Kelly from joins us today to talk about her Back to School Nature Kit idea. Kelly created a satchel with some special added features, and equipped her daughter with the tools she’d need for outdoor exploration. Learn more about Kelly in her introduction. Below you’ll also find links to some of our favorite related tutorials so you can take Kelly’s idea and make it your own!

From Kelly: Since my daughter was very wee she’s had a gentle interest in the natural world– and when it comes to local flora and fauna, flowers, insects, and small wild creatures still capture her attention. Some of the most lovely blooms and busiest bugs are out this time of year, so for our “back to school” Sew,Mama,Sew! project (we are homeschoolers) I thought to make her a custom-satchel with exactly what she might want on a nature walk, complete with custom pockets and carrying versatility.

Pressing plants and flowers is actually quite easy; what one needs are the tools to bring home intact, non-bruised samples and (if you like) resources to help identify your findings. Included in what I began calling the “Naturalist’s Satchel” are the following:

As for the construction of the bag, I was inspired by a Kwik Sew pattern (# 3687). Originally designed as a flat-satchel backpack with simple tie-loops (rather than all those black plastic rings and fittings), my children have sometimes tied the straps together to wear it cross-body, and sometimes worn it in “backpack” configuration. I decided to adopt a similar set-up.

Once I stacked up the assembled supplies to get an idea of the volume of the satchel, it was easy to sketch a box-style construction (adding a 1/2″ seam allowance to all edges, since there are no fancy hem allowances, etc.) and design specialized pockets. I created a large flat pocket for the notebook and workbooks, and elastic holders to secure the bulkier water bottle and sample jar:

My favorite details are the strap stitching and loop ties:

When I gave my daughter her present she immediately grasped the import of this and called a friend for a “nature walk.” I walked partway with her to snap a few photos.

Phoenix observes a spider “preparing for a feast”:

Off on a secluded path she found herself (that I didn’t know about until now):

Specimens of note on today’s walk are the beautiful purple and gold flowers of the European bittersweet, a lovely and common enough bloom to be found in these parts (sometimes tangentially referred to as deadly nightshade) which is listed by Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast as “moderately poisonous to humans and livestock.”

Remember: Make sure you have permission if you want something from someone’s private property!

Want to make your own satchel for exploration? Here are a few of our favorite tutorials for messenger bags, easy backpacks and more. Incorporate some of Kelly’s ideas and you’ll be set!:

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