Monday 27 August 2012

Babushka Backpack - a PPP Blog Hop tutorial

When Kristy first announced the Practically Paper Pieced Blog Hop I thought it was a great idea so was especially delighted when she then asked if I would take part. My heart sank when I realised that I would be on holiday for most of the Blog Hop. I was so pleased when she managed to squeeze me in near the end of the Hop even if it did mean that I ended up sewing and writing a lot of my tutorial sitting in the shade on holiday!

Being a relatively recent convert to Paper Piecing I do not have many orphan PP blocks around but that wasn't going to stop me, as this would be the perfect opportunity to try out a block that I had been admiring for a while.

The block is called Lil' Matryoshka and is from Quiltmaker 100 Blocks Volume 5. (The block measures 12.5" x 12.5" so any similar sized block can be substituted in the instructions below.) My project for the PPP Blog Hop was a bag, so once I had my block sorted out I got my thinking cap on and came up with the Babushka backpack! (Babushka is the Russian term for a grandmother but is also used to describe a headsquare tied under the chin).

I knew I had made the right decison when I found the Matryoshka doll fabric that I used for the lining in the bargain bin at my local fabric store.

To make your own Babushka backpack read on

Materials required

1 Paper pieced block 12.5" by 12.5"
1m black denim  for bag exterior
1m patterned cotton for bag lining, handles and piping
Black cotton fabric scrap 13" x 6"
1m fusible interfacing - Quiltex or Vliesline X50
Black zips - 1 - 6"/15cm and 1- 24"/60cm
Black cotton webbing 1.25" wide, 2x 6", 1 x 5.5", 2 x 28"
Narrow black piping cord 60"
2 Metal sliders
2 D-Rings
4 Bag Feet (Optional)
Plastic Canvas 3" x 12" for bag bottom (Optional)

You will also find the following handy;

Chalk pencil/Temporary marker
Zipper foot
Piping foot
Jeans machine needle

Cut the following;

From the Black Denim

2 - 14.5" x 18"     Front and back backpack exterior
2 - 25" x 2.5"       Bag Gusset (upper)
1 - 35" x 4.5"       Bag Gusset (lower)

From the Interfacing

2 - 14" x 18"       Front and back backpack exterior
1 - 12.5" x 14.5" Exterior pocket

From the Black Cotton

2 - 12.5" x 2.5"   Block borders
1 - 12.5" x 1.5"      Exterior pocket binding
2 - 2" x 4"           Zip tabs

From the Lining Fabric

2 - 14.5" x 18"    Front and back backpack lining
1 - 35" x 4.5"      Gusset interior (lower)
2 - 25" x 2.5"      Gusset interior (upper)
2 - 8" x 8"           Inner pocket
2 - 2.75" x 6"      Bag straps lower
2 - 2.75" x 30"    Bag straps
1 - 14.5" x 12.5" Exterior pocket lining
1 - 1.5" x 60"      Piping

Step 1

Using a bowl or similar round object mark curved edges on each of the top corners of the denim exterior pieces. (The 14.5" edges are the top and bottom edges.)

(I used a 9" diameter plate to draw the curve at the top and a 5.5" diameter bowl for the smaller curve on the bottom edges)

Using the denim pieces as pattern pieces cut out two more pieces from the lining fabric and two from the fusible interfacing. Mark the centre of the top and bottom edges with the temporary market.

Step 2

Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the exterior front and back pieces. Following the gridlines marked on the interfacing quilt both pieces.

Step 3

Stitch one 1.5" x 12.5" strip of black cotton to each side of the Paper Pieced block. Fuse interfacing to back of enlarged block. Layer together the exterior pocket lining right side out with the fused block right side up.

Iron the exterior pocket binding piece in half lengthways. Open out and fold each long raw edge to the centre crease. Iron each folded edge.
To attach binding to the top edge of the pocket, open binding out and pin raw edges together with the long edge of the binding to the long edge of the pocket lining. Sew with a 0.25" seam. Fold the binding up and over so that the centre crease is at the top of the pocket. Fold under the second edge so that the raw edge is at the top of the pocket and the folded edge is now facing you. Topstitch close to the fold to attach the binding.

Use your font exterior piece as a template to round off the bottom left and right corners of the exterior pocket. Baste the pocket sides and bottom to the exterior front.

Stitch in the ditch across the top of the black border at the base of the dolls to secure the bottom of the pocket and stitch in the ditch at the sides of each doll to create pocket divisions.

Step 4

Fold the zip tabs in half widthways and crease. Open out and fold each short raw end towards the middle crease, creating a tab for each end of the long zip. Encase each end of the long zip in a tab and topstitch the sides and top across nearest the zip to enclose in the tab.

Step 5

Lay one lining gusset strip (upper) right side up. Place on top at the top long raw edge the gusset zip, matching up the zip top edge with the raw edge of the lining. Place on top of these a denim upper gusset strip right side down.

Using a zipper foot stitch the three layers together along the top edge leaving a 0.25" free at each end.

Turn out so that the denim gusset is right side up and the lining is right side down and topstitch again leaving 0.25" unstitched at each end.

Repeat for the remaining upper gusset strips.

Step 6

Pinning the lining fabric out of the way, attach the lower gusset exterior to one short end of the upper gusset exterior right sides together. Check by measuring or pinning the gusset raw edges together to the quilted back exterior and adjust the length of the lower gusset piece if necessary before attaching the second short ends of the upper and lower gusset.

Attach the lower lining gusset pieces to the upper lining gusset pieces. ( I found it easiest to do this in 3 stages, lining to lining from each long end towards the zip and then lining and denim pieces together for 2" over the zip.)

Step 7

Measure and mark a point 7.25" in and 5" down from the top of the lining back piece on the right side. Fold one lining pocket piece in half and lightly crease a centre fold. Place centre fold on the mark already made, right sides facing.

On the wrong side of the lining pocket piece mark a rectangle 6" x 0.5" approximately 1.25" down from the top of the pocket piece. Sew on the marked lines. Cut along both fabric pieces in the middle of the sewn rectangle angling into the corners at each end. Be careful not to cut the stitching.

Pull the lining pocket piece through the gap so that the wrong sides of the lining and lining pocket pieces are now together. Press.

Place the pocket zip behind the gap made and stitch around gap to secure the zip to the lining and lining pocket piece.

Pin the second pocket piece to the pocket right sides together and stitch round all sides being careful not to catch the bag lining in the stitching.

Step 8

Take the 6" lengths of lining and press in half lengthways. Open out and press the long edges to the centre. Stitch the webbing strips to the lining pieces with the turned edges facing the webbing.

Thread a D-Ring onto each strip and baste to the back exterior piece, positioning the lower straps at a slight angle at the base of the curve on each side.

Make 2 long straps with the remaining lining strap and webbing pieces by folding and pressing as above, BUT fold in one short edge by 0.25" on each strap before pressing and folding lengthways AND tuck the end of the webbing under the folded edge before stitching.

Thread the strap lining side up and with the folded in edge first through the slider. Fold the strap over after approx 1" and stitch the end down, going back and over the stitching once or twice to strengthen the strap.

Thread strap through one of the D-Rings and then through the slider again. Pin and baste to the top edge of the exterior back and repeat for the other strap.

Step 9 (Optional)

To make piping for the backpack front fold the bias strip in half lengthways and press. Place the piping cord in the centre crease and using the piping or zipper foot stitch close to the piping to enclose in the bias strip.

Pin the piping cord around the edge of the exterior front raw edges together. When you have pinned back to the beginning of the piping cord, unpick the seam for an inch or so at the unpinned end and cut the piping leaving a length of bias covering with no cord inside.
Match up the beginning of the covered cord with the end of the cord in the unpicked cover and overlap the cover to provide a continuous line of covered piping. Stitch to the backpack back piece.

Step 10

The next two steps are a bit fiddly but take it slowly and you will have a backpack to be proud of! Open the zip halfway before you start to save any hassle later too.

Matching the centre point of the exterior back and the top gusset, pin and stitch the gusset to the back wrong sides together. Make sure that the lining of the gusset is kept clear of your stitching. Reverse stitch over the strap ends as you come to them to strengthen.

Repeat for the front and the gusset. I found it easiest to pin and stitch with the interfacing of the front uppermost so that I could follow the stitched line from the piping. There are a lot of layers particularly at the pocket so just take a deep breath and take it slowly :)

Step 11

Stitch the lining piece with the zipped pocket right sides together to the lining gusset piece on the backpack back. You will need to manoevre the bag out of the way at the gusset so be careful not to catch anything other than the lining pieces when stitching.

Repeat for the front lining piece leaving a gap of 4" - 5" at the bottom to turn the bag right sides out.

Step 12 (Optional)

If you wish to strengthen the backpack place a piece of plastic canvas cut to size in the bottom gusset between the lining and the denim fabric. Either secure this with small stitches in each corner or insert bag feet in the four corners pushing the prongs through the denim and plastic canvas before folding down.

And finally

Handstitch the gap in the lining closed and press the bag to remove any creases.

Enjoy using your Babushka backpack!

I am off to catch up on all the PPP Blog Hop posts I have missed whilst on holiday and the hundreds of other posts waiting for me in Google Reader. I may be sometime :)


  1. That's brilliant! Great tutorial and I love your little dollies too.

  2. Brilliant paper pieced dolls and very cool backpack!! Thank for the tutorial - I may have to give that a try!

  3. That Matryoshka panel is so cute. Well done!

  4. I think your matroyshka block is fantastic ... and the babushka lining fabric was a fantastic find!!

    1. Thanks Fiona I have leftover lining fabric so will have to find something else appropriate to do with it too!

  5. Great tutorial and love your paper piecing block - super cute!

  6. What a wonderful project and tutorial! I love the paper pieced dolls.

  7. Great tutorial and I think it might be your birthday so hope you have a terrific day. Your dolls are very cute.

  8. Wow, amazing tutorial! I love that Matroyshka block, I just love Matroyshkas!

    And... happy birthday!

  9. What a fabulous block and a brilliant back pack

  10. Such a cute idea, and love the block you used. Welcome back :o)

  11. Oh this looks fantastic!! What a gorgeous bag - you did a beautiful job on it!

    Welcome back from holidays - missed seeing you round! Hope it was a wonderful holiday and you got spoilt for your birthday!

  12. Comprehensive tutorial, Fiona and a great backpack!!! Love the piping detail and the little dolls are so sweet. I have never come across interfacing with gridlines. Is it a particular thickness? Hope you've had a wonderful, relaxing holiday!!!

  13. Wow, that is great Fiona! Someday I would like to try something like that.

  14. cute babushkas

    homemakerhoney@ gmail .com

  15. What a beautiful block you chose!
    Thanks for a great tutorial.

  16. It is terrific you clever thing, I love that block! I hope you enjoyed your holiday x

  17. Oh wow, that's fab. Hope it's ok to Pin it for later in the year :-)

  18. So adorable! I love the block and it is such a great idea to integrate them into a backpack!

  19. OMG how gorgeous are these, you are so clever.

  20. Sorry I missed your hop day. I love your paper pieced dolls and the backpack is great :)


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