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Yesterday my little 2 year, 8 month old boy had his first day of public nursery school. And two days before that, I suddenly remembered that he needed a little backpack for school. I didn’t want to buy another because we already have gazillions of little bags and backpacks at home, except it turns out that they’re ALL very girly bags. I don’t normally care about dressing my son in clothes that have some girly touch to them (like a little flower or pleat here or there) and his favorite color is actually pink, but these bags were just too much for me to feel comfortable sending him with to school, where he was bound to be harassed by less informed people. So I proposed using the least girly bag, which is unisex except for the “My Doll” logo on the front. I figured it would be a snap to cover that up with a patch that I could stitch Nicky’s name onto.
Except that backpack has straps to fasten in a doll or, as my kids prefer, a stuffed animal. And big sister Sofia did not like the idea that this bag was to become solely for little brother. Not in the least. So I decided to do something which has been in my head since last winter for another project I still haven’t gotten around to: add a vinyl pocket into which to insert a nametag. This way his name could be removed as needed and her name inserted. Trust me, it took a lot of negotiating to arrive at this decision.
I had some extra transparent vinyl, the type that’s generally used as a tablecloth. I held it over the offending logo and, eyeballing the size it needed to be, cut out a rectangle with regular scissors (not your fabric ones!). I probably shouldn’t have cut it in a spot that was somewhat creased but those waves show up a lot more on the photos than in real life.
Then I held the vinyl rectangle over the logo to make sure it was big enough, but not so big as to get in the way of the velcro holding down the straps. It also had to be big enough to be able to see the logo underneath if so desired (part of the negotiations). Perfect!
Next we need to pick out a binding material. The easiest thing to do is to buy some bias tape. I was planning on making some of my own when I remembered some odds and ends that I salvaged from my grandmother‘s sewing gear. If you are binding the edges of something curved, you *need* to use a fabric cut on the bias, but as I was binding straight edges, it could even be regular ribbon. But the best color material I could find for this backpack was this “seal brown” seam binding.
Yes, I know, seam binding is not actually for binding around edges, but for hemming sewn projects. But at that point I wanted to use this stuff and there was no convincing myself otherwise. Just check this label out. It was still sealed in its package since 1969 and at the time cost a whopping 25 cents for 3 yards.
Ok, back to work. Measure around the edges of your rectangle and add 3 cm to that measurement. My rectangle measured 9 x 5.5 cm, so 29 cm + 3 cm made 32 cm.
I snipped off a fraying edge.
If your binding material has mega creases from having been folded up for the past 44 years, press it. My binding was 100% rayon, so I was sure to lower my heat, take off the steam and use a pressing cloth over the fabric so as not to melt it. Be sure to do this if you’re using a synthetic fabric.
Taking the same precautions, iron over one edge by 1 cm more or less.
If you are using bias tape, you can skip this step. If your binding material is flat, as was mine or would’ve been a regular ribbon, you need to fold it in half lengthwise and iron it so that the crease stays. Please don’t skip this step or you’ll get extremely frustrated later on.
Now that your binding is ready, let’s get sewing! Hold the unfolded end of your binding about halfway down one of the long sides of the rectangle. You are going to sandwich the vinyl between the two parts of the binding, making sure that the vinyl fits all the way into the crease.
Sew all the way down to the edge of that side of the rectangle. I had to move my sewing needle to the right. Stop when you get to the end of the vinyl side and cut your thread. I used top thread in a contrasting color to better show the stitching. (But obstinantly refused to adjust the thread tension. Oops!)
Turn the rectangle 90° and pull the binding material down over the next side, guiding the binding with your fingers so that it sandwiches the vinyl and creates a nice, crisp corner.
Then continue sewing along that entire next side, cut your thread, and make another corner. Continue doing this until you’ve come to the last corner.
This time be sure to fold under that little flap that you ironed before so that the raw edge is encased underneath the binding. It will overlap the other end of the binding that’s already sewn down.
Once it’s positioned properly, sew all the way down that side again, snip your threads, and your little window is ready!
Position the window over the bag’s logo with the overlapped binding at the bottom. Here you can see that I turned the window so that the contrast thread is facing inwards and is hidden. Pin in place, but only over the binding. Pinning through vinyl will leave very obvious holes! Once it’s positioned properly, sew down one side, across the bottom and up the other side, leaving the top open. Try to sew right over the binding stitching.
You could just leave it like this, but knowing my kids, I knew that the nametag inside the window would definitely get lost a million times. So I broke out yet another vintage goodie, this time salvaged from my husband’s late aunt’s sewing gear: some teeny tiny anti-rust sew-on snaps.
And I sewed one set to the center of the open top edge.
Next, cut out a rectangle slightly smaller from some card stock. The size will depend on how far your stitching was from the outer binding edge. In my case, it was about 1 cm shorter in both directions.
But slip it in your window to make sure it really does fit and adjust as needed.
Then get to work making those nametags! I used permanent Sharpie markers to draw the outlines of the letters (messing up quite a few times) and Sofia volunteered to decorate the letters. She made good use of the mess-ups to practice her designs.
This is what she came up with. As the ink went through to the other side of the paper, we used two separate pieces and then glued them together back-to-back. This way it was even more rigid, making it easier to insert.
Perfect! This way we’d have no fears of Nicky’s teachers scrawling his name across the backpack fabric in ballpoint pen (or worse) the first day of school, like Sofia’s teachers did her first day of preschool.
And now each child can be happy with his/her name on it!
Nicky loved the backpack so much that he refused to take it off when he got to school! It always feels good when I manage to come up with a solution making the most of what we already have and keeping everyone happy at the same time!