Originally written & posted for Sew Mama Sew:
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:
- A container to keep samples safe
- A sharp knife for cutting samples
- A pair of gloves (“In case the plants are thorny!” Phoenix immediately exclaimed upon seeing them)
- Pens and a notebook
- A water bottle
- A packet of tissue (can be used for pressing if you want to slip a specimen in the book before getting home)
- Four books I researched (through the library) then selected are (non-affiliate links, obviously): Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar/MacKinnon, Insects of the Pacific Northwest by Peter Haggard and Judy Haggard, Bugs of Washington and Oregon by John Acorn and Ian Sheldon, and Plants: Super Science Activities published by Teacher Created Resources.
As for the construction of the bag, I was inspired by the 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:
The bottom is a waterproof rugged nylon from www.rockywoods.com/, a leftover remnant from Phoenix’s Green Pepper messenger bag. I quilted this to a medium-weight wool blend flannel to add some structure:
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 tengentially 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!