sweatshop michele

There comes a time in any relationship between person and bag when the person has to evaluate the bag’s quality of life. This is where I recently found myself, my aging bag growing exponentially older by the day. It was a good bag, from Brooklyn Industries (represent), and we’d been together for probably four years or so.

So it was online shopping time. Avoiding leather and suede yet finding something more waterproof and work-friendly than hemp or jute was tough. I also need an adjustable strap so I can shorten it when I’m riding my bike. I tried Brooklyn Industries and the one I wanted was $84. I don’t want to spend $84 right now. And most of them are not exactly waterproof—I’ve had a couple of their bags and they’ve all had the same weak points in the rain. I then checked out Queen Bee, a local studio. The one I was interested in was $82—again with the money—and it also lacked the pockets I’m so fond of.

So I asked myself if there was anything preventing me from making my own damn bag. I made a pattern using my old bag as a jumping-off point, enlarging it a bit so I could fit a letter-size folder in the main compartment. I made a pocket in the back, one on each side (big enough for my phone or sunglasses), a zippered one on the front flap (the zipper’s covered by the diagonal trim in the left photo), and finally, one under the front flap, on the front of the main compartment.

For the material, I found a vinyl remnant for $2.50 and used some old fabric scraps for the trim. That plus a zipper, heavy-duty thread, and seatbelt webbing and hardware from StrapWorks came to about $15. If you don’t count the $500 in labor I didn’t pay myself, that’s a mighty fine cheap-ass bag.

A tip for those of you who attempt a project like this and are apparently as dumb as me: For those parts you have to do by hand, use a thimble. They’re not just for grandmas. You won’t have to use the screw head in your scissors or the inside of your nail to push the needle through multiple layers of vinyl and fabric, and the job’ll go much faster. I learned this about halfway through. My gift to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *