When did life get so… heavy? There once was a time when things were just plain old fun and positively carefree. Then all of those seemingly ancient family members (who were actually still quite youthful) started cluing us into the Debbie downer future ahead, saying things like:
Time flies, you’ll see. One day, the only mail you’re gonna get is bills. No use crying over spilled milk. Save those tears for when your car starts falling apart.
Such “sky-is-falling” warnings may have been easy to dismiss back in the day, but now that we have all been wearing our official “adult” hats for a while, those words are haunting, and perhaps even far more legitimate than any of us would like to admit. Drats! The moral of the story is that we all need to have more fun while we can, and though there is a certain age where happily skipping along with a treasured stuffed animal in our sweaty little mitts is no longer acceptable, for wee little ones, the sky’s the limit. Help your “mini-me’s” eek a little more joy out of their all too fleeting childhood by upcycling their absolute favorite stuffed buddy into a cuddly backpack that will receive the day-to-day workout that it so rightfully deserves.

Basic supplies

  • Large stuffed toy
  • Old pillow case (for interior backpack lining)
  • Recycled fabric belts (for backpack straps)
  • Assorted sewing notions (such as needle, thread, snaps, pins, etc.)
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pen
  • Patience
recycled stuffed animal backpack
Photo courtesy of cotton&curls.

Upcycling strategy

Prepare your child’s stuffed animal for its backpack future 1) Select a stuffed critter from your child’s stash that will lie flat against their back without totally engulfing him or her. Be on the lookout for a toy with an ample torso or belly so that, upon being hollowed out, it will still sufficiently accommodate your child’s possessions. Things to bear in mind:
  • Whatever toy ultimately becomes your sacrificial upcycling lamb, just be sure to leave its head, arms and legs fully intact!
  • The opening of the backpack will ultimately lie flush against the interior of your child’s back. In other words, you will perform your surgical upgrade on the back of the stuffed animal rather than its belly.
2) Center your ruler in the middle of the stuffed animal’s back, carefully mark off a 12-inch vertical line with a pen (yes, it should be smaller if your critter is more diminutive), and then create a clean opening using a pair of sharp scissors. 3) Remove roughly three-quarters of the material within the stuffed animal, arranging the remaining filler so that the basic shape of the critter is preserved. 4) To ensure that it does not shift, anchor the leftover material inside the critter using multiple rows of stitches. Line the inside of your child’s stuffed animal 1) There is no need to exercise exact science with this part of your upcycling project. Your objective should merely be to create a very basic inner lining that would help keep all of your child’s possessions in place. 2) If you are not already an ace sewing pro, the easiest way to create a lining is to turn the opened side of the stuffed animal partially inside out so that you can see what kind of space you are really working with. 3) You will then want to create a double-layered interior pouch. This can be quickly cobbled together just by cutting off the open end of an old pillowcase, modifying the bottom corners with a nip-n-tuck, and then laying the fabric over the gutted stuffed animal opening. 4) Pin the pouch in place and then sew the top raw edges of the material to the interior perimeter of the stuffed animal “opening.” 5) Once you restore the stuffed animal torso to its rightful direction, you should be able to easily tuck the pouch inside. Make and attach straps to your child’s stuffed animal 1) In order to create backpack straps that are the proper length, first place the partially de-stuffed animal on your child’s back at a comfortable height (with the critter’s belly facing out). Then, anchor the stuffed animal to your child’s shirt with safety pins. 2) Cut the buckle side of an old fabric belt completely off. (If your child is particularly petite, you may be able to get away with creating two backpack straps using one upcycled belt, but it is more likely that you will need to modify two belts in the same manner.) 3) Attach one end of a belt to the top back shoulder of the stuffed animal, securing it in place (initially with a safety pin) and then, once you have finally gotten the placement just right, with several rows of stitches. 4) Loop the belt comfortably around the top of your child’s right shoulder and then run it along the underside of their arm so that the other belt end can be attached to the bottom right derriere of the stuffed animal. You will likely have to trim off a significant amount of the belt with sharp scissors in order to ensure a proper fit. 5) Secure the bottom end of the belt with a safety pin and then release your child from his or her modeling duties. 6) In order to easily measure the other strap, just lay the remaining belt segment (or separate belt) over the strap that you have already created, mark off the length with a pen and cut! 7) Ta-da! Two straps ready to go. Just sew them in place with multiple rows of stitches. Create the closure on your child’s upcycled stuffed animal backpack 1) Those with wicked sewing skills will want to install a zipper. Bam. You’re done! 2) For everyone else, consider attaching several metal snaps or Velcro tabs along the opening of your child’s backpack so that the goodies they tuck inside really stay put. Congratulations, now you have finally completed your upcycled stuffed animal backpack. Woohoo!