Samantha’s school backpack got so heavy last year that I promised her a rolling one for the new school year. This model from Pottery Barn Teen fit the bill – on sale, nice quality, good looking.
It just needed a label, a patch, a monogram or something to make it hers and make it easy to identify in case more than one of these shows up at school. We could have ordered it with a machine-embroidered monogram or name, but making your own allows you to come up with something completely unique. It gives you the satisfaction of taking a mass-produced product and making it more personal with something of a handcrafted feel without having to resort to anything as drastic and time-consuming as sewing your own backpack. That’s a good thing in my book.
I don’t know about you, but I find it’s the little details of a product that I get excited about. I remember our old Audi A4 had the coolest little oval Audi insignias on either side of the car. I loved those things; I wish I could have figured out how to get them off when it came time to donate that car to charity. This patch reminds me of those little pieces of car jewelry. It makes the whole backpack better.
I knew I didn’t want to embroider the monogram directly onto the backpack, so my first order of business was to determine a material to use as a patch. As I looked at the backpack I remembered that I had some heavy, coated Cordura nylon (find it here) in black left over from the bag shown in this post. The perfect solution. It’s so stable and easy to cut (even into a circle!) that I’m going to order more in white so I can create additional embroidered patches and badges.
Once you’ve determined the backing for your embroidery, you might be tempted to jump right to your monogram like I did. The correct thing to do first, however, is to determine the shape and size of your patch. I used a glass to trace a circle on my nylon, then cut it out, and tried it on the backpack. Once you have the shape and size patch that will work for your project, you can work out the design of your embroidery.
I didn’t bother to use transfer sheets for this project. I just took a lined piece of paper, my glass, a pen and a ruler and traced another circle on the paper. Then I used the ruler to help me line up sketches of my two initials inside the circle. I cut the initials out and used a chalk pencil to trace around my paper cut-out initials directly onto my nylon – a larger piece than the test circle I already cut out. You need a piece that will fit in your embroidery hoop.
For the stitching I used a technique I’d seen in Todd Oldham’s Kid Made Modern All About Embroidery book. (I recommend this book for the young and old; I found my copy at Target in the art supply section when his line first came out.) What you see above are two lines of blanket stitching, lined up one right on top of the other. This creates a webbed or netted effect; I like the way it works with the black mesh parts of the backpack. I used a backstitch to close any remaining open edges of the blanket stitch. Three strands of cotton embroidery floss in my needle worked well.
There is another way you can create a monogrammed patch without embroidering it yourself. Fabric stores carry iron-on embroidered initials like the one shown below. You’ll still need to finish the edge of your nylon, even if you use an iron-on fusible material to attach it to your project. The coated nylon doesn’t really fray, but it won’t look finished without some kind of stitching around the edge. Anyway, it’s an option, and it’s always nice to have options.
Once you finish embroidering your monogram, you can cut out your patch. I used the same glass to trace my circle and cut it out with fabric shears.
To attach my patch to the backpack, I tacked it in place with two pieces of tape and embroidered a blanket stitch around the edge. Because I didn’t use any adhesive, we’ll be able to remove the patch (we’ll have to cut the outer edge of blanket stitching) when it is time to move the backpack out of the household … but I’m counting on this backpack lasting a nice long time.