Every photographer knows improving your equipment is part of the fun. But every time you add something, your good old camera bag looses some of its handiness or simply becomes too small. Until now I have had to buy a new photo bag to adapt to the ever changing shape of my camera, everytime I upgrade my stuff...
Take for example my latest favorite bag: A Lowepro Passport Sling – urban, discrete, classy and stealth, but that little green inlet is way too small to contain my new 24-70 mm 2.8. Mind you, the bag would be big enough if only the inlet would accommodate the lens. Bottom line, instead of buying yet another bag, I found out how to tailor make just the right inlet!
Everyone is different, so I made this instructable as generic as I could, so everybody should be able to make their own custom design.
(Note: This instructable will explain the principles of how to construct the inlet, but not be an in depth instruction on, how to sew as such. And I also have to warn the handwork teacher amongst you – I am an self-taught amateur on a sewing machine... ):-)
Step 1: Materials, Tools and Skills
A foam sleeping pad to make the padding
Nylon strap band
Large paper, pencil and ruler
A sewing machine, scissors and other sewing stuff
Step 2: Organizing the Layout
First of all you need to figure out, if the stuff you want to carry fits in the bag and how you want it to be organized. You also have to consider how you want to grab the camera and how the user situation will be.
In my case, I want to bring my camera with a lens and a battery brig attached, a second lens and a speed light. I need to be able to draw the camera quickly...
Start by taking out the original inlet and placing your stuff in the empty bag. If everything fits and works for you, take out the stuff and place it the exact same way on a large piece of paperso you can draw a model of the new inlet.
Step 3: Draving the Blueprint
The blueprint is made by drawing around each piece of equipment with a pencil according to how you chose to organize your stuff. Your drawing may follow the shape of your equipment fairly accurate at first, but you then have to straighten the line afterwards, otherwise your won't be able to sew the inlet.
Begin with the bottom – you could call it the floorplan.
Next draw the walls on each side. The walls must have the width that matches the length of that side and the height of the camera or what ever equipment will stick most up. In my example I designate the height with the letter "h".
It's advisable to name every element of the layout and draw an arrow that show the direction and connection with the floorplan because the layout will be cut in pieces which might be hard to recognize later.
The space dividers will be attached with velcro. Therefore you have to consider where there needs to be velcro on the floor and the walls. I marked those with shaded areas. Note: This is where the soft part of the velcro goes.
Step 4: Cutting Up the Blueprint
Cut up the blueprint so you get all the template separated from each other. They will help you to cut up the padding in corresponding pieces and act as the sewing pattern later.
Check if everything fits together – better discover mistakes in paper, than in fabric...
Step 5: Cutting the Padding
Use the templates to cut out the padding from the foam sleeping pad.
Name every piece of padding and remember to indicate the direction with an arrow.
At the end there needs to be one piece of padding fore every template. This way, you won't forget anything...
Step 6: Cutting the Beaver Nylon and Velcro
Cutting the fabric works the same way. You have to decide for yourself, where you want the seams – If you have enough sewing experience, you will know what I mean.
A good advice would be to look at the original inlet and make a modified version of that. I usually make the walls one long piece and sew the whole thing onto the floor. This way, the seams will be hidden in the bottom of the bag anyway...
Remember to draw all the seams on the fabric, so you know where to sew the different compartments for the padding. Don't forget to indicate where the velcro goes.
Also remember that every piece of fabric for the walls and the floor needs to be made twice – one for the inside an one for the outside of the padding...
Step 7: Sewing the Floor and Outer Walls
Begin with the velcro. This is important because once you have sewn the compartments, it will be impossible to add the velcro – there simply won't be enough space for the sewing machine otherwise.
Sew the matching two pieces together so you turn every element in to an empty compartment – floor, walls etc. And remember to leave one end open, so you can fill in the padding.
Step 8: Piece by Piece
Now it becomes exciting! As you finish more and more elements, things start to make sense.
The separators are made the same way as the floor and walls. Here, you close the open ends by sewing the velcro and nylon strap band together around the fabric. Be sure to place the velcro on the right side of the separator – that's the sticky velcro!
Step 9: Assambling the Inlet
Once every element is sewn you piece the whole inlet together by sewing all the remaining seams together according to plan. First with an ordinary seam. This enables you to easily unpick the seam, if anything goes wrong.
If everything is ok you give the inlet the finishing touch by sewing bias binding around the seams.
Step 10: Done!
Congratulations! You have done it! A new and improved camera bag. It took me about 4 hours to make mine.
BTW: You can also use this method to convert an ordinary backpack into a camera bag...