Introduction: Messenger Bag With Automatic Interior Lightning

What if your old bag is falling apart?

And what if you found out that there is something like conductive tread and wearable LEDs?

Make a new bag and make it glow - automatically by opening the buckles.

And here's how to start..

Have fun :-)

Step 1: Material and Pattern Data

You need:

  • cordura fabric (I used this)
  • 1,4 m 50mm security webbing
  • 0,1m 50mm security webbing
  • 2x 17 cm 50mm security webbing
  • 2x 50mm triglide
  • 0,6m 19mm polyester webbing
  • 2 pairs of side release buckles
  • a piece of perspex disc
  • a battery holder
  • 37 cm zipper + zip
  • 1x reed contact (opener) MK15 B2 OE
  • 3x sequins in your preferable color
  • 4x magnets 5x5x1mm
  • conductive thread
  • white fabric pen
  • thin black permanent marker
  • super fast glue
  • Ductape
  • Wonderclips
  • your label if you want to label your bag
  • some nailpolish (if you want to change the color of your zip)
  • soldering machine + tin
  • sewing machine + matching thread
  • small round metal file or dremel
  • drilling machine with 1mm and 3mm drill bit
  • paper for the pattern
  • a long ruler

Preparation for the pattern:

I used my old bag, unripped the seams, drew it on paper and used it as the pattern.

If you don't have a pattern, you can use the following pattern data:

  • 2x 64cm x 42cm with 8 cm radius at all four corners (nr.1)
  • 2x 17cm x 95cm (nr.2)
  • 2x 30cm x 42cm with 8cm radius at two corners (nr.3)
  • 2 22cm x 32 with 8cm radius at two corners (nr.4)n
  • optional 1x 10cm x 42cm

Step 2: Prepare the Pockets

  1. Take on of the two pockets (pattern part nr. 4) and flip the upper end two times to get a smooth end
  2. Use wonderclips to keep the seam inline
  3. Sew it ~10mm.
  4. now flip the rest of outer part 1 time and sew it at ~5mm
  5. repeat with the second section the same way.

Optional: If you want to applique something on one of the small pockets, now it's the time for this.

I wanted to use the design from my old bag and applique it identically to my know one. So I used the old pocket as a pattern for the new one.

  1. I put a piece of paper beyond the old pocket and used a seam ripper to transfer the corners and spikes of the stars to the paper.
  2. Then it was just a connect the points to real stars, color the backside of the paper with the pencil (to imitate carbon paper) and transfer it to the final position.
  3. Trace it first with the pencil and then with the sewing machine.

Step 3: Preparing the Sensor Buckles Unit

There might be better ways and there might be ready devices for this application, but I wanted to do it with the parts I already had (like the buckles) and the imagination which was in my head :-)

The plate

  1. Take a piece of perspex disc (or some pertinax) and cut it to the size you need (your buckle should fit totally on the plate)
  2. Sand the edges, otherwise it might scrub your fabric.
  3. Drill in 4 3mm holes to sew it to the fabric
  4. drill or cut some space for the sensor into the perspex to get some space for your sensor (I tried to keep the reed contact behind the perspex, but the magnetic field was not strong enough to switch)

The buckles

  1. Look where the dust is in your (used) buckles, this is the area where the male part doesn't rubs the female part and this will be the best part for your magnets.
  2. drill in 2 bigger holes (3mm) (for the sensor)
  3. drill in 6 small holes (1mm) to sew on the fabric, 2 at the sides and 4 at the bottom.
  4. Check the magnetic field of your magnets and the reaction of the sensor.
  5. Glue the magnets into your male buckles part
  6. Check if the 2 big holes match to the magnets (in my case they didn't)
  7. If they don't match take a metall file or a dremel and enlarge them carfully.
  8. The second buckle just need the 6 sewing holes.

The sensor

Since my first trial with a glass reed sensor (opener and closer) failed, it just broke, I ordered another reed sensor which unfortunately wasn't able to be sewn on something. This is my first try to work with sensors and soldering and using technology in wearables, so I checked what I could do to create a conductive connection between my conductive thread and the sensor. I found it it my pearl accessory box, conductive mold able pins for self made necklaces.

  1. Take the conductive pin, form it into a tight "S" almost an "8", cut the leftover.
  2. Solder the ends together to receive an proper closed "8" repeat with the second pin.
  3. Solder the "8" on both sides of the sensor, be careful not to destroy the sensor.
  4. Tadaa you have an sewing-on-something-reed-normally-closed-sensor :-)

Step 4: Sew the Pockets

Since the cordura fabric is coated and since I didn't want to have more pin holes than necessary I used Ductape to hold the pieces in place.

  1. Decide where you want to have the buckles and align it with the outer pocket.
  2. Fix the pocket on the outer front side fabric (pattern section Nr. 3) and sew it together.
  3. Repeat with the inner pocket on the inner front side. In this case it is important that you keep the inner pocket a ~20mm lower than the outside pocket because there will be a zipper at the upper part which also need some space.

Step 5: Preparation and Sewing of the LED Sequins

  1. First find the right position for the LED sequins, since I'm using 3 and my inner pocket is 30cm, I defined them to be at 5cm, 15cm and 25cm.
  2. Cut two pieces of fabric, about 1,5 and 3cm broad and as long as your pockets width and heights, those will be the carrier for the electronic connection.
  3. Mark on both fabric pieces two even lines with the white pen, the distance of the lines depends on your LED.
  4. Sew and trace the lines with the conductive thread. At the corner where the two fabric pieces connect at 90degree continue sewing as it would be on piece. You can later use normal thread to connect the two pieces for a stronger fit.

Step 6: Implementation of the Maintenance Shaft

At the very first moment I thought I will just connect everything and then sew everything together, because I will not have any issues with anything. The second moment I thought about Murphy and decided that I need a hidden "maintenance shaft" to the electronic stuff.

If you totally believe in you ability (and the function of your gears) you could skip this zipper part. Otherwise:

  1. Take the body of the zipper, (to get it very flat and still working you need to get rid of the puller)
  2. Break of puller and the small spring will jump of (now you are able to move the body without the puller)
  3. Color the body if it doesn't suit you :-) (I used petrol nail polish)
  4. Cut the zipper to the width of your bag.
  5. Decide where you want your LEDs later and add another 10mm to the upper part for the seam allowance for the zipper.
  6. Sew in the zipper, trim it flat with a second cover seam
  7. Cut a new piece of fabric depending on the width of your bag by ~10cm.
  8. Sew it to the other side of the zipper
  9. Fold the upper part of the fabric at about 3cm and sew it on the zipper to create a "zipper garage" which should hide the zipper.
  10. Thread the zipper body on the zipper, safe the ends of the zipper with some hand sewn stiches
  11. Sew the front side (pattern part nr. 3) with the pocket and the back side (pattern part nr.3) together.
  12. Top stitch it.

Step 7: Implementation of the Buckles and the Sensor

The images are partly with the broken old glass reed sensor, partly with the newly used (please don't feed confused, at the end there will be only one reed contact in this bag)

  1. Hand sew the plate to the inner (left) side of the outer front side where you want your sensor to be (in my case if I look to my bag its on the right side)
  2. Check that the plate it fixed and adjust the prepared buckles with the big holes to the sensor area
  3. hand sew the female buckles part on the fabric, do this for both female buckles parts
  4. check with the sensor, an LED and the battery holder if the magnets in the buckles are at the right spot
  5. Fix the sensor into the plate (since I didn't had a better idea, I just used some kind of ductape - really a very good friend for everything)
  6. Check the position of your "conductive L" and hand sew it to the zipper
  7. Now it is time to sew on your LED sequins. Remember to define the + and the - thread. (I first sew the upper part of the sequins and then made a knot to the conductive thread on the "L" part and after finishing the + line I sew on the - part)
  8. Solder yous "L wire" part to the reed sensor
  9. Cut a hole into the back side of the inner pocket, where your battery pack will be stationed, and thread the cables trough the hole
  10. solder the cables to the conductive thread (again make sure your connection + and - is right)
  11. Tape the cables with some ductape on the fabric so they don't move anymore.
  12. Put in the batteries and enjoy the "on and off" of your sensor :-)

Step 8: The Sides and the Webbing

  1. Take the 2 long fabric parts (pattern part nr. 2) and sew them right on right together (~7mm seam allowance), turn them around and top stitch on both ends
  2. Take the 2 17cm webbing parts and melt the ends to avoid unripping.
  3. Take the 1,4m webbing and put on the two triglides, connect one triglide with the 10cm webbing part and use the other for the closure loop, see picture.
  4. Mark the middle of one of the 17cm part and attach the end of the bag holder (1,4m webbing part).
  5. If you would put on a label, that point is now.
  6. Sew the "T-crossing" together on the long fabric part.
  7. Repeat with the other side.

Step 9: The Backside and the Flap and the Full Adjustment

  1. Take the 2 pattern pieces for the bag side and the flap (pattern part nr. 1) and put them right side on right side.
  2. Sew together until the middle of the long side (this sewn part will be the flap)
  3. Cut carefully little triangles at the corners to get a smoother round
  4. Now take the front side (Nr. 3) and sew them outside on outside together with the side and bottom part (Nr. 2)
  5. Sew the the backside (the lower part of the flap) the the side and bottom part.
  6. Make sure all seams are well and turn the bag inside out so that the out side is out.
  7. Take the 19mm webbing bands and sew them on the flap concerning the position of your buckles.
  8. Switch on the battery holder and open or close your bag.

Voilà, it's done :-)

Sensors Contest 2017

Runner Up in the
Sensors Contest 2017

Bag Contest

Participated in the
Bag Contest

Make it Glow Contest 2016

Participated in the
Make it Glow Contest 2016