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Last week, I got caught in a torrential downpour when walking my kids home from school. And even though all three of us had umbrellas and the school is about a two minute walk from our home, we got totally drenched. When we got home, we had to spread the kids’ wet books and notebooks all over the floor for them to dry.
Doesn’t that always happen?! When it’s just barely sprinkling when I leave home to pick up the kids, all hell lets loose as soon as the school doors open and they come out! Geesh!
Then I remembered the amazingly simple idea that I saw years ago on Green Issues by Agy for sewing an elasticized backpack cover from umbrella fabric.
I have a massive collection of umbrella fabric from umbrellas that I find broken and abandoned on the side of the street (which I usually use to make my Carry Everywhere Shopping Bags) so I immediately got to work making these covers for both kids and a friend.
These covers are really easy to make because the umbrella fabric is already the right size and shape for covering a backpack, plus it’s super lightweight and obviously waterproof. They only take about 15-20 minutes and, because you’re repurposing something that would’ve otherwise been thrown out, you’re helping the environment and saving money! They’re perfect for kids going to school, but also for students going to university, professionals going to work, or anyone out for a walk!
Are you ready to make a DIY backpack rain cover? Then let’s get started!
- the fabric from one umbrella (Here’s how to remove and prepare the fabric from umbrellas. The fabric from a smaller compact umbrella is just the right size, but I’ll also show how to trim down larger umbrella fabric.)
- a small scrap of umbrella fabric (I keep all my scraps from making umbrella shopping bags and waterproof picnic blankets. If you have to trim down a larger umbrella, you can use what you cut off.)
- about 40″ (100 cm) more or less of 1/8″ (4 mm) elastic*
- jar cap
- fine permanent marker or pen
- fabric shears*
- pinking shears*
- pins (preferably very thin silk pins* to avoid leaving holes in the fabric)
- size 70/10 universal sewing needle* (again, the small needle minimizes holes)
- tape measure
- safety pin
- matching polyester thread (poly thread doesn’t soak in moisture like cotton thread, so its preferable in this case)
Patching up the umbrella hole:
When you remove the fabric from the umbrella, you’ll see that there is a hole in the center where it was attached to the umbrella pole. We’re going to patch up this hole. You can put the patch just on the outside, but I prefer patching it from the inside, too, to protect more and also to look better.
1. Pin two scraps of umbrella fabric together, right sides facing. Trace around the jar cap with a permanent marker or a pen.
2. Sew just barely inside the line of one circle (#1 above) and a bit more inside the line of the other circle (#2), leaving a small opening to turn the circles right side out. Trim all around the circles with pinking shears (#3), then turn the circles right side out and iron flat (using an ironing cloth* to avoid melting the fabric) with the edges of the opening folded inside.
3. Pin the smaller circle over the center hole on the wrong side of the umbrella fabric, then sew in place. Then pin and sew the larger circle on the right side of the umbrella fabric, making sure that you cover the stitching from the first circle.
Trimming large umbrella fabric:
4. Place the backpack in the center of the umbrella fabric and fold the fabric edge over the sides of the backpack. It should reach 4-6″ (10-15 cm) over the front of the backpack. If it folds over more than that, you’ll have to trim it down. In this case, place a pin (shown above by the arrow) where the fabric needs to be cut.
If your umbrella is already the right size, skip down to step 8.
5. Fold the umbrella fabric in half over and over until getting a triangle shape like above. Make sure that the pin from step 4 is showing (bottom circle in the top picture). Measure from the tip of the triangle to the pin, then place a pin on the other edge of the triangle at the same distance from the tip (top circle in the top picture).
6. Cut a slightly curved line from one pin to the other to remove the excess fabric.
Umbrella fabric frays quite a bit, so we’re going to make a very simple rolled hem.
7. Sew around the cut edge of the umbrella fabric with a rolled hem foot. (Most sewing machines come with this foot. Check your manual on how to use it. This foot is a lifesaver when hemming very thin fabric!) Because the edge is curved, it will probably get a little messy, but don’t worry about it, because we’ll be folding it up in the next step.
Sewing the elastic casing:
8. Put the fabric under the needle, wrong side up. Fold the edge in about 1/2″ (1.5 cm) and sew in place. Remember to backstitch at the beginning.
9. Stop just before each point of the umbrella and fold the corner over so that the casing makes a little turn. Then sew right over the folded corner.
10. Continue sewing all around the circle, backstitching shortly before the point where you started to leave a small opening. This is what the sewn points look like.
11. Measure around (vertically) the widest part of the backpack. Cut a piece of elastic 4″ (10 cm) less than that measurement. For example, my daughter’s backpack was 123 cm around, so I cut the elastic 113 cm long.
Stick a safety pin in one end and push it all the way around the casing until it comes out the other end (top). To avoid the other end getting pulled in the casing, too, I like to stick it to the edge of the casing with another safety pin (though I didn’t do it in these pictures).
12. Knot the ends of the elastic. Then gently tug on the fabric edges to pull the knotted end inside the casing and sew the opening closed.
Ta da! You’re done! You now have what looks like a gigantic shower cap!
The rain cover can be folded up with the umbrella’s original closure strap, so if you had to trim your umbrella fabric and the strap was on the excess fabric, remove it with a seam ripper (top) and sew it back on to near the edge of your new rain cover (bottom).
Now just slip your new DIY backpack rain cover over your bag next time you get stuck in inclement weather! No more trying to cover both you and your bag with your umbrella!
And when you don’t need it, fold it up and secure the umbrella strap around it! This makes a nice light and compact packet that you can keep in your bag so that you’re ready any time you need to protect your backpack!
You can’t get much easier than that, right?! Now sew up a DIY backpack rain cover for each member of your family! My three models all agreed that they’re almost looking forward to it raining again so that they can use them! Haha!
Upcycle umbrellas to protect your backpack during bad weather! These DIY backpack rain covers are quick and easy and perfect for kids and adults alike! www.cucicucicoo.com
Have you gotten to love sewing with umbrella fabric? Well, then try your hand at a fantastically upcycled waterproof picnic blanket from umbrellas and a sheet or the super lightweight Carry Everywhere Shopping Bag with my FREE pattern!
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