A canvas backpack wedding present
One of the most surprising-exciting wedding gifts Matthew and I got was a gift card to Simplifi Fabric. Given that this was obviously "for" me, I decided I needed to make a project for Matthew with the fabric to be procured.
I'd been kicking around the idea of making a surprise backpack for Matthew using the Desmond Rolltop pattern, but chickened out of the surprise element. This is a use-every-day kind of item! I totally could have gone with the surprise route, since he liked the look of the Desmond AND picked the same outer canvas as I'd been eyeing, these Birch Organic whales. He was also amenable to my hemp webbing idea. We only really differed on the choice of lining, and actually his first choice was out logistically (a plain cotton canvas that was significantly heavier than the outer), and his second was out of stock (this pretty hand-painted herringbone). We settled on a nice indigo canvas in a similar weight to the whales.
To get the whales up to snuff for a structured-ish outer, fusible interfacing (which I cut in most places 1/2 inch smaller than the pattern pieces to reduce bulk) was the order of the day. This summer, it seems, has been hot for everyone, everywhere. And so it was that ironing on the fusible interfacing with my crap lightweight iron was no fun and also put off often. But then, it was all I could actually work on for a bit, between being busy and getting my machine serviced. Which is to say, I also cut out a bunch of other projects just to not be ironing and frustrated in 30 degree weather.
Also.... I wasn't careful with my fabric widths. I read 1 m of 45 inch fabric for the inner, and misread the same for the outer, which actually needs 1 m of 60 inch. So I was actually quite short on whales, but with some tight placement, I was able to get most of the pieces cut for it. I had to piece one strap piece, and the strap covering piece I ended up making with the blue instead. I quite enjoy this tetris, but it took a fair chunk of time.
As a (two paragraph) sidebar, I'm quite glad I got my machine serviced (for the first time) and it's working nice and smoothly since. HOWEVER. Scene: the sewing machine store. I had opened with apologizing for having lost my service receipt/ticket, and Nice Old Sewing Machine Store Employee assured me that was fine and they could look me up by name. Her coworker, Grumpo, took over from there. Literally as she searched me by name, Grumpo warned me in that lazy-teenager (she was not a teenager) catty way that if they ever DID start requiring the receipt I'd be in trouble... which... fine? She went to the wall of sewing machines and as she looked for mine, sighed dramatically (! hilarious) and shout-asked me if I knew what my machine looked like.
Now. Have you ever tried to describe the appearance of a modern machine? My thoughts went like this: White... rectangular... no screen, oh wait i sent it in with my cover on.... that's more white and rectangular... but it does say KENMORE on it! "Uhhh, it's a Kenmore, if that helps?" She shot me daggers. "I KNOW it's a Kenmore. I looked it up. I THOUGHT you might know what your machine looks like." ACTUAL EYEROLL. I apologized. Sheepishly. None of this should be notable but I was hungry and picking my machine up was my birthday gift to myself and I just bit back tears while I paid, which felt way too extra but I couldn't roll with it. As soon as my card went through I picked up my machine and made a beeline for the door. As I exited, Grumpo got one last shot in and I actually started crying and shot back an unintentional "fuck you," so overall, yeah, things went great and I can never show my face there again, I think.
check this nerdo <3
So.... The sewing, though. Once I got my machine back I got two evenings of sewing in, between life and getting ready for a move at the end of July. Still, this bag is designed to come together with some ease, and I was able to fully assemble the interior lining, pockets and all. I am quite pleased with the design for the inner pockets, especially because I've never made a bag before, as they are simple bucket pockets, but not so large as to get in the way of the body. I would not have thought of such a thing myself.
I also managed to sew and turn, but not press, the straps, and get the front zipper into the front zipper pocket. I was waiting on hardware, so did everything in the order that most appealed to me at the time, avoiding adding the D-rings to the front, and thus, not attaching the zipper pocket.
A couple weeks later, a week post-move, I got going again... one 45-minute sewing session got the straps pressed and the zipper pocket assembled and two sides of it attached. Setting up and tearing down a makeshift sewing area takes a while, oi. I forgot to leave a 1/2 inch on the pocket corners unsewn for easier attachment and less corner bulk, and the bottom corners are entirely different from one another: one curved, one properly 90 degree (ish).
We had a baby-less weekend for wedding attendance purposes, but that meant we also had most of a day in the new place to unpack and for me to sew. A couple more sewing-devoted hours meant I actually got the bag finished, which was a huge relief to me in terms of mental energy. It's not like I sew quickly or in large chunks normally, but I missed having 20 minute sessions. Matthew insisted I focus my unpacking during the day on the sewing room and relax with that, and boy, thank you Matthew.
A sewing room
I daringly topstitched the D-ring attachments with contrasting black and decided that that was a poor decision, given how my machine was dealing with the bulk and presence of rings under the foot. From there, I was switching threads to keep things matchy and disguised. Thank goodness because as much as I like, for example, the strap tops, the backs look decidedly wonky. But... strong??
It was pretty fun to discover the assembly of a simple backpack, in terms of straps, and I had a grand old time going back and forth over layers and layers of straps to keep em secure. Hopefully I did enough...
The outer being very similar to the inner in assembly, it went quickly, although I ended up with a sad little peekaboo of seam in one of the bottom corners. Carefulness pays! At least I remembered to stop my seams 1/2 inch from the end for this.
I quite like from a construction perspective that the lining isn't attached to the body anywhere but the top, and did go back to mostly contrasting white topstitching for that part, since there's no big bulk to deal with.
The hemp webbing is thick and solid as compared to a nylon, and so really required some convincing with a butter knife to fit through the slides. However, they are very solidly in place and both Matthew and I like the look of the fraying webbing, so Matthew says leave em as-is.
So far, Matthew's reviews include that this bag is less sweaty to wear than his old backpack (a win for cotton over synthetics), and he's quite happy with the size and comfort. We are planning to add a few metal snaps at the top so the sides pinch together more nicely for him when he's rolling it up, and I've suggested eventually Otter waxing it for some waterproofing.
Pattern: Desmond Rolltop Backpack by Tailor Taylor
Fabric: Birch Organic whale canvas ~6.5 oz; medium-heavy pellon interfacing; Cloud 9 Indigo stripes 7 oz canvas; Tailor Taylor hardware kit; hemp webbing
If there is a next time: Stick to matching topstitching where hardware or serious bulk is involved, take note of final strap lengths to minimize wasted webbing