Saturday 13 June 2015

Sewn: Daisy Pistachio Backpack with Hillarys

DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

One of the things that has been an unexpected result of writing Awake + Make for nearly two years now (eek!), is that I have an online journal of my crafting process and makes. It's hard to see an improvement within yourself, but when Hillarys got in contact with me to announce that they were running their craft competition for a second year, I had a little look into the A+M archives at my entry for the year before, and was pleasantly surprised at how far my sewing has come along. It seems hard to believe that this time last year I was becoming acquainted with my sewing machine (no darts! mostly hand stitched!), and now we're on our way to becoming friends (nearly - he can still be an asshat at time).

The same rules as last time applied; we had a choice of four fabrics and I chose the Daisy Pistachio option. It had a rather Orla Kiely vibe, so 'nuff said. I think I was originally planning to make something decorative for my growing collection of potted plants, but when 1 square metre of it arrived in the post I took one look at it and thought: BACKPACK. Perfect for all the strenuous shopping trips hikes I've got planned this summer, although normally I would never choose to make anything with so many different parts, or requiring such sturdy sewing. What can I say? I guess looking back at my early days of sewing gave me a huge confidence boost, and made me try something a little out of my comfort zone.

DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

Whilst I have got a couple of patterns for backpacks, none of them were exactly what I was looking for; a boxier design with a fastening front flap similar to a satchel, so I decided to draft my own (scary stuff!). As such, I'm not really calling this post a tutorial, in that I altered what I did throughout sewing this backpack up, however I will be showing you what I did, which makes for a rather lengthy post. Hopefully though, if you're looking to make something similar you will be able to see what I did here.

Pattern Pieces:

Outside Fabric: Daisy Pistachio

Outer Front: 42cm by 34 cm (16.5" by 13.5")
Outer Back: 42cm by 34cm (16.5" by 13.5"), with a curved flap 27cm (10.5") wide and extending 20cm (8") on the centre of one of the 42cm (16.5") sides.
Outer Pocket: 30cm by 20cm (12" by 8")
Handle: 9cm by 32cm (3.5" by 12.5")
Straps: 6cm (2.5") cut to the length desired. (I used three of four lengths sewn together to make one long length)

Lining Fabric: Green Fleece

Front and back lining: 42cm by 34 cm (16.5" by 13.5") - cut two
Outer Pocket Lining: 30cm by 20cm (12" by 8")
Inner pocket: 22cm by 15cm (8.5" by 6")
Flap Lining: A straight edge measuring 27cm (10.5" wide), extending 45cm (17.5") into a curved semi circle.
Base: 12cm by 28cm (5" by 11")


Base: 12cm by 28cm (5" by 11")
Offcuts for making the fastening strap and buckle, and for the loops on the reverse of the bag for attaching the strap.


1.5 metres of bias binding
1 x buckle fastening
2 x strap clips
2 x key ring loops
1 x strap adjuster

It's worth pointing out what a great stash buster this is - the only things I had to specially buy in were the bias binding and a few of the findings (but mostly I just recycled these off old belts).


DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

I decided to start by adding outside details, like the handle and strap loops first, in order that the stitching would be hidden inside, underneath the lining. I folded the handle piece in half, so that the long edges met, right sides facing, before stitching along the open side and turning out the right way. Then I topstitched along both edges, and added a bit of leather at the point where the handle was attached to the back piece of the outside, just underneath the flap.

I also attached three leather strap loops at this point; two at the top of the bag, either side of the handle, and one centrally along the bottom edge of the outside back piece.

Constructing the Outside:
DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

Before constructing the outside of the bag, I lined the flap, by sewing the flap lining to the flap, right sides facing, and turned it out the right way. I topstitched around the edge of this, just to secure it in place before adding the bias binding later.

To construct the outer bag, place the outer front and back together, right sides facing, and sew the two shorter sides together (picture on the right). At this point, my bag had no corners, because I wanted a bag that had a base, but was expandable at the top, depending on how much I was carrying. Therefore, I measured 5cm (2") away from each side seam, and topstitched a parallel line of stitching either side of this, to create a sturdier cuboid shape.

I then attached the leather base by turning the outer-bag inside out once more and sewed the base on one edge at a time, with the right sides facing and the corners matching up with my topstitched edges. When this was complete, I turned it out the right way, and topstitched along the edges of the base for a tidy look.

The Outside Pocket:
DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

Construction of the outer pocket is really simple; I placed the pocket and lining right sides facing, and stitched along all four sides, leaving a small gap for turning out. I added some bias binding along the top edge, disguising my turning out gap, and also providing a tidy finish. I pinned it to the bottom of the front of the bag, before stitching along three edges, leaving the top edge open. When attached, I added a line of stitching down the centre, turning one big pocket into two medium sized ones.

Constructing the Lining:
DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

Construction of the lining is much the same as the construction of the outer bag, minus the need for lining the flap. I started however, by stitching the inner pocket in place, high up on one of the lining pieces (in future versions, I would consider adding more because I love pockets!).

As with the outer bag, I placed the two lining pieces together, right sides facing, and stitched along the two shorter sides. I turned the right way out, and added top stitching to add some shape into the lining, before adding the base in the same way.

Inserting the Lining:
DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

At this point, it was nice to see that the image I had in my head was starting to materialise in reality (there were moments when I doubted it would work out that way!). Never having added lining to a project before, I kind of winged it here, but it worked out okay in the end. I placed the lining inside of the outer bag, wrong sides facing, and corner edges meeting. I then turned the edges of both the lining and the outside to the inside (not seen in between the lining and the outside), and pinned this in place. Where the bag lining met the flap lining, I just turned the edge of the bag lining under and pinned, so that when sewn, the edge of the flap lining would be trapped beneath this.

After ensuring everything was in place, I stitched along the opening of the bag, and also along where the bag lining met the flap lining. Then the main construction of the bag was complete (yaay!).

Bias Binding
DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

It's not so much of a secret around here that I have serious beef with bias binding. Nevertheless, it's something I decided to tackle with this project, both because I wanted the shape of the flap and pocket to be defined, and because I was feeling particularly stupid brave. I used this technique to add bias binding along the opening edge and flap, and it actually worked out better than expected. Still something I feel I need more practise with, but I feel the end result was very acceptable.

Findings and Straps:
DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

Now for the fun bit - adding the buckle and straps to really bring this bag to life! I used the same leather to cut out a strap and base for the buckle, based on a RTW satchel, and hand-stitched them in place - the buckle on the front pocket, and the strap on the lower edge of the flap. Hand-stitching leather is hard work, but nothing that can't be done whilst watching Game of Thrones ;).

For the straps, I folded the strip of fabric in half right sides facing, the long edges meeting, and stitched along the open edge. Turning this long piece out took a loooooot of elbow grease, I can tell you! When turned out, I added topstitching once again, before folding and adding a buckle, allowing the length of the straps to be changed. Finally I added a clip to each end of the strap. I find having one long strap better than two; I have a RTW backpack which is quite similar, and I like the freedom of choice it gives me.

To attach the strap to the bag, I threaded the key ring loops through the top two leather strap loops. The way my strap is threaded is thus; each end is clipped to the straps either side of the top handle, and the length of the strap is threaded through the strap at the bottom of the back of the bag. Of course, I might try another variation of this out on future versions, but I have to say I like this design of backpack straps.

DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

And that's it! If you've made it to the end of this post, then I'm very thankful - it seems like the longest I've written in quite a while. However, I can't deny how much fun I've had putting this together - both the sewing and the writing up.

Of course, me being me, I like to dissect everything I've made to try to improve my technique for the future, and I find myself doing the same here - should I make the handle a little slimmer, the straps a little wider? Even though I'm ridiculously proud of my achievements here (ask me whether I could have done this a few months ago, and it would have been a resounding NO!), I'm aware that I'm still improving as a sewer. So, I thought I'd compile a list of things I've learnt throughout this project (a lot more positive than a list of things I'd change, non?).

  • Topstitching is amazingly satisfying, and something I want to do on EVERY project in the future. 
  • There is no magic cure for bias binding - the more I do it, the better I'll get. 
  • I don't much enjoy taking photos of my sewing process. My photography is coming on leaps and bounds, and I can't help but want to make every shot perfect. But it's kind of hard to take artistic shots of inserting lining, youfeelme?
  • I work better to a deadline. No one enjoys it, but having an end date helps me push on with things, even if it's something I do as a hobby!
  • Projects which can be separated down into a series of smaller tasks seem more accomplishable to me. This backpack was really just little task after little task. I'll take this forward to future projects, and write a list of tasks I need to do in order to complete a garment (yes, I was that child with a clipboard and checklist). 
DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack
DIY: Sewn Daisy Pistachio Backpack

So again, thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about the process, please don't hesitate to drop me a comment below! I'd also love to hear your thoughts on sewing backpacks//bias binding//taking photos of the process. 

You can have a look at other entries for the Hillarys Craft Competition 2015 here - so many talented people! 

*1 square metre of fabric was provided free by Hillarys as part of the Craft Competition. 


  1. I'm really impressed that you've made a backpack with your fabric, looks amazing!
    Good luck!


    1. Thanks Hannah - I love your butterflies - they're so pretty! :)