Fabrics selected? Interfacing options figured out? Hacks decided? Well let’s get going so!

This Stage 2 post of the PLANETARYsewalong will focus on prepping & cutting out your fabric, applying any interfacing and working as far as Step 4 of the Planetary Backpack tutorial.


Do you prewash your bagmaking fabric??

When I buy dressmaking fabric the very first thing I do when I get it home is stick it into the washing machine. I wash and dry it as harshly as I potentially might when it is made into an item of clothing. So if it is something that I might tumble dry, even though I use the washing line as much as possible, I will tumble dry it so that any initial shrinkage has happened.

But I tend to treat bag making fabric differently, and I do wonder what other bag makers do.

When you first buy oilskin, denim, canvas, corduroy, most bag making fabrics, they have a crisp, flat, even texture. With washing you loose some of that crispness and perfection. For this reason, generally I don’t prewash for bagmaking. If I sell or gift a bag I will always note that it has not been prewashed, that colours might run, and to spot clean or carefully hand wash and dry flat.


As you can see from the title photo I do my cutting out on the floor using an A0 cutting mat and a rotary cutter. I create a mess. Always.

There isn’t room for a dedicated sewing space in our home. I share a small house with my husband and three children. Luckily about two years ago I did manage to eek out a set of shelves in our living space. They are beside the dining table where I do most of my sewing and are perfectly placed for setting up and clearing off the neighbouring table. These shelves are where my sewing machines and equipment live, along with the ubiquitous IKEA RASKOG trolley. My daughter’s bedroom plays host to the fabric stash (wonder how long I’ll get away with that for?) and I’ve a couple drawers in the pantry area that holds some more sewing stuff. Somehow my husband managed to win the workshop space we built at the end of the garden for his fiddle making. How did I let that happen?? At least it means he doesn’t get to give out about the mess I make in the rest of the house…

I don’t have a high level cutting table and find my back gets sore with the angle of bending over to cut out at the kitchen table. Therefore on my hands and knees on the floor with a rotary blade in hand is where you’ll find me!

I’m neither tidy nor particularly organised. I will make last minute changes to most projects as I go along. Most for the better, but in some cases I should probably have stuck to the plan. And I’ve another confession to make, related to tidiness/discipline… I rarely mark my notches as I cut out. Ahhh, I know!! Shock horror!! It is definitely lack of discipline, combined with a good dose of laziness I suspect. That, as well as lack of space, is probably the main reason I won’t be using a projector anytime soon. I like having the paper patterns at hand and I go back and check notch positions as I go. I’m a little better with dressmaking, but for bags I’m a disaster.

“Do as I say, don’t do as I do!”

But, as the phrase goes, do as I say, don’t do as I do! I highly recommend marking all notch and guide locations now to save yourself time and potential confusion later.

Recently Mieke from K-Bas messaged me with an error in an order that I had placed. She kindly offered a refund or if there was something else I would like in place of the item that was missing. I suggested she surprise me and stick in something I might like instead of the item that was out of stock. We all love a fabric/hardware delivery right? But it’s even better when you know it will have a little surprise in it too! Among the goodies that she had selected for me was a Pilot FRIXION pen that disappears with heat. It is SUPER handy! I use it all the time and find that it disappears thoroughly, unlike the water erasable pen that I have. Not long after the delivery arrived my mum bought a full set of FRIXION pens for her grandchildren to use as colouring markers… eh, not for long… shhh… I nabbed half of them as soon as I saw them… Great to have a choice of colours!

Cutting tools?? Well, as I say in the tutorial, if you haven’t joined the rotary cutter club yet, I recommend highly giving it a go! Bagmaking fabrics tend to be stiffer and I find that I am much more accurate and considerably faster cutting out with my rotary cutter than I am with my scissors. It took me a while to get on board, but I’ve never looked back!


You may already know that I hate cutting out and applying interfacing. I resent the time it takes and the delay it causes to getting stuck in to the fun sewing part of the project. I really should get over that though as interfacing/reinforcement goes hand in hand with most bagmaking projects.

For this bag I used 3 types of interfacing. Most outer pieces were reinforced using Pellon SF101. I added a layer of Vilene H630 to the main lining pieces. Half way through the project I had a change of plan, and this bag will now become a school bag, so I also used the Back Padding Hack to add a layer of Style Vil to the back, adhered with a layer of Bondaweb. (While in reality I added it later on at Step 9, just before I assembled the Main Back, I will talk about it now.)

As per the hack tutorial (you can download it here), I traced off and cut out the Padded Back pattern piece. I cut the same shape out of Bondaweb and ironed it on to one side of the Style Vil Padded Back. I had already interfaced the entire back with the SF101 so I just added this padded layer on top. I removed the paper off the bondaweb and pinned the Style Vil in place on the wrong side of the Main Back with the Bondaweb facing the wrong side of the main back. I turned the Main Back right side up and using a press cloth to protect the fabric (especially to protect the corduroy texture) I used an iron to fix the padding to the Main Back.

Once it had a chance to cool, I turned the Main Back right side up again. Using a steel rule and a FRIXION pen, I marked along the side diagonals of the padding, 0.5cm in, on the padded side, of the edge. I then topstitched down each side. You can see how that looks on the final bag, and on a previous version also. For the previous version I did the quilting element from Step 2 of the main tutorial and you can see how lovely and defined the lines of stitching are with the use of Style Vil.

With bagmaking and iron-on interfacing the three main tips I have are;

  1. Use good quality interfacing. It will adhere better at the outset and will stay stuck to the fabric better throughout the construction process and daily use.
  2. Take your time. When pressing, don’t rub the iron about. Instead press, lift, move and replace the iron slowly and methodically around the entire piece you are interfacing. Depending on the fabric I use a press cloth (an old clean tea towel usually) to protect the fabric and press from the fabric side. I have to admit that for many cotton/linen canvases I just press the fabric directly. But be careful if you are as reckless as I am!
  3. Have a flat tidy place ready to which you can move your interfaced fabric immediately after ironing so that the fabric and interfacing, and the glue holding them together, can cool fully and get well stuck!


You’ll fit the straps as you go along through the process, but it is good to make sure you have everything you need at this stage. The tutorial calls up the use of 25mm webbing and hardware for your Planetary Backpack. I love using 38mm wide straps for the main straps, but didn’t have any the right colour on hand for this time round. If making your owns straps out of fabric you can follow the instructions on page 13 of the tutorial.

If using different widths of straps, make sure you have the correct width of hardware to go with it!

I cut all the strap lengths as per the tutorial and used the shorter Main Strap length (70cm in place of the standard 90cm) that is noted for smaller children’s bags. You will notice a little lack of continuity in the pictures as, once I decided that this was now going to be my daughter’s bag, I knew that a bit of extra pink would be appreciated. I ended up replacing the brown strapping with pink for the Front Flap and Bottom Straps, so out with the stitch ripper it was!!

I do enjoy using two separate colours/widths/fabrics for the straps. I was tempted to use leather for the top hand strap, but when I changed colours I decided a third variation of strap would be too fussy.

I had promised a hack tutorial on adding padded straps, but life and tiredness got in the way of that ambition. My eldest has been using his Planetary Backpack as a school bag for the past two years and has yet to moan about the straps cutting into his shoulders (we’ll see how his sister gets on in September), and I find the 25mm straps on my own old Planetary perfectly comfortable.

But we all love the option for a bit more comfort for heavy loads and a few people have already hacked the Planetary straps to add a bit of padding!

You’ll see above the beautiful eco printed wool Planetary Backpack made by Nicola Brown of Clasheen. Nicola had made a previous Planetary Backpack using upcycled straps from another bag. When making this gorgeous backpack for a friend she used the same principles to add a layer of eco printed wool to the straps for that extra bit of comfort. I love those extra D-Rings along the length of the strap too.

Below are some more hacked Planetaries with simple padded/wider straps made by Koenenlief, Jessica and Tanja.


I love both appliqué and a bit of quilting. But as you’ve seen I avoided both of these steps in my Planetary Backpack this time round!! The texture and direction of the corduroy, combined with the circular print of the Ruby Star Society print (not to mention the piping!) meant that adding another layer of texture to this backpack would have been a step too far. That is the absolute pleasure of sewing isn’t it? YOU get to choose which elements of a pattern to run with and which to ignore!

A tip for appliquéing the circular planet elements, and appliqué in general, is that Bondaweb is your friend. Not only does it keep the fabric in place so that you can sew it neatly, but, in the case of woven fabric especially, it also helps the edges not fray too much. See below the planets in my day-to-day Planetary Backpack. It has been worn consistently for the past few years and has held up very well to wear and tear.

The zig zag stitch used to secure and hold the edges is quite wide and the fabric has not frayed unduly.

When sewing in a circle, take your time, keep one side of the stitches on the outer side of the fabric edge. You can see here I’ve tried to keep them very close to the raw edge of the fabric. I used a matching thread here so the stitching doesn’t jump out at you. Don’t be afraid to stop after every few stitches to adjust the line of stitching. Keep the needle down, lift the presser foot and pivot a little. Drop the presser foot and keep going.

Quilting the back of your Planetary Backpack is a great way to make it a little more robust. By quilting a number of layers together you increase the rigidity and strength of the fabrics. If using a lofted or foam interfacing, it also adds fabulous texture to your project. A walking foot is handy to help avoid the fabric layers slipping. However, with plenty of pinning and by starting from the centre and working your way out, you absolutely can manage without one.

That’s it for Stage 2!

This Saturday, 7th August, it gets interesting!! For Stage 3 of the sewalong we will go through preparing the Main Front, including the Front Mountain Panel, Bottom Strap and Front Flap. We’ll also get the Strap Connections ready! I’ll also go through adding piping to the Front Mountain Panel and the Front Flap.

Come join us over at In Complete Stitches Sew & Share!

Don’t forget that I’ve set up a 15% discount code PLANETARYSEWALONG valid until 1st September to get yourself the pattern at an even better price than usual!! Click here to bring you straight to the Esty shop where the discount code will automatically be applied at the checkout.

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