I don’t know about yours but my kids seem to ruin book bags at an astonishing rate! The plastic backing peels off in places in about three seconds flat. So why not make my own! And I’ll give you the usual step by step instructions so even the newest beginner can make one too!
What you will need
Outer – a medium weight fabric is ideal. Like Cotton duck or lightweight denim. As it is double layered you don’t want to go too thick.
Lining – PUL waterproof fabric. This is often used for making modern cloth nappies, and can be found online and in fabric stores (mine came from spotlight).
Bias Binding – You will need two pieces one of 33cm (13”) and one of 120cm (47.25”)
Domes – 2 sets (or you can use Velcro)
This design is based on the school book bags my kids already use.
Step 1 – Cut fabric
All you need is a rectangle of outer fabric and one exactly the same size for the lining. Make sure if you have a pattern (like my elephants) that they are up the right way.
Step 2 – Attach Bias Binding to bottom edge
Lay your pieces with the wrong sides facing each other. This means that the right sides of the fabric are on the outsides.
NOTE: Please read ahead if this isn’t making sense! Then you will be able to see how the fabric folds to make the book bag!
Now we need attach the bias to the bottom, this piece of bias will be the inside part of the opening later once folded. Insert both layers of fabric into the middle fold of the bias.
Then peg in place. You can use fabric clips or bulldog clips too. You can also pin if you prefer, the reason I haven’t pinned is to prevent any unnecessary holes in the waterproof lining.
Once the whole edge is pegged/clipped/pinned we can sew it on. If your bias is slightly narrower on one side than on the other, sew with the narrow side up so that you don’t risk missing the underneath layer.
I don’t recommend sewing over pins, but well pegs I’m sure I don’t have to mention to remove them as you go! Sew nice and close to the edge of the bias.
And it should look like above!
Step 3 – Sew Layers Together
I prefer to sew the two layers together before adding the next bias as it will be folded and four layers thick. You would be very likely to not catch every layer, especially since the PUL lining is quite slippery on one side.
So peg/clip/pin all the way around the fabric. All except the bias edge that is already joined.
Sew with a very narrow 1/8” seam allowance. This seam will not be visible after you attach the bias binding, so don’t worry if it is not perfect!
Step 4 – Round the Top Corners
You will need to fold the bias edge up as shown in photo above. Adjust it till the folded piece is 35.3cm (14”), as you can see on the measuring tape in the photo.
Grab something big and round! The closest thing near me was my roll of elastic, you could use a saucer, ribbon reel etc. And mark out the curve on the lining side.
Repeat on the other side, so that both sides are roughly even.
Stitch along the drawn line.
Now you can trim away the excess and you have a nice curve!
Step 5 – Attaching Bias Binding to Remain Seams
Recheck that the fold is still in the correct position
Pin the bias in place. Leaving a tab at each end for folding in later. I have used this method for attaching bias many times, the first part is the same as in my Bandana-ish Bib Tutorial.
Yes I did use pins this time, as you can see I have made sure to stay inside the seam line (fold closest to the raw edge) to prevent extra holes. Attaching bias around corners needs pins!
Starting at one end sew all the way around in the fold closest to the raw edge.
When you get to the top of the pocket where the bias sits in your seam, sew over it then reverse and sew over it again. Then carry on the rest as normal. These few extra stitches will give this area a bit of extra strength, when the kids pull on it trying to get their book in there!
Folding the ends of the bias is a little fiddly but can give a great result! Sometimes photos just describe it so much better. So that are the four steps in photos.
Now back to the pegs I go! This is quite thick now so I find it easier with the pegs, than trying to pin through so many layers.
Time to sew! You sew this just the same way as the first bias. Start from one end and sew all the way around to the other end.
Don’t forget to or over the opening area an extra time!
Step 6 – Attach Domes or Velcro
I won’t show you all the dome steps this time. I have detailed instructions in my Baby Doll Nappy (Diaper) Tutorial if you would like to read those.
If you are using Velcro you can use one piece in the centre if you wish. Just position and sew around the edge to hold in place.
Step 7 – Add a Label
If you want to add a label you can! If you have an in-seam label then hopefully you tucked it into the bias binding earlier!
* Great tip!!! Use glue stick to hold your label in place while sewing. Just put the glue on the back of your label and stick in place. Then sew around the edges, and you are finished. When I remember where I saw this I will credit accordingly!