About 5-7 years ago, I made a bag for one of my really good friends, Kristie. At the time, she was cosplaying Kobato. She was fairly new to cosplaying and was struggling to complete her cosplay. Her birthday is the day before mine and we were going to spend the weekend of together. I decided that for her birthday gift I would make her Kobato’s bag.
A few years later, the bag was wearing thin so Kristie – now in grad school – wanted a new bag. She actually had a bag in mind, modeled off a character in some anime; to be honest, I can’t remember because at the same time I had waned out of the anime fandom. But it was a basic black cross body bag with interior pockets. I remember using a pretty Japanese-esque cotton print for the inside.
Fast forward to present day. Kristie is now living and working in Japan. She contacts me via text to ask for a 3rd bag since the 2nd is on its last legs. Only this time she was even more specific. She wanted a backpack like Marinette’s from Miraculous Ladybug.
She needed a backpack since it was more convenient to wear one while biking to work. I’ve made a number of bags in my life but never a backpack. It was going to be a challenge. Kristie did tell me that if it was impossible so just make the bag a cross body. But no, the perfectionist costumer in me was DETERMINED. So I set out to make a backpack.
It was not an easy task, and I spent many moments huffing and snarling at my machine for not wanting to cooperate. I also did what I promised I would never do after Elsa: hand embroidery. Last time I stubbornly hand embroider satin, this time duck canvas.
Knowing that this bag was primarily going to be used to carry the textbooks Kristie uses in her classes, I needed to find a fabric stronger than the bottom weight twill I used in previous bags. Duck canvas seemed to be a good fabric to use. It’s sturdy and almost waterproof on its own. The only downside is it was thick and would require heavyweight thread and needles.
To make the bag unique, I added some hand embroidered details on the front with Kristie’s initials and a free form flower and swirl design. I couldn’t replicate Mari’s design on her bag without the use of applique or an embroidery machine so I did my best approximation.
For the record, embroidering duck canvas is 50 times worse. My fingers were aching after only an hour of simple stitching. But it’s pretty, and I’ll do just about anything for family and good friends.
To reinforce the canvas and give the bag its distinct shape, I used heavyweight Pellon interfacing. The interior lining was a pretty pink cotton with gold roses.
When making such bags, I pretty much free form everything. The bag is roughly 14 inches wide, 10 inches tall, and 4 inches thick. It has a front flap with hand embroidered initials and details, held closed by parachute clips and sports a handle to carry like a briefcase. The 2 inch wide shoulder straps are made from duck canvas, batting, and nylon cord with plastic sliders. The bag itself has one large exterior pocket on the front, one large interior pocket, and two smaller interior pocket. There is also a clip for keys.
I’m quite pleased with the result but just hope it stands up to abuse. Japanese textbooks are much smaller than American textbooks but still. The only two requests I was not able to fulfill was a phone pocket (not enough fabric, I estimated just enough) and a zipper (2 layers duck canvas + 2 layers Pellon + 1 layer cotton = my machine was not happy).
The one thing I am most displeased about is my stitching where it’s visible. I try my hardest to make visible stitching as straight and as even as possible in everything. But the thickness of this just wouldn’t allow it. I adjusted my stitch length and tension so many times but nothing seemed to work. In the end, I gave up and decided function and strength outweighed pretty, straight stitches.
Currently, the bag is on its way to Japan, stuffed with post-Easter goodies. I’m really hoping Kristie likes it in person as much as she liked the photos (which, by the way, were taken hastily on my phone so I apologize for the pictures and the messy state of my sewing room).