: cotton canvas, PVC fabric, oilcloth, fake leather, dry oilskin…
Lining fabric: quilting cotton would work best. Also, if you are choosing a PVC fabric or a waterproof dry oilskin, you may not need to line your bag.
I decided to browse the Felicity Fabrics website, looking at any fabrics on their that might be suitable. As soon as I saw the cotton canvas rose fabric I knew it would make the prettiest backpack. You need between 1 and 1.5 metres of fabric for the outer part of the backpack and the same for the lining fabric dependant on the width of the fabric. The ‘Ella” canvas fabric I chose has a fabulous rose and leaf design in greens, ivory and peach shades on a linen coloured background. It is perfect for jackets, skirts and bags and is 110% cotton.
I chose some fabric I already had for the lining of the bag and then ordered the webbing, zips and sliders that I would need to create the bag from Amazon.
Once everything arrived I cut out the bag outer pieces and lining pieces and wadding for the straps and started working my way through the pattern. I found it incredibly useful to be able to refer back to the video tutorial Ana has created on Youtube. There were a few moments in the pattern where I felt a bit confused. I had a shop bought backpack that I moved into my sewing space so I could look at how it was constructed and compare it to the pattern. I found it particularly useful to compare the shop bought backpack when it came to sewing the webbing and attaching the straps. I also found it really helpful to watch the tutorial for this part. I took my time sewing up the bag and constructed it over a number of weeks. I found it really beneficial to break the process down into chunks.
I enjoyed attaching the webbing and was pleased with the finish it gave the bag. I found myself practising threading the webbing through the sliders a few times before I was happy with the overall look.
When inserting the inside pocket you are instructed to add interfacing to strengthen this area before adding the zip. This is a really important part of the sewing process – do not be tempted to skip this part. I found it really added strength to this part of the bag.
I decided to add padded straps and the gusseted pockets. The pockets were a little fiddly to sew as they are quite small in comparison to the rest of the bag. I found it helpful to create the crease of the side of the pockets by pressing it with an iron. This meant it stayed in place when pinning the pocket onto the front of the bag. I sewed up the large size and I was amazed at how much space it has when fully constructed.
Once you attach the main part of the bag to the lining you are then required to understich the lining to keep it in place. This gives a really neat and professional finish on the bag. Once you have completed this step you then sew the base onto the bottom of the main fabric and the lining. This was a fiddly part of the sewing process and I just ensured I really took my time and pivoted at the corners. Before you attach the bases you also need to ensure you have basted the straps in place – something I managed to miss the first time around! I turned the bag through before realising I had missed off this crucial step! I had to get my seam unpicker out! Don’t make the same error as me – ensure you baste your straps in place on the outer fabric before you sew the base onto it!
When attaching the base to your main fabric and lining fabric the instructions recommend you sew the short edges first and then the longer ones as it is easier this way round and I would agree. I found it much easier to sew the bases this way.
I chose not to add the zip to the main bag and have instead added some Prym snap fastens along the top. Next time I sew up the bag I will add a zip as it will offer a bit more security. To finish the bag I originally bought metal bag claps that slide into each other to close however I could not work out how to attach them to the bag so instead used plastic buckles and used some webbing to attach them.
This was a more challenging pattern to sew up despite it being described as a beginner friendly pattern. On the Cocowawa Crafts website they describe the level/difficulty as: an easy backpack sewing pattern. The Hazelnut is perfect for those who have never made a backpack or accessories. As there are so many options to choose from, you will be able to sew the one that suits your abilities and also learn some new techniques along the way.
Whilst I agree there are steps you can omit to make this a more simple sew I would say that if you were a complete beginner, even with the Youtube videos to help you, you might find this a bit of a tricky sew. Overall I am really pleased with the finished backpack. It is not perfect but I learnt a lot about bag making in the process and I will definitely try making another one now I understand some of the processes. My youngest daughter has already requested a backpack of her own so I guess I’m off fabric shopping again!
Thanks for reading.