Tag Archives: backpack

Completed: The Freedom Backpack

12 Dec

I know.

I already made a travel backpack. And in all honesty – a pretty nice one at that. It has been my little tag-along for every adventure I’ve gone on since finishing it, and I get a lot of compliments on it from strangers (and a lot of boggled minds when I reply with, “Thanks, I made it!” GREAT feeling, btw! ;)).

I do love that backpack, but it’s definitely more suited to be a day backpack – it’s very small, so great for walking around and exploring a new city, not as great for a long plane ride. It’s also very light, so I’m a bit nervous to stuff it too full. Which honestly isn’t too much of a problem, since it’s too small to stuff really full in the first place πŸ˜›

So, I made another one. Two backpacks in one year! I am on a roll here, you guys.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

I actually had no intention of making another backpack. Like I said – I like the little rainbow travel one, and I’ll continue to use it. I have been planning for my trip to Egypt in January (OMG IT’S SO SOON OMG), and thinking about what I might use as my carry-on for the flight. I had been lurking around at the backpacks in the stores, but not actually planning on buying anything. About this time, I got an email from niizo, asking if I wanted to try and review something from the shop. My immediately first thought was, “Naw.” Until I actually looked at the stuff that was available. The patterns available are really nice – they looked a lot like the stuff I was seeing in stores. And the fact that they also had kits that included everything needed to make the pattern – pretty tempting (sourcing all those materials can be a PITA, especially if you have to order half the shit online). Further, Amy mentioned in her original email that her instructions were super user-friendly and the patterns were professionally designed. I thought about it for a couple of days and decided to go for it.

It was hard to decide which kit to receive (like I said, I had backpacks on the mind but duuuude I love that Sunny Day bag, too!), but eventually, practicality won out and I chose the Freedom Backpack Kit in the Iron Gray colorway. My finished backpack totally looks like the products photos, but, whatever, I like the grey haha.

Once I chose my kit, I received the package within about a week. I don’t know the specific day as I was in NYC while it was delivered, but it was definitely less than 10 days. I wish I’d thought to take a picture of the packaging, because it was all packaged together quite beautifully – but I eagerly ripped that shit open the second I laid eyes on it AS I AM WONT TO DO, so, sorry. The fabrics were all neatly folded and labeled, and all the accessories were split between a couple plastic bags. If you look at the listing, you can see what the kit includes – but it’s literally everything you need, except the thread & needles (and sewing machine, obviously). They even include waxed thread & large needles for sewing on the leather pieces. The zippers already have the big leather pulls attached (with the stoppers cut off – since you’re inserting the zippers into something, you don’t need the stoppers. They are tagged in place to the zipper tape, so you accidentally yank the pull off and ruin the zipper. A very thoughtful touch!) and all the little leather pieces have the edges finished and the stitch holes pre-cut. It’s a really nice kit – and pretty close in cost to what I paid for my other backpack, except that I didn’t have to source all these materials individually!

The pattern is a PDF that you print off and tape about half the pieces together (they are individual, so you don’t end up with a giant sheet of paper that you then have to cut down). There isn’t a test print measurement square, however, the dimensions of the piece are printed on every pattern piece, so you can double check to make sure you printed the correct size. I scaled at 100% and everything was perfect. I spent the first evening taping and cutting – put on some good music, spread my fabric out on a single layer, and traced around the pieces with a big piece of wax so I could make sure they all fit on the yardage provided. I followed the cutting layout in the pattern and ended up with very little waste, and a very satisfying pile of cut pieces.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

Niizo Freedom Backpack

Sewing this backpack was INCREDIBLY fun. I do not consider myself a bag maker – like, I’m not super skilled at it, and also I kind of hate sewing bags (which is why I carry a purse that I actually paid money for, instead of making one. Also my wallet. Also all my tote bags. Sewing bags is borrrrrring). But I honestly, truly enjoyed nearly every moment of putting this thing together (I am sorry in advance because this review is about to get super gushy hahaha). The instructions are really good – they include photographs (not drawings) and are very simple and direct. The pieces all fit together perfectly. I had no problem deciphering or following any of the steps, and I was quite impressed with how nice the bag turned out. I had so much fun sewing this thing, it ended up being the sort of project that kept me up way past my bedtime (and also skipping dinner) because I was enjoying myself too much to stop. Having sewn another backpack just a few months prior, the finishing of this pack is much much much more professional than the other pattern. Not that the other pattern is bad – this one just definitely has better instructions and a nicer finish.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

It’s a little difficult to see in the product photos, but there are a lot of nice touches that really elevate this project. The plaid lining (which is waterproof cotton – all the fabric in this bag, including the lining, is waterproof) is under the hood flap and also at the underside of the straps. There are two zippered compartments under the hood flap – the back compartment is the size of the bag, with one large pocket (sized for a laptop) and two smaller pockets. The front compartment is as wide as the backpack, but only about half as deep, with some smaller pockets inside.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

The bottom half of the front compartment is also a pocket, with a little sneaky side zipper. I imagine this would be a great place to hold stuff like a change of clothes (for international flights) so you they are handy but also out of the way when you’re digging through the rest of your shit.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

The straps are padded with some plastic-y foam stuff (I dunno what it is, but it’s way more comfy than quilt batting haha), and then the nylon webbing is sewn directly on top.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

The straps are then attached to the bottom of the backpack with this little triangle tab thing, which is a nice feature.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

The back is padded with the same foam stuff, and topstitched in place. You can also see the piece that covers where the straps attach at the top.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

Niizo Freedom Backpack

I love the little leather details. I sewed them on with the included thread & needles, using a double needle stitch – which the pattern includes a link to video instructions that you can follow along.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

Finally, there are two side pockets that can hold your water bottle.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

This is the inside of the back compartment – one side of pockets.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

Here is the other side of the same compartment. Not sure if my backpack is drunk or just leering in this photo.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

What’s awesome about this backpack is there is NO INTERFACING involved! It gets its shape from the heft of the outer fabric (which is a waterproof cotton canvas) and that back padding. I didn’t put anything in this backpack for these photos – it’s empty and standing up on it’s own just fine. The downside to this is that it was quite difficult to manipulate under the sewing machine once I got to those very final steps of putting it all together – it’s just really bulky, and hard to push down flat. I managed, just by going slow and being careful. Don’t try to rush that part! It was also a big beast to turn the thing right side out once I was finished (the bottom lining is left open and slip-stitched shut), but obviously I was able to get that eventually… it just took a bit of patience.

If you’re interested in trying this backpack – or anything similar to this – here are my tips:
– An 80/12 needle works fine, although a heavier one might be more ideal (I only had 80/12’s on hand). I only broke one needle during the making of this, and it was at the very end.
– Some of the layers get too bulky to pin together, so I bought a pack of Wonder Clips and that was immensely helpful. They’re not as flat as pins, so you’ll have to pull them off earlier than usual to get it under the machine, but it’s worth it to be able to at least hold the layers together temporarily.
– The cotton fabrics press, but that waterproof nylon lining does not. For the tops of the pockets, I marked a 3/8″ line with chalk as a guide for my first fold, and then just doubled it for the second fold.
– The pattern includes measurements in both centimeters and inches – I found it waaaay easier to just follow the cm measurements.
– The seam allowances are included in the pattern, and they are quite small. Depending on what part you’re sewing, they range from 3/8″ to a little under 1/4″. For those teensy seam allowances – especially when I got to putting the entire thing together, in all of it’s bulky glory – the 1/4″ foot on my sewing machine was a LIFESAVER. I just moved the needle closer to the edge blade, to make the seam allowance less than 1/4″.
– Some of the backpack instructions might seem kind of weird… just blindly follow them, it’ll all make sense eventually.

Niizo Freedom Backpack

Overall, I have nothing but positive things to say about the backpack – both the experience putting it together, and the finished product. I was going through a little bit of a sewing slump, and this definitely revived my mojo! It was really entertaining to sew something that wasn’t garment related. I can’t wait to take this thing out and use it for my upcoming trip! It certainly feels much sturdier than my mini travel backpack, and I think it looks really professional.

As I mentioned, I did receive this backpack kit from niizo in exchange for a review post. I know this review is pretttty gushy, but I am honestly that excited about it (don’t worry, I’ve gushed about it to everyone I know irl as well haha). 10/10, would absolutely make another pattern from this shop again.
One last thing – niizo is running a winter sale through next Monday, here are the details on that:

Grateful Winter Sale on niizo Etsy shop
12/12 – 12/18 Each day we’ll release a surprise coupon code at 0:00(GMT-5)
++++ How to Get the Coupon ++++
Follow @niizocraft on instagram.
Watch the short clip to find the out the coupon code in the video!!
Each coupon code lasts for only 24hrs.
If you miss it, it’s okay, tomorrow is a new day.

Now, who’s got a hankering to make a backpack? πŸ˜‰

Completed: Travel Backpack

11 Aug

Look! I made a backpack!!

Travel Backpack

Ok, let me back(lolz) up a little first here!

When I travel around (whether it’s personal or sewing workshop related!), I like to check my luggage and bring a carry-on bag that is big enough for all my entertaining shit (knitting, Kindle, etc), but not so big that I’m forced to keep it in the overhead bin. I’ve dabbled around with different sorts of shoulder bags – totes, giant purses, I dunno, all sorts of stuff – which worked fine, but I didn’t like that they weren’t super useful once I got off the plane (like, who wants to walk around NYC with a giant tote bag?). I have a tendency to overpack more than I need to, and I’m really trying to pare down on the amount of stuff I lug around when I go out of town. I wanted a bag that would work for both my flight *and* getting around whatever city I was hanging around. Big enough to hold some essentials – a notebook, my water bottle, phone charger, stuff like that – but not so big that I would be tempted to put everything I own in it and weigh myself down for the day.

I bought a small backpack while I was in Peru when I realized that my normal backpack wasn’t gonna hold all the shit I was trying to carry home, which ended up being really awesome for my purposes, except when it fell apart at the seams while I was last in NYC. Boo! I was on board with the backpack idea at that point, so I decided to change what I didn’t like about the Peruvian pack (too soft/no support, drawstring, not enough pockets, straps weren’t adjustable, etc) and turn it into my dream travel pack.

I used the Toddler Backpack pattern, except enlarged it for a school-age child (there are instructions on how to do this in the pattern). I first discovered this backpack thanks to Kelli and her awesome versions made for actual toddlers (this one is particular makes me want to cry because it is SO FREAKING BEAUTIFUL), and I realized the size was exactly what I needed. I wanted to keep the essence of a small backpack – like the tiny packs we carried around in the 90s and felt real cool about – but I wanted it to have some features like my big traveler backpack had, like extra pockets and a place to carry my water bottle. I also wanted it to be structured, because I am not about those sad and droppy cloth backpacks!

Travel Backpack

Travel Backpack

I feel real good about the finished size! It’s just big enough to hold an 8.5″ x 11″ folder (which I will not be carrying around in this thing, but, that gives you an idea of it’s size). I included a few pockets that weren’t part of the pattern, to make organizing more useful – there is a big pocket in the front, a pocket on either side, a small velcro’d pocket on the inside, a large padded laptop pocket on the inside, and also a secret pocket in the back! The backpack is fully lined, the outside fabric is interfaced, there is self-made piping around the outside, the straps are adjustable and padded, and the bottom is also padded and quilted. There is a double pull metal zipper at the top, and little zipper tabs on either end (to help with zipping and unzipping – they are just folded and interfaced rectangles). It was a lot of work, but it’s pretty much exactly what I want!

Travel Backpack

This pocket is for my water bottle – the bottom is gathered, and there is elastic along the top. It fits my water bottle pretty securely. The pattern doesn’t include instructions for a water bottle pocket, but it was easy to figure out. I used this post as a guide on how to cut the pieces and assemble them.

Travel Backpack

The opposite side has a sort of bastardized bellows pocket that closes with a little piece of velcro. I used this tutorial as a general guide to draft the pocket. I did consider adding a flap to completely cover the top, but figuring out how to insert it without crossing over the side seamlines was starting to make my head hurt, so I just went with a velcro closure instead. I don’t think I’ll use this pocket to carry anything necessarily worth stealing – but it will be handy for my reusable bag, or tissues, or something like that.

Travel Backpack

Travel Backpack

The front pocket closes with a zipper (pulled from my stash) and is lined.

Travel Backpack

I spent a little more (aka- bought one instead of taking one from my stash) on the main zipper and bought a metal one intended for purses, with two pulls. When you’re trying to quickly get into your pack, it’s nice to not have to find which side the zipper pull is on. Also, I like that I can clip the two pulls together with a keyring, to discourage someone from trying to take a peek inside. I bought the zipper on Etsy from ZipIt Zippers, who I’ve always had good experiences with!

Travel Backpack

The straps are plain cotton webbing, with gold D rings so that they are adjustable. The upper portion of the straps are lightly padded with cotton batting so they are a bit more comfortable. Just a word of warning – if you are making this bag for an adult, check the sewn strap length! The first pair I made was laughingly WAY too short and looked completely ridiculous on me. These were lengthened by about 5″, which works much better.

Travel Backpack

Travel Backpack

Here’s something I’m proud of – a hidden zippered pocket in the back! It’s sized to fit my passport/wallet, and no one can access the pocket while I’m wearing the backpack. I always hated that someone could theoretically open my backpack and take my stuff, and now at least the shit worth stealing is a little more safe πŸ™‚

Travel Backpack

Travel Backpack

I added two more pockets to the lining – a small pocket for holding things like chapstick, Advil, tickets, etc; and a larger pocket that is sized to hold my tablet (a Microsoft Surface, one of the older ones). Both the tablet pocket and the back side of the backpack are padded with cotton batting (the pocket is also lightly quilted), to protect my tablet and also for comfort against my back. I finished all the pocket edges with leftover bias from my piping, which I think looks really nice! I also included a keyring, so I can quickly find my keys when I need them.

I am not going to lie – sewing this backpack was a fucking BEAST. There aren’t a of of pieces, and it’s not even necessarily hard – but there is a lot of bulk once everything starts getting sewn together, especially if you include piping. That being said, the steps are reasonably simple. The instructions are easy to follow, the pieces fit together well, and there’s a lot of room for customization to make ~your perfect backpack~. Despite this being sized for an 8 year old, it’s exactly the right size for my needs.

I bought all my fabrics locally here at Craft South. The outer is my favorite – it’s a great woven cotton from Diamond Textiles that I loved working with cos it’s so pretty! (it’s not on our website, but I can personally vouch that we have like 30 yards in the store, so if you want some – just call the shop! I think it was around $18-$20 yard). The red contrast is Kasse shot cotton, and the lining is just plain ol’ Freespirit quilting cotton. I interfaced all the outer pieces (except for the gathered water bottle pocket) with medium weight fusible interfacing – Pellon 809 to be specific. I did not interface the bottom pieces, which in retrospect I kind of wish I had (the padding/quilting doesn’t make it quite as stable as I’d like, but oh well!). Also from Craft South came the cotton batting, cotton webbing and D-rings. Even though I get a pretty generous discount at Craft South, this backpack still cost me around $50 for all the materials – so it definitely wasn’t cheap (I could buy one for less than that). However, it’s sewn exactly to suit my needs AND the outer fabric is just so beautiful! So there’s that. Also, I am much more likely to take my damn time and do the best job I am capable of when I drop that kind of cash on a project – ha! I think it definitely shows with this backpack. It turned out even nicer than I was expecting!

Travel Backpack

Travel Backpack

Anyway, my little backpack is ready for it’s first adventure! I’ve got a few travel dates coming up soon, starting in September, so I can’t wait to start using it. And OH, speaking of traveling – after much planning, saving, and brain-racking… I just booked a big solo trip! I’ll be visiting in Egypt in January 2017!! HOLY SHIT, right!? I have ALWAYS wanted to visit Egypt and see (touch) a pyramid – which I am finally gonna do! I am also gonna take a Nile River cruise from Aswan to Luxor πŸ˜‰ (which I am MASSIVELY excited about!) Can’t wait to nerd out super hard at the Egyptian Museum, too! Until then, though, I’ve got a vacation wardrobe to flesh out and sew – because let’s face it, none of my clothes are very modest and I definitely need to stick out as little as possible! πŸ™‚