I had been thinking about making a new carrier for Petra (my Asus laptop) over the last couple months. My current bag is a Speck bag from my dad, which just barely fits my laptop, her charger, a mouse, and a few papers. I do really like the Speck, but if I wanted to bring anything else (such as lunch, a lot of papers, a book, a knitting project), I would have to bring another bag along. Which is what I had been doing, but I have to admit wrangling two bags and an umbrella was getting old. I still have affection for my “Carry ALL THE THINGS” REI-esque backpack, but I thought it was overkill for my postdoc position since I’m not hustling between classes anymore. Also, I tend to stuff things in there and forget about them. (At least it was granola bars and not fruit.)
Fast forward to a month ago when Colette Patterns announced a new pattern: Cooper, a pattern that could be adapted for a messenger bag, backpack, and satchel. I liked Cooper’s clean design that looked effortlessly customizable and that did not seem too bulky. And hey, they were having a sewalong contest, which was devilishly convenient. I spent a bit of time crudely mocking up ideas in Photoshop.
…and I could incorporate a doodled fox motif that I’d been wanting to reuse… I drew it a faux-mon style (Japanese crest and terrible pun) for a Goth Loli outfit. I realize that I’m going to pigeonhole myself for the following photo. Don’t laugh. Too hard.
Ahem, anyway, I chose the grey/crimson version because it was versatile, more cheerful than black, I tend to wear a lot of red/grey, and my winter boots are the same shade of matte grey and red. I wanted this pack to last a long time, so I picked up grey suede and all the hardware at the MacPherson Leather Company in Seattle’s international district (with help from Art for both dim sum and deciding on leather/fabric), except for the slide bars, which I picked up at Seattle Fabrics
So….due to Thanksgiving and 3 weeks of marathon experiments due to capricious cells (why, S. cerevisiae, why?!)….I didn’t actually start sewing the actual backpack until Wednesday night, with the deadline being that Friday. Thank glob Sarai extended it until Sunday. I did cut out all the pieces and made a muslin for this pattern in the previous weeks because I had specifics things I wanted:
1.) Fit laptop and keep secure (Drafted a box pocket with bonus side pockets for laptop cord.)
2.) Would be nice to have shoulder straps that fit me. And a place for a sternum strap that doesn’t smoosh the boobs.
3.) Uh, where is the fox pattern going to go? And what size? (7 inch diameter, middle front.)
And everything would have been fine if I hadn’t chosen a thick suede. I thought I could just marathon sew it with the Lord of the Rings extended edition trilogy in the background. The lining construction took most of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” and I was feeling good because there were some tricky seams in the lining that weren’t going to be in the outer body.
And then I started sewing the suede, having to break out Art’s grandmother’s sewing machine to do so. Ah, a legendary Singer Zig Zag, rumored to sew through 7 layers of heavy jean canvas! …Except that means hand cranking. (Math, I hope I didn’t get tendonitis from the dozen hour of hand turning the wheel.) And I had never used this machine before. Let me tell you, it’ll raise your blood pressure to troubleshoot a new sewing machine and sewing leather when on a timeline.
There’s actually quite a bit of reinforcement under the surface. I read somewhere that leather stretches, so I underlined each suede piece with upholstery fabric. I also underlined the …lining… side with the laptop pocket since I think that will experience some considerable duress. The front D-rings were a concern for me and I fretted over how to reinforce the front strap to deal with this stress point. My solution was to make an additional D-ring fabric loop that would go underneath the main body strap, allowing force exerted on the D-ring to be focused on the under loop. Additionally, the main body straps themselves are fabric tubes since I was anticipating more exposure. Then I reinforced this stress point with a rivet. (The rivets I bought were too big to use two, so I used just one rivet per strap.)
Speaking of which, I had some difficulty punching holes for rivets in the multiple layers of suede/fabric. After experimentation, here is what I came up with:
1.) Hammer a nail into the site where you want a rivet. Does not have to go through all layers. Uh, remove nail.
2.) Use awl to enlarge the rivet site. I found that it was still hard to punch through all the layers, so I positioned the awl and fabric/leather over the hole in my grommet setter. Having a hole in a flat surface helps keep the layers from shifting. Using a rubber mallet, hammer the awl through all layers until the hole is big enough..
So…anyway, apologies for the teal deer. User error and swearing aside, I am quite pleased with my new backpack. =)
Sorry, lots of griping about sewing the suede, but not for the actual pattern!
Final list of movies run during this project: Lord of the Rings Trilogy (extended Edition. watched Fellowship 2X through, had to take a break for the Battle of Pelennor Fields, especially since my favorite scene in the trilogy is Eowyn versus the Witch-King of Angmar), Singing in the Rain, Pride & Prejudice (Jennifer Ehle & Colin Firth), Beauty and the Beast, Up, and finished withed Lawrence of Arabia, in memory of Peter O’Toole who passed away today. (He is one of my favorite actors.)