Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to make Backpack and Pencil case:

  When I was thinking about what I should put in the backpack for supplies, I had a few ideas of my own, many based on the regular Back-to-School supply list I get every year from my kids' new teachers. But I also asked my daughter what she wanted to include and she really came through! So by adding her ideas it made it more personal.
  The other day my daughter asked me to play "school" with her and her doll, using all the things I made for the backpack and  have shown you on my blog. And when I did, I learned more about her school day, and what she does, and her friends, and how she feels about things, etc, than any other time I have asked her how her day was and what she did in school! It was awesome - an unexpected bonus!
  So now I will (finally!) show you how I made the backpack and pencil case!

11/26/12- I just want to announce the opening of my new etsy shop! I am offering an easy to follow pdf pattern for a School Backpack and bonus Lunch Bag. It is especially great for those who are interested in making the backpack from store bought fabric rather than recycled items. I also have for sale a few upcycled doll items. Please check it out at: A Doll For All Seasons- etsy shop
School Backpack

Pencil Case
HINT: I used my daughter's own backpack as a guide to make the doll's backpack. Basically I measured my daughter's backpack, carefully measuring each part.Then I took all of the measurements and divided by three. That is, if something measured 9" on my daughter's backpack, I made the pattern measure 3" (finished measurement) for the doll's backpack.
NOTE: The backpack was a challenging project, but worth it. I prefer to show you easy projects  but this one is so cute! My daughter screamed when she saw it for the first time! And she tells  me often how much she loves it!
How to make Backpack:

  When I decided to make a backpack, I looked for material that I thought would be just like the nylon fabric used in my daughter's own backpack. I didn't have any luck. So then I went on the search for something already made out of the right kind of fabric and I found this nylon canvas bag in the perfect shade and fabric (see above). I also knew I could use the zipper and the existing straps! I also realized that I could use the inside zippered pocket for a pencil case. I found this at Ocean State Job Lot for $1.25.

  Next, I found this pink waterproof  "Bikini Bag" used for wet bathing suits (see above). It was lined with plastic but the outer fabric was perfect and I thought that the pink and red would be great together! This also had a zipper that I could use and a thinner strap. I got this at Christmas Tree Shops for $1.99.

  Now that I had the red and pink bags, I went looking for something else I could use with them that would be colorful and playful and I found this eyeglass case made from cotton quilted fabric (see above). It actually looks like it was made from a potholder! So a potholder would work just as well! I bought 2 of these at Christmas Tree Shops for only 69 cents each!

  First, I took the pink bag and measured 1 3/8" from the center of the zipper, along both sides of the bag. I used this zipper for the sides and top of bag.

  Then I cut along the side seams and opened up the fabric and zipper and laid it out flat.

Next, I turned the red bag inside out. here you can see the inside zippered pocket.

  Since I wanted to use the inside zipper for the pencil case, I worked on both the backpack and pencil case at the same time, so that I cut the pieces I needed wisely. Before cutting the zippered piece for the pencil case, I taped the zipper pull open, so that I wouldn't loose the zipper pull when I cut. If you loose the pull, it would be impossible to get it back once it is gone! I then cut out the piece I needed for the pencil case before proceeding with the backpack. (See below to see how I finished the pencil case.)

  After I cut what I needed for the pencil case, I cut open the canvas bag so it would lay flat and cut out my front and back pieces; one of each. The pattern I made for the front and back is 7" high and 5" wide near the top and 5 1/2" wide at the bottom. I rounded the corners of the pattern. These measurements include a 3/8" seam allowance all around.

  I used the 1/2" wide strap from the "Bikini Bag" and cut a piece 3 1/4"" long to use for a handle on top of the bag. I measured to find the center of the piece I would use for the top zippered panel. I pinned it down and sewed it in place as shown. Since this fabric doesn't fray easily, I did not allow for turning under.

  I cut out the front pocket and pocket flap from one of the eyeglass cases. The pocket pattern piece measured 3 1/2" high and 4" wide at the top, and 4 1/2" wide at the bottom with rounded edges.When I pined the pattern to the eyeglass case, I used the finished edge as the top of the pocket edge. The top flap pattern piece measured 1 3/4" high and 4" wide at the top edge.I rounded the bottom edge. Like the pocket piece, I used the finished edge of the eyeglass case for the top of the flap piece.

  This photo shows the pieces ready to be assembled. I also cut a piece of the red fabric from the pocket flap pattern to use as a lining.

  To make the pocket I first sewed a dart in each bottom corner 1 1/2" long and 1/4" wide at the outer edge. Next, I pinned back 1/2" along sides and bottom edge, and edge stitched.
  To make the pocket flap, I pinned the pocket flap pieces along the sides and bottom edges with  right sides together and turning under the top of the lining to match the quilted piece. I sewed the sides and bottom edges with a 1/2" seam allowance. I turned it right side out and edge stitched along sides and bottom edges. I hand sewed the top edges together.
  I then cut "hook-and-loop" one of each piece, 1" by 3/8". I sewed one piece to the top of the pocket and one piece to the underside of the pocket flap.

  Next, I pinned the pocket and pocket flap pieces to the center front piece of the backpack. I sewed along the top edge of the flap piece and along the sides and bottom edges of the pocket piece only.

  Next, I cut two pieces fro the pink bag 3 1/8"wide and 6" long. This is longer than I needed but I wanted to have extra (room for error!). I cut off what I didn't need later.
  I sewed one piece on each end of the backpack zipper with 1/2" seams, pressed the seams towards the outer edges and edge stitched along the seams. These pieces that I added will become the bottom of the bag.
  Next, I cut two pieces from the second eyeglass case to use for the side pockets ( such as used for the water bottle). The pieces measured 3 1/8" wide and 2 3/4" high (including the finished edges of the eyeglass case for the top of the pockets).  I turned under the bottom edges 1/2" and sewed each pocket to the zipper as shown, with the top of the pockets facing toward the center loop handle, leaving the pocket top edge free.
  Next, I pinned the front of the backpack (the red piece) to the zippered backpack sides (the pink piece) matching up the center top of the front to the center of the zippered piece. Since I wanted the loop in the back of the zipper I made sure that I pinned the front to the edge without the loop!

Here are two views of how the pinned piece looked.

 Once I determined the placement of the bottom seam I sewed this seam and trimmed it to have a 1/2" seam allowance. Next, I sewed the edges all around with a 1/2" seam allowance. I will tell you that working with this fabric is very challenging! So don't expect a perfect seam! The final result is so cute that I didn't mind that it was more pucked than I would have liked.

  I next used the existing 1 1/4" wide straps from the red bag for the backpack straps. I cut 2 pieces 11 1/2" long, which was longer than I needed. I then pinned them onto the unfinished backpack, pinning the top of the straps first at slight angles as shown in the photo at right. I then put the backpack on the doll to get a good fit and to check the angles of the straps. Then I pinned the straps at the bottom of the backpack and trimmed excess fabric.

  Then, I basted the straps in place to the back seam as shown in the photo at left.
  This photo shows the straps after the straps were basted in place. Next, I partially unzipped the zipper and pinned the back of the backpack to the sides with right sides together, and  I sewed with a 1/2" seam allowance. I turned the backpack right side out and I was done!

  Here it is all finished! I also added a pink cord to the zipper pull for fun. You can see how I "made" the water bottle on a previous post. and I put the mini calculator in the front pocket with the chain hanging out for an extra detail.

  So, there it is, all of the Back-to-School clothes and accessories! I think that all of the details that make them more realistic, also make them more fun to play with. And listening to my daughter's ideas for the things she wished to include in the backpack, made her part of the process and I knew I was making for her things that she would never be able to buy in any store or catalog!

  Even though these are Back-to-School items, This would be really fun to make and give as a gift for Christmas or any time of year!

  Thanks for stopping by, I hope to inspire you again real soon!

Creatively Yours,


  1. Wow, I'm impressed!! I'm going through your past posts right now for inspiration and there's definitely a lot to be had. Thank you for sharing your AG doll projects!

  2. This is the cutest, smartest, and most practical backpack I've ever seen for the AG dolls. Would you consider offering up some pattern pieces and some PDF directions? I bet you'd have many, many interested persons like me. I'm capable of the sewing; what I find so difficult is your "genius" -- you can visualize the pieces out of thrift store buys which merely elude me. Please, please consider publishing a pattern for this!!

    1. Actually, I am in the process of putting together some pdf patterns. And because of the overwhelming reponse to the backpack, I think that that will be the first one I will offer. So, keep a lookout!

    2. I hope so!!! I want to make one for Christmas!!! :) THANKS!!!

    3. My pdf Backpack pattern is now for sale! Please go to my esty shop:
      or see above link at top of the post and just click!

  3. I just love this tutorial. I'm going to try this. Hopefully it will come out just as cute as this one :)

  4. Hi Donna, THANK YOU for this tutorial! I shrunk it a little and turned it into a free printable pattern here: (scroll down and click free pattern for September)

  5. It might just be a little fiddly for my arthritic fingers, It is so cute though I'm determined to give it a try. Thank you soooo much for sharing ♥ ♥ ♥

  6. At the title you said you were going to make the pencil case tutorial how come it's not there!? Please can you do the pencil case tutorial?

  7. When I was thinking about what I should put in the backpack for ...