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Black laptop backpack standing on the floor, in front of a white cupboard. Left of the backpack there's a plant. On the backpack there is a bright red strip of pleather that replaced the old black worn pleather that used to be there. On the right, the text Repair your backpack is displayed in white letters with a black background, and with the logo of Meme Georgette in the top right corner

Repair your backpack in 6 steps

This backpack has been around since 2007, leaving some signs of wear here and there: the zipper was broken, the pleather had peeled off, the lining of the handle had come loose, and it had a bit of a hole on the side. Time for operation Repair Your Backpack!

Collage van foutjes

Step 1: Remove worn parts

Get your seam ripper out, and cut loose everything that needs to come loose. Be warned: this could take a while: laptop bag zippers are firmly embedded, with lining on all sides and bias around the zipper edges. It may help you to take pictures at this point, to remember how the puzzle fits together exactly.

Step 2: Replace the pleather

  1. Use the old pleather that you removed in step 1 to use as mold when you cut the new parts of pleather - or cotton if you want - so that you are sure they are the right size.
  2. Fold the seams to the wrong side, so your pleather has the right width.
  3. Use wonder clips - or laundry pins if you don't have wonder clips - to pin the pleather in place. Don't use pins to do so, or you'll ruin your pleather before you can say 'worn'.
  4. Use a backstitch en naai langs de randen om de skai op je rugzak te bevestigen. De kans is groot dat je dit met de hand moet doen, de gemiddelde huishoudnaaimachine kan deze opdracht niet aan. Hou in dat geval ook een vingerhoed bij de hand, ‘t is soms serieus op die naald duwen om door de skai en de rugzak te raken, en voor je het weet groeit er een naald uit je vinger.

Step 3: Embroider over the hole

  1. The advantage of having to fix holes, is that you can embroider anything you want over them to close them up again, the sky is the limit. The only thing you really have to pay attention to, is that your design has to cover up the whole hole. In this case, I opted to embroider an ohm sign over the hole, since the owner of this bag also happens to be a yoga teacher.
  2. Use a chalk pencil or a white pencil to draw the drawing on your backpack. You can also opt for water soluble transfer paper to have a better view on your design.
    Worn side of the backpack with part of an ohm sign drawn over the hole with chalk, to be able to embroider it on the side.
  3. Embroider your design, using a satin stitch. By using this stitch you actually create 2 new layers of fabric, ensuring a very sturdy fix of the original hole.
    Red ohm sign embroidered on top of a black backpack

Step 4: Make your zipper backpack-ready

Backpack zippers usually have 2 zipper heads, and you close the zipper up by pulling both heads up towards each other. Easy peasy. But your average habberdashery store usually doesn't have zippers like this in stock. Bummer. You can solve this problem as follows:

  1. Buy a zipper that is at least 5 cm longer than what you measured.
  2. Cut off the upper part, so that you can remove both zipper heads.
  3. Turn both zipper heads around. The curved sides should face each other now.
  4. Slide both zipper heads in the right order back on the zipper part that has a stop at the bottom. Pull them down as far as you can.
  5. Grab the second part of your zipper, and slide the hard part at the bottom into the zipper heads. Make sure that both zipper halves are aligned. You'll have to move both parts around a bit, and the bottom parts won't be aligned when you are finished. That's why I told you to buy a longer zipper, so you can hide these parts in the lining or cut them off alltogether.

Step 5: Sew your zipper in your backpack

As mentioned in step 1, laptop bag zippers are really embedded. That means you'll have to embed your new zipper as well. You can do so as follows:

  1. Attach your zipper to your backpack, using wonder clips.
  2. Use a running stitch to sew your zipper into place, making sure it won't move around anymore.
  3. Look very closely so you know where the lining and bias has to come.
  4. Pin - or use your wonder clips again - everything in place, and sew everything carefully. Most likely, you'll have to do this by hand again, using a backstitch.
  5. Sew both ends of your zipper in.

Step 6: Sew the lining back on the handle

A very easy task to end with: place the seams together, and sew together using a mattress stitch.

Does it take a while to complete all these reparations? Yes, it does. Is it worth it? Yes, it is. The only thing that ends up in a landfill now, is the zipper (don't forget to remove the zipper heads, they may come in handy in the future), and the pieces of worn pleather. 1% garbage, 99% back in use.

broken zipper and worn pleather that were removed from the backpack and are lying on a table

Do you have a worn backpack lying around that you'd like to see repaired? Feel free to drop me a line, and together we can find a solution.

Repaired backpack with red pleather standing in front of a white cupboard with a plant next to it

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