Friday, January 27, 2012

I'm the Backpack, loaded up...

with things and nicknacks too.  (Bonus points if you sang that, then finished the song on your own...)

I'll admit it.  I was never a big Dora fan.  I mean, I know I'm a little too old to have gotten into the craze as a kid, but I did my fair share of babysitting.  Lots and lots of babysitting.  And therefore, some TV watching (because that's what babysitters do best, right?).  And out of all the cartoons that kids can watch these days, Dora is not at the top of my list.  

Let's digress for a moment.  There ARE some banned cartoons in my house.  Yes, BANNED.  For instance, Teletubbies.  Also, Barney.  Can't stand it.  I literally have a gag reflex when I see the bad acting.  (Call it my training and experience if you like, bad acting makes me sick.  Even in kids' shows).  And the number one banned show in this house?  Yo Gabba Gabba.  I'm sorry.  I know there are many of you out there who love that show.  You make your kids' all the little plush figures and throw awesome Plex Parties and stuff... but that show is like a BAAAAAAD acid trip stuck on hyperdrive.  A combo of crazy meets ludicrous on steroids.  Honestly, all these shows did was make me wonder what happened to the awesome TV of my youth.  What about 3-2-1 Contact?  What about Mathnet??  Thundercats???  Storylords? She-Ra, Princess of POWER!!!!  Dora just can't live up to them.  But alas, she is not banned.

And now that I've sufficiently aged myself, let's get back to the matter at hand.

My daughter loves Dora.  I blame my niece.  mini will walk around attempting to sing the theme song.  She can recognize "doe-wah" on any kind of merchandise within a 5 mile radius and she will let everyone in earshot know it.  She thinks that a backpack is actually called a "backpack backpack" and will only say it in duplicate, even when talking about backpacks that look nothing like "Backpack Backpack."

And this is where the tutorial begins.  Because mini is obsessed with Backpack Backpack.  She loves him, right down to his creepy smile and "yum, yum, yum, yum, yum - delicioso!"  I knew she needed one for Christmas.

I did some research.  I could buy her this one:
which she couldn't really comfortably carry on her back, or this one:
which was a whopping $50.  Ain't no way. 

And at that point I stopped researching, said screw it! (more or less) and decided to make her one, even if it came out all wonky.

And you all are the fortunate recipients of my wonky backpack endeavor!  Oh, I know, you're so lucky.  

Actually, though, I'm kind of surprised that it turned out at all, considering I didn't have a pattern or anything and left it until two nights before Christmas.  I'll just give you the rundown first, and then add some notes at the end.

1.  Locate purple fleece that looks all crazy marbled at JoAnn's Black Friday Sale.  Yes, you must be insane enough to brave the Black Friday Sale.  And stand in line for an hour and a half.  And buy the weird mottled fabric because "darn it, it's close enough."  While you're at it, you should also get some coordinating-ish cotton, like a fat quarter.  
2.  Also, a bit of red felt cut into a gigantic mouth shape, super duper large google eyes, white velcro, and 4 D rings.  That's 4 (four) D rings, not 4-D rings.  If you were confused at all.  What exactly would a "4-D" ring be?

3.  Draw yourself a plan.  If you're like me, the messier and more confusing the better, since you really do just make this sewing stuff up as you go anyway.  What the devil do most of these notes MEAN, anyway?

Ok, just skip the messy artist's renderings.  I've done that step for you.  You will need to make four casings - these will be part of the straps.  Make them out of your cotton material.  Two casings should be about 11" by 2.5" and the other two should be about 6" by 2.5". 

4.  To make the casings, cut out four pieces of cotton fabric of each dimension listed above. Pin two rectangles right sides together.  You'll end up with four skinny, long rectangles.
5.  Sew all around the rectangles with a straight stitch, making sure to leave one short end open.
6.  Pull the casings right side out.  Use a long dowel or knitting needle if you need to.
7.  Tuck the unsewn edges in.  Iron the whole thing flat.  Top stitch around the outside of the casings.

To continue making the straps, you will need to make two casings from your fleece that measure approximately 9 1/4" by 3".

8.  You'll make these casings the same way you made the others, essentially.  First, cut four pieces of fleece of the dimensions above.  Pin two rectangles right sides together.  Sew with a straight stitch all around the rectangles, leaving one of the short ends open.
9.  Turn your casings right side out.
10.  Now, stuff your casings.  Cut four rectangles slightly skinnier than your casings and almost the same length.  Mine were about 9" by 1.5".  Layer two together and stuff them into a casing.  (Each casing has two little padding rectangles).
11.  It will take some shimmying, but stuff them all the way to the end and make sure they are lying completely flat and straight.  Iron the whole thing.  Trim the stuffings if you need to.
12.  Stick one of your long cotton casings into the open end of one of your fleece casings.  Pin all along the fleece to make sure the inner stuffing won't move.  Make sure to pin the cotton strap securely as well.  Do this with both.
13.  Top stitch all around the edges of the fleece casing.

14.  To make them look even more like backpack straps, and to keep the "padding" snug, sew one straight stitch down the center of each backpack strap.

Let's make the flap!  You'll need two pieces of fleece approximately 11 1/4" wide and 10 1/2" from the straight edge across to the outermost point on the curve.  You'll also need a strip of velcro - the scratchy side - at about 3".

15.  Pin the flap pieces right sides together and sew all around, leaving a small opening in the middle of the straight edge.  Turn it right side out.
16.  Tuck the edges along the opening inside and topstitch all around the flap.  Pin your velcro piece to the curved part of the flap.
17.  Sew the velcro, all the way around it, with a straight stitch.
*SPECIAL NOTE: had I been thinking, I would have sewed the velcro piece to one of the flap pieces FIRST.  THEN I would have continued by sewing the two flap pieces together, right sides together and then flipping them right side out and topstitching.  That way, you wouldn't be able to see the velcro stitching on the top side of the flap - see PICTURE 18.  But obviously, I wasn't thinking.  Or following my messy instructions up there, because I CLEARLY noted that before I even started.  Or not so clearly...

On to the bag!  We're making a simple drawstring because I am afraid of zippers.  You'll need two pieces of fleece approximately 15.5" by 10.5".

19. Pin the long sides of your fleece pieces, right sides together.  Use a straight stitch to sew the long sides.  Leave the short sides open.
20.  Fold the top edge of the bag down to decide on the width for the casing around the bag. Mark where you want your two openings in the front of the bag to be.  Cut two small vertical slits parallel to each other about two inches apart or so right in the middle of what you want to be the FRONT of your bag.  (you can just BARELY see the slits in the middle of the part that's on the bottom in picture 20 - if you SQUINT really hard.
21.  After you cut the slits (which you can see a little better in this picture) fold down the top of the bag and pin all around.  Iron.
22.  Use a straight stitch to sew the casing all the way around - don't worry about leaving an opening.

23.  Take your smaller cotton casings (the ones that have NOT been sewn to the straps) and tuck them inside the backpack, pinning them to the bottom edge.  Make sure the backpack is still WRONG side OUT.
24.  The casings should be just barely sticking out of the bottom, with the majority of the casing actually inside the bag.
25. Sew across the bottom with a straight stitch.  Backstitch over the straps just once while you are sewing across.
26.  Flip your backpack right side out.  Slip two D Rings (that's two D rings, not 2-D rings...) onto each casing.  Fold the end of the casing over once, then fold them down over the straight side of the D rings.  Sew straight across, backstitching a few times for security.

Your bag's looking a little flat.  Let's give it some shape!

27.  Turn your bag inside out.  Lay it down on it's side.  Pull the bottom corners up to make triangles.
28.  Stick one of the corners in your machine with the side seam facing up.  
29.  Your bottom seam should be in the middle of the back side of the triangle.  (Just to give you an idea of how you pull the corners out to sew them).
30.  Sew straight across at the bottom of the triangle.  You can go as far in or out as you'd like - the larger you make the triangle, the larger your bottom will be.  Well, not YOUR bottom... the bottom of your bag... you know what I mean...  Do this on both sides.
31.  Cut off the triangles on the outside of the seams you just sewed.
32.  Now your simple bag as a bottom!


33.  Turn your bag right side out.  Pin the felt mouth in place on the front (this is the side of the bag that has the slits in the middle of the casing, remember?)
34.  Sew around the mouth with a straight stitch.  
35.  Pin and sew the other side of the velcro (the soft side) just under the mouth.

Ok, now we're really almost there.  I swear it.

36.  Pin your flap to the back of the bag - on the outside.
37.  Sew straight across, staying as much on the topstitch you already sewed around the flap as possible.  Make sure the velcro piece is facing DOWN.
38.  Pin the straps just below this, on the back of the backpack.
39.  Sew straight across each strap, staying as much on the topstitch you already sewed around the straps as possible.
40.  Now you've got a flap and straps!
41.  Slid the casings from the straps into the D rings on the backpack casings to close the straps.  Now your straps are adjustable!

Would you believe me if I told you we are super close to the end now?  To finish up, you will need three scrap knit strips that are about twice the length of the diameter of the bag opening. If you don't have that, just use some kind of rope or something.  I like to use knit strips for almost all of my "strings" when I make bags that cinch.  They look cool and I have them just lying around.

42.  Take your three pieces and pin them together to something stationary-ish.  Braid the whole length.
43.  Put a safety pin in the other side as well.  The braid should be thin enough to slip through the slits you cut in the casing.  Thread your braid through the whole casing, using one of the safety pins.
44.  Tie VERY LARGE knots in the ends so the braid won't slip out.
45.  Glue on your ginormous google eyes.
*SPECIAL NOTE: after gluing on my google eyes, and more closely inspecting, I realized that not only were they not really ginormous, they looked kind of ridiculous in relation to the mouth.  So, either you need to find WAY bigger google eyes than I did, cut your mouth smaller, or just use white and black felt to make the eyes.  I do believe I will be replacing the google eyes with felt eyes soon because the proportions are just bugging me.

And there you have it!  See, I told you we were almost done!  Now you can admire the front, back, face, and inside of your easy CHEATER backpack.  The easy cheater backpack for which you bought the fleece on super Black Friday sale so the whole thing cost you about $6.  That's way better than $50.

The fact that all the little cousins new exactly what it was when they saw it and spontaneously burst into song - without prompting:

was simply icing on the cake.

Now, a note about the measurements.  I am giving you these as a guideline.  My daughter is a smallish-average sized 2 year old and this backpack is a bit large on her - especially the straps.  You may want to measure your child first and then sew the straps to fit.  I wish I'd made mine a little shorter, but it'll do.  I guess it'll just fit her for longer now.  The biggest thing I wish I'd done differently (besides those already mentioned in bold up there): Sew the straps a little closer together than I did.  There really only needs to be a few inches separating them - I mean like TWO.  That way, they will sit higher on the shoulders and will be less likely to slip down.  She still wears it and loves it, but I wish I wasn't constantly fixing her straps for her.  

ALSO, and IMPORTANT: I was planning to put a little side pocket on and make her a map, too.  Then I totally forgot to make the side pocket (because I left it off of my plans, up there) and was kind of sad.  I didn't have time to make her a map, so I guess it was ok... although I think I'll still make her one later.  The point is, I think it would be SUPER easy to add a side pocket.  Just cut a little fleece rectangle and round the bottom corners.  Make it bigger on the top than on the bottom.  Sew a small casing in the top.  Add thin elastic through the casing.  Then only sew ONE long side of the bag part, pin your pocket on the right side and sew around the curved bottom.  If you want to, you can tuck the edges under and top stitch it so the edges look finished.  Then you can turn it back inside out and sew up the other long side of the bag.  At least I THINK it would work...  Maybe I'll have to make another one...

And even though most of our photo shoot looked like this:

I swear she loves it.  At least, she better.

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!


Stephanie said...

That's too funny-I was totally thinking about Mathnet for some reason :)
Also, great job on backpack!

Rita said...

That is so cute! My daughter went through the dora stage and we got her a cheapo vinyl "backpack" which came with dora coloring things. It didnt last long before she broke it. This looks like it will last her a long time.

Manda said...

From the mother of yet another "Doe-wah" lover who grew up on She-ra... this is genius! I LOVE it.

alisamm said...

I love this backpack, backpack. And Dora isn't soooo bad. We've grown to tolerate her over here. BUT, 3-2-1 Contact will always be the bomb diggidy.

Hani said...

Awww I love all the details on the backpack Kimberly.. It looks so cute! Like dora's backpack.. :)

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