12 April 2011

a giant post for a giant tote

Here it is. The beast. One of the unfinished projects that I mentioned was mocking me last week. I worked on it for a few hours on Friday, several more on Saturday, and finished it up Sunday. I broke three needles (one of which was heavy duty) and injured three fingers. This monstrous bag is 5" wider than I planned (it measures in at 22" across), but the construction is better than I ever imagined. Possibly my best work to date. 

I've put together a tutorial of sorts, but it's not very detailed. This is not a beginner's project, but it certainly wasn't difficult. Familiarity with fabric and your machine is key.

I started with two pairs of Hubs' cast off cargo pants. Or maybe one pair of pants and one pair of shorts. I snagged them from the “donate” pile many months ago, after seeing this cargo messenger bag tutorial on Noodlehead.

Note: Because I used two different garments, the pieces don't all match perfectly. This bothers me sometimes, and other times I don't care. I think the bag will be useful enough that eventually I will not care all the time.

I started by locating the cargo pockets I liked best, and then planned the rest of the bag around those.  I cut the pants apart as close to the seams as possible, so I'd have the maximum amount of fabric to work with. Then I started sewing.

I top-stitched all the exposed seams twice, mimicking the existing stitching on the pants.

I found I was using the same seven pins over and over again. Along the way, I discovered that a fridge magnet was perfect to keep all my pins in one place, on the table, and not rolling onto the floor. I might be late to the party on this one, but I was pretty excited when I figured that out.

I added a panel to the top, to make the bag taller:

Then I matched it up to the back piece and trimmed any extra. Since I wasn't working from a pattern, my pieces weren't perfectly sized.

I was working with what I had, so I needed to piece together my gusset fabric from a few strips. I did it on the diagonal, just like when putting together a quilt binding. It looks slightly less obtrusive and I figured diagonal seams might bear weight better than horizontal.

I carefully sewed the gusset strip to the front panel, then the back. I left a six inch gap at the bottom of one side for turning the bag after attaching the lining.

Phase One: Done.
This is where I said, 
"Whoa! It's huge!"

After this step, I attached the cut-off waistbands—belt loops included—all around the upper middle of the bag. I wanted to make a contrasting “belt” so I could cinch the bag smaller if desired.

Next step: Lining pieces.
I forgot to attach my interfacing (or batting, actually, because I found some cheap) to the outside of the bag, so I attached it to the lining pieces instead. I was worried for a bit, but it worked fine. I quilted it a little, just so it wouldn't slide around.
The lining pieces were slightly smaller than the outside pieces, but otherwise had the same gusseted construction.

Up next: Zipper. My first zipper ever. I had no clue what I was doing, but I followed the photos from this Craftster tutorial as much as I could. I added batting to this, too, because I wanted it to be sturdy.

I totally winged the attachment process. I held it in place where I imagined the seams would go, confirmed that it looked ok, then started sewing and held my breath. But it worked! Here's how it looks with the zipper attached.

I was so immersed in sewing when I got to attaching the lining, I neglected to take pictures. But I followed the directions from the only other bag I ever made—Rae's Buttercup Bag

Here's the finished product:

More waistband for the strap, this time sans belt loops.

I made this bag to hold my camera, lenses (to be purchased), and laptop. But it'll hold those and then some! It could definitely double as an overnight bag. Could also work as a diaper bag, though not for me, cuz I's not havin' any more babies.

Here it is with my camera padding, which is still being assembled:

And for scale:

Last but not least, cinched. I prefer it this way, but I'm sure I'll carry it fully expanded much of the time.

Whew. What a monster. I'm glad it's done, and I love it, but it was definitely a learning process. I'm off to the fabric store now. I need to pick up some more needles. :)