Roll Top Backpack Prototype

reverse denim backpack

I have a thing for backpacks. Actually, I like all sorts of bags as long as they are useful and serve a purpose. Maybe it’s their utility, maybe there is some nostalgic, deep rooted tie to my school days. After all, a properly packed backpack that had the right books, homework, and lunch for the day ahead meant the difference between having a great day and a crummy day at school. The backpack in many ways is a survival tool, and I love that there are seemingly endless variations on the same concept.

As a result of my obsession, I’ve decided to spend some time working out the design for a new pack. I had a great time making my waxed canvas backpack a while back, but as always, there is room for improvement.

reverse denim backpack

This is a basic roll top design made with reverse denim. I had lots of denim scraps lying around, which is really the only reason I used denim for this prototype. The next version will probably be made with heavy canvas instead. It features several exterior pockets as well as a few simple interior pockets for small items. The backpack is fully lined with another layer of reverse denim. All of the webbing is cotton.

Most of the pockets need to be re-evaluated. The loop/button closure on the outside isn’t ideal, but I was simply using supplies and materials that I had on hand for this first version. There are SO many things to think about in terms of webbing placement, weight distribution, finishing seams, pocket closures, etc. I actually love this challenge, and have already starting making plans for the next version.

I recently had a chance to “field test” the pack on a quick trip to Philadelphia and the surrounding area. It makes a great carry-on, and has enough space for three, possibly four nights worth of clothing depending on how you pack.

reverse denim backpack

A few iPhone shots from the road. The upper left is Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed. I truly enjoyed seeing this historic building and being in the same room where history was made.

The bottom right is the Reading Terminal Market, home of DiNiC’s, which won Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America in 2012. It’s a roasted pork sandwich, with a broccoli rabe topping and sharp provolone cheese. Serious business. It was only 10:00 in the morning, but I had to have one. If there is one thing I like better than backpacks, it’s a well crafted sandwich 🙂

21 Responses to “Roll Top Backpack Prototype”

  1. Sandra — July 19, 2013 @ 7:01 pm

    Wow, this is one nice backpack. I’ve never attempted such a (non-garment) complicated sewing project, but I, too, like a challenge that has me thinking things through. I’d be interested in seeing the inside, either of this one or maybe your next version. Congratulations on a well-done sewing project!

  2. Wanett — July 19, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

    I think it look amazing for a prototype! Can’t wait to see version 2.0

  3. Toby Wollin — July 22, 2013 @ 11:28 am

    I remember my son going through many many backpacks when he was in school and the one which lasted the longest, had the fewest issues, and was the ‘eveready bunny’ was the one with no zippers – the top did not fold down; it had a drawstring, but like this, no moving parts to break. Great backpack!!

  4. poppykettle — July 22, 2013 @ 9:56 pm

    It’s gorgeous, and I love the colour of the reverse side of the fabric with the cream straps.

  5. Taylor — July 23, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

    Thanks Sandra!

  6. Taylor — July 23, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

    Thanks! I also love the color and cream straps. The only issue with light colors though is that they show lots of dirt!

  7. Taylor — July 23, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

    I agree that simple designs are best. It can be tough to find the balance between overly simple, yet still functional for a wide variety of purposes.

  8. Taylor — July 23, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

    Thanks Wanett! I hope to have the next version finished in about a month or so.

  9. Ginger — July 27, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

    DUDE. You’ve outdone yourself– this is fabulous! I’m always so impressed by the level of detail that goes into your projects, and this is no exception. It’s super cool!

    Also, I pretty desperately want one of those sandwiches now…

  10. Kelly — July 30, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

    Taylor this looks fantastic. I really like the clean polished metal accents. I like the closure system too, and how it’s adjustable for different sizes. Good job!!

  11. Taylor — August 2, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

    Thanks Ginger! I know, every time I look at that picture I desperately want one of those sandwiches too.

  12. Taylor — August 2, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

    Thanks Kelly! Hope you are doing well. It has been forever since we’ve seen you.

  13. Andrea B — August 3, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

    Impeccable stitching and attention to detail as always. Great bag. And great city to visit! I’ve lived in Philly a year now and love it here. I’ve only been to Reading Terminal Market on weekends around lunchtime so it’s funny seeing it as deserted as it is in your photo.

  14. Taylor — August 6, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

    That market was amazing. We were there early, so it was very quiet. Our time in Philly was short, but my wife and I loved what we saw and would love to come back some time.

  15. Megan Watts — August 15, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

    This is unreal! Such beautiful work & design! I am working on making a canvas backpack right now – is it possible to use a regular sewing machine or do I need an industrial type? Or by hand?

  16. Taylor — August 16, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

    Thanks Megan! It will depend on your machine, the weight of the canvas, and your pattern, but generally speaking, I think you should be able to make a canvas backpack on a regular sewing machine.

    Just go slowly over the really thick areas (hand crank the machine if you have to), and take your time. Good luck with your project and let me know if I can help.

  17. Ed — September 3, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

    If this is a rough draft, I can’t wait to see the final product- it’s an awesome piece. I still use my old backpack from college, on the daily. Again, sentiment and function. It’s undeniably BRIGHT red and been through many adventures. Constantly jimmying the zippers, though. I’ve always needed more space than just a shoulder bag but I also want to simplify… I don’t think I need so many pockets anymore.
    Keep us posted!

  18. Josette — October 17, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

    All I can say is WOW! Love it.

  19. Jacquei — August 29, 2014 @ 12:17 am

    My grandmother made a backpack from one of my grandfathers corduroy pants for me ( she also made a golf hat as well).
    I remember at first freaking out, until I decided to tell my classmates it was custom made “one in the island” everyone wanted one after that.
    This made me love making creating projects but I haven’t been at the sewing machine so much I need to get back there.

  20. Jessica — November 8, 2015 @ 2:38 pm

    This bag is amazing! I want to buy the pattern, but before I do, you say the finished height is 16.5″, is that the height when it is rolled, or the fully, unrolled height?

  21. Taylor — November 9, 2015 @ 7:28 am

    Thanks Jessica! The pattern I developed to sell is a little bit different than the pack in this post. It is available here:
    The pack is approximately 16.5″ tall when it is rolled. It is actually taller when unrolled.

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