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Sewing the Huxley Bag – a convertible rucksack

A little while ago, I was debating designing a new bag. My messenger bag was threadbare and I’d cut it apart to remove the hardware for my daughters’ bag! I wanted a bag that I could convert from a shoulder/ crossbody bag into a rucksack and although I had come across quite a few – I especially liked this one – they weren’t quite what I wanted. Then I saw the Huxley Bag by Goheen Designs and I was smitten. The idea of using rivets and other hardware seemed like good fun!

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Originally, I’d hoped to have it finished in time for Festival of Quilts, but that didn’t quite happen……kids, holidays and the like mean everything’s taken a bit longer. I also decided to take my time to enjoy the making process: the pattern is rated as confident and there are a number of steps to follow – not in a scary way, mind! – and I’d made a few adjustments to it due to the fabric that I was using, which involved a bit more thinking!

I made a large View A and used a waxed cotton (from here) – it has a leather-like look, but is a bit thinner and provides an element of being waterproof which is handy! It meant that I could do without the webbing but had to adapt the pattern – both in terms of width and length (on some strap pieces, the pattern calls for leather to be top stitched to a longer piece of webbing) which required a little bit of planning.

Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I also decided to add a zip to the back pocket – I love having a secure place to keep valuables, especially when it’s being used as a messenger bag. I added the zip in between the outer and lining fabric of the back pocket and then secured the ‘free’ zip side straight on to the back piece of the bag with a few lines of stitching. However, I didn’t really read the pattern fully through – schoolgirl error! – and then realised I would have to alter the length of the bike straps in order to make it all look ok! Ah well, if you chose to do this, you can learn from my mistake!

Overall, the pattern is really well written. On first look at the download, it can seem slightly intimidating – there are over 40 pages! However, many of the early pages are used to share tips, and the rest of the pattern takes you through step-by-step in a clear and concise way.

Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Sewing Tips

  • If you are using fabric instead of leather, make sure to add a seam allowance to the bag strap guide – I added 1/4″ – and cut two pieces for each strap. Place two pieces wrong side together and sew around, leaving a gap for turning. Turn through and topstitch before proceeding as per the pattern.
  • For fabric straps, cut all pieces at 4″ wide x the length of the pattern piece or webbing (whichever is longest): fold one or both ends over (dependant on if it’s a visible end), fold in half along the length and then fold the edges into the middle. Top stitch around the edges of the strap to secure
  • Check position and length of the bike straps before adding a zip pocket on the back of the bag! They need adding before the zip is sewn on and I altered mine to be a bit shorter so that the straps sit at the top of the pocket and only used one popper.
  • If you want to add a zip to the back pocket, make tabs to go at each end of the zip. There should be at least 1/2″ of fabric at each end for the seam allowance to allow for ease of sewing the bag together (see my tutorial here if you’re not sure how).
  • To mark sewing lines – especially where they are not going to be seen – I found that placing the paper pattern piece on top of the fabric and using a Hera marker would create a guideline (similar to what I would get from creasing) the fabric.
  • Using a zipper foot for sewing the sides (especially where I’d added the zip pocket) and sewing the outer and inner bags together around the top gave a better result, and meant the foot didn’t get pushed out of the way by all the straps. I also found it was less likely to give me skipped stitches where there were lots of layers.
Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Tips for accurate placement of rivets & poppers

  • Laying the paper pieces over the fabric, I would push a pin through the guide mark – sometimes this would leave a visible mark that I could then punch, other times I would use a quilting pencil to make it more visible with a dot.
  • Where possible, I folded or layered pieces together so that I could punch holes in all of them at the same time and therefore increase my ‘accuracy’.
  • I used 6mm rivets for this bag, I figured the waxed cotton would be a bit thinner than leather. Largely, this was okay but there were a couple of spots – mostly on the handle at the edge of the bag flap – where slightly longer rivets would have been handy, so next time around I will definitely look at getting some bigger ones!
Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I think that covers everything?! Someone on IG asked me if the bag was heavy, which is a really good question and one I had to think about! It makes sense that it would be with all the hardware on it, however, its actually quite tricky to tell. The waxed cotton is a heavier fabric anyway (the bag I made for my daughter weighs probably double the one I’d made out of cotton and wadding!) but having never sewn with leather, I’m not sure how this would compare? So far, all I can really say is that it is a good weight and I’ve not been put off using it!

Overall, I am so happy with the bag! It’s not the biggest rucksack – it’s best to think of it as a shoulder bag that converts into a rucksack – but is perfect for my needs. Having never used hardware before, I feel that it really lifts the finished look to a much more professional level. Not all of my rivets are perfect – in fact, there are a number of things that I could pick on as ‘could be better’ – but I think that’s the makers’ curse, isn’t it?! I’m trying to let these little things go though and concentrate on all the skills I learnt! I can see myself making another in the future, maybe using different fabrics and having made this one, I can see (hope!) that others will go together a lot quicker and easier!

See you soon,


Today’s sky::: blue skies with the odd cloud

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1 Comment

  1. September 8, 2018 / 3:03 am

    What a beautiful bag! I especially love the added zip to the back pocket! And thank you so much for sharing all the tips and tricks that you learned through making the bag.