“I want a backpack. How long does it take to sew one?” asked our three and half year old daughter with downright seriosity. First of all, I was completely honored that she thought I already knew how to make one in her size and that she assumed it would come from my hands rather than an item bought from any store. Secondly, was to say yes, because who could refuse?
You don’t have to know how to get started, or how to finish – you simply begin.
Choose your sustainable fabrics, make your own felt, dig through organic textile scraps and set aside any material that could possibly fit the criteria of the project.
To sew a handmade backpack, take into consideration the amount and weight to be carried. The one featured here holds a few toys and a bag of organic banana chips for when we travel. It is perfect for a young child to carry, it makes her feel grown-up. Ours – the family backpack – is handsewn from a sturdy burlap type fabric. In it we pack only what we need for minimalist travel, not one clothing item more.
After you have figured out what you want to carry, then start cutting away. The more you practice, the more you learn. Use intuitive shapes dictated by the person, or by the size of the scraps, or a combination of the two. Learn to see in not just flat surfaces, but in dimensions and folds and curves. Try making an upper for a shoe and you will begin to grasp the complexity, beauty and challenge of a single foot.
The biggest challenge is not to feel limited by scraps. Find ways to merge textures, patterns and thickness of materials with a creative touch. Set out your pieces and then sew away, test, check, re-sew if necessary and a few part-time hours later the project is done. The handmade backpack was ready for a backyard hike…
We all have the power in our hands and fingers to create, often it is the mind that stops or slows us from continuing on the path to self-reliance. Inhibition will not take those first steps, you must decide what is important to you. Unique people are intriguing, be one of those.
Clothes do not have to come from the store if you don’t want to purchase them that way. Bags, backpacks and totes don’t even take a sewing machine – all you need is a needle, thread, courage and patience to trust yourself that you can do it too!
Overcome your fear of handcrafting by watching others, taking courses, reading books and when the time is yours, go out there and do it alone. Know what you want and then try to make it, it is really that simple. If it doesn’t work out, figure out what could have gone wrong and redo it, remake it, recreate it.
If a young child ever asks you for a handmade backpack, know that your answer will influence his/her future.
Become self-reliant and start tackling those projects of your own.
If you need help making those big (or little) changes in life we are here for you as sustainable life designers – find our consulting services here.