Saturday, May 30, 2009

How to turn an army surplus backpack into a messenger bag

This is a really easy project done entirely by hand - no sewing machine required!

Originally I had intended to make a camera bag and not a messenger bag. I was inspired to do this by this awesome post on the Wired - How To Wiki. But the bag I got wasn't quite right to make that work. Plus I didn't want to buy that dense foam stuff. So I made a messenger bag instead and hubby is using it as his gym bag.

Here's the finished bag:

Instructions for how I did it are below...

And while we are on the subject of making cool stuff, you HAVE to wander over to Dude Craft. Dudes. This dude is awesome. Plus he aggregates cool stuff made by other dudes (and dudettes). Check it out!

What you'll need to make the messenger bag:
1. An army surplus backpack (or any canvas backpack)
2. A strong needle (or two - I bent one). I used short quilting needles
3. A thimble. Seriously. Think it is the first project I've completed where a thimble was an absolute requirement for the survival of my fingers
4. Some strong thread (I used quilting)
5. Scissors

What I did (sorry these aren't v. precise, and I didn't take pics along the way like I normally do)

  1. Remove the backpack straps (set them aside - you'll need them later)

  2. Unpick and remove the top flap of the back pack (set aside)

  3. Fold the top edge of the back pack down (on the inside) by about 3.5-4 inches (this makes the bag look short and long like a messenger bag instead of tall like a backpack).

  4. Pin and then sew the folded down top edge (I did all the sewing by hand. You could use a sewing machine but test it first to make sure it can handle the thick fabric)

  5. Grab the top flap of the backpack that you removed, and reposition it further down the back of the bag (halfway between the bottom of the bag and the new top edge) and sew the bottom edge of the flap to the backside of the bag

At this point the bag is done. Now you have to worry about the straps.
  1. Grab the two straps and sew them together (this is where you will def. need the thimble) so that you have one long strap

  2. Determine where you will need to cut the slits at each side of the bag for the straps to go through so that the bag hangs correctly. (this is a key step, not doing this will mean having to sew up a slit that you cut in the wrong spot. Trust me.)

  3. Cut a slit on each side of the bag in the predetermined spots that is slightly wider than the width of the strap

  4. Test to make sure the strap will go through the slit

  5. Sew around the edges of the slit to prevent fraying (like a button hole). I used the blanket stitch

  6. Put the strap through the slits on each side and use the buckles from the original strap to hold in place

Done! :)


Paul Overton said...

Thanks for the DudeCraft plug! Love, love, love your blog! I will now be a regular reader.

-Paul (DudeCraft)

Green Grrl said...

Hi Paul, Thanks! I'm totally drooling over your new workshop by the way. I want one! :)