Reconstructed rucksack bag

One of my favourite bags had very sadly come to the end of it’s life. The leather had worn out and it had developed lots of large holes. I adored this bag because it was a small bag that was so well designed – it could hold loads and I could wear it as either a shoulder bag or a rucksack. I bought it from Debenhams about 10 years ago. Here’s some photos of it:

So I decided that I would try to fix it by replacing all the worn out bits. I ended up just keeping the zips and buckles from the original bag and not much else!

1. The fabric

This was the perfect project to use up my scraps of nice fabric, and it would then match my clothes too! So I decided to use my rust coloured washed linen scraps, but with a bit of heavy black canvas in places to provide more support (such as the bag base). I also interfaced the front and back linen pieces to make sure they were durable and strong enough to hold weight.

My scraps of linen weren’t quite large enough so I did a bit of careful patchwork. I managed to fit it all in the end – see if you can spot the seams!

For the lining I used a paisley greeny brown cotton lawn which I bought without a plan – I just loved it. It’s a bit too busy for my style to wear, but it’s just perfect for linings.

Lastly, I used old bicycle inner tube for the straps – yes, that’s right! I hate to throw anything away, and if you wash an inner tube it becomes quite similar to leather. The rubber is in nice long lengths too – perfect for straps and belts etc.

2. The pattern

Because I had bought the old bag from a shop I didn’t have the pattern. So as I unpicked each piece I traced it out onto paper. I also took lots of photos along the way to make sure I could put it back together.

Photo of the partially disassembled bag showing how the front-back ellipse fastens to the middle of the ellipse for the sides

3. The challenges

The biggest challenge was not knowing if it would all fit together. Although I’d traced out the pieces, they certainly weren’t perfect. Also because of the many zips it would’ve been too complicated to baste it all. So I decided just to hope! In the end the sides didn’t quite fit, so I lost a bit of the top-front of the bag. But I can live with that.

Another big challenge was feeling confident enough to “just go with it” when I didn’t have a pattern. I ended up focusing on small steps at a time; for instance I would just make the straps one day and only think about that section. Having the photographs of the old bag was incredibly useful – I was constantly referring back to them.

With the straps, I found sewing the inner tube a bit tricky. I used a jeans needle and big stitches. I had some skipped stitches and track-lines from the feed dogs but nothing too bad. I might use tissue paper underneath if I try sewing it again.

4. The final result

I’ve rescued a bag! I’m so happy to see it all working again and I think it looks great with the rust and black patches. The stitching in some places is untidy (particularly on the thick canvas sections). But I’m definitely going to use this loads, it’s perfect for summer walks.

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