Cicada Making Backpack

This project is almost a year old at this point, but it’s on my mind because I just pulled it out again after using a different backpack throughout the winter. I planned this project about a year before I actually got around to sewing it, so I bought the cicada print canvas (which I think is another pre-Ruby Star Society print from Cotton + Steel, but I might be wrong about that) before I had an inkling that Brood X was going to emerge in Cincinnati in late May 2021—right after I actually finish sewing this. But still, I guess it’s a nice way to memorialize the several weeks we spent besieged by dive bombing bugs and exoskeleton litter and gross cicada larvae and incessant buzzing.

This backpack was the first major project I took on after having Silas. I had done some very easy sewing prior to that, like making a few pairs of pajamas for Jude in the fall when I was still at home on parental leave with Silas. But at some point in the winter of 2020-2021, I just stopped sewing completely. I was teaching 4 classes online, I was getting very limited and fractured sleep, and I was having to dedicate an hour+ of my day to pumping, which is ridiculous. It got to a point where keeping my head above water with my classes required working every night after Jude and Silas were both in bed, as well as working every weekend. By the time I got the end of the semester, I was completely burned out and demoralized. I was lucky that I was able to hand off the summer class I had originally agreed to teach in Summer 2021, which lightened my load over the summer and meant I could focus on just recovering from the spring semester.

I launched my creative recovery by 1) watching The Great Pottery Throw-Down, 2) doing the Design Your Wardrobe class on Seamwork, and 3) making this backpack. The pattern is the Making Backpack by Anna Graham, and I’ve worked with a handful of her patterns before and appreciate the clarity of her instructions. I don’t have extensive bag making experience, so I found all the different kinds of interfacing and various steps fairly intimidating. But I just leaned into the process and focused on one step at the time. The result was a really healing (is that cheesy? I don’t care) sewing process where I got to do the kind of complex, precise work that I enjoy without having to worry about fitting my postpartum body and where I got to see a really beautiful object come together in my hands.

I used this as my everyday bag throughout the summer and fall, swapped it out for a darker backpack for winter, but just brought the cicadas back out. I actually missed carrying this bag around, which tells me I need to make myself something that feels more seasonally appropriate for winter. I’ve got my eye on Anna Graham’s Buckthorn Backpack pattern.

Project Details

  • Pattern: The Making Backpack by Anna Graham (Noodlehead Patterns)
  • Fabric: Exterior fabric is a Cotton + Steel cotton and linen blend canvas and the interior is also an old Cotton + Steel print. I’m pretty sure these are both pre-Ruby Star Society designs, but I’m not 100% sure.
  • Notions: I bought a notions kit from Anna Graham’s shop that had all the canvas strapping, bag sliders, zippers and a little leather patch. It was great to have everything together and I would absolutely go back to her store for notions kits or for sourcing individual notions in the future.
  • Interfacing: I don’t know. There are 3 different kinds of interfacing on this bag, I think? The pattern has very specific recommendations, which I followed. I was able to find exactly what was recommended at Joann’s, and it all worked out really well.

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