On Pata’s first day of preschool I sent her off with a water bottle that never returned. Next I tried juice boxes. They did come back, empty, a good portion of their contents spilled onto the bottom of her backpack. After I tired of cleaning the mess, I decided to send her with nothing but a cup. She came home parched, begging to drink. Once I happened to give an English lesson while the children from another class had their snack. I saw that a few of them had bottles that had clearly been reused. The next day I wrote “non buttare, grazie (don’t discard, thank you)” on a bit of masking tape and stuck it on a bottle I filled with water, and like magic, the bottle found its way back home. But by then the backpack was already ruined, filled with crumbs and stained by juice and half-eaten fruit, and one of its pockets smeared with chocolate from half a pastry of unknown provenance. (As I came to learn, at the end of snack time the teachers direct the children to toss whatever they haven’t finished directly into their backpacks.)
That old backpack was store-bought, a gift from a teacher aunt excited about Pata’s first year of preschool. It was typical of the backpacks the preschoolers here bring to school: brightly-colored, wheeled, and adorned with cartoon characters. It was not machine-washable. I knew that if we bought another, it too would soon be juice-stained and chocolate-smeared, a waste of money and a waste of a backpack. I also knew that a backpack made of sturdy cotton, without an irremovable cardboard insert, plastic frame or wheels, could be put in the wash whenever dirty, and once old, faded, and torn, could even be cut down into cleaning rags.
I made Pata’s new zainetto using the toddler backpack pattern and tutorial from Indietutes, lengthening it a smidgen because Pata is a smidgen bigger than a toddler. I didn’t have interfacing so I used a canvas-weight cotton and doubled up the fabric on the side panel to give the backpack more structure. I sewed the two layers of the side panel together with several rows of stitches help it keep its shape, and I did the same with the straps. You can see the stitching in here:
I’m very excited about how well it turned out. I intend to make another for next year, altering the proportion of the pattern to make it longer and thinner, and perhaps adding a zippered pocket.