Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Rainbow Raspberry Rucksack

I bought the Raspberry Rucksack pattern by Sarah Kirsten at the beginning of 2020. However, the rest of the year took all the unexpected turns that we know about now, and my sewing plans didn't follow the route that I thought they would! In fact, it took me so long to actually get round to making the pattern, that I ended up being one of those annoying people who had to contact the seller because they had lost the download link! 


I finally did get round to making the Raspberry rucksack after two years' worth of intense daily use of my Range backpack. It had got so tatty, faded and misshapen that I was getting pretty embarrassed to be seen with it! I don't embarrass easily when it comes to what I wear, so I knew it was definitely time to make a replacement. I fell in love with the Raspberry rucksack pattern the instant I saw it, and have loved every version I've seen on Instagram since. The pattern's similarity to the Kanken bags by Swedish company Fjallraven cannot be denied. I've admired those for many a year also, and the opportunity to make something similar for myself without having to work out how to do so on my own was an opportunity too good to pass up.

(image source: Sarah Kirsten)

The Raspberry rucksack pattern, like the Range backpack pattern and every other 'proper' bag pattern I've encountered, is really involved. There are a lot of pieces to cut out (from outer, lining and interfacing fabrics), extras like special hardware and zips to procure, and lots of construction steps to undertake. It's a meaty project, not a quick win. But if you're up for that and not in any particular rush to use your new bag, then it can be a really enjoyable challenge. 

The constructing the front 'pop' pocket (which is fully lined, FYI), and then stitching it to the front panel were possibly the trickiest steps. There are so many layers involved, and with a domestic machine, it was a struggle at times. And even after the pocket was attached, the pages of construction steps kept on coming and at many points it felt like the end would never be in sight!

What I did enjoy was learning some new tricks. The Sarah Kirsten blog includes a few very detailed posts which support the pattern, and I whole heartedly recommend reading them before you embark on the project. One of them taught me a lot about zips, including how to turn a regular, double-ended zip into a bag zip. In short, you cut off one end and remove one of the zip pulls, turn it up the other way and pull it back on. This felt very risky, especially considering I had had to wait a long time for my zips to arrive in the post, but it worked perfectly (after a couple of attempts) and it kind of blew me away! 

Another new-to-me element to this project was using webbing for the straps and handles. My previous 'real' bag projects involved straps that I'd sewn from fabric. I found working with the webbing really fun and I love the result. 

Fabric and haberdashery:

A complicated backpack isn't usually the first project that pops to mind as a fabric scrap-buster. However, I had the leftovers of the rust cotton twill that I used for my Thelma boiler suit ear-marked for a bag almost as soon as the cutting out of the boiler suit pieces was complete. The Raspberry rucksack pattern includes dimensions for two different sizes of bag. I wanted to make a larger one as it'd be more practical, but I was willing to size down if my fabric was of insufficient quantity. Thankfully, I had more than enough for the larger one, and in fact there is more twill left than I'm thinking I'll use for a sun hat for someone. 

The lining I used for the rucksack is making me very happy indeed. It was a length of quilting cotton that I bought from the Village Haberdashery on the last day that I taught there before giving birth to my little boy (so about 4.5 years ago). Initially, I had planned to make myself a blouse from it, but my tastes shifted before that could happen and it's languished, unused in my stash ever since. I still adore the print design and its colours, I just could no longer see myself wearing it as a garment. So it's great to be able to see and enjoy it regularly, every time I open my bag.

I'd like to be able to take credit for the inspired choice of rainbow webbing, but I cannot. I had been debating what colour webbing to choose that would work well with the rust, and I almost bought some teal cotton webbing on a trip to Brighton, but held back for some reason. A little later, I saw an online ad pop up for Fjallraven bags featuring an orange one with rainbow webbing and my heart skipped a beat. I sourced my rainbow webbing from Plush Addict, who stock a range of widths, and I LOVE how its turned out. I never would have thought that clear rainbow colours would work with a muted tone like rust, but I think it looks awesome. My only regret is that I couldn't source cotton rainbow webbing (this one is polypropylene), but at least this won't soak up the rain. 

My zips came from Zipper Station, who stock a broad range of lengths and styles, and have excellent customer service. The reason I had to wait a while for their arrival was because I ordered them on Christmas eve in a pandemic! Another order from them arrived only a day or two after I placed it. I planned to use my fave bag hardware purveyor, U-handbag, for my slider and rectangle ring, but they were out of stock of my first choice (silver coloured metal) for one of them. I ended up getting plastic versions from a seller on eBay, which worked out well as they make the bag lighter than the metal ones would have.   


Thankfully, after the marathon make, I'm really happy with the look of the finished bag. It feels a bit lighter and flimsier than I was expecting though, which I think is partly due to using webbing rather than fabric for the straps. Also, I guess that the twill fabric isn't as stiff as the fabric used for Fjallraven bags, although I really don't think my sewing machine could have handled anything more robust. As you can see from the photo of the bag on my dressform, it sags and doesn't hold its shape when not completely stuffed. The front handle also flips down. I considered making one of those little loops held together with press studs which keep handles together, but honestly I don't think I care that much. 

Another big takeaway: Scotch Guard spray is excellent! I found a can in the cupboard under the sink and used it on this bag the night before we took a trip out whilst it was snowing, and the bag remained completely dry. Why didn't I use this stuff before? All those school and nursery runs in the rain where my bag and its contents got completely soaked could have been avoided! 

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