By: DS


  • Cotton Fabric

    I use white cotton muslin. This has good dyeing properties, (assuming you can't find the right color off-the-shelf). I never have. This typically has good fraying and creasing properties (you want to look for these when choosing a fabric). Run your hand along the cut edge of the fabric and see if the edge frays easily. You want fabric that resists fraying, especially when working with small pieces. If you can't find any fabric that has this property, you can use fabric sizing, i.e., liquid starch to help instill it.

    This also holds for the "creasability" of the fabric. This helps the piece to hold its shape during assembly. If the only material you can find doesn't crease well, starch can help.

    After dyeing the fabric, soak the fabric in a concentrated solution, 50/50 or better, and then iron, (not with the good iron), to smooth out the fabric and to make it stiffer for manipulation.

    For the coloring, I used RIT dye in a 1-part Dark Green to 0.7 parts Dark Brown. Use about 1 ounce of dye to 2 quarts of water. Add some salt to help distribute the dye. Wet the cotton fabric and immerse in the dye bath. Stir continuously, and check about every five minutes. I cut a small piece off the corner, rinse out the dye, and dry with an old iron on low heat. This way you can see the color that the fabric will be when it dries. If it's too light, give it another 5 minutes. Typically, it takes about 15 minutes for the right shade.

    When your sample is correct, remove the fabric and rinse out the dye until the water remains clear.

  • Satin Ribbon

    The straps were made from 1/8" satin ribbon. I've never found the right color, so I dye it. This is not a natural material, but it can be colored. I start with a "moss green" color and simmer it in a strong concentration of 1 to 1 Dark Green to Dark Brown RIT dye. The secret to dyeing man-made fabrics is that the shade is not affected by the time in the dye bath, as much as the concentration of dye. If it won't get darker, add more dye.

  • Plastic Canvas Buckles

    The buckles are made from black, 10 count, plastic canvas. This is found in craft stores and on-line. While I can find the larger 7-count material in numerous colors locally, I've never found the 10 count in anything but clear. It is available on-line from the "Yarn Yard" at . If you won't or can't order it on-line, but can find the clear version, you can color it using a very strong solution of black dye.

    If you decide to order some, you should also pick up a sheet or to of the #14 black as well. You can make buckles with it in the same fashion as the #10. They're a bit on the small side for applications like this, (although they're probably closer to scale), when placed along side their TUS equivalents. But they work well for holsters, sheaths, and helmet straps.

    Each buckle is created by cutting out 4 connecting squares of canvas. Remove the vertical divider between the top two squares. Slice the top of the vertical divider between the bottom two squares.

    To use the buckle, attach it to the item through the top loop, and then feed the adjustable strap over the middle horizontal rail and then behind the "tang". Friction will hold the adjustable strap in most situations. (If you need more holding power, you can cut the "tang" on the bottom end, and use it like a real buckle, but be carefully because some other part of the assembly may become the weak-link.)

  • Grosgrain Ribbon

    This can be found at fabric stores. The 3/8" width in Olive Drab is needed. If you can't find this locally, try the Ribbon Place at . They sell it by the yard.

  • Elastic cord

    Found in fabric stores. Colored with RIT dye. It is a man-made material, but it dyes easier the most synthetics, (perhaps the rubber component). You can use Olive Drab or Black.


The step-by-step instructions cover the 2-pocket version. I have reduced the differences between the models to the number and size of the pockets and some small trim details on the pack. The procedure is the same for the 3-pocket design with those exceptions.

The 2-pocket is also a bit easier for someone starting out, as there is 1/3 less work to get a finished pack and the pockets are bigger.

While the instructions are written for assembly using a sewing machine, the large amount of hidden seams in this project lends itself to construction using fabric adhesive. I would recommend the water-based variety because you have better control. I tried some test seams and was able to get a fairly straight seam by pinning the fabric using long straight pins, coated with wax, and applying the adhesive with a brush.

If you are new to sewing, a couple of quick bits of advice for working with items this small.

Use a fine needle, (I used a #9); this can be the difference between stitching a seam, and the machine jamming the pieces of fabric into opening to the bobbin case. (That's the thing in the bottom of the machine that holds the other spool of thread.) Not good.

Also, if your machine accepts different presser feet, consider a "blind-hem" attachment. (Think of it as a rip-fence for a sewing machine.) This can help you maintain alignment when you're sewing a seam close to the edge of the fabric.

To mark the fabric, I use an erasable fabric marker. These come in two types, water soluble and air-erasable. I use the water-soluble if I'm making numerous copies and need the marks to last for a couple of days until I get around to using those pieces. The air erasable is only good for a couple of hours, but useful for locating item just before attaching.

  • Pockets

    Start with the pockets, they are about half the job in themselves. Begin by cutting out the pieces per the patterns. For simplicity and consistency, all the seams have a 1/4" inch allowance. This helps with manipulating small pieces of fabric. You can reduce them after you finish stitching the seams.

    Hem the top of the POCKET-FRONT and POCKET-BACK. Add the 1/8" x 1-1/4" satin ribbon to the POCKET-FRONT. Align the pieces wrong side out. Stitch a seam, 1/4" from the side edge, beginning at the top, to 1/4" from the bottom edge of the POCKET-BACK. Align the other side and do the same.

    Next, align the bottom edges, creating a fold in the POCKET-FRONT, and sew along the bottom, again 1/4" from the edge.

    This "fold" is the floor of the pocket. To close the sides of the pocket floor, stitch this fold, perpendicular to the face of the POCKET-BACK, along each side.

    When finished turn the pocket right side out.

    The POCKET-FLAP is made by first hemming the outside. Add a 1/8" x 1-1/4" satin ribbon loop and buckle. Next, gather the fabric at the 2" width and pulling it towards the center of the flap, create a fold projecting from the bottom side of the flap. Stitch this fold at the back of the flap. When inverted, this should create a "dome" shape in the POCKET-FLAP. Stitch the flap to the back of the finished pocket using the 1" tab at the back of the flap.

  • Shoulder Straps

    These are pretty straightforward, fold and hem the long sides. Fold over and stitch one end. Add 1/8" x 1-1/4" satin ribbon loop and buckle. Two straps are required per pack.

  • Pack

    Hem the top of PACK-FRONT and PACK-BACK. Use two lines of stitching, one about 1/16" and one 3/16" from the top edge. Attach the shoulder straps to PACK-BACK. Tack, with thread or glue, the 1/8" x 3-1/2" satin ribbon to the margins on the side, and the 1/8" x 1-1/2" ribbon to the margins on the bottom. You only need to hold these in place until the pieces are sewn together.

    Attach the 3/8" x 1/2" Grosgrain ribbons to the sides of PACK-FRONT. The 3-pocket version has a 3/8" x 4-1/2" piece that running along the top edge of the pack as well. This is stitched to the pack at 1/2" intervals.

    The pockets are attached to the PACK-FRONT by stitching along the sides.

    When finished, align one side of the front and back, wrong side out, and stitch seam, 1/4" from edge. Repeat for the other side.

    The PACK-FLOOR is added next. Starting in the front, locate one corner of the floor and corner of the PACK-FRONT, 1/4" from the bottom. Keeping the edge of the PACK-FLOOR and PACK-FRONT even, stitch a line 1/4" in from the edge, from corner to corner. Repeat this process for the other three sides. Work from front to back, so any unevenness ends up at the back of the pack.

    Turn the pack right side out.

    The PACK-FLAP is created from two pieces of fabric. Align them, (you guessed it, wrong side out) and stitch the outline. Leave a 3/4" opening on one side. Then turn the flap inside out and stitch around the outside edge.

    Add the 1/8" x 1/4" satin ribbon straps to the top. Add the 3/8" x 1/2" Grosgrain ribbon to the middle of the flap. Fold over the flap and stitch two 1/2" long darts in each side. This will give the flap a rounder shape.

    Tack two 1/8" x 5-1/4" satin ribbons to the underside of the back of the flap. Stitch the flap to the back of the pack with a line of stitching about 1/8" from the edge. Make sure you stitch through the 1/8" ribbons.

    Finally, thread the dyed elastic cord through holes spaced every 1/2" around top of the pack. I found a thin piece of 0.02" brass wire, folded in half to create a narrow loop, could be used to poke through a small hole started in the fabric and then pull the cord back through. This is similar to the device used to thread needles.

    I tried running the cord between the two line of stitching, like the draw string on a laundry bag, but it is harder to open for smaller fingers.

    I pulled the two ends through a hole drilled in a small piece of plastic tubing, (like a cord lock, but no moving parts) and then knotted the ends. The friction of the cord keeps the top closed, and I don't have to keep re-threading the cord back through the pack.

    Otherwise you could just tie the top closed.

    The final step is adding the buckles to the ends of the 1/8" x 1-1/2" satin ribbons attached to the bottom of the pack. These will accept the 5" ribbon after they are fed through the straps on the PACK-FLAP.

Outstanding work David! Special thanks for sharing your skills with all of us. Sharp Salute! -- GL


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