Bagged

For someone who hates carrying a purse, I have a real thing for interesting bags. Since I can’t often find commercially produced bags that I like, I’ve been making a lot of my own (and a few for friends) for the past year or so. And I seldom make things that are meant to be actual purses, concentrating instead on bags in which I can carry a laptop computer and a few things for work, little camera bags, small zippered pouches, sturdy reusable bags for carrying groceries, huge bags for library books, and the like.

I’m working up to making a new bag or two or three. Here’s what I need:

  • a new bag for my Lumix digital camera, which I adore and take everywhere; the current bag is wearing out and I’ve started carrying a collapsible tripod that doesn’t really fit in the present bag
  • a traveling art supply bag that I can keep at the ready, packed with my watercolor field box, journal, brushes, pencils, and sketch pad
  • a new bag for a laptop, since the one I made (see below) ended up being j-u-s-t a squeench too tight for the computer–it will fit, but it’s a struggle
  • an actual purse that won’t frighten people or make my mother cry (once in a blue moon I do have to dress up a bit to have lunch with an editor or go to a conference) and that’s small enough not to annoy me but still big enough for my cell phone, keys, lipstick, library card, bank card, and driver’s license

I’ve been looking at some of the ones I’ve made with an eye to what I love about them and what I’d do differently. This post could get picture heavy, so I’ll only do a little show and tell on two of the bags here.

My rabbit purse started life as a little piece of Japanese fabric I bought on this Etsy site. I love Japanese fabric, though I try to stay on the far end of the cutesy spectrum. Still, the rabbit fabric caught my eye, inspiring this sketch:

that turned into this bag–front:

and back (the tiny squarish bit barely visible at the center top of the outside pocket hides a magnetic snap closure):

and a detail of the sashiko stictching I used for the bunnies (if you want to learn more about sashiko, there’s a great tutorial at Purl Bee’s blog):

The bag is made almost entirely of leftovers–the denim came from a pair of my son’s completely decrepit blue jeans, and the linen part came from a pair of pants I bought at Goodwill for $4.00. The lining, a plain piece of pale blue chambray, was also salvaged from a Goodwill skirt. I pretty much winged it and departed in a few ways from the original plan–the strap is a piece of sturdy cotton webbing instead of the patchwork piece I envisioned, the bag doesn’t have a zipper closing, and it has only one main compartment, though I also added some interior pockets.

I love this bag–it’s a little crunchy granola, but it’s a great size for a notebook, a few books, pens, a lunch, and a slim thermos of tea. On the other hand, when I make the next one I really need to measure more carefully so a laptop will fit, and I think I want a more sophisticated design this time. It would be nice to have a bag I can take into NYC for meetings and such without looking, as my mother would say, like “country come to town.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Here’s the other bag I love–it’s small (about 7 x 9″), and it has a strap long enough to go over my neck and shoulder so it’s completely hands-free. And I love the design. Please bear in mind that I carried this one for about a year, so it’s a little worn and kind of grubby. Here’s the front:

The back is just plain black and it zips at the top with a black zipper, and the strap is made out of simple black cotton cording. The inside, though, is very cool, as you can see from this inside-out image:

That’s my tag on the cell phone pocket (my next bags will have my new, more official looking tags that I’ve just had custom made). It’s the interior fabric I love so much. I got it here and kept it for a while before I knew what to make of it. The bag fabric itself is a sturdy cotton/linen blend.

The decorated Day of the Dead skull appliqué work on the front is cut from thick wool felt that I got from Sheep’s Clothing, Morehouse Farm’s now (sob) defunct yarn shop in Red Hook, New York, which was my favorite yarn shop in the world. Fortunately, Morehouse still sells their beautiful yarns online, but I will miss getting to go to the retail shop to fondle the cushy skeins of Merino yarn in person. Four or five times I year I go through the Hudson Valley/Catskill mountain area, and I’ve grown accustomed to making a day of the drive, stopping at Sheep’s Clothing and Quiltstock and having lunch here.

The inspiration for the skull design comes from this Dover coloring book:

My favorite thing about this bag, besides the image, is the fact that I figured out a simple way to make a bag with two interior compartments, and that’s come in handy. When I figure out what the next bag will be, it will definitely have this feature, and maybe I’ll work up a little tutorial on how to make the divided interior. And I may turn again to my stash of Dover coloring books for the next design.

Wow. For somebody who goes to great lengths to avoid carrying purses, I seem to have a lot to say about them!

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