My daughter and her friend, B, have been through a lot - sorority life, first apartment together, grad school, weddings, and now B is having her first child. What an exciting time! This diaper backpack with rollout changing mat is my gift to you, B. Keep it in your car, take it camping and hiking, and enjoy your baby boy!
This backpack calls for two fabrics - an exterior ("outside") and interior ("contrasting"). I wanted the external fabric to be more tough, so I used a cotton duck. Since the inside includes a rollout pad where a baby bottom will go, I wanted it to be a soft flannel. That's technically "two" fabrics. However, I didn't like the look of only using one external fabric, so I added in a 3rd fabric - mountain-themed duck canvas - as the pockets for a little pop, as well as used it for most of the interior of the bag. If this is confusing, use just the two fabrics - outside and contrasting, and follow the pattern exactly. If you want to add a little color pop, play around with the colors.
*Hindsight: if I was going to make again, I would not use flannel as it is very stretchy and hard to work with. Rather, I would make the entire backpack out of duck fabric and lay a blanket down to change the baby on. That way if there is a "mess", the blanket it easily washed.
Step 1: Materials
- Backpack pattern (Simplicity 1177 - I got for $1.99 at JoAnns's during one of their pattern sales)
- 2 yds - exterior fabric (Llama Love Duck Cloth fabric)
- 1 yds - interior fabric (Mountain High Duck Cloth fabric)
- 1 yd - flannel (Porcelin Cozy Snuggle Flannel)
- 1 1/4 yd 54" wide bond foam padding (Flex-Foam 2-Sided Fusible Stabilizer)
- 7/8 yd - 20" Ultra-Firm Stabilizer (Pellon Peltex 70)
- 2 packages of piping*
- 3/4 yd of 3/4" wide hook and loop tape
- (2) 15" zippers
- 2 1" strap adjusters
- 7/8 yd of 1" wide webbing**
- 1/2 yd of 1/2" wide elastic
- Sewing Machine
- Zipper foot
- Friction Pen
*If you don't have or want to buy piping, you can make your own. I took 1.5" wide strips of the flannel fabric, folded it in half longways, set a 1/4" cord in the center and sewed as close to the cording as possible. Then I trimmed 1/4" off the raw edge side. (Yes, this seems like double work but the wider strip is easier to hold on to). This is a quick way to make a cheap piping that matches exactly with your fabrics.
** I used the webbing from a large Dollar Tree dog harness. It was the exact amount I needed (two - 14" strips & two - 4" strips) and was super cheap. You could also steal the strap adjusters off of it as well.
Step 2: Cutout Paper Pattern Pieces
The first thing I did was cut out the backpack paper pieces (A) that the pattern requires. At the beginning of the pattern it will tell you which pieces you will need; there are 26 pieces total, but for this backpack you only need pieces 1-10. Pieces 1-7 are used multiple times throughout the pack, but 8-10 are solely for stabilizer, so I have separated them in two stacks.
When initially cutting out the pattern, I leave about an inch or so around the lines (rough cut), rather than cutting up to the lines. When cutting the pattern and fabric together, you will cut on the lines (obviously), so no need to do twice the precision work!
Step 3: Layout Pattern Pieces
The pattern says that the diaper backpack (they mean outside exterior fabric) uses pieces 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. Since I wanted the pocket to be a different fabric, I removed piece 4 and set it aside.
First, I laid out my exterior fabric, folded in half longways. You need to fold your fabric in half because many of the pieces tell you to place one of the edges on the fold. I started at one end and laid out pieces 1, 2, & 7 on the fold. If you are using directional fabric, like my llamas, you will have to be mindful of how the paper pieces are laid out. For example, I didn't want the llamas to be upside down on piece (2), so I deliberately turned the paper upside, so the arrows were on the fold AND the top of the paper was upright with the llamas.
I then laid out pattern pieces 3, 5, & 6 in the empty areas. The paper pieces will say the number of cutouts it needs of each template. For example, Side - A(3) needs two (2) cut outs, but since you are laying it on doubled-over fabric, you only need to lay out the template once. Back Strap (6) DOES say it needs 4 cutouts, BUT I wanted the underside of the straps to have to interior mountain fabric, so I only cut two.
Before moving onto the next fabric, I transferred the the "hidden messages" from the paper templates to the fabric. These hidden messages are shapes (like triangles and circles and dotted lines) that allow us to more easily put the pattern together. First, the pattern has tiny triangles on some of the edges. Take small scissors and snip out those triangles; don't worry, the seam allowance (5/8") will cover the triangle cut outs. Next are the big and small circles. While the template is still pinned to the fabric, poke a hole through the paper circle with the friction pen and mark onto the fabric. Lift the paper up so you have access to the fabric and draw the circle, keeping in mind the size of the circle. These will be your guides later on. Lastly, I transferred the dotted lines onto the fabric. Sometimes the dotted lines are stitching lines and somethings they are a guide where the hook and latch fastener will go. To draw straight lines, I used a ruler as a guide underneath the paper piece, lined it up with the dotted lines, moved the paper out of the way, and marked my line. For the hook and loop tape box, I punctured the paper in the corners of the box (like the circle step above) and continued the line to the edge using a ruler. Once I completed the box on one side, I opened up the folded fabric and transferred the box the the other side.
Next I laid out my 2nd duck fabric - the pocket and liner mountain material - and folded it longways like before. Pattern pieces 2 & 7 were laid on the folded edge (2 was once again flipped right side down), and three 3, 4, 5, & 6 were placed in empty spaces. Cut out on the solid lines and transfer the template marks onto the fabric before moving on. Unlike the pattern, I cut out four pocket pieces (4) so the inner pocket has liner; instructions on how to add the liner are later on.
After all the duck canvas pieces were cut out, I took paper template Front - A (1) and cut out the flannel piece (the baby bottom rolling mat).
When cutting the foam padding pieces, I found it easier to cut one piece at a time rather than lay out all pieces like it says in the pattern. Foam is kind of hard to work with when you have to use the folded edge, so sometimes it's not realistic to lay out all pieces at once.
Lastly, I took templates 8, 9, & 10 and cut them out of the Peltex. Because these are all straight-edged pieces, I used a ruler and rotary cutter instead of cutting with scissors. This makes it a straighter and quicker process.
Step 4: Front Panel
Following pattern instructions, I laid the Front panel (1) onto the corresponding foam piece and pinned into place. I added the two zippers, face down, 1/4" from the left and right side edge. This sounds kind of silly at first, but the 1/4" gap off the edge allows room later to sew the backpack seam at 1/2". Without the gap, you would be sewing on the zipper (not good for needles!). The zippers line up with the marked circles from earlier. I also flipped the outer top zipper flaps down and out; this creates a seamless and clean way to end the zipper. I do keep the zippers open because they are easier to work with. I basted around the sides and top of the Front panel (1) to quickly attach the zippers and to secure the fabric to the padding foam.
The pattern says to then attach the lining (contrast) fabric to the outside front panel. Before I did that, I pinned the loop portion of the hook and loop fastener tape to the Front outside in the rectangle and sewed it on. This way, the lining fabric will cover the hook and loop tape rather than be attached to it. Then I laid both front panels right side together and sewed 1/2" around the sides and top. In hindsight, I recommend that if you are working with flannel, you should stabilize it with an interfacing first. It moves so much that it will cause slight wrinkles in your front panel later. I clipped notches out of the corner, flipped it inside out, and pressed the front panel. Because I used double-sided adhesive foam, the fabrics smoothed out well and looked more professional. Remember to keep the iron away from your marked line (since it would make it disappear). I then sewed a 1/4" topstitch around the sides and top and sewed the stitching line across the middle, sewing through all three layers of material.
Step 5: Side Tabs & Pockets
The side tabs are the tiny flaps that top the side panels and makes the backpack have a better closure. They have a small piece of hook and loop fastener on them that attaches to the big flap.
Like before, the directions add on the hook and loop tape AFTER the tabs are made. I didn't want the stitching to be seen on the outside flap, so I sewed the hook and loop on first. Unlike what is pictured, sew the hook and loop onto the exterior fabric (llamas), not the contrasting interior fabric. Remember, you drew a tiny box on that flap earlier that you can use to get measurements for the tape. For stability, I stacked the contrast fabric on the padding and topped with the hook and loop, sewing through the 3 layers.
Then I added the outside fabric face down on the face up contrasting fabric and sewed 1/2" around the curve, leaving the bottom open. After trimming the edges and cutting out notches around the curve, I flipped the tab right side out and top stitched 1/4" all the way around the tab, securing the raw edges as well.
Here I am again, changing the pattern. The pattern's pockets were only one piece of fabric folded over on the top with elastic bunching it together. I didn't like that if you looked in the pocket, you would see the wrong side of the fabric, and it would be super thin. So, like I said earlier, I cut out 4 pocket pieces. I laid two cutouts right side together and sewed 1/4" on the top only and then flipped it - so wrong sides were together - and pressed. I then used the casing line on the pattern piece and folded the newly sewed edge over. Because there aren't raw edges, you now don't have to tuck the raw edge under a 1/4". I stitched very close to the non-folded edge to create a tube (casing), leaving the ends open. Using a 6 1/2" piece of elastic and attached safety pin, I inserted the pin through the hole and stopped when the end of the elastic lined up with the end of the tube. I then sewed the end of the elastic in place to hold it from coming through the other end of the tube. After the safety pin is through I sewed the other side of the elastic in place, which really bunches the pocket. Lastly, I basted the pocket edges together so they didn't move around.
Step 6: Side Panels
To assemble the side panels, I first laid the Side- A panel (3) exterior fabric onto the padding and added the tab right sides together to the top edge. (At this point only layer the outside and padding to make the side panel; the contrasting interior is added later in this step.) This tab kind of wonky because the bottom edge of it isn't a straight edge, like the pattern has pictured. I had to start in the center of the top side panel and bottom edge of the tab and sew outwards, lining up and pulling in the raw edges as I sewed. I recommend not using pins or clips for this part because the fabric will pull in ways you don't want, and it's much easy to maneuver with just your hands. To complete the side panel, I added the pocket we made in the last step. Line up the bottom and side edges and baste into place. The center will pucker out, which makes it a great storage place for water bottles or wet wipes.
Next I sewed the Front - A panel (1) and the Side - A panel (3) together, by basting the Side panel onto the Front panel's zipper. (Remember to lay the zipper 1/4" off the edge.) This creates the zipper roll down mat feature. The zipper will want to be in the way; just maneuver a bit and it will fit. Next I flipped open the side/front panel as shown in picture 3, placed the contrasting fabric on top, and sewed the top and zipper-side edges. Flip this inside out (yes, it does work) and do the same thing on the other side of the bag!
Step 7: Shoulder Straps
The first thing I did before basting or sewing anything on the straps was to iron a piece of padding onto every shoulder strap piece. The pattern makes this confusing; yes, you will need one padding per fabric. It's thick, but it makes the straps super comfy! If you don't have iron-on padding, you don't have to do this step; it is just helpful.
First I took the 14" webbing (that I cut from a dog harness) and basted it onto the center of the short end, the webbing laying inside the strap as pictured. I then took my piping and lined the two long edges. You can line the short edge as well, as directed in the pattern, but I didn't want to deal with the small curved edges and piping. I basted those in place using a zipper foot. Then I took my contrasting fabric, laid it facedown, and sewed around the two long edges and short edge, leaving the wider hole open. Make sure you secure stitch and the beginning and end, and especially on the short edge where the black strap connects.
Pro tip: keep your strap out of the way on the inside (I had to remove half the side stitches to release the strap I had sewed into the wall) and trim your excess material after sewing to make it easier to turn inside out. Turning this right side out took a lot of work, with two people pulling on it. Good luck; it will happen. I then pressed to set the strap in place.
Step 8: Back Panel
To create the back and bottom panel (2), I layered contrasting face down (with the bottom edge rolled up 1/2"), padding, and the outside face up, and sewed together around the side and top edges. Leave the bottom open and do NOT press if you are using adhesive padding; you are adding stabilizer in later. I laid my straps and buckles into place on their respective large and small dots and sewed into place. I used a ladderlock buckle, which are kind of confusing. Usually when you thread buckles, you sew the flap back down so the buckle doesn't slide off. Ladderlocks are made so the buckle's tension keeps straps as tight as you want but aren't sewed (so yes, they can come undone). Follow the pictures to see which way the buckle lays and how to thread it. Pull the webbing if you want tighter straps or pull the buckle up to release.
I then put the ultra firm stabilizer up into the back portion and sewed across the line I drew earlier. Make sure to keep the stabilizer out of the way while you sew as it is hard to sew through (you should not be sewing through it)!
Step 9: Flap
Once again, I switched some instructions around; I did not want to sew the hook and loop on after I created the flap because then you would see the stitched box on the front of the bag! I sewed the hook and loop onto the contrasting mountain fabric and the padding to give it strength. Then I laid piping onto the exterior fabric sides and rounded bottom, and basted.
Pro tip: clip the corners so the piping lays on the rounded edges easier.
I took the two flap pieces, laid them right sides together, and sewed the side and curved edges. Lastly, I flipped them right side out, and top stitched 1/4" around the entire piece.
Step 10: Assemble
The first pieces to assemble are the flap to the back and bottom panel. With right sides together, I sewed the raw edges of the flap to the upper edge of the back and bottom. Then I clipped the back and bottom piece to the front and side panel, lining up the dots, and stitched the remaining sides and lower edges. Make sure you don't catch the rolled up edges (where the stabilizer will go) into your seams. Also, I had to switch from my regular sewing machine (read: "newer and fancier") to my sturdy old-school work horse machine. Sewing over the cording in the piping was a beast, and I kept breaking needles. (Remember, I made my own piping with cotton clothesline cord, so that could be why.)
Trim edges and seams!
Step 11: Optional: Raw-Edge Cover-up
Okay, so after the backpack is turned inside out and you add in the bottom and side stabilizers, it is apparently done. No no no. I didn't sew all these beautiful seams to have tons of raw edges visable in the bag! (Go to previous step to remind yourself how bad they are.) Not only does it feel less secure, it is just plain ugly!
First things first, add the side and bottom stabilizers. Then, unroll the folded up edges where the stabilizers were inserted. Originally, you are supposed to hand stitch them closed. No. Just unroll them and line them up with the other raw edges.
Then you can do two things:
- Serge:if you are lucky enough to have a serger, serge the edges! It might look less finished than option 2, but it is somewhat easier! If you don't have a serger, you can also try zig-zag stitching the edges - wide and short stitches will cover the raw edges better.
- Bind:I took 2.5" strips of the contrasting fabric, made a regular bind (fold in half and then fold raw edges toward center), and wrapped the bind around all the raw edges (the ends of the cording were tucked under). This was not easy as there are many layers, but it looks a whole lot better than it did.
Step 12: Fill With Goodies!
This backpack would be a great car pack. Fill with wet wipes, diapers, diaper trash baggies, a blanket to change on, a change of clothes (ya know... just in case!), a toy, and extra diaper bag necessities.
Runner Up in the