We’re not quite in back to school mode here, but I know lots of you are and some have already sent their little ones off for the first day. When my older son started preschool years ago, I sent him off with a small fabric backpack with a drawstring top – it was cute and fun and he liked to collect things (rocks and nuts, mostly) and put them inside. Actually, he still does. However, it was kind of pointless when it came to preschool. Why? Because in preschool, your “work” frequently consists of artwork – think paintings and collages on large pieces of paper. And the books they read? They’re big, too! So the small bag, cinched even smaller with a drawstring top, was less than ideal as it didn’t even fit an 8.5×11 sheet of paper. So…take two.
Last year, before sending my toddler off to school, I set out to make a bag that would fit both the boy and the contents. When I was searching online, I found two tutorials that caught my eye. The first is a the Little Hitchhiker’s Backpack, a tutorial from Birch Fabrics and the second is a great little pack from Hart & Sew. I really liked the Hart & Sew pack and with a few modifications I made it just right for my toddler.
For size reference, my model here is a small 3 year old (and, uh, I promise he chose his shirt without knowing that he’d be modeling the matching backpack).
The fabric is a mix of canvas and quilting cottons from designer Lotta Jansdotter’s Glimma line – canvas for the main parts of the bag and straps and quilting cotton for the flap and a full lining. The flap received a layer of interfacing as well to make it a bit more sturdy.
Rather than using webbing for the hang loop and straps, I constructed them out of the canvas to match the bag.
The bottom of the straps was sewn into the side seam at a slight angle and ended with a D-ring.
The top of the straps comes down and loops through the D-rings. This gives it a little curve to help stay on those little shoulders.
My original intent was for the straps to be looped through and buttoned onto themselves, giving them an adjustable length. Unfortunately, my straps (based on measurements from the Birch tutorial) turned out to be much too short to go that route. So my advice is to go long! You can always shorten them after they’ve been sewn in, but it will take much more work to replace them to make them longer.
I knew my son was unlikely to use the inside pencil slots, so I left those out entirely. However, we do walk to and from school and I knew he would need an easily accessible, zippered pocket for all the “treasures” he is sure to find along the way, so I added that onto the outside of the pack.
I made the pocket with a little box pleat to make sure there would be room for those rocks and nuts and I semi-lined it with the same fabric I used to line the bag. (The pocket was fully constructed and then sewn on like a patch, so no unfinished edges on the inside.)
The flap is secured with two magnetic closures – more easy access and the ability to stuff it with big books and artwork.
You can even accommodate those really big masterpieces…
I have to admit, I really love this bag. It served my two year old well and it even fits the seven year old, so I plan to get many years of use out of it. If you have any questions, let me know! We have some really awesome canvas prints in the shop right now that would be perfect for bags and, honestly…you could absolutely increase the measurements on this to make a grown-up version. While you’ve got bags on the mind, also check out the new bag patterns in the shop!
If the tutorials seem overwhelming, there are some nice toddler backpack patterns available for purchase as well. Made-By-Rae has a toddler backpack pattern that includes two sizes. There is also a similarly shaped pattern in the Little Things to Sew book from Liesl Gibson.
Whatever bag you choose, have fun with it!