Hand-Sewn Ergonomic Backpack



Introduction: Hand-Sewn Ergonomic Backpack

About: Hello I'm a college student that enjoys making things with machines and hand tools, using materials like metal, wood, clay, and plastic. I am trying to start my own business in making small crafts, jewelry a...

Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening. That is the least amount of time it will probably take to complete this project. To start, this is indeed missing the strap, I have been incredibly busy of late and was unable to attach the strap in time for the contest, but hopefully if I win I will be able to do these projects much faster.

Who This Is For-

Anyone who does not have a sewing machine but wants to make a simple yet durable, waterproof, backpack that conforms to their body and able to carry a lot!

Time It Will Take-

For me this took days to make, mainly cause I was hand sewing and changing the design slightly as I went, but whether I was at home or on lunch at one of my jobs I was working on it.

Level of Difficulty- 1-10

I will say this is probably about a level 6 difficulty primarily cause it takes a good amount of dexterity.

Perks of the Item-

So even though this is hand sewn with a simple stitch, it is designed to be waterproof and look just like leather. It is also designed to be electronic safe, it is built with layers so that if you have any electronics, like a laptop and ipad that you might be caring, you can set it down and the electronics will not be damaged.

(During the building process I continually tested this by dropping my phone and Ipad onto the material from different heights, one foot being the highest I was willing to test, with no damage dealt.)


Step 1: Materials

  • Dual Duty XP Heavy Duty Thread I found this to be the strongest, all other threads I could snap with my bare hands, this one was resilient enough and allowed me to make sure my stitches were extremely tight.
  • Vinyl "cloth" One yard of material cut from Joanns should be more than enough depending on your design. I used two colors to add some contrast. The vinyl is waterproof everywhere but at the seams. (also soda proof aka "The Test") (Outer Layer)
  • Sports Nylon One yard is enough, this material is very strong and does not stretch but will have strings peel away so account for this (Waterproof Layer)
  • White or colored Batting One yard from Joanns should be enough, they fold it so its actually twice the amount as other materials two layers is good for electronic safety. (Buffer Layer)
  • High Strength Linen One yard should also be enough, find some that wont tear and is soft enough not to scratch your electronics inside. (Inner Layer)
  • Sewing Shears Need to be sharp enough to cut any and all materials
  • Needles I'm used to working with leather needles, cause I always end up breaking or bending regular needs, this material is thick so that's what I suggest you use.
  • Pins This is a layered project, pins are very helpful when you don't have enough hands to hold things in place.
  • Buckle or Rectangle Rings Can be used for the flap, I did not actually need them because of how i designed the bag

All materials should be available at any fabric store, I went with Joanns just because everything was on sale.

Step 2: Design

Details of why I built this, you may skip this step.

I wanted this to be a simple design shape. One that fit around my back and only had one strap so I could use it for bike riding and school. It sometimes rains where I live and I will be carrying electronics in it so I needed it to be waterproof. I love the look of leather so the vinyl material is a cheap lookalike that is still really durable. Again I will be carrying electronics so I had to make sure that they would not break while in the bag so I made sure there was a decent amount of padding to protect them. In a way, I actually really enjoy sewing by hand, it is calming and if you make a mistake, its not usually a big one, and you're able to fix it right away, but it is incredibly time consuming which is not helpful in a contest.

Step 3: Tips

This project will have multiple layers.

Leave ample room for sewing.

The vinyl will overlap ALL of the material, make sure it is able to do so.

Reference size is everything, make sure the materials will all be able to be sewn together.

Holding the material in place while sewing is difficult, pins help a lot.

When sewing the layers together, make sure you get through every layer so it all stays together.

Pay attention to the order of fabric, everything is in an order to keep everything waterproof.

Some materials will be sewn together before others, try to sew through the same hole, or take a bigger bite.

Make sure you sew as tight as you can, without ruffling the material, helps keep water out.

Take your time, don't poke yourself much, enjoy the relaxing experience.

It helps if you make a reference piece out of paper first so you see how everything fits together.

Step 4: Cutting the Outward Face ( Reference Layer/Vinyl Layer )

  • Took a piece of vinyl and put it up against my back to get around the right size.
  • Put some materials that will be going into it for size reference also.
  • Make a reference cutting mark at the top at an angle for where the strap will be attached.
  • Make sure to leave enough room for the seams and overlap for the lips, so its best to overestimate your size by about an inch, remember you can always cut material off, but its difficult to add material on.

Step 5: Cutting the Outward Face Closing Flap ( Reference Layer/Vinyl Layer )

  • I wanted some contrast so I made the flap a darker vinyl.
  • The overlap of the Outward Face helps determine how much flap is needed.
  • Leave about an inch for the lip because it will fold over later sewing material.
  • Look at later steps if the flap cut confuses you, MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE!

Step 6: Cutting the Inward Face ( Reference Layer/Vinyl Layer )

  • The final picture is the inward face.
  • Leave room for the seams
  • Make sure that when covering your reference material there is still extra room for your seam.
  • The angled cut will have a lip covering all the other material, account for this in your design.
  • The Flap does not attach to this piece, please please make sure your design is correct.

Step 7: Cutting the Edges ( Reference Layer/Vinyl Layer )

  • Use the Outward and Inward Faces as reference.
  • Leave about an inch of extra length on both sides for the seam.
  • Leave some extra space on the width too for seams
  • Actually wrap it around the edges so you have the correct length.
  • I also used the darker vinyl on the edges for some more contrast.
  • The bottom and one of the sides are the same length, that wasn't by design, but by happy mistake.
  • Always, always account for the extra layers of material and seams.

Step 8: Cutting the Outward Face ( All Other Layers )

  • The nylon is so large because it has to overlap the Faces AND the edges so it can be sewn on both sides, to create a nice watertight seal.
  • Though it is not shown, there is actually supposed to be two layers of Batting that is the same size, if not just a little smaller than the Vinyl.
  • Though it is not shown, the High Strength Linen should be the same size as the Sports Nylon
  • You will see all materials shown in the reference page

Step 9: Cutting the Outward Face Closing Flap ( All Other Layers )

  • There are two layers of batting, about half an inch or so smaller than the Reference Vinyl.
  • The Sports Nylon is about the same size as the Reference Vinyl.
  • The Reference Vinyl must be larger than anything else, because the edges will flip around all the materials to hold everything together and stay watertight.
  • When you flip the vinyl over, make sure the materials underneath are in line enough so you penetrate each layer with the needle and thread.
  • The Batting is in between the Reference Vinyl and the Sports Nylon because they are both waterproof and the Reference Vinyl will make a seal to the Sports nylon, not all of the bag will be like this.
  • Layer order from the bottom up should be - Reference Vinyl, Batting, Sports Nylon, Linen (not shown)

Step 10: Cutting the Inward Face ( All Other Layers )

  • The Sports Nylon is larger because it will wrap around the face and edges to make a proper seal.
  • Batting should be around the same size as the Reference Vinyl so that when you sew it, the needle will go through all the materials and hold them together.
  • There should be a slight buffer at the top so the Reference Vinyl can overlap the other materials to make a lip.
  • Batting should remain at the top because the Sports Nylon underneath will create the watertight seal.
  • Layer order from bottom up should be- Reference Vinyl, Sports Nylon, Batting, Linen (not shown)

Step 11: Cutting the Edges ( All Other Layers )

  • I cut all the pieces the same size as the Reference Vinyl because the extra Sports Nylon in the other Faces should make the seal
  • I should have made the Sports Nylon longer though so the edges create a seal for each other. Learn from my mistakes.
  • Layer order from bottom up should be- Reference Vinyl, Sports Nylon, Batting, Linen.

Step 12: Reference

  • In the first picture I show the Sports Nylon material that is suppose to seal the edges together, I do not actually use it though, cause I forgot to.
  • Second photo shows the Linen on top of the edges, not they overlap, that is so you can sew the Edge Linen to the Face Linens.
  • Third illustration references the Edges and the Inward Face along with some of the layers of the edges.
  • The fourth and fifth pictures showcase the layers of the Outward Face and Outward Face Flap.
  • Layers from bottom up should be - Reference Vinyl, Sports Nylon, Batting, Linen

Step 13: Sewing the Edges + Adding Linen

  • Relatively straightforward, I used the simple in-and-out stitch along the perimeter of the Reference Vinyl, Sports Nylon, and Batting, in that order.
  • The linen will only be partially attached because it needs to be sewn to the Face Linens to allow some material movement and space.
  • Layers from bottom up should be - Reference Vinyl, Sports Nylon, Batting, Linen

Step 14: Sewing the Flap to Outward Face

  • Utilize the simple in-and-out method again, make sure it is really really tight.
  • Because the sports nylon wraps around both the Flap and the Outward face, you will be sewing though at least six layers of material, Sports Nylon, Sports nylon, Batting, Batting, Reference Vinyl, Reference Vinyl, Batting, Sports Nylon, in that order.
  • Careful not to poke yourself or bend your needle.
  • Make sure you penetrate each layer of material uniformly so everything stays together properly.
  • The overlapping Sports Nylon makes it watertight.
  • Pins are your friends

Step 15: Sewing the Sides Together

  • Pictures showcase it all, pins the edges together in sew the ends together.
  • The order will be, Long side, short bottom, short side.
  • Sew as tightly as you can
  • Layers from bottom up should be - Reference Vinyl, Sports Nylon, Batting, Linen (Not Shown)

Step 16: Sewing Linen to Edges

  • Sew the Linen ends together before sewing to the Edge
  • The Linen will only be sewn to the outside edges of the Bottom Edge.
  • The Long Side Edge and the Short Side Edge will be flapping freely
  • The free flapping Linen will be sewn to the Face Linens
  • When sewing the Linen the needle should go through the holes that was used for Reference Vinyl, Sports Nylon and Batting Layers.
  • Layers from bottom up should be - Reference Vinyl, Sports Nylon, Batting, Linen

Step 17: Sewing the Lips of Faces and Layers

  • The linen piece should cover EVERYTHING
  • Only the top part will be secured by the Reference Vinyl (for both the Inward, and Outward Faces)
  • When sewing the lip of the Reverence Vinyl, pierce through every single layer to make sure it all stays together.
  • Sew as tightly as you can.
  • Scrunching the material helps when you are doing the corners, try not to cut the materials from the corners.
  • Try not to let the material ruffle on straight areas.
  • Color of the thread can help and hurt you, try to match color unless you want to see your sewing bites.
  • Layers from bottom up should be - Reference Vinyl, Sports Nylon, Batting, Linen (Not Shown)

Step 18: Sewing Faces to Edges

  • Similar to the Lips, make sure you penetrate all the materials.
  • First sew the Inward Face to all of the Edges
  • Second sew the Outward Face to all the Edges
  • Third sew the Inward Face Linen to the Edge Linen
  • Forth sew the Outward Face Linen to the Edge Linen
  • Only the Bottom edge Is sewn to the Linen, the rest allows a little internal give so nothing is too tight.
  • Order is key.
  • Photos tell everything.
  • Hope you have fun, it is 11:56 and I am out of time, will redo when I can!!!

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