Intro: Soft Leather & Suede Backpack
This Instructable will show you how to make a modern, minimalist backpack in less than a day. I used suede for the exterior, which makes the bag super soft and I think looks really nice. It also pairs really well with the leather accents & cotton lining. Feel free to play around with different fabrics, perhaps a leather or corduroy exterior?
10.5" x 18"
Fits a 15" laptop
- interior zipper pocket
- laptop section
- sturdy leather bottom
- suede fabric (1 yard)
- matching thread (ideally heavy-duty)
- cotton fabric (1 yard)
- 5/6 oz weight leather (20" x 10")
- 4 D-rings
- clasps of your choice for the front
- (optional) padding material for straps (at least 10" x 15")
- (optional) 7"+ zipper
- (optional) material for inner pocket (8.5" x 8")
- sewing machine
- a rotary blade & cutting mat is great for cutting the leather, but scissors work too
Step 1: Cut Out Your Pieces
Use the pattern to cut out your exterior, interior, and leather pieces. I've provided images and pdf files, download whichever one works for you.
Step 2: Sew on the Front Pocket
Position the Front Pocket (Eg) in the middle of the Exterior Front Panel (Ea), 2 inches from the bottom. Sew the bottom and two sides. Position the Front Flap (Ef) so that the top sits 1.5 inches above the pocket & sew the top.
Step 3: Prepare the Lining
A sturdy leather bottom (1), an interior pocket (2), and a laptop section (3) are all optional features. Feel free to skip this step.
1. Leather Bottom
Sew the Leather Bottom Panel (La) to the Interior Back Panel (Ib) with a 1" margin on all sides.
2. Interior Pocket
Place the zipper beneath the slits in the Pocket (Pa) and the Interior Back Panel (Ib). Sew on all sides, so that the zipper can slide freely within the slit. Cut off excess zipper.
Fold the bottom of the Pocket (Pa) up and sew all sides of the halved rectangle. Be careful not to sew the interior fabric onto the Pocket.
3. Laptop Section
Fold the Laptop Section Panel (Ic) in half and position the ends over the inner side of the Leather Bottom on the Interior Back Panel (Ib), or 5.5" in from the bottom of the Interior Back Panel (Ib). Sew them together with a 1" wide rectangle (or however wide you want your laptop section to be).
Step 4: Sew the Lining
1. Position the Interior Back Panel (Ib) in the bottom, middle of the Interior Front Panel (Ia), right sides facing in. Sew the bottom edge.
2. When you get to the end of the bottom side of the Interior Back Panel (Ib), stop with the needle down, holding your fabric in place. Lift the sewing machine foot and bring remaining the Interior Front Panel (Ia) fabric towards you, in a 90 degree turn. This is how we'll be making corners with our fabric. Put the foot back down and sew in the new direction until you reach the beginning of the Laptop Section Panel (Ic), or if you aren't including one, the end of the side.
If you're not including a laptop section, skip this paragraph. Position the un-sewn part of the laptop panel so that it's perpendicular to the bottom of the interior and parallel to the un-sewn side of the Interior Front Panel (Ia). Sew these together until the end of the Laptop Section Panel (Ic). Then finish sewing the bottom side to the top, making sure not to accidentally sew the Laptop Section Panel (Ic).
2. Repeat step 2 for the other side.
3. Make a corner with the Interior Front Panel (Ia) and Interior Back Panel (Ib) and sew the side until the end of the fabric.
4. Repeat step 3 for the other side.
Step 5: Prepare the Bottom Straps
1. Sew two Strap Holders (Ee) together, wrong side out, except for the middle of the shortest side.
2. Flip inside out. The corners will be a little stubborn, so work heard on those if you don't like rounded corners (which I actually prefer).
3. Place a Bottom Strap (Lb) inside the Strap Holders (Ee) so that it hits the back and is parallel to the side. Flip the open sides of the Strap Holders (Ee) in. Sew along the edge.
4. Repeat steps 1 - 3 for the other Strap Holders (Ee) and Bottom Strap (Lb).
Step 6: Prepare the Top Straps
1. Fold a Strap (Ed) in half, lengthwise with the wrong side facing out. I additionally cut out a thick fabric for padding, using the Strap pattern - if you choose, fold this in half as well and place on top.
2. Sew along the open side.
3. Flip one side inside-out and pull the rest of the strap through.
4. Slide two D-rings onto one D-ring Strap (Le) and fold it in half. Insert into the end of your strap, with the edges flipped in. I allowed my D-ring Strap (Le) to be folded at an angle, for aesthetic purposes. Sew along the edge of the Strap.
5. Repeat for the other strap.
6. Sew the two pieces of the Handle (Lc) together on the long sides.
Step 7: Sew the Bottom of the Exterior
1. Arrange the Exterior Back Panel (Eb) over the bottom, middle of the Exterior Front Panel (Ea), with the right sides facing in. Sew the bottom edge until the end of the Exterior Back Panel (Eb) fabric.
2. When you get to the edge, make a corner with the remaining Exterior Front Panel (Ea) fabric and sew the side.
3. Turn the fabric 90 degrees so that you are sewing up the side. Place the Bottom Strap between the panels, so that the side of the Strap Holder (Ee) opposite the Bottom Strap (Lb) is peeking out, with the strap diagonal towards the top of the panels.
4. Sew up the side.
5. Repeat steps 2 - 4 for the other side.
Step 8: Finish the Exterior
1. On the top of the Exterior Back Panel (Eb), place the Straps (Ed) near the sides, with the top sticking out. Place one side of the Handle (Lc) next to the left strap and the Top Strap (Ld) in the center.
2. Place the Exterior Back Top Panel (Ec) on top, aligned with the Exterior Back Panel (Eb).
3. Sew half-way, over the Strap (Ed), Handle (Lc), and Top Strap (Ld). Reach under the Exterior Back Top Panel (Ec) and flip free end of the Handle around between the other Strap and the Top Strap. Sew the rest of the seam.
4. I sewed a few lines, since this seam will bear a lot of weight.
5. Sew the sides of the Exterior Back Top Panel (Ec) to the top sides of the Exterior Front Panel (Ea).
Step 9: Attach the Interior & Exterior
1. With both of the interior and exterior shells' right side facing out, align the top, left corners of their back panels.
2. Sew away from the back panel, wrapping the interior around the exterior, stopping when you get to the top, right side of their back panels.
3. Flip the interior inside-out, so that it sits inside the exterior.
4. Flip the open sides of the back panels in and sew it shut.
You're almost there!
Step 10: Finish Up!
To attach the straps, slide a D-ring Strap (Le) through both D-rings on the same side. Fold the strap over and slide it through the bottom D-ring. Pull taut.
I left the fastening of the backpack up to you. I chose to use a lobster clasp that attaches to a loop of leather, but feel free to play around with buckles, knots, or anything you like.