Once upon a time, I bought an IKEA slipcover to adorn an IKEA futon that we used as both a couch and a guest bed. We eventually grew tired of our butts turning into rocks everytime we sat on the futon, and having a little money from our wedding we decided to invest in an actual couch (which we got used off Craiglist, but also previously came from IKEA). Being the overly thrifty and eco-conscious people that we are, we saved the slipcover, thinking it would become something else in a matter of time. Then one day, I realized that it would make a great backpack, and thus all my dreams of using the slipcover and getting a new backpack came true.
This is one of my favorite parts of upcycling: the inspirational moment when you know that this one thing you have is going to become something better, cooler, unique, and special because you’ve tapped into some brilliant understanding that things are not always stuck forever as what they appear to be. It’s a philisophical journey as well as an engineering problem all at once. On a more practical level, it’s just plain awesome that a backpack could be made from a slipcover. The slipcover provided the perfect material for the backpack because it was durable, lightly quilted, and machine washable. It was your typical BEDDINGE cover, boring, surprisingly unfashionable, and oddly clunky:
The backpack warranted a trip to the fabric store for all the notions I would need, plus some sweet aqua daisy fabric that became the toned down theme for the backpack. I purchased new quilting cotton for the lining and accents because I didn’t have enough material of anything repurposed to line it. I spent quite a long time in the fabric store trying to talk myself out of the aqua daisy print, being a woman in my thirties and not an elementary school student…but then I decided that being a woman in my thirties means I know what I like and aqua and daisies together are bliss.
I didn’t use a pattern, I drafted up plans by looking at a few backpacks I liked online, using those dimensions to create a blueprint of how I might construct the perfect backpack for me. I purchased the webbing and most of the hardware, except for the clasps on the front which I took from an old purse. Backpacks are rather rectangular in construction so it wasn’t difficult to figure out how one would come together, though I did take a lot of notes and really study a few back packs I liked before I came up with a solid plan.
I spread out my materials on a Friday afternoon, cut out my pieces, started sewing them together, became obsessed with the project, couldn’t sleep that night because I wanted to work on my backpack too badly, woke up early on Saturday, continued sewing, and then when Amanda woke up we took my new backpack to the grocery store. It fit all of our groceries and then some! I regret only taking two in-progress pictures, I was so determined, so obsessed, that I couldn’t be bothered with my camera.
I’m particularly excited about the back pocket, the perfect deep pocket for stowing passports and other important stuff while traveling. I also love the side pockets. Amanda keeps insisting that I use one of them for a water bottle, but I like using them for things like sunglasses, pens, those things you sometimes want handy but don’t want to unzip something for.
I had trouble with the front pocket, it turned out differently than I wanted and if I ever make another backpack I’ll probably just keep the front pocket flat. It was probably the most annoying part of the project, aside from sewing the really thick layers together, and it’s not a pocket I end up using that much anyway.
How has it been holding up? Great! I took it all the way to England and Wales last month for a UK adventure. It was the perfect size to fit under an airplane seat, and the secret passport pocket worked really well. It was stuffed full of gifts and treasures on the way back and didn’t budge under pressure. I love it! The only thing that I regret is stuffing so much that when we got into London and got on the Tube, I accidentally bumped a man right in the face. Not a great way to make an impression, for sure.