The Making of a Haversack

What is now commonly known as a Haversack, in the British Army, was referred to as a bread bag.  It is generally defined as a small bag with a single shoulder strap.  In military use, it was usually made of undyed canvas, or black canvas if you were in a British or Commonwealth rifle regiment, and was used to hold a soldiers food rations.  (There will be a lot more about the haversack and it's history, plus all about what was actually carried inside in a future blog post...)

The pattern for this haversack came from, "Soldiers' Accoutrements of the British Army 1750 - 1900" by Pierre Turner.  It is the 1880 General Service model.  I'm using a 1oo% cotton canvas in black this time.


The pattern page blown up to full scale.


Many measurements were taken from the full scale pattern, and a basic paper pattern was created...

You need two of the smaller front pieces, and one of the back piece which has a foldover extension.

For the shoulder strap, you need a continuous strip of fabric that is 64" long and 4" wide, including seam allowances.  Below is a picture of the shoulder strap and the bottom strip (which tapers and wraps around the sides to create two interior compartments) being cut out.


Measurements for the shoulder strap reinforcements (on the left), and the bottom strip (on the right) including seam allowances.

First I made and sewed on all shoulder strap, button and buttonhole reinforcements as well as the interior loop to the inside (wrong side) of the back piece.

Button reinforcement....You need two of these.  One on the back piece, and one on the exterior front piece.

Interior loop thingy....Truthfully, I have no idea what this is properly called, or what its exact purpose was.  If anyone out there knows, feel free to comment below.

Buttonhole reinforcement...Use about a 7 cm x 4.5 cm piece of fabric, and scant 1/4" seams, folded to a point at the top.

Strap reinforcement....Two are needed. Each piece of fabric should be about 6 cm x 6.5 cm.  Use scant 1/4" seams, and sew on the inside (wrong side) of the back piece.

Preparing to hem the foldover extention using a 5/8" ( 1.5 cm ) seam allowance folded double.

Hem the top of both front pieces with a 1" fold (using only a 3/8" ( 1 cm) seam allowance on the underlap).  And though not historically correct, I chose to finish all raw edges with a basic zigzag stitch to keep the cotton from fraying.

Place one of the front pieces (the one without the button reinforcement), wrong sides together, onto the back piece and pin or baste together. 

Then sew on the bottom strip to the back piece, right sides together.

Lastly, sew the second front piece (the one WITH button reinforcement), to the other edge of the bottom strip, right sides together, then flip to the inside. And the basic bag construction is done.


All that's needed is the strap, and a buttonhole which can be either hand or machine sewn.

Using a 6.5 cm x 8.5 cm piece of fabric, fold over 1 cm seams on sides and bottom, and a 3 cm seam on the top that loops through the brass ring...

...Sew onto the outside (right side) of the back piece to match up with the reinforcement piece on the inside (wrong side).

The brass pieces were bought from The Buckle Guy, and are the 1 3/4" size.

For the strap, fold over about 1" on one side, and using about a 1/4" - 3/8" seam allowance on the other side...

...fold over to overlap in the middle and stitch down.  The strap should measure about 4.5 cm (1 3/4" ) wide when finished.

Loop the strap through the brass bits to get an adjustable strap and sew down to the back piece on the outside (right side) to match up with the reinforcement piece on the inside (wrong side).


And the finished product...


Front view


Back view.......The button on this side is used when the bag is empty and rolled up to conserve space.


And just for comparison, here is an image of one I made earlier in undyed cotton canvas. This one is full of rations...