Where there is a will there is a way

Sunday, March 4, 2012

How to make your own simple sturdy cotton book bag

In NZ school kids have vinyl pouches to take their reading and workbooks home every day. They don't cost much, but also don't last for long before shredding and becoming landfill fodder. It's actually REALLY easy to make your own out of a sturdy fabric such as heavy cotton.

I embroidered my daughter's bags before I sewed the pieces together (photo below) but it's not necessary. I can picture other kids having sturdy cotton book bags in their favourite bright colour, like orange, or blue, or even pink, with matching colour of bias binding/ribbon along the edges. Just having a well-made real fabric book bag would look great.

The design of the bags is one piece only - with a bias binding sewn around the edges. (I was about to use thick strap material, but a crafty friend stopped me fortunately - so my embroidering was not wasted.) Bias binding is easy to use and light. However, I did notice after that there are a huge variety of choices in ribbon out there in a haberdashery shop, which would be of very little cost - if anyone thought that bias binding was too expensive.

You will need...
Heavy cotton fabric - at least 1 m
Bias binding (preferred) or ribbon
A few centimeters of velcro for keeping the top closed
Scrap of leather or other tough material
Marking pencil (white or dark)
Long ruler or straight edge
White fabric name label
The usual: Thread, needle, scissors
A sewing machine if possible

Step 1: Trace and cut out the one piece shape for the bag. The design of this book bag is one piece - wrapping around the bottom. Draw the bag shape using a white pencil crayon or black marker, depending on whether your fabric is light or dark. Use a ruler to measure and mark straight lines. The large book bag piece is 45 cm long and 36 cm wide, the small bag is 38.5 long and 26.5 wide. Bevel the edges of one end as in illustration above. The bevelled end folds over 9 cm in the large bag and 8.25 for the small. (But I just traced the old cheaply made book bags - it was really easy that way.)

Step 2: Measure and cut binding. Fold the bag piece in half, with the square end stopping where it should, and mark where it should come up to. Cut your bias binding by following around the edge. Piece 1: Along the square edge that goes inside flap lid. Piece 2: Follows the left edge of the bag, and then along the flap, and hten down the right side again.

Step 3: Sew binding along edges. I strongly recommend pinning first. Fold the short piece of binding along the square end first, pin it into place, then sew along it using a sewing machine using an appropriate thread colour. Then fold over the long piece that covers the edge including along the flap and down the other side. Pin, then sew it. Presto, the bag is made! Now you just have to handsew on velcro inside the flap, and a reinforcing piece of leather or other sturdy material (to the outside opposite the velcro. You could also optionally sew on a pull tab.

It's alot harder to describe than it is to make it. If you can borrow another book bag to follow the design, it's really easy.