A Cloth Merchant

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Birthday Bag

Debbie Christensen

Here he is, The Birthday Boy, wearing his Birthday Bag!

This is the inspiration bag, the Sandqvist Erik:

I looked to this bag originally just for size and  proportions. I imagine what Josh likes about it is its simplicity, so while I tried to come up with different designs, ultimately I figured we would both be most satisfied with a bag similar to this one. Using designs that someone else came up with does make me feel a little guilty of plagiarism. Although I just did it with my last bag… However, much like in writing, I’m citing my references, and I would call this bag I made more of a paraphrase than a direct quote.

When you have the skills and time to make something, I think it’s so much more rewarding and meaningful to make it rather than buy it. Also this bag is, like, $200. It cost me less than half that to make it.

I mean, they don’t look that much alike.

This bag took a reeeeeally long time to make. I think a lot of that came from research, lots of planning, waiting for supplies, and general dawdling. This was my first time working with leather, so I was a little hesitant to start. Once I got my revolving punch, though, I went to town on that leather. So fun.

The exterior fabric is our navy canvas, and the lining is mostly Liberty of LondonTana Lawn in Lagos Laurel C. I thought a busy paisley print would be a little overwhelming if used for the entire interior, so I broke it up with a solid Cloud9organic cotton in Midnight. The hardware I bought from Pacific Trimming, and later from Tandy Leather.

I was really surprised that he chose this for a lining, not that I’m complaining.

The leather came from a shop on Ebay that sells really reasonably priced leather, but no one can remember the name of it, only that it’s based in either Utah or Iowa. In searching Ebay for leather to make myself moccasins, I foundthis shop, but they don’t have leather with this finish. Someone recommended a leather shop called Together Leather in Northfield. I haven’t been, and they don’t have a website, so I have no idea what their stock or prices are like. I have also not been to Tandy Leather, near Old Brooklyn, but I did order my tools from them.

Speaking of tools, here’s all the stuff I used:

Lots of cutting devices, rulers, mark-makers, a seam ripper. The binder clip was so useful for holding leather together, since you can’t pin it. The rubber cement pretty much served the same purpose. Next to Kate’s grandfather’s hammer are a mess of rivets, which I bought from Tandy after I smashed up most of the ones from Pacific Trimming. Near the rivets are the rivet-setting post and anvil from Tandy, which made inserting rivets so much easier and neater. Below the rivets is a really cool spikey tool, a revolving punch. The head turns to punch different sized holes, which worked great in leather but did almost nothing in canvas. I had a lot of fun with that one. Next to that is a black stick with a razor blade in it, called a skiver or beveler. It’s used to bevel the edge of pieces of leather so they can be joined neatly, and to finish edges sometimes I think. The wooden thing next to that is a slicker, used to smooth down leather edges. I really like tools, I had so much fun with these. We don’t sell leather, so we also don’t sell leather needles (they’re expensive!). But they sewed through leather so cleanly. I got those from Pacific Trimming.

This book was helpful, especially in the tool section. It gave great descriptions of tools, which ones you needed and which ones you you didn’t, and what you could use instead. Did I tell you I love tools? Also, I love the illustrations. I got this out of the library at Kent.

I love figuring out how things go together, but I am definitely not an instructions-reader. I think my brain really gets a kick out of projects like these, where it can just do its own thing. So, I worked out measurements, materials, and how to put things together, and got to it.

I’m so proud of this bag, I think it looks incredibly  well-made. I wish I had more process photos, though, because this bag was such a process. Probably the hardest part was stitching the bottom corners. So much stitching, swearing, unpicking, stitching again, snipping. Instead of corners, I should have rounded the bottom a little. I don’t have photos of the half dozen rivets I bent up and smashed by trying to put them in with just a hammer, or the fabric I had to patch because the rivets tore huge holes when I tried to pry them out.

I didn’t place the flap buckles correctly, which you can see in this photo. The top is 1/2″ off from the bottom, so they’re pulled outwards. I could move them and patch up the rivet holes, but I think that would be too visible. I don’t think it’s too obvious, but it makes me feel like a goofball for not checking the measurements. That was the very last step I did! I also forgot the strap buckle had two prongs instead of one, and I punched a hole in the wrong spot for the buckle strap. But you can’t see it unless you take the top strap out.

I think that’s all the bag-making I’ll be doing for a while. On to shoes!

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  • Kate on

    I love reading these accounts of Deb’s projects! I don’t sew but find these interesting… Almost like a short story! Maybe one day I’ll attempt one of these projects.

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