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Make your own Book Bag

Home > New York > Craft
by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published December 13th 2010
Remember when you were a kid and as well as your school rucksack, backpack or satchel you needed another bag to carry your library books in? Well, book bags are back and if they have the right slogan, pattern or design on them they're almost as good as a designer handbag.

You've probably clocked them for sale in all the chic-est and trendiest shops, but they're also to be found on market stalls and in vintage clothing emporiums. Your taste in a book bag will reflect your taste in fashion, for some people only the most lux branding will do, some folks say that only an 'original' library book bag is good enough, and some people will be looking for an arty pattern or colour combination. And, as is often the case, the best way of getting your hands on your perfect book bag is to make it yourself.

Now you're thinking about it, it's obvious how easy it's going to be isn't it! If you have a sewing machine you can whip up a couple in a couple of hours, but even if you don't it's not going to be too taxing to hand stitch one together. All you need is a bit of patience and some creative vision regarding your bag's final appearance.

And a measuring tape..
An iron and an ironing board
1 inch bias tape or ribbon
And a loop turner: designed for turning tubes of fabric the right way round again after you've sewn them together. They're a pretty ingenious invention: basically a long metal rod in a loop with a hook on one end. To use them you pass them though your tube of fabric, hooking the end to the far end of the fabric, and then you pull them back though, pulling the fabric the right way round as you go. These are cheap and sold in most fabric and haberdashery stores - you've probably seen one before, you just may not have know what it was you were looking at.

Most book bags are made of a heavier material so that they wear better, but it's really up to you. These instructions are for a lined bag, so if you prefer a flimsier fabric you could always line it with something more heavy duty. To the end product you can add paint or a screen printed design, or iron-on decals, ribbons or buttons and bows etc. so when you're selecting your material pick up all the bits and bobs to match.

Step 1: The classic book bag size and shape seems to be about 39cms x 34cms, but you can make your bag to fit your lifestyle. If there's something specific you want to carry in your bag you need the piece of material that you start with to be at least double the width and three times the height of it. To make a bag in the 'classic' size you need to start with a piece of material 85cms by 38cms. If you want to use different material for the front and the back then you need to stitch the bottom seam together as your first step so that your starting with a piece of material the same size. You also need piece of material to line your bag with cut to the same size.

Step 2: Each of your chosen materials will have a front and a back. The front will have the darker patten if there is a pattern. Put your two pieces of material together so that their front sides face each other and stitch together both the long edges and one of the short edges with a seam of about half a centimetre. Leave the other side open so that you can turn it right-side-out.

Step 3: Turn your materials right-side-out and press your hems so that they're nice and flat again, and turn and tack the last seam. Pin a piece of bias tape, or ribbon if you're so inclined, to each of the short ends and stitch it over the edge to trim your bag.

Step 4: Fold your material in half (bag-ways) so that the fabric you want to end up on the outside is inside. Sew a half centimetre seam on both long edges, then turn it right-side-out.

Step 5: Making the strap. You can use the same material to make your strap if you'd like to, but it's an aesthetic decision. For the classic sized bag you need two long pieces of material 60cms by 7cms. Press them in half so that they're 60cms by 3.5cms, with the right-side facing each other, then sew them together on two of the three joins, using a half a centimetre seam again. Then use the loop turner to turn your straps the right way round again and neatly stitch up the final end.

Step 6: Press a 2cm hem into the opening of your bag. Pin your straps into place and then tuck the ends under the 2cm hem and sew them down firmly though all the layers of fabric (two layers of strap and two layers of fabric). Then sew the hem all the way around.

Step 7: Decorate to your heart's content.

Step 8: Fill with books, or whatever you're carting from 'A' to 'B', and then cart away, enjoying the admiring glances you and your bag get.
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Why? It's a cheap and funky fashion statement
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