SLICED Tutorial: Owl Tag Along Toddler Backpack

Hello all! My name is Angela Pingel and I blog over at Cut To Pieces. I recently participated in Moda Bake Shop’s SLICED competition and had the honor (and shock!) of winning. I’m pleased to share with you today my final project for the competition, the Owl Tag Along Toddler Backpack.

This backpack is fully insulated with heat/cold resistant batting to make a functional yet adorable lunch tote. Lined with laminated fabric, it is perfect for the messes that come with a toddler, making it easy to wipe clean. The backpack uses basic box construction techniques, piping, a zipper, cording, D rings and more. I’m not saying that this is easy. But trust me, you will be happy with the bag! And so will that special little someone. It’s the perfect project for a holiday or birthday gift!

approximately 6 Assorted Layer Cake Pieces
assorted scraps (for owl eyes and nose)
1 yard of Twill/Home Dec weight fabric (this is plenty!)
1/2 yard of laminated fabric
1/4 yard of mesh utility fabric
1/2 yard of Insul-Bright insulated batting
1/2 yard of fusible non woven interfacing
Basting Spray
2 yards of nylon cording (sized to fit through eyelets)
Heat-n-Bond Lite II
1 package of coordinating piping
18″ zipper
1/4 yard of nylon strapping
1 package of 4 D rings
2 double cord stops

optional but helpful: teflon sewing machine foot
optional but helpful: freezer paper
optional but useful: scotch guard

Unless otherwise noted, all seam allowances are a 1/4″.

Use the pattern pieces provided to cut the backpack front and back from the twill fabric and the lining front and back from the laminated fabric.  Be sure to mark the top center of each piece. I like to use freezer paper to create my pattern pieces because I can iron the piece in place from the non-waxy side.


A little tip when working with laminated fabric: you can quickly press the fabric from the BACKside using a pressing cloth to help protect your iron and the fabric. The heat will make the fabric more malleable which may or may not be useful for you.


Creating the Lining:

In addition to the two pieces cut from the provided pattern pieces, also cut the following from the laminated fabric:

(1) 10 1/2″ x 4 1/4″ – bottom of backpack lining
(2) 8 3/4″ x 4 1/2″ – sides of backpack lining
(2) 15 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ – zipper opening
(2) 7″ x 4 1/2″ – interior pocket

Cut the following from the Insul-Bright Batting:

(1) 10″ x 4″ – bottom batting
(2) 8″ x 4″ – side batting
(2) backpack lining pattern minus a 1/4″ all around

Mark 1/4″ from each corner on the side and bottom lining pieces.


Spray-baste batting onto the wrong side of the laminated fabric, centering the batting on the pattern pieces.  Sew batting in place in even lines across all lining pieces. (I used 2″ increments.) I chose to keep the batting out of the seam allowance to help reduce bulk.  The laminate is already a bit tricky to work with and placing the batting only on the usable part of the bag eliminates some struggle you might have working with both the laminate and the batting.


TIP: When working with the laminated fabric, you will have the most success if you use a teflon sewing machine foot. It will not cling to the laminate and allows you to sew more easily. Most likely your teflon foot will look something like this:


Construct the interior laminate pocket by using the two ” x 4 1/2″ pieces. Place these right sides together and sew around the perimeter leaving a couple inches open to turn the piece right side out as seen in the picture below. Clip the corners, turn the piece right side out and top stitch along the edge.


Place the pocket on the lining back piece, centering the pocket. Stitch along the left, bottom and right sides to attach the pocket piece to the lining back. To create an extra detail to the pocket to hold something like a pen, stitch a vertical line 1 1/2″ from the right edge.


Construct the top opening and sides of the lining, starting with the two 15 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ pieces. The lining will not actually be connected to the zipper until the final step, so we are creating a finished edge for the lining at the zipper opening. Fold in one long edge on each of the two pieces by a 1/2″.


Top Stitch the fold in place. (You will love having that teflon foot for this kind of step!)


Lay the two center opening pieces right sides together on one of the side lining pieces. Align the outside edges together. There should be a gap in the middle. You do not want these to meet together!. Use a 1/2″ seam and sew these together.


Fold the side piece back and press the seam allowance toward the side piece. Top stitch the pieces in place.


Use the same procedure to sew the center opening pieces to the other side piece as well.


At this point, you have a long side/center piece, a bottom piece, a front piece and a back piece of the lining. They have been insulated and a pocket is attached. Now you need to sew all of these four pieces together. Use basic box construction techniques.

First sew the side/center piece to the front and back panels using a 1/4″ seam allowances, matching the centers and the ends. Leave a 1/4″ unsewn at each each end and ease the curves as you sew. Pin the pieces together with heavy duty pins ONLY in the seam allowance (the pins will leave a mark and you don’t want that anywhere other than your seam allowance).


Clip the curves as needed.


Sew the bottom of the bag to the other pieces one side at a time, always starting a 1/4″ in from the edge of the bottom piece. Again this is basic box construction. Clip the corners of the bottom piece to turn the piece along the edge of the bag.

(I didn’t get a great photo of this step but there are oodles out there on the Internet…just search for box construction sewing techniques)

Sew all four edges together and you will end up with an interior all lined with insulated batting and ready to go into your backpack!


Creating the Backpack Exterior:
The exterior is best tackled in steps.  Construct the back of the back pack, the sides of backpack (including the mesh pockets and zipper) and the owl front of the backpack.  Then put them all together.
Exterior Back:

In addition to the two pieces cut from the pattern pieces for the exterior back, also cut the following from the Twill fabric:
(2) 22″ x 4″ strips
(1) 5″ x 4″ strip

With each strip, fold the fabric in half along the length of the piece and press. Open the piece up again and fold in one short edge a 1/4″ and then again by a 1/4″ and top stitch the short end in place. (You do NOT need to do this particular step for the 5″ x 4″ piece). Fold the long edges of the strip in toward the center seam and press. Top stitch each long side of the folded strip.


Cut (1) 10.5″ x 9″ rectangle for the Exterior Bottom Back piece. Mark the center at the top and bottom of the piece. Place each of the long shoulder straps, raw edges together, 2″ from the center on each side and tack in place using an 1/8″ seam allowance.


Lay your piece flat and stretch out the shoulder straps flush against the back panel. Angle the straps so that they are 1 1/2″ from the outside edge and pin temporarily in place.

With right sides together, sew the exterior back panel pieces together using a 1/2″ seam allowance.


Press the seam toward the top of the bag and topstitch the top panel just above the seam (you may want a second row of topstitching a 1/4″ above that).


Remove the pins from the shoulder straps and move these out of the way while you work on attaching the D rings to the bottom of the bag.

Take the 5″ x 4″ strip that has been sewn into a small strap and cut it into (2) 2 1/2″ long pieces.

Fold the small strip in half and slip (2) D rings onto the loop.
Use a zipper foot to sew the D rings tightly in place at the center of the small straps.
Mark 1 1/2″ from each side of the bottom and place the D ring straps to the inside of each mark. Tack in place using an 1/8″ seam allowance.

Pull the long shoulder straps through the D rings following the manufacturer’s instructions.


Apply piping to the outside edge of the whole back exterior panel around the sides (not the bottom). Be sure to use a thread that matches the piping for this step and a zipper or piping foot.


Cut 8″ of nylon strapping for a hanging loop and attach it to the top of the exterior back with raw edges aligned and stitch in place using an 1/8″ seam allowance.


Step back and admire your work! You have completed the exterior back of the backpack!

Exterior Sides:

There are two distinct parts to making the exterior sides: making the center zipper and making the adjustable mesh pockets.

Zipper installation:

Cut (2) 15 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ strips of Twill fabric. Install the zipper between these two pieces.

Use your zipper foot for installation and top stitch the fabric in place for a smooth finish.


Shorten the zipper according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Mesh Pockets:

Cut the following:
(2) 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pieces from the Twill fabric
(2) 5 1/2″ x 7 1/2″ pieces from the Mesh Fabric
(2) 7 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ pieces from layer cake piece chosen for pocket casing


Take the (2) casing pieces measuring 7 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ and fold in half along the length, wrong sides together. Press. Open out the pieces and press each side into the center.

You should see 4 “sections” of the casing now. Along the 2nd section, add a small scrap of interfacing across the middle. Mark the center (3 3/4″ from either end). Measure 1″ or so from each side of the center and mark your eyelet locations.


Install the grommets according to the manufacturer’s instructions with the wrong side of the grommet on the interfacing.


Cut (4) pieces of cording 14″ in length and thread it from the wrong side of the fabric through the eyelet to the right side. Tack it in place along the wrong side edge.


Insert the mesh fabric into the grommet placket casing and top stitch along the edge of the casing.



Attach the mesh to the side twill panel pieces by first stitching along each side using an 1/8″ seam allowance. Box pleat the bottom of the mesh to be fit perfectly flush with the twill fabric and stitch in place.


Insert the cording through a double cord stop. Trim cording to desired length and knot each cording end.


You may want to insert a pull tab on the zip side, so attach a 3 1/2″ piece of ribbon/twill tape folded in half to the pocket piece on the zip side.


Now attach each side pocket piece to the center zipper piece using a 1/2″ seam allowance on each side. Top stitch each piece in place.


Yay! You’ve finished the exterior side pieces!

Exterior Front:

And now the part that I’m sure you’ve been waiting for! Making that sweet owl for the front of the backpack. I saved it for last because it’s my favorite part!

In addition to the (1) exterior front backpack pattern piece cut from Twill, you will also need the owl pattern pieces.

Cut (2) Owl Belly Pocket pieces from (2) layer cake pieces.


Fold (1) neutral layer cake piece in half and cut (2) Owl Face pieces.


Cut (4) Owl Wing pieces from (2) matching layer cake pieces.


Apply Interfacing on the wrong side of one piece of each owl part: 1 per wing, 1 for belly pocket and 1 for owl face. Again, to lessen the bulk I like to keep the interfacing out of the seam allowance. So trim it to 1/4″ shorter than the pattern piece on all sides.


With right sides together, stitch 1/4″ around the belly pocket sides and top. Clip the corners and notch the curves.


Turn the belly piece right side out and double top stitch the top of the pocket.


Match the centers of bag front and belly pocket. Tack the pocket in place along the bottom of the bag using a 1/8″ seam allowance.


Stitch the sides *only* of belly pocket to the bag front.


To make the wings, sew (2) wing pieces right sides together along the sides only. Clip the seam.


Turn wings right side out. Flip top in and under 1/4″ and top stitch all around the wing pieces.


Sew Wings to either side of the belly pocket, attaching *only* at the top of the wing using a tight double top stitch. Your wing will be free to flap this way.


To make the owl face, sew (2) owl face pieces right sides together around the shape, leaving a 2″ or so unsewn gap at the bottom of the face. Trim seam allowance to 1/8″, turn right side out and press firmly.


Creating the eyes:

Cut (1) gray 2″ circle and adhere steam a seam lite II to the back. Cut the circle in half. Then trim an 1/8″ away from the outside edge (make this a good cut! These are the pieces you are using on the backpack). Use the remaining inner circle pieces to cut some tiny pieces for your eyelashes.

Arrange as desired. Remove the paper backing and press all eye
pieces in place. Be sure not to move your iron back and forth…this is an up and down pressing motion.


Using an open toe applique foot, top stitch or satin stitch around the edge of each piece with matching grey thread.


Creating the nose:

Cut (1) small triangle from a scrap of fabric. Back this piece with SAS Lite II as well. Remove paper backing and press in place. Top stitch or satin stitch around the edge.


Spray baste the back of the owl face and position it on the Exterior Backpack front above the Belly Pocket and Wings. Top stitch around the whole perimeter of the face.


Eep!! Isn’t she sweet?!



Sew piping to the Exterior bag front along the edges but not the bottom just as you did for the Exterior Back.

You now have a completed Exterior Front, Exterior Back and Exterior Sides.

Cut (1) 10 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ twill piece for the Exterior Bottom and you can start to sew all of these pieces together. It is constructed exactly as the interior lining was, with box construction.

First sew the Exterior Sides to the Exterior Back, matching centers and ends. I used my zipper foot to keep that piping nice and snug!


Ease the curve together and clip seams as necessary. Remember to leave a 1/4″ unsewn at the bottom of each side.


Starting to see a bag!


Yum….pretty piping!


I keep the backpack straps pinned up and out of the way.


Continue to construct the backpack together, sewing the bag front to the bag sides.

Then sew the bag bottom to the backpack using the same construction techniques as you did with the lining: box construction. So be sure to mark the quarter inch seam allowance at each corner on the bottom Twill piece.


Sew all four sides together, clipping corners as necessary.


Turn bag right side out. Admire your work. You are almost there!!

 Putting the lining and exterior bag pieces together:

This is it! The very end!! All that you need to do now is insert the lining into the exterior backpack and stitch together at the zipper.

Insert the bag lining into the backpack ensuring that WRONG sides are together.


Push and finagle that lining into its proper place and line up the openings of the backpack exterior and the lining. The laminated fabric should be tucked back from the zipper a bit so it does not get caught in the zipper. Use heavy-duty pins and carefully pin the lining in place.


You may want that teflon foot back again depending on how you do the last step, but this is it! Sew the lining opening in place along the edge of the exterior zipper. There are some tricky parts to this but just keep fiddling with the bag until you can sew all around the zippered edge.

You will end up with what looks like a double row of top stitching on the outside!

Now do the happy dance because you are DONE!!

One Backpack perfect for the Toddler in your life!

I hope that you all enjoy this pattern and try to tackle it. If you’re dying for the look without too much hassle, you could always make an unlined version and finish off the interior seams with packaged bias tape. Quick and Easy! (well…easier!) I would love to see any projects made from my patterns, so please add them to my group on Flickr, Cut To Pieces and of course to the Moda Bake Shop Group as well.

And don’t forget that there are endless possibilities for color combinations and themes. In another lifetime I will find the time to make a boy version of this in navy blue and kelly green, perhaps with a sweet whale face! My mind is a whirl with all of the adorable options for how to personalize this backpack to a particular child’s tastes. Personally my girl is quite pleased with her owl. The owl who says “whooo!”

Angela Pingel
Angela Pingel

Angela Pingel

Author and Blogger at Cut to Pieces
Angela Pingel is a self-taught quilter who has been sewing for over 20 years.She made her very first quilt during her senior year in high school for her college dorm room.Her degrees include a BA in Mathematics from Saint Mary’s College and an Associates Degree in Interior Design from Ivy Technical Institute.The winner of the Moda Bakeshop Sliced Competition, Angela is also part of the 2nd Bakeshop Book, Sweet Celebrations.Angela has been published in 101 Patchwork Projects, Modern Patchwork, and Quilt Scene by Interweave Press, 99 Modern Blocks by C&T Publishing, and Quiltmaker’s 100 blocks, as well as being featured on Moda Bakeshop.She manages her blog, Cut To Pieces, in her free time between sewing and raising her sweet little girl with her husband, Mike.
Angela Pingel

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