Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.

12/11/2009

#285 In which our hero recounts his quest for the perfect man bag (part 4)

The first thing I put together was the handle. I really wasn't sure how this would turn out, and I looked at it as a bellwether of the entire project. It's constructed of two pieces of leather, but the way its assembled I ended up sewing through three layers. It went surprisingly well.


I was super happy with the results. It looked, I dare say, professional. I showed it off to The Scientist and my children, all of whom were much less impressed than I. After the handle, I began to feel confident that the entire satchel was going to end up looking pretty close to what I had in my head.

Because that's the painful part... I've worked on lots of leather projects where the end result fell well short of the image I had in my head. The projects weren't bad, per se, just not what I was hoping for.

The handle done, I started on the main body. First I sewed both gussets to the center divider piece. 


Also, I forgot to mention, at some point I decided to cut down the width of one of the gussets. I was afraid the bag would be too thick (girthy) and would look more like a piece of luggage than a briefcase. This ended up being a good decision, as my laptop fits perfectly snug in the smaller pocket.

After that, I sewed on the front of the bag.


You can see in the photo above both gussets sewn to the center divider. The front buckles are also sewn on, as they share a seam with the bottom of the bag. That done, I started on the back piece.


This was a little tricky because I'm sewing through three pieces of leather (the gusset, the back piece, and the back pocket). It's not the sewing part that was hard, it was making sure all the holes lined up correctly. 

Remember when I wrote that I was a little laissez faire with the measuring part? This is where it went wrong. Somehow I made the back pocket piece about half an inch wider than the back piece. If I just forced all the holes to line up, there would be an unattractive bulge with that pocket. It would clearly have to be trimmed. 

In this, I got really lucky. The pocket piece overhung the pack piece by half an inch, and my seam allowance was a quarter of an inch. This meant that I could trim a quarter of an inch off, and the already punched holes wouldn't show, I could punch new holes and everything would line up just about perfectly. 

At this point there was also a problem with the gusset and the main body lining up right. This was a much more serious problem. I'm still not sure what went wrong. And to make it right, it was a brute force fix. I basically cut a wedge in the bag, pulled the edges together and pulled really tight on the thread. Again, I got really lucky. It's virtually invisible from the outside. You can definitely feel it on the inside, but it's low enough in the bag that you can't see it unless you really stick you head in it and go looking for it. 

Then, I ran into another problem. 

Like I wrote before, I had used a belt blank to fashion the shoulder strap. By my rough estimates it was just the right length. But when I actually attached the bag to the strap, it hung too low, almost to my knees. 

I was afraid that cutting the strap and adding a buckle would make it too short. But, other than cutting off the buckle on the end and refashioning that entire thing, a buckle in the middle of the strap was all I could do. And it was the easiest fix. So:




It actually turned out really well. There was plenty of length left for it to hang right. And I had always imagined it with a buckle on the strap anyway.

I added the handle assembly to the bag, and it was done!



Well, almost done. I went to Things Remembered and got a brass plaque with my name engraved on it a couple days later. Once that was riveted on, then I was really done.

The the photo above, you can see the two-tone affect from the straps finished with gum trag. I didn't like it at first, but have since grown really fond of the look. As it ages and gets all the little nicks and scuffs that come with use, it'll look even better. 

Of course, as the person who made it, I see all the mistakes. But even so, it's really good looking, I have to admit. And it should last a lifetime. Even if it starts to fall apart, I know how to fix it. 

The best part (other than being able to tell people, "Yep, I made this") is that I paid considerably less than the $800 it was selling for in the Filson catalog. I have maybe $200 worth of materials in it, but that includes leather I didn't use and can use for other projects, plus some left over hardware (D-rings come in packs of a dozen, for example). Plus my time, of course. 

So, after years of searching for the perfect mag bag, I finally made one myself.

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2 Comments:

OpenID redkcolumbus said...

I love the two-tone look and thinks it looks both classy and modern. If I was E+E, I'd be looking at the even-ness of the stitching and all that stuff, but happily, I'm just me. I think it looks fabulous!

6:00 PM

 
Anonymous csantoni said...

that's a great looking bag. if I had anywhere near your crafting skills I might try to make one myself.

7:47 PM

 

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