"Field Trip" Backpack in the Making

This backpack once held emergency supplies for a child affected by the tsunami that hit Fukashima in 2011. I am altering it for the upcoming "Field Trip" exhibit at the Maritime Museum in Victoria.
It is a bright peacock blue vinyl and an absolute marvel of buckles, clips, pockets, zippers and even a matching Ipod Nano case.
My proposal said I would cover the backpack with boro cloth. Attaching fabric to plastic is not so easy.
But a roll of double-sided Nitto tape, used by picture framers, seemed to do the trick, combined with a judicious amount of Aleene's Tacky Glue in areas of fabric-on-fabric.
I cut off the plastic straps and will replace them with cloth straps and adjustable snap closures. Apparently the backpacks will be worn by children as part of the interactive exhibit, and I think little hands would find the buckles too cumbersome to manage.

This patch shows the North Pacific Gyre, a phenomenon caused by ocean currents. You may have seen pictures of the appalling floating island of plastic that accumulates in the gyre. The gyre brought debris from the tsunami to the British Columbia coast, as well as radioactive particles from the Daiishi nuclear plant meltdown. The ocean, which seems so vast, actually connects Asia and North America.

Next steps (after making the new straps): Create a child-sized patchwork quilt from scraps of cloth that my friend in Japan has sent me over the years. Fold some origami symbols of protection and clip them on to the handy rings. Manifest an Ipod Nano from Craigslist or the thrift store and download the sound of ocean waves onto it. Have I forgotten anything?

***Check out Jean-Pierre's comments below - very interesting history of this type of backpack.


  1. Anonymous7:25 PM

    Your kid's emergency backpack is exactly the same as those received by all children in Japan when they start grade one, although most of those are usually a dark red (also available in a range of colours). The more expensive ones are made of leather and they are exceptionally sturdy. They're designed to last the child's entire elementary school career. When the child is in grade one they look quite cumbersome because they are large and quite heavy but receiving one is one of the rights of passage in a child's life in Japan. Your contribution to the exhibit will be unique. Is there a room for a geiger counter inside? Jean-Pierre

  2. Anonymous7:45 PM

    One more thing.... The name for these types of backpacks in Japan is "randoseru", which comes from the Dutch word "ransel", which means "backpack". It seems that when the Japanese government started Westernizing the country during the Meiji period the military started using European uniforms, including the ransel. When universal education was also introduced in the Meiji period, the ransel was made part of all school uniforms. Providing uniforms for all children helped to create social uniformity and eliminate the sharp class distinctions that were enforced during the Edo period. The ransel/randoseru has been part of the Japanese educational landscape for over a hundred years now. Jean-Pierre

  3. Anonymous12:29 AM

    what a project! Layers of meaning and cloth.
    technically, to me - this is very complicated "upholstery", requires very good craftmanship - and such a transformation of the object in the end.

    Thanks for very interesting historical background info!

  4. That is a very cool backpack! And thanks to Jean-Pierre for the Japanese history lesson. My grandkids also have backpacks for school but they aren't nearly that sturdy. Need replacing every year or so!

  5. Anonymous4:46 PM

    FANTASTIC!! when is the exhibition opening? love Jean-Pierre's lesson in backpacks and school kids.

  6. Wow!! What an intricate project! It looks like you are doing a wonderful job on it and I can't wait to see the finished piece! Thanks for the amazing wealth of information Jean Pierre! I'm always fascinated by Japanese history and probably never would have taken the time to do research on backpacks. Love learning new things! :)

  7. I love this project, Heather! (and Jean-Pierre's comments are like an additional piece stitched to the boro cloth)

  8. Vanessa Thorson8:10 AM

    I wish we had backpacks like that for kids here. Interesting history from Jean-Pierre, too. I love what you are doing with it. Thinking of you often!Vanesssa


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