Um, don't know how...
Figure it out quick...
By making this bag, students will develop skills in working with various materials and tools as well as problem solving through the project as they encounter pitfalls such as alignment with a variable medium. The theme throughout is working from a general plan while "figuring it" out as you go.
What makes this project super awesome is that it's natural materials and built to last. In our disposable crap culture we need to shift toward durable things that can be repaired. This bag has no zippers, velcro or snaps to wear out and is simple to repair. The exposed stitching may wear out but you can fix that easy. Make and fix, since our environmentally sustainable future is DIY.
While I've got your attention remember to check out my Bamboo Time Machine (I plan to make a feature documentary about it... when I get some proper funding). And Surfing the Waste my musical documentary about dumpster diving.
Here's how to:
Step 1: Needful Things
-Leather (top grain leather is strongest, it has a smooth side)
-Bowl or something round and about as wide as you want your bag to be deep.
-Sewing awl (eg. Speedy Stitcher) or some way to sew leather.
-Sand paper and file (or a rock, or the rough bottom of a teacup...)
-Wire (LAN cable would work well)
- *** Bonus *** No measuring device!
Step 2: Trace and Cut the Front
First we'll make the front piece by drawing an extended oval.
-Plonk your bowl onto the leather and use it to trace a semicircle.
-Move the bowl over a few inches and trace the other half of the first circle.
-Connect the two circles with two straight lines.
This is the basic shape of the front face of your bag.
-Cut out this first shape. The cut edge will show, so try to keep your cuts neat if you care about these things.
Step 3: Trace and Cut Back With Flap
Next we'll do the back panel which is also the front flap in this case.
-Plonk your front panel onto the leather and trace it.
-Extend the top section of the panel long enough that it can cover most of the front panel if you fold it forward. Leave a bit of extra leather around the perimeter of the flap unless you are really sure it will extend far enough and wide enough.
-Try folding the leather over the front panel as an approximate test fit. This will give you an initial sense of how your particular leather folds and handles.
-I made mine asymmetrical. One advantage of making things very lopsided is you don't have to try to center them.
-Make small marks in a few points around the places that will be corners of the opening. It's hard to check orientation of your pieces once you start sewing so alignment marks are very helpful.
-Mark your center point on the bottom.
-Cut out your back and flap piece.
Step 4: Gusset
Now we need a gusset to form the bottom and sides.
I tried a curved piece first... Disaster.
What worked was:
-Take a piece of paper and fold it in half lengthwise, then crosswise.
-Draw a curve that starts about 1 1/2 inches wide and straight then widens to what ever width you want the bottom to be.
-Compare the gusset template to your front and back pieces to test the length.
-Trace this template. You may want to make it a bit longer and trim the extra later.
-Mark the all half-way points from your fold lines. These very useful for orientation.
-Cut out your gusset.
Step 5: Sew the Back
This step could be tricky.
I wanted to have the pieces overlap sequentially like shingles. With thick leather this can mean the pieces won't align evenly.
I used regularly spaced stitches on the front and back pieces but slightly wider stitches in some places on the gusset. These unmatched stitch lengths cause crinkles so you probably want to use them more on corners or keep the difference small.
-Start by aligning the back piece's bottom center with the gusset's middle.
-Overlap the gusset and the back piece. I wanted the gusset to overlap on top here.
-Sew up to the side.
-Stop sewing slightly past the widest point of the back piece.
-Note the position of the end of the gusset and the orientation marks on the sides of the back piece.
Step 6: Sew Other Side of Back
For the bag to align we need to have the gusset end at the same point on both sides of the back piece. You may need to ease in the gusset with asymmetrical stitches to make both sides match.
I screwed mine up a couple of times and had to resew. So regular stitch length was helpful for reusing needle holes.
Step 7: Sew the Front
Sewing the front is a similar procedure.
Sew from the bottom middle,
-up to one side,
-slightly past the widest point,
-and in toward the center of the gusset at the end.
Step 8: Gettin' Lippy With It
You have options for the closure. If you're using a zipper, the front and back could be the same. I'm using a flap and stiff leather. The flap flops down best when the front flap is slightly shorter.
To make a lip:
-Fold down the front piece to form your lip.
-Flop the flap down.
-Observe how the leather overlaps or kinks on the corners of the flap.
-Arrange the lip and flap in a way that looks nice to you and closes well without big holes for your stuff to dump out.
-Fold the lip forward or inward. Inward might be neater since it would only show a rounded lip and stitches, I like outward lips though.
-Sew the lip in place starting from the center. Alignment may be tricky. Mine went a little wonky on one side.
Step 9: Finish Corners
You might want to clean up the corners of the opening.
I put one stitch between the front and the back above the gusset.
Also I snipped off the exposed corner of the gusset. Though in hindsight this corner might have been a nice place to attach a shoulder strap.
Step 10: Boner Closure, Prepare Bone
The bag was looking a little too hand made at this point and badly needed a redeeming feature. Enter the bone.
There's something whimsical about natural materials and forms, eh.
Also I didn't have any magnetic snaps.
-Select a bone with a wide end.
-Cut off to size.
-Drill near the wide end. (If you don't have a drill you could probably make a nice hole with the tip of a pointy knife by twirling it)
-File cut area and sand smooth any rough or sharp edges. (I hear bone dust is pretty unhealthy to breathe)
-Strip off the insulation from your wire.
-Overlap it a few times and twist it into a cable.
-Feed the cable through the hole in your bone.
-Form a ring and twist to secure it.
-Massage the overlapped section into the hole to hide the pokey wire ends.
Step 11: Hole and Bone Loop
Draw a rectangle smaller than the hole you need.
Cut out the rectangle from the flap. We will widen this hole later.
Close the flap and draw through the hole onto the front of your bag.
Cut a strip of leather for the loop.
Sew one side of the loop on one side of the hole you traced. The loop for the bone needs to be omega shaped or U shaped. Ring shaped didn't work very nicely; it hung up on the flap hole and felt flimsy.
Trim the hole nicely so the hole fits over the loop strip.
Test fit the flap with the loop and bone.
Mark the loop length you need.
Sew the other side of the loop in place.
Step 12: Bone Lanyard and Thread Colour
I used some hemp cord as a leash for the bone.
Also I ran the cord under each stitch in the front to make a perimeter stripe. I think big stitches look better in a contrasting colour but I only had one type of thread.
Step 13: Expand
You may be able to shape your bag.
-Soak the bag,
-Stuff it tightly with crumpled paper.
-Put it in a plastic bag overnight.
Step 14: Expound
Congratulations you've just saved yourself a hundred bucks, And you know how to repair your bag since you made it.
With no zippers or high-stress components, your bag might well outlive you.