Learn how to sew a laptop backpack using this project designed by Esther Pickard.
You will need…
Strong fabric (e.g. a cotton canvas) – 2.6m of 112cm wide fabric
Iron on interfacing (same weight as fabric) – 1.6m of 68cm wide
Wadding 135g – 1.2m of 100cm wide
Buttons (1 x large, 3 x small)
25mm Strap adjuster buckles x 2
Elastic – 14cm of 7mm width
A sewing machine
Sew seams together with a 1cm seam allowance, back tacking at each end & trimming off loose threads, unless otherwise indicated.
Pins perpendicular to the seam line can be sewn over.
The ideal sewing machine needle size is heavy duty 100 (16).
Use a hot iron on interfacing and ensure shiny side is against the material WS. You can iron directly onto the matt side of the interfacing.
Back tacking = sewing a few stitches backwards at the start and end of a seam to secure the stitch.
Topstitch = a row of stitches sewn on the material RS.
RS = right side of material.
RST = right sides of material together.
WS = wrong side of material.
WST = wrong sides of material together.
The seam allowances are included in the pattern pieces.
Iron your material before you cut out the pattern.
The spot pattern on the material is diagonal so align your pattern piece vertically on the material.
To save time, you can draw around the interfacing outline and then cut it out, instead of pinning on the pieces.
Once you have cut out the interfacing pieces, iron on to the applicable material piece WS (e.g. 1 x B interfacing ironed to 1 x B material WS).
Leave the F (straps) interfacing separate for the time being.
For C (inner pocket), iron the C interfacing piece to the WS bottom half of the pocket material (the short edges are the top & bottom).
Outer Pocket (A)
Pin the 2 x outer pocket pieces (A) RST (non interfacing piece on top). Leave a 10cm opening along one edge so you can turn it inside out. Stitch the outer edges, leaving the 10cm gap unsewn. Trim triangles off the seam excess in corners and turn inside out to RS. Iron flat (interfacing side first), including turning in the gap 1cm seam allowance.
Pin the gap closed and then topstitch around entire edge. The side with the interfacing attached will be the front of the pocket and should be on top when topstitching.
TIP: When topstitching, use the right edge of your machine foot as a stitch width guide, unless otherwise instructed.
Along the edge opposite to the opening end, also sew a 1cm seam across. This edge will be the top of your pocket.
Adding wadding to 2 x panels (B)
On the 2 x material panels (B) without interfacing, pin separately WS on top of 2 x wadding (material on top).
Stitch around the panels with the material on top, to secure the wadding to it.
Front inner & outer panels (B)
Take 1 x wadded panel (B) & position the outer pocket (A) on RS 7cm from the top edge in the centre. The shorter 45cm edges on the panel are the top and bottom. The pocket interfacing side should be facing you and the edge with the double seam should also be at the top. Pin the lower and side edges.
Topstitch around the pinned area (go over topstitching already in place), leaving top edge open. Then stitch another row 1cm in on the same sides.
Pin the top edge of this panel RST to an interfaced panel (interfacing on top so the wadding doesn’t catch in your machine). Stitch the pinned, top edge only. Iron seam on RS and put to one side.
Inner Pocket (C & B)
Iron the inner pocket material in half WST over the interfacing. Topstitch along material folded edge on interfacing side, using your machine foot as a stitch width guide again.
Pin the pocket (C) WS (interfacing side is RS) lower and side edges on RS bottom half of 1 x interfaced panel (B).
Stitch around the pinned lower and side edges of the pocket to anchor securely to the panel.
Then mark & stitch 2 x seams on the pocket RS, 6cm in from each side.
Strap adjusters (D), handle (E) & strap connectors (G)
On 2 x straps adjusters (D), iron a 1cm seam WST on one of the short edges. You don’t need to iron a seam on the handle (E) or strap connectors (G). Iron 2 x D, E & G in half lengthways WST.
Open and iron raw edges WST towards centre fold line. Then iron in half lengthways again so that all the pieces are now a quarter size in width (2.5cm).
On all, topstitch around all edges, close to the edge, starting on the long, open edge.
Padded shoulder straps (F, G & buckles)
On the strap (F) material x 2, iron 1cm seams WST on both long edges & 1 short edge. Iron the strap interfacing pieces onto both strap material WS, tucked under the corner seams.
Trim the strap wadding & material to the same size. Place the wadding on the material WS. Fold the strap in half lengthways WST, catching in all the wadding and pin the long edge. Repeat for the other strap.
With the flat, curved edge of the buckle facing up and at the bottom, thread a strap connector (G) through the top 1st hole from behind and then down through the 2nd hole from the front. Repeat for the other strap connector and buckle. Fold the strap connector in half and place both raw ends in the centre of the seamed short edges of the strap (F) 1cm in and pin (strap interfacing side and the flat, curved buckle edge on top).
Topstitch around all sides on both straps, close to the edge. Start and end on the raw, short edge, as this will be hidden. Then, starting in the left corner of the non seamed short edge of the strap, diagonally stitch a zigzag down the strap, from side to side and working your way to the bottom. Follow the material’s spotty diagonal pattern.
When you get to the bottom, sew along the stitching already in place on the short edge to the opposite corner and then zigzag stitch back up to the top, on the opposite sides of the previous diagonal stitch and finishing in the right-hand corner. This reinforces the strap.
The flap (H)
Pin 2 x flap (H) RST on curved edge. Sew curved edge only. Snip into curved edge but do not cut seam line. Turn to RS and iron (interfacing side first). Topstitch around curved edge with interfacing side on top.
Mark the centre of top, curved edge on the interfacing side. With the interfacing side on top, make a 4.5cm buttonhole for the large button (following sewing machine manufacturer’s instructions), 1.5cm from curved edge in the centre.
Tip: When ripping the buttonhole seam, insert a pin into the straight stitching across the top to stop you ripping through the end.
Change sewing machine settings back to normal.
Attaching the strap adjusters (D) to a wadded panel (B)
Pin the raw, short edges of the strap adjusters (D) on a 45cm edge of the wadded panel (B) RS, 6cm in from the sides. You only need to pin the bottom 10cm.
Mark 8cm & 10cm up from the bottom on the strap adjusters. On each strap adjuster (D), starting from the bottom, sew over the topstitching already in place and stitch up one side to the 8cm mark. Then stitch a 2cm rectangle with a cross in the centre for reinforcement and then stitch 8cm down the other side of the strap to the bottom.
Attaching the handle (E), the straps (F/ G) & the flap (H) to a panel (B)
Mark the top centre on the same wadded panel (B). Pin the raw edges of the handle (E) onto the top of the panel RS, with the handle inner edges 2.5cm either side of the centre mark.
Pin the padded shoulder straps (F) top, raw edges either side of the handle, with the inner edges 6cm from centre of the panel, interfacing side on top.
Stitch along top edges of the straps & handle to secure in place.
Pin the flap (H) straight, raw edge centrally over the padded straps & handle (interfacing side underneath). Cut the 14cm elastic in half and then fold each piece in half (raw ends together). Pin the elastic on the flap 1cm from outer edges (the open elastic edges to the raw edge of the flap). Stitch along top edge of the flap, through all layers.
Joining the strap panel to the inner pocket panel
Pin the top edge of the inner pocket panel (B) to the top edge of the panel with the straps etc. attached RST. The pocket and strap adjusters (D) should be at the same end.
Stitch along the top edge from the interfacing side. Turn to RS and iron flat. You now have the two sections for your backpack!
Joining the two backpack sections
Open out both backpack sections flat and place RST, matching centre seams and both wadded ends together. Pin around outside edges. Start pinning 10cm in from one of the sides where the strap adjusters (D) are on the wadded end & work outwards. This will create a 25cm gap so you can turn your sewing inside out.
Start sewing at the gap end, towards the outer edge, and around all outer edges. Stop at the other side of the gap. Increase seam allowance to 1.5cm around the interfacing half, then return to the normal 1cm allowance for the wadded half.
Try and keep the wadding flat to prevent it getting caught in the machine foot but if it does then gently pull it out.
Making the corners into triangles to form the bag base
Trim the excess seam material on the interfacing half only to 0.5cm. Put your hand inside the opening and, from inside, open out the side seams at one of the other end corners to form a triangle, with the seams matching in the middle. At 4.5cm down from the point of the triangle, stitch across through all layers in a straight line. Repeat at other side.
Cut triangle sections off. Now do the same at the other two corners (gap end) but at 5cm. Careful not to sew in the strap adjusters. Do not trim these triangles as they can be tucked underneath the base of the backpack lining for strength.
Turn inside out & topstitching top edge
Turn the whole thing inside out to RS. Push the lining inside so that the inner pocket is inside and the flaps and straps are outside. Iron the top edge and then loosely pin. Topstitch around the top edge to secure. Do not stitch straps or flap, just the body of the rucksack.
Closing the gap & buckles
Push the lining out of the way of the bottom gap and pin the opening closed with a 1cm seam allowance. Stitch opening closed on RS close to edge. Push the lining into corners. Thread the straps (D) into the 2nd hole on the buckle from behind and then into the 3rd hole from the front.
Small buttons x 2: stitch the small buttons 1.5cm down from the top edge and 7cm in from the side seams.
Large button x 1: stitch to outside pocket (A) 4cm from the pocket top and centrally (12.5cm from sides).
Laptop padded envelope (I & J)
Pin 2 x envelope flap (I) curved edges RST, with the wadding underneath. Stitch around curved edge (material on top). Snip curved edges of material in seam allowance. Turn RS out and iron. Topstitch around curved edge.
Make a 3cm buttonhole in the centre of curved edge, 1.5cm from edge. Reset sewing machine back to normal sewing settings.
Pin one small edge of 2 x envelope panels (J) RST with 1 x wadding underneath. Stitch the pinned edge. Iron on RS.
Repeat for the other 2 x envelope panels but with the flap (I) unsewn raw edge centrally sandwiched between, aligning the raw edges. Stitch across this short edge. Iron seam on RS.
Open both pieces out lengthways and pin RST (wadding at same end). Leave a 15cm gap on the material only short edge.
Starting and ending on either side of the gap, stitch around the piece. On the small, un-wadded edge, increase seam allowance to 1.5cm, then return to 1cm for remainder. Trim wadding to seams and trim triangles off the corner seams.
Turn RS out. Pin the bottom gap closed and topstitch close to edge on RS to seal.
Push the lining (material half) inside and iron. Loosely pin the opening edge and topstitch around (flap out of the way).
Stitch button onto the front panel centrally and 6.5cm down from the top edge. Place inside inner pocket of backpack.
Enjoy your finished backpack!