For the longest time I've been wanting to make a backpack for myself, and lately after getting into leather work, I figured it might be cool to make it completely out of leather. I don't have a sewing machine that can handle leather work, so all the sewing is done by hand using a puncher, mallet and sewing using needle and thread. While it's a lot of work, it's a pretty simple design and it doesn't feel to overwhelming.
For a much better perspective of the work and the different steps, make sure to check out the video!
Step 1: Design
I based the general size off of the Fjallraven Kanken bag which I've been using for a long time. The basic design for the bag is very simple - one piece for the front, one piece for the back and one piece for the sides that goes all around. Once I had my dimensions ready, I cut everything out of some nice leather. I chose relatively heavy weight 5-6 oz leather, however you could definitely use a lighter weight.
Step 2: Pouch
The other thing I decided to add was a small pouch in the front, so I started with making that, using the same concept of one piece for the sides, and here I used one piece for the front and the back as well which folded over.
I'm using the saddle stitch for all main sewing (except the upcoming patches because I don't think they require the same amount of strength)
Step 3: Patches
To give the bag a very personalized feel, I decided to add patches that I've collected over time. The tricky thing with making a bag like this is that you need to plan well, so if you want to add patches for example, it's a good idea to add those that belong at the bottom of the bag right away before you sew the pieces together, or else you won't be able to reach later.
To attach the patches, I drew out where I wanted them on the leather, and then punched holes within that shape. Then I used a needle and thread and went through the leather as well as the pouch and did a single stitch around.
Step 4: Bottle Holder
I wanted to add a bottle holder on one side of the bag. This will be attached to the long side piece. So I began with adding a patch first, then sewing a piece that was enough to hold a bottle in. I also added a small strap on the bottom so the bottom wouldn't fall out.
Step 5: Closure for Pouch
For the closures for both the bag and the pouch, I decided to use Sam Browne buttons that you screw in from the back. I simply punched holes, added the buttons and then punched holes in the flap so they would connect.
Step 6: Sewing the Bottom On
The first step in connecting the bag together is to sew the bottom on. I found the middle of the bottom and sides strap as well as the front and lined the two up. Then I placed the front piece on top of the bottom piece and punched holes through the two pieces at the same time, making sure they continued to stay lined up. Then I sewed the bottom line.
Step 7: Adding the Pouch
Before sewing on the sides, I decided to sew on the pouch as it was easier to reach the bottom now. I simply sewed on the pouch to the back piece in a few areas.
Step 8: Adding the Sides
Next I sewed the sides together to the front piece, being especially careful around the folds in the corners as those are pretty tricky to get right.
Step 9: Belt Buckles
Before sewing on the back piece I needed to sew on the belt buckles first. The belt buckles are sewed on in the back corners of the backpack, simply by adding a small piece of leather, the same width as the backpack straps, folding around the buckle and sewing it to the leather after punching the holes.
Step 10: Sewing on the Back
Once the belt buckles were sewed on, I punched the holes and sewed on the back piece, again having the back piece overlap on the sides. I started with sewing on the bottom piece, then I did the sides to make sure everything lined up right.
Step 11: Rain Flaps
Once the main bag was sewn together I realized that rain could easily come in on the sides of the bag, so at this point I decided to sew on some rain flaps. I ended up cutting an oval-ish shape, punching holes and undoing some of the stitches on the sides, so I could sew in the flaps within the layers for a more sturdy connection.
Step 12: Closures
As a closure for the bag I ended up using Sam Browne buttons, and straps that came down to attach. I simply sewed on the straps, punched holes for the buttons, and several holes to attach to the buttons.
Step 13: Backpack Straps
For the backpack straps, I placed them as a cross in the back, first attached with double sided tape, then punched the holes and sewed on. Then the straps simply attach to the hardware in the bottom of the bag.
Step 14: Conclusion - Watch the Video
For a much better perspective, make sure to check out the video that goes over all the steps in making this bag and how it turned out!