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Backpack Makeover

I took a bag that I knew wouldn't get much use and figured out how to turn it into 3 bags that will get used all the time!

backpack with "Backpack Makeover" text overlay

I was asked to chaperone a class field trip to Olvera Street for one of my children, and it was such a great experience that I had to go back and explore with both of my kiddos. If you're not familiar, Olvera St is known as the oldest street in Los Angeles. It's part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles historic monument site and features a marketplace and various eateries. Established by Native, African and European settlers in 1781 as a farming community, the El Pueblo area is home to some of LA's oldest structures. One of the most notable is Avila Adobe, the oldest house in Los Angeles still standing in it's original location. Because there are so many cultural and historic landmarks in one area, they have self-guided tours you can take advantage of. Learn as little or as much as you want, and do it at your own pace!


If you're not really into history and culture, you'll be able to indulge in some retail therapy at the rows of vendors and shops that pack the cobblestone street. You'll find an array of handbags, shoes, clothes, toys and traditional Mexican goods. I can occasionally fall prey to an impulse buy, and I'm pretty sure that's what happened when I saw this backpack.

colorful backpack

The colors were so vibrant! I've seen this style bag plenty of times, but never in this palette, so it really stuck out to me. I didn't really consider whether or not I would use the bag, but I knew I wanted that pattern and those colors, so I went ahead and bought it. After a few weeks, I came to terms with the fact that it's just not a bag I really need. I obviously wasn't going to part with it, so I did what I do and came up with a way to get crafty on it!


I used my seam ripper to carefully take off the straps, front pocket and flap. Once I got all the pieces separated, I realized that the bag was much bigger than I originally thought, so that gave me more options. Rather than trying to just reconfigure it as one piece, I busted out my sewing skills to make the most of all the material that I had.

deconstructed backpack

The length of the backpack straps was long enough for me to make a crossbody bag as well as a handbag. I also had enough leftover to serve as the loops for the belt bag that I ended up making from the front pocket. I was going to use velcro as the closure but in the end I decided that a zipper would be better. I have a a bunch of zippers in assorted lengths and colors, so it gave me a reason to use those up and practice my zipper sewing skills! The from pocket already had a velcro closure, so I just kept that as is.


I didn't want to do anything too complicated and risk ruining the fabric, so I just kept the design simple...which is better for me anyway! The crossbody bag was made from the bottom half of the backpack and the upper half became the handbag. I went with a slight trapezoid shape to give it a little more visual interest and style. The front pocket paired with the backpack flap came together seamlessly-well, not technically seamless, but you get it ;) they were the same size, but I had to stitch up the buttonhole that was on the backpack flap so that things won't slip through. Once I did that, I cut the strap into two small strips that I sewed onto the the flap to act as the loops for a belt to go through.

3 colorful purses

And there you have it! I turned one backpack into 3 bags using supplies I had on hand. If you have an oversized bag that's getting under utilized, then this may be a project you can try. Just in case you'r e a no-sew type of crafter, all the seams can be done with fabric glue, and you can use velcro instead of a zipper as the closure.


Happy Crafting!

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