Throughout my years on this fair planet I have been a carrier. I admire people who can leave the house with all they need in pockets. That is so not me. I like my stuff, like to be prepared, and like to bring a certain amount of my stuff with me everywhere. When I was younger I was a dancer, and dancers always had a couple changes of clothes with them at all times, you know legwarmers and leotards and all…. Then I turned my attentions to photography, and lord if there isn’t a TON of stuff to be carried for that occupation. Heavy stuff, no less! Then there was about a decade, or more, when all I needed to carry were my particulars-walletkeysjournallipbalm(eventually)phone. Having taken a job in a corporate setting, I was allowed to obsess over carrying just for the style of carrying, with no agenda behind it. I bought a fair number of (hand)bags, as this was the period where I wasn’t sewing as much. For example, I had a stretch of Coach bags when they were classic leather numbers. When I left the office for the commercial kitchen, I went back to more functional luggage, (literally, you don’t want to bring anything beautiful into a kitchen, it’ll just get dirty). Years passed with unremarkable bags until I dove so deeply into the sewing pool that my gaze landed on the opportunity to MAKE my own. This brings me to the present day.
It may be a bit old school but I have always thought that shoes and a bag can make an ‘outfit’. They have the ability to pull a look together with their simple addition. So when the talented Ellie Lum at Klum House approached me with a bag proposition, I paid attention! This year I made the teacher’s bags for my retreats from the Woodland Dopp pattern by Klum House. It’s a smart boxy silhouette that has great capacity. I should have a photo here to share with you, but there is something special about those bags, they are an expression of love and appreciation between my teachers and I, so I don’t even photograph them. Suffice to to say, I was very impressed with the entire process of making those bags. And I made seven of them in about a week, so if there were going to be any weirdness I would have come across it. The directions were clear and succinct, the illustrations were useful, the tips were handy, and then the finished bags did just what I wanted them to. Win win win!
So when the email from Ellie showed up in my inbox it was timely, and I was excited to see it. Would I like to make the new and improved version of her Oberlin Tote, her original pattern, in some custom fabrics they were putting together? Well, gee, that sounds swell…! I had a moment of pause, both because she was asking me just as I was heading off to Slow Stitching, but also because I haven’t done any endorsement posts previously. I am wary of sounding like a saleswoman, or urging anyone to do anything just because I think it’s a good thing to do. Although I guess I’m always encouraging folks to Make, so there’s that. But you know, product stuff. However, I had just had such a good time making the Woodland’s, the Oberlin looked like a really useful bag, and I was in a bag making groove. Ellie didn’t need to see anything till the beginning of September…. So I said yes!
I can tell you that this bag was a breeze to make. And a pleasant sew! The kit arrived all snugly rolled into a stylish mailing tube. Opening said tube revealed all the materials and fixtures to make the whole bag: cut pieces of notched waxed cotton, the contrast fabric from FIGO (again, notched), zippers, leather pulls and straps, a whole bunch of rivets, and even thread….! The leather had pre-driven holes, and washers (!) for the strap attachment. There was even a hole punch tool included, for the final strap assembly onto the hem! All I needed was my machine, a hammer (for the rivets), and my skills. I was impressed with the kit, truly. For bag newbies, or those nervous about all the bits and bobs needed to make a bag, the kit option took that worry away. If you are curious and interested in making a bag, I highly recommend this option for your first time. I opted to make the bag in the White Waves colorway, with both the zipper and lining expansions. I figured if this was going to be a bag I carried around it should be fully lined, and I should be able to close it securely. The kit I made was from their limited edition colorways, one of which has sold out. But if you want to make this bag, it is still available as a kit!
I worked on the bag over a span of a couple of days. Ellie says you can make the bag in 4-6 hours, and that’s probably how long I took, I just spread it out. Having the bag all cut out and ready to go meant I could dive in immediately. Some folks like the cutting out process, I’m ok with it, but it’s certainly not my favorite, so having it taken care of was a plus. I got to the sewing faster. As per the Woodland’s the sewing went smoothly. Ellie’s instructions for zipper insertion are always good, so that went in easily, both times. The pocket assembly was different from what I’ve seen, but also smooth. The only place in the whole process I paused was about the weight of the outer canvas. It was lighter than I have worked with in the past, but that makes the bag easier to carry. As I tend to fill my bags up pretty fully, they can get pretty heavy. So starting with a lighter bag was a good thing. The waxed canvas is very sturdy, just lighter than I expected. Sewing with the heavier weight waxed cottons can be tricky, this stuff sewed up like canvas. And lightweight canvas at that. The lining went in simply, and the hem covered it all nicely. As I said I made one small bobble when I sewed the hem down, had to rip some stitches, and now have a less than pretty line of holes right beneath my hem. Of course, on the front! But I’m calling it the hand of the Maker on display…. There was some popping around from main instructions to zipper expansion to lining expansion that was annoying. But I found it all clearly marked, and as long as I paid attention to each step, I could keep up. I’m not a huge fan of pdf patterns. I don’t like to be on my computer when I’m sewing, and feel ambivalent about printing out a pattern that I might only make once. That is my neurosis, I know many love working from pdf’s. I grin and bear it.
Having had the finished bag for about a week now I can say it is a very useful vessel. I have determined that it is too big for me to carry as a daily bag. But, it is perfect for carrying my dance clothes! I will also say that my laptop fits easily in it, and that is another good use for this bag. It would also be good for trips to the farmer’s Market or the grocery store. Or if you carry more stuff on a daily basis, this is the bag for you! Making your own bag is just one more way to show your commitment to Slow Fashion, to expressing your agency, flexing your sewing skills, and taking control of your consumption. If you haven’t tried it yet, I encourage you to. Bag-making is just another piece in the Making puzzle.
If you would like to make your very own Oberlin, Klum House has offered that I can extend to you the 15% discount for any Oberlin product- the cool limited edition custom kits with the contrast fabric from Amy van Lujik’s ‘Surface’ line with FIGO, the regular Oberlin Maker kits, the additional expansion kits, the leather fixtures kits, and the pattern! So many options. Just follow this link to see all the options and pick what makes you happy…. When you get to check out use the code OBERLINREFRESH to get the discount. This code is an extension of the offer they were making last week, so I don’t think it’s available to all. If you use this link they will throw some sugar my way for every product purchased. That isn’t why I did this, but it certainly beats a stick in the eye! This discount is good until September 18th, so don’t delay if you’re inclined!
ETA: If you go to purchase anything before Midnight Pacific time on 9/11/19 the discount code will be automatically applied. After that time you will need to use OBERLINREFRESH to get the 15% discount…. Sorry for any confusion!
How do you photograph a bag…? Did my best, not my usual subject matter….