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Lightweight, Designer Backpack: Hawthorne Threads

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We have been looking forward to working with the digitally printed fabric from Hawthorne Threads for months! If you missed our interview with them, take a look to learn more about their very cool, in-house digital process. Now with six collections to choose from (Norwegian Wood just debuted), the hardest part was deciding which would be the one for our project. We finally settled on Marsala – not only a beautiful collection of prints, but in the Pantone color of the year! Our backpack has classic carryall styling: from the padded, adjustable straps to the fold-over flap with a magnetic clasp to the fully-finished front zippered pocket. A great backpack in beautiful fabric: fashion meets function.

The quality of the Hawthorne Threads digitally printed fabric is amazing. It is listed as a quilting-weight cotton, but thanks to a high thread count, it feels smoother and a bit heavier than traditional collections. We loved working with it.

Their fabric care instructions strongly recommend pre-washing all the fabric, and we agree. Although this backpack is meant to be spot-cleaned as opposed to tossed in the washer and dryer, even with one round of pre-washing, we could see how the hand and drape of the digitally printed fabric does indeed improve with washing. 

If you spend any time at all working with printed fabric, you know what looks like a strong vertical or horizontal patten at arm's length, can actually end up to be substantially out of alignment once you get out the ruler to make a cut. So we were impressed with the how straight and true the Hawthorne Threads digital designs are printed. This makes fussy cutting pieces easier, and you end up with less waste.

Our backpack is tall enough for your favorite folders, digital notepads and more. The 2" depth gives the height good stability, and is plenty wide enough to hold what you need without overloading; you don't want to stress out your shoulders. 

We employed a variety of stabilizers: fleece for the body, firm interfacing for the flap, and low loft batting for the padded straps. The result is a lightweight yet sturdy pack.

A standard cotton twill in a coordinating solid adds just a bit of background to the four Hawthorne Threads Marsala prints we selected.

The backpack finishes at approximately 12" wide x 16" high x 2" deep with fully adjustable straps and a handy hanging loop at the top. 

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the exterior body (Fans in our sample), fussy cut TWO 15½" high x 15" wide rectangles 
  2. From the fabric for the lining (Broken Chevrons in our sample), fussy cut TWO 18" high x 15" wide rectangles.
  3. From the fabric for the exterior pocket and straps (Rhythmic in our sample), fussy cut the following:
    ONE 13" high x 10" rectangle for the pocket
    TWO 2¼" x 45" strips for the straps and tabs; these strips will be cut to length during construction
    NOTE: Remember, we cut our strips vertically to preserve the motif, which is why we started with additional yardage.
  4. From the fabric for the flap (Vanes in our sample), fussy cut ONE 17" high x 13" wide rectangle.
  5. From the fabric for the base, straps and hanging loop (burgundy twill in our sample), cut the following:
    TWO 3½" high x 15" wide rectangles for the base
    TWO 2½" x 45" strips for the straps and tabs; these strips will be cut to length during construction
    ONE 2½" x 7" strip for the hanging loop
  6. From the fusible fleece, cut TWO 17½" x 15" rectangles.
  7. From the interfacing, cut the following:
    ONE 8" x 11" rectangle for the flap
    ONE 9" x 6" rectangle for the exterior pocket
    ONE 1½" x 7" strip for the hanging loop
  8. From the batting, cut TWO 1⅜" x 45" strips for the straps.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the straps and tabs

  1. Find all the 45" strips: the twill, the Rhythmic and the batting.
  2. Press back both long sides of both twill strips ½". 
  3. Slip a batting strip into place between the folded sides.
  4. Press back both long sides of the Rhythmic strips ½". 
  5. Place the Rhythmic strip right side up on top of each twill/batting strip. The two fabrics are now wrong sides together and the batting is sandwiched between the layers. Because the Rhythmic strips are cut just a little narrower than the twill strips, a bit of the base fabric should show to either side of the feature fabric. Pin in place.
  6. Thread the machine with thread to best match the feature fabric in the top and thread to best match the base fabric in the bobbin. Lengthen your stitch.
  7. Edgestitch down both long sides of both layered straps. Your seams should run approximately ⅛" from the folded edges of the feature fabric. 
  8. You are stitching through all the layers
  9. Trim off ONE 7" length from each finished 45" strap. You now have two 38" straps and two 7" strap tabs. Set aside these pieces.

Create the zippered pocket

  1. Find the 13" x 10" pocket panel in Rhythmic and the 7" zipper.
  2. Press the pocket in half, wrong sides together, so it is now 6½" x 10". Press to set a center crease. 
  3. Place the still-folded pocket on your cutting surface with the folded edge at the top. 
  4. Using the clear ruler and a fabric pen or pencil, measure 1½" down from the top folded edge and draw a 7" horizontal line. This line should be centered side to side (1½" from each side edge) and parallel with the top folded edge. 
    NOTE: Remember, you are working on the right side of your fabric. Make sure you are using a fabric pen/pencil that can be easily wiped away or will vanish with exposure to the air. 
  5. Draw two additional parallel horizontal lines: one ¼" above the first line and one ¼" below the first line. 
  6. Connect the end points to create a drawn rectangle with a line down its center. 
  7. Using a rotary cutter if possible (for better precision), slice along the center drawn line (through both layers), starting and stopping ½" from each end. Then use your scissors to clip from each end of the cut line diagonally up to each corner.
  8. Unfold the pocket panel wrong side up on your ironing board, and press back each "zipper window" along the remaining drawn lines. 
  9. Find the 9" x 6" rectangle of interfacing. Place it over one half of the pocket panel, against the fabric's wrong side. The top of the interfacing should be aligned with the center crease line of the fabric. There should be ½" of fabric showing beyond both sides and the bottom of the interfacing. Lightly press to hold the interfacing in place, avoiding the zipper window area. Cut away the interfacing around the zipper window. Follow manufacturer's instructions to fully fuse the interfacing in place.
  10. Re-fold the pocket panel right sides together, carefully re-aligning the zipper windows, and pin along both sides. 
  11. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along both sides. The bottom remains open. 
  12. Clip the corners and press open the seam allowances.
  13. Turn the pocket right side out. Use a long, blunt-end tool, such as a long knitting needle or chopstick, to gently push out the top corners so they are nice and square. Also make sure those zipper windows are still perfectly aligned. Press the pocket flat. 
  14. Flip the pocket so the interfaced side is facing up. This is considered the "front" of the pocket. Find the zipper. Using the open bottom, slip the zipper between the two layers and up into position in the window. The zipper should be centered within the window. Pin in place, and double check the centered position from both the front of the pocket...
  15. ... and the back of the pocket.
  16. Re-thread the machine if necessary with thread to best match the pocket fabric in the top and bobbin. Your stitch should still be lengthened.
  17. Attach a Zipper foot
  18. Edgestitch around all four sides of the zipper window through all the layers, running your seam as close to the folded edges of the fabric as possible, but still making sure you are catching both sides. If you have a large, decorative pull like we did, you can open and close the zipper as needed as you stitch to allow the presser foot to move in a straight line around all sides.

Complete the exterior panels

  1. Find the two main exterior panels in Fans, the two base panels in burgundy twill, and the two fusible fleece panels. 
  2. Place one exterior panel right side up and flat on your work surface. This panel will become the front of the backpack, so if you have a favorite cut of the two, use it. 
  3. Place pocket right side up on the exterior panel. The pocket should be centered side to side and the bottom raw edges of the pocket should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the exterior panel. Lightly pin the pocket in place along its top edge.
  4. Place a base strip right sides together along the bottom edge of the exterior panel, sandwiching the bottom of the pocket between the layers. Pin in place across the bottom through all layers. 
  5. If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the base fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set to a standard stitch length.
  6. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch across the bottom through all layers. Press the base panel down into position, also pressing the seam allowance towards the base panel. 
  7. Flip the front exterior panel to the wrong side. Place a fusible fleece panel in position. The fleece panel should sit ½" down from the top raw edge of the exterior panel. The sides and bottom edges of the fleece are flush with the sides and bottom edge of the exterior panel. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the fleece in place.
  8. Fold down the top raw edge ½", right along the top edge of the fleece.
  9. Flip the front exterior panel right side up. 
  10. If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the pocket fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set to a longer stitch length. Topstitch along both sides and across the top of the pocket. Remember to pivot at each corner and to start and stop your seam right at the base panel. Your seam should run approximately ⅛" from the edges of the pocket.  
  11. Re-thread the machine with thread to contrast with the base fabric. Keep the lengthened stitch. We used a heavy thread in natural. Topstitch across the bottom of the panel, running this horizontal seam approximately ⅛" from the existing panel/base seam line within the base panel. 
  12. Repeat to create the exterior back panel, but without the pocket steps. This set will have just the one horizontal base panel seam through all the layers. 

Create the hanging loop; place the loop and strap tabs

  1. Find the 2½" x 7" twill strip, the 1½" x 7" interfacing strip, the two 7" lengths of strap, and the two rectangular rings. 
  2. Slip a strap tab strip through each ring, right sides facing out and with the raw ends of strip aligned. Pin the raw ends in place and set aside. 
  3. Fold back each 7" side of the twill strip ½". Slip the interfacing strip between the folds, similarly to how you inserted the batting in the main strap assembly. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.
  4. Fold the interfaced strip in half and press. The long folded edges should be flush with one another and the ends of the now ¾" wide strip are raw. 
  5. Re-thread the machine with either thread to best match the twill in the top and bobbin or use the same contrasting thread as for the base panel topstitching. This was our choice. we also maintained our longer stitch length. 
  6. Edgestitch along the folded edge of the strip. 
  7. Find the back exterior panel (the non-pocket panel). Place it right side up on your work surface. Measure along the top edge of the exterior panel to find the center point. Place a pin at this point. 
  8. Form the twill strip into a loop. Place the loop around the center pin point. The raw ends of the loop should be flush with the top raw edge of the exterior panel and the loop itself should be hanging down. Make sure the loop is even; the inside edges should each be ¾" from the center pin point. Pin the loop in place.
  9. Find the two strap tabs. Place one to either side of the hanging loop. The raw ends of the tabs should be flush with the top raw edge of the exterior panel and the rings should be hanging down. The inside edge of each tab should each be 2½" from the center pin point. Angle the tabs slightly so they are facing away from the hanging loop as shown in the photo below, which means the raw edges of the tab will no longer be flush but instead will extend beyond the top of the exterior panel at an angle.  Pin the tabs in place. Machine baste across the top edge of the exterior panel through all the layers to secure the hanging loop and tabs. Run the basting seam within the ½" seam allowance.
  10. Set aside the exterior back panel.

Create the flap and attach to the back exterior panel

  1. Find the 17" x 13" Vanes flap panel, the 8" x 12" interfacing rectangle, and the magnetic snap. You'll also need a few scraps of the interfacing to use as reinforcement squares behind the snap. 
  2. Fold the Vanes panel wrong sides together so it is now 8½" x 13" and press to set a center crease. 
  3. Unfold the panel wrong side up on your ironing board so the crease line in visible. Place the interfacing panel on the wrong side of the fabric panel, aligning the top edge along the center crease line. There should be ½" of fabric showing beyond the interfacing along both sides and across the bottom. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse in place.
  4. Along the top of the interacing, at the crease line, find the center point of the panel. Mark this point, ½" down from the crease line. 
  5. Directly across from it place two approximately 1½" squares of interfacing. Fuse in place, one on top of the other. 
  6. Flip the flap panel to the right side. On the non interfaced side (the side with just the two squares of interfacing), create a matching point: centered side to side and ½" down from the crease line. 
  7. Place the top curve of the magnetic purse snap at this marked point, and use the snap washer to mark two cut slits. 
  8. Using your marks, insert the ball half of the magnetic snap. Remember, you are working through one layer of the flap, inserting through the fused squares of interfacing. If you are new to inserting magnetic snaps, check out our full step-by-step tutorial on this technique
  9. Fold the flap right sides together along the original crease line, aligning all the raw edges. Pin along both sides. 
  10. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides. The bottom remains open.
  11. Clip the corners and press open the seam allowances.
  12. Turn the flap right side out through the open bottom. Use a long, blunt-end tool, such as a long knitting needle or chopstick, to gently push out the top corners so they are nice and square. Press the flap flat. 
  13. Re-thread the machine if necessary with thread to best match the flap fabric in the top and bottom. Adjust the stitch length to match the lengthened stitch you have been using above. 
  14. Edgestitch along both sides and across the top of the flap. The bottom remains open and raw. 
  15. Find the exterior back panel again with the hanging loop and strap tabs basted in place. Place it right side up on your work surface. Place the flap right sides together (the snap will be facing up and visible) with the exterior back panel. Align the top raw edge of the exterior panel with the remaining raw edge of the flap. The flap should be centered side to side. We took the time to find the exact center of the flap and to re-find the exact center of the exterior panel, placing a pin at each center point. We then aligned the two pins when pinning the flap to the exterior panel.
  16. Machine baste the flap to the exterior panel through all the layers. 
  17. Trim away the little angled bits of the strap tabs so the top edges are flush.
  18. Place the exterior back panel (with the flap basted in place) right side down on your work surface. Find the exterior front panel and place it right side up on top of the back panel. Make sure the bottom edges and sides of the two panels are flush. 
  19. Fold the flap down into position to mark the point for the remaining half of the magnetic snap. Don't pull the flap taut; remember it has to lay across the boxed width of the bag. Just gently lay the flap down and mark the point for the snap. We determined that the bottom curve of the snap should be approximately 1" above the top of the pocket. 
  20. Although the fleece adds quite a bit of body, we opted to again add a couple squares of interfacing on the back of the front panel, behind our marked point, for extra snap stability. 

    NOTE: As above, if you are new to inserting magnetic snaps, we have a full tutorial

Attach the main straps and complete the exterior bag

  1. Find the remaining two lengths of strap and the two sliders. 
  2. On one strap, slip one raw end right side up through the center bar of the slider. 
  3. Flip over. Turn under the raw end of the strap ½”.
  4. Pull back this folded end approximately 1¼" from the slider and pin in place.
  5. Edgestitch the folded end to secure the slider in place. Use two lines of stitching. One close to the folded edge, the second ¼" - ½" from the first seam.
  6. Find the exterior back panel. Place it right side up on your work surface with the tabbed rings at the top. 
  7. With the strap wrong side up (twill side up), thread the raw end through the one of the top tabbed rings. 
  8. Pull the strap through so it is now facing right side up and feed the raw end back through the slider, going up and over the end you seamed in place - up and over the center. This creates your adjusting loop.
  9. Continue pulling through until you have enough strap to work with to easily secure the raw end in place.
  10. Repeat with the remaining strap.
  11. With each strap threaded through its ring/slider, baste each end in place just above the base of the exterior back panel along each side. 
  12. Place the end of one strap 4" up from the bottom raw edge of the base panel, which equates to about 1" above the top seam of the base panel. Angle the end of the strap as shown below in the photo so a triangle of the strap extends beyond the raw edge of the exterior panel. Before pinning, do a quick check to make sure there are no twists in your strap. Pin the strap end in place.
  13. Repeat to pin the opposite strap end in place.
  14. Machine baste each end in place. We used two lines of stitching for extra security at this stress point. 
  15. Place the front and back exterior panels right sides together, sandwiching the straps between the layers. You may want to lightly pin the straps toward the center to keep them out of the way of the seam. Pin along both sides and across the bottom.
  16. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
    NOTE: We went to the trouble to change our thread color to match the upper and base panels. This is optional, but does insure that when the backpack is turned right side out, the seams are a nice match in case any of the thread is visible. 
  17. As you did above with the strap tabs, trim away the excess "strap triangle" so the edges are flush.
  18. Create 2" box corners, which means your "box" will be half that size or 1". Cut out the 1" square from the corner. Align the side and bottom seams.
  19. Double stitch across the corner.
  20. If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners.
  21. Turn the exterior bag right side out, push out the corners and press.

Create and insert lining to finish

  1. Find the two lining panels in Broken Chevrons
  2. Place the panels right sides together. Pin along both sides and across the bottom.
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
  4. As above, create 2" box corners in the lining. Remember to check out our boxed corner tutorial if need be.
  5. Fold down the top raw edge ½" all around.
  6. Keep the lining wrong side out. Find the finished exterior bag, which should be right side out. Slip the lining inside the exterior so the two are now wrong sides together. 
  7. Align the side seams and the boxed bottom corners.
  8. Bring the lining up into place over the raw edges of the flap and pin the lining to the exterior all the way around the top of the bag. The folded edges of the two layers should be perfectly flush from the sides of the flap and around the front. If they don't line up, simply roll one or both folds until they match up. 
  9. Rethread the machine if necessary with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and the lining fabric in the bobbin.
  10. Attach a Walking or Even Feed foot if possible. The stitch length should be extended to match what you've been using above. 
  11. Topstitch around the entire top opening of the bag through all the layers, staying as close to the folded edges as possible. We used a double needle for this final topstitching, but you could also simply stitch around twice: ⅛" from the top folded edges and with ⅛" between the two lines of stitching. Remove any visible basting stitches. 

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

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Comments (12)

Sheila Hoak said:
Sheila Hoak's picture

Can you make a printer friendly virsion of this?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Sheila Hoak - all our articles can be saved as a PDF file, which makes them printer friendly, allowing you to set the size of the final print out and choose whether to print in B&W or color. Look at the top of any article across the title and date for the PDF icon. 

Tim said:
Tim's picture

31 pages does not a printable PDF make.

I'm surprised wordpress or whatever platform you are using doesn't have formatting options for recipes and tutorials.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Tim - One of our main goals at S4H is to make sure our instructions are very thorough with lots of details in order to insure we live up to our motto – that we believe anyone can sew beautiful things. However, this does mean longer tutorials, and in turn, longer PDFs. We do use a professional CMS (rather than wordpress) and had our PDF generation professionally built. All ads and graphic banners are stripped, leaving just the main instructions and photos. Of course, you could also choose to not print the first pages that contain the introduction and the beauty shots of the samples. Or - print double sided.

Karen D said:
Karen D's picture

I'm considering making one of these and in reading the instructions, I have a question.  If widest part of the strap (twill) is 1-1/2 inches wide after turning in 1/2 inch on each side, and that is wrapped around the batting (which is cut to 1-3/8 inch; is the materials list correct in stating to use 1 inch rings & sliders?  I realize they should probably be a tight fit, but just wanted to verify that this is accurate.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Karen D - Yikes!! Good catch. They rings and sliders should indeed be listed at 1-1/2". So sorry about that. We have corrected it above and appreciate you pointing out that goof. With hundreds of little measurements flying past our eyes every week, we usually catch them all... but once in a while, one sneaks by and we appreciate the heads-up. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Dot Shimamoto - Sew4Home doesn't actually sell packages, but we will pass along your idea to our friends at Hawthorne Threads.

Jane Coombs said:
Jane Coombs's picture

Aside from having an exceptional newsletter, Hawthorne Threads allows you to buy parts of a yard of fabric.Good to know.

Hawthorne Threads said:
Hawthorne Threads's picture

Beautiful! Thank you so much for showcasing our Marsala Fabric in such a fashion forward yet functional way! We can't wait to make one ourselves! - Lindsay and all of us at Hawthorne Threads!

Norma Iris said:
Norma Iris's picture

Gorgeous Collection. I love Hawthorne Threads. This pattern design is lovely. Thanks for sharing.

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