Self Assembly Required

DIY dressmaking + crafts with Emily

The trials and tribulations of the Raspberry Rucksack // Sarah Kirsten

I had planned to write and post about this yesterday but decided to wait 24 hours to temper my thoughts…

I decided from the get go that I’d make a bag with the leftover fabric from my I AM Jacques raincoat that I’d made a couple of weeks ago. I figured the waterproof fabric would be a perfect choice for a sturdy backpack! I wanted to make something in the style of the Fjällräven Kånken bags – yes those Swedish ones that everyone seemed to have at one point! I searched for patterns and narrowed my list down to two: the Raspberry Rucksack by Sarah Kirsten or the Mini Cesar Rucksack by Oui Patterns. In the end what swung it for me was the sizing (I wanted it relatively big and thought that if there was enough fabric left over I planned to make the small version too) and the fact the Raspberry had more features similar to the Kankens like the bigger bag opening.

What I hadn’t known on making that choice was just how difficult I’d find it to sew!

The bag pattern comes in two sizes both with the same features – a pop up pocket on the front, full flap opening, canvas handles and straps. It’s fully lined as well, with the last bit of lining being finished with some bias binding on the inside. Sarah recommends a heavy interfacing to help stiffen the outer layers which I did do. To help keep the shape, I also added a layer of Bosal In-R-Form bag foam wadding to the back panel piece too.

I had the most fun picking out the haberdashery bits to go with my bag! I knew what fabric I was using already – this lovely yellow waterproof stuff from Fabworks Mill. I opted for a dark grey lining and chose a bright orange for the straps, webbing rings and sliders (all off eBay). I even found a round iron on patch in the right colours for the front! I managed to source a continuous length zip for the openings which I could cut to length and add zippers to so I could have the two way zip for the main flap.

In my head it should have been an easy sew – mostly straight lines, nothing too complicated right? I was very wrong! I set an evening aside to make it up. I had all my pieces cut and ready as per the instructions and all I had to do was sew it up. Many, many hours later, after much stress and frustration it was finished but the experience was far from what I expected.

I can’t say whether I found the project so difficult because bag making itself is inherently difficult or because it’s a bad/ complicated pattern. I appreciate that the pattern is designed to look like a designer bag and that actually it just may be a design that is this complicated to make!

Sewing it up was just tricky. I knew my machine (even though it’s just a domestic one) would be able to handle the fabric and layers as I’d just made a raincoat in the same stuff. I think what was hard was navigating the corners, and all the finicky top stitching. Trying to neatly topstitch into little corners and around them is not the easiest thing to do!

My main gripe was the fact the pattern didn’t actually come with a pattern… The instructions tell you what pieces to cut, relying on the fact that you’re just being asked to cut out rectangles and you could either draw these direct onto your fabric or draw them out yourself on paper. I opted to draw them directly onto the fabric.

Whilst I appreciated that this is a paper saving option I would’ve liked to have had the option to print out the pieces especially if it was going to be a pattern I used more than once. I don’t find it particularly easy to draw out perfect rectangles and if you’re like me, I think this leaves quite a big margin of inaccuracy. The other thing is that the front and back pieces aren’t actually the size and shape you’re initially cutting them to, which means more time spent midway through the project measuring and cutting again – a problem that would’ve been solved had there been accurately shaped pattern pieces to start off with.

I also think that on a pattern piece you would have been able to have notches and markings to indicate pocket placement, centre points and strap markings – again all massive time savers and reducing the margin of error.

The instructions were ok – though not amazing. Some areas were just a bit vague, like when it just says edgestitch the zip in place without really detailing how much to overlap it by. I also had to use the blog post to decipher the front pocket instructions where she has photos instead of drawings which I found easier.

Frankly, it was just quite a frustrating pattern to use. It was rather fitting that I used one of my Pink Coat Club labels “Made with blood sweat and tears” for it!

Anyway I wanted to share my thoughts just in case there are other out there struggling to make it through your own Raspberry Rucksack projects!

Obviously I can’t compare my experience to how it would have been had I made the other pattern choice – though I’m tempted to buy it and compare! Maybe I’d find that all bag making is this tricky!

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  1. You did a great job. Bags are harder than they look, but I have found her patterns to be hard to follow at homes. I have made her fanny pack 4 times and I still struggle with trying to fit the bias tape around the edges of the fabric ends. I think the last one I made I had to get so close to my needle I sewed through my finger. So I get how hard these can be.

  2. Thank you so much! This post just saved me $14 + a bunch of time + frustration. I was looking for a pattern for a day out and this one looked perfect. However, bags are challenging and I’m not a huge sewist. It would’ve been one of those projects that I’ll “finish later”.

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