Recycled DIY backpack

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Recycled DIY backpack

I was looking for a fun hand sewing challenge around the same time I was also thinking I could use a light weight backpack for biking.

I have an incredibly well padded and well-pocketed sporty back pack, but it weighs a ton even empty, so last year I found myself frequently turning to a string backpack. But the strings got uncomfortable on long rides, so with spring on its way, I started to wonder if I couldn't make something that would be like a string back pack, but with straps instead.

String-style top closure, but with straps and a three dimensional external pocket

Rather than doing the sensible thing and just hitting amazon already for something ready made, I thought it would be fun to tear apart a thrift store looking for just the right nylon windbreaker.

Freshly thrifted, large man's unlined nylon pull over windbreaker

$2 later, I had my raw material. The only extra thing I used was a little fleece I had left over from another project to pad the straps and bottom.

The pullover had a generous front pocket with a reversible zipper so that it could be turned inside out and stored in the pocket. I made this pocket the back of my backpack, and it is still completely functional, so I can store the whole backpack inside itself in a neat little package that fits in my purse.

Inside out, about 8"x5"

One sleeve I used to make the straps, the other provided odd bits of material for reinforcing seams and making attachment loops. I added a little key pocket and attachment loop to the straps so that keys could be reached without removing the pack, and a few other loops to attach things or to tie together with the bit of rope that used to cinch the windbreaker's hood for more stability.

Back view, showing the lightly padded straps

The back shoulders furnished material for the front pocket, which is closed with a zipper that was originally at the throat.

Roomy front pocket with zipper

The drawstring elastic and plastic stoppers that went around the bottom of the windbreaker I used to make the drawstring top closure.

All seams are enclosed in some sort of french or hong kong seam so that no raw seams are visible anywhere inside. Likely stress points are reinforced with extra layers of fabric as well. I had to do some fancy foot work to get the reversible pocket in the right spot, so I wasn't able to embed the lower ends of the straps in the side seams as I had planned, and instead just appliqued them onto the side. Not as attractive as it could be, but it should work.

I did a lot of this in low light on a couch hanging out with my young daughter, so the stitching is not exactly show worthy. Some of it is downright ugly, but hopefully that gives it a certain DIY-and-proud flair that any rate really will not be that noticable as I ride down the street.

On the go!

I've worn it a few times now and am pleased with how it's working out. I wouldn't want to put a lot of anything truly heavy, like a pile of textbooks, but for my lunch and extra clothes it works well. It's nice and roomy and so light weight and comfy that I have to do a quick check sometimes to make sure I'm actally wearing it. Since it started out as a garment, I have no worries about tossing it in the washer when the time comes, either.

- Victoria, 2015-03-10

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