We used a combination of three fabrics to create our backpacks. The back is 100% cotton - a great piece from Patty Young's new Playdate collection. The top front is a soft polka dot knit, and the bottom front is ultra cool chalk cloth. Similar to oil cloth, chalk cloth is heavy yet pliable and waterproof. You can write on it with regular or liquid chalk and then wipe it clean with a damp cloth or baby wipe.
For best results with your writing, most companies suggest prepping the chalk cloth first. To do this, rub a piece of chalk side to side across the entire surface to be written on. Wipe it clean. Then, rub the chalk up and down across the entire surface and wipe it clean again. Now you're good to go. We wrote the name of each party guest on the bottom of their backpack, using liquid chalk.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any Sewing Machine (we recommend the Janome Memory Craft 5200)
- Size 14-16 Denim or Jeans needle: necessary to stitch through the Chalk Cloth; if you don't use Chalk Cloth, you can probably get away with a Universal needle
Fabric and Other Supplies
Supplies for a party set of FOUR matching mini backpacks
- ⅓ yard of 44-45" fabric for the top front of all four bags or a 9" x 11" scrap for each bag: we used Michael Miller Fabrics' 100% Cotton Knit in Apple Ta Dot
- ½ yard of 44-45" fabric for the back of all four bags or a 9" x 14" scrap for each bag: we used Patty Young's Playdate from Michael Miller Fabrics in Multi Pixie Sticks
- ¼ yard of 47-48" wide vinyl or heavy decorator weight fabric for the bottom front of all four bags or a 9" x 4" scrap for each bag: we used Chalk Cloth so we could easily write the party guests' names on this section
- 12 yards of ¼" color-coordinated cording or 3 yards per bag: we used bright orange
- All-purpose sewing thread in colors to match fabrics
- All-purpose sewing thread in contrasting color(s) for topstitching
- 8 large eyelets (2 per bag) and eyelet setting tools: we used a Dritz® Large Eyelet Kit , which came with 12 eyelets and a tool set, in size ¼"
- Leather or plastic hammer
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- See-through ruler
- Straight pins
- Iron and ironing board
- Large safety pin
- Lighter or match to melt ends of cording
- One set of Liquid Chalk markers: optional if you want to write a name on the bottom of each bag
- From the fabric for the top front of each bag (Apple Ta Dot Knit in our sample), cut FOUR 9" x 11" pieces.
- From the fabric for the back of each bag (Playdate Multi Pixie Sticks in our sample), cut FOUR 9" x 14" pieces.
- From the fabric for the bottom front of each bag (chalk cloth in our sample), cut FOUR 9" x 4" pieces.
- Cut the cording into eight 1½ yard lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Place one 9" x 11" top front piece and one 9" x 4" bottom front piece right sides together, aligning one 9" side. Pin in place.
- Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance.
- The heavier chalk cloth will naturally cause the seam allowance to go towards the top of the bag. From the front, very carefully press the top fabric piece up. Do not iron on the chalk cloth.
- If you'd like, re-thread your machine with contrasting thread.
- Top stitch approximately ¼" from your seam line in the top fabric, securing the seam allowance in the 'up' position. This completes the front of the bag.
- In order to create a nice finished seam on the inside of our bag, we are going to sew the sides and the bottom of the bag together with a French seam.
- Place the front of the back and the back of the bag WRONG sides together, aligning the raw edges of the bottom and both sides. Pin in place, stopping 3" from the top on both sides.
- If need be, re-thread your machine with thread to match your fabrics.
- Using a 3/8" seam allowance, stitch both sides and the bottom, pivoting at each bottom corner and stopping 3" from the top on either side.
- Trim the seam allowance back very close to your stitching
- Turn the bag wrong side out. You'll need to carefully poke out the bottom corners with a blunt tool, like a large knitting needle or a chopstick. The thick chalk cloth will make this a little difficult, so be persistent, but don't be rough or you'll poke right through the seam.
- Using a 3/8" seam allowance, stitch again along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at each bottom corner and stopping 3" from the top on either side.
- Turn the bag right side out again. Poke out those bottom corners again... carefully. And you have a lovely French seam for a clean inside finish.
- Take the bag to your ironing board. Fold in the raw edges of the sides so they are flush with the sewn seam. Then, fold down and press the top raw edge of the front and back ½".
- Finally, fold and press both the front and back about another 2½" or until the edge of each side meets the top of the sewn side seams. Make sure the top of the bag, both front and back, is nice and straight.
- Edgestitch each folded flap in place (re-thread to stitch with contrasting thread if you want) straight across. This forms the casing for the cording.
- To help reinforce the sides, stitch back and forth between the front and back pieces just above each side seam. Keep the reinforcing stitching exactly in line with your original stitching. If your machine has a free arm, use it now. It is much easier to slide the bag over a free arm and stitch with the fabric flat.
Applying the eyelets
- With a fabric pencil, mark the position of your eyelets on the bottom front of the bag. We placed ours approximately 1" in from the side and 1" up from the bottom. Trace the center of the eyelet, making a large dot.
- With small, sharp scissors cut a hole at each large dot. Make sure your hole is cut through from front to back
- Insert the eyelet top (the piece with the longer center section) into the hole from the front to the back. You should be able to just see the flange of the eyelet top poking through on the back of the bag.
- Put the back eyelet ring over the top. Place the anvil tool directly under the eyelet top and center the post tool into and over the eyelet ring. Holding the post firmly, whack the post with your leather or plastic hammer. Use smooth, strong strokes. Three whacks should be enough to allow the flange of the eyelet top to split and secure the eyelet ring.
- The flange of the eyelet top splits and secures the eyelet ring on the back (the left photo below), leaving a smooth round cap on the front (the right photo below).
- If you are new to using eyelets, check out our similar tutorials on Dritz® Large Eyelet Kit), it also comes with easy-to-follow instructions. The keys are to carefully measure and mark exactly where you want your eyelets to be, use tiny, sharp scissors to cut the holes, and be even and steady with your holding and hammering.
Inserting the cording
- Attach a large safety pin to one end of one 1½ yard length of cording.
- Thread the cording through the top casings of the bag. Go from right to left through the front casing, then from left to right through the back casing.
- Reverse to thread the second length of cording: left to right through the front and then right to left through the back.
- Pull the the cording so the ends are even on both sides.
- Thread the ends of the cording through the eyelet from back to front. This is a little like threading a needle. The first piece of cording will go through pretty easily. But the second one is a little trickier. The ends are going to be frayed and it's a tight fit through the eyelet. I wet the end and twisted it to compact the frayed edge. Then, I pulled the first cord down against the edge of the eyelet to reveal as large an opening as possible. Finally, I helped push the end of the second cord through with a pin. Once I could get a good hold on it, it pulled right through.
- Tie a knot in each end and trim away the frayed edges. My cording was polyester, so I was able to melt it with a lighter to seal the ends. It doesn't take much, just gently pass the end of the cord through the flame four or five times.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructions: Liz Johnson
Other machines suitable for this project include the Elna SewFun and the Baby Lock Grace.