A Scrappy Travel Bag

I tend to focus mostly on clothing on this blog and all other outlets where I share my creations. However, there's a special place in my heart for handmade bags.

Something about the puzzle involved in designing and creating a bag is very appealing to me, in very different ways than clothing sewing. With clothes, I have a very specific color palette. I have to find just the right fabric. I have to pre-wash it and it has to fit.

With bags, like quilting, it's a whole different experience. I can use crazy colors and prints I would normally avoid when making clothes. Small 1/2 and 1 yard piece suddenly have value. Plus there's a certain degree of engineering, creating functional objects, that I find extremely satisfying.

One of my favorite things to do is make bags for myself that reflect my personal style and have the functionality I need, something I'd had a hard time finding in pre-made bags. I suppose this is the same thing that motivates me to sew my own clothes.

What's different about bags is that I feel like a fair amount of experimentation can be done that still results in something usable. Also, you can use all sorts of notions and bits and bobs that rarely get used in regular sewing.

In preparation for some travel, I decided to make a toiletries bag. I've been using a very simple zippered pouch for years, and while cute, it offers minimum functionality.

I used to have a very boring nylon travel kit that unzipped completely to become a hanging toiletry caddy. I've been pondering a me made version for at least a couple of months and when some free time freed up in my schedule (perfectly aligned with some good sewing weather) I decided to give it a shot. Overall I'm super pleased with how it came out. I used some hand dyed fabric from an estate sale along with scraps from my stash. I decided to do a little psuedo-improv for the front and just mix cool colors and textures for the rest. (I've been really inspired by @partshadefullsun 's using scrapy patchwork with handstitching for utilitarian objects) It's a little wild, but I like it. The best part? When you unzip it, you can hang it up in the bathroom to keep all your stuff organized!

While there's some things I'd definitely change the next time around. I definitely should have sized my bag and pockets based on the actual things I'd keep in them, woodshop wall style. I also will use a laminated fabric - or pick up some laminating material - and mesh for the inside & pockets. These are actually both things I had planned on doing, but decided to forgo in favor of timeliness, experimentation, and simply using things I already had on hand. 

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I used a whole cornucopia for interfacing on this bad boy! The outer shell uses thin fusible batting, the inside shell uses a medium-stiff craft interfacing, and the pockets and handle use a lightweight interfacing. Looking at the finished object, I love quality of the part that's interfaced with the thin batting. It has a sort of quilty quality and makes it feel more substantial without feeling stiff and crispy, which often happens with fusible interfacing.

I think for the next version I'll double over (to self line) the pockets, rather than finishing them with ribbon. But I'll use this opportunity to plug one of my favorite sewing underdogs: Poly grosgrain. I'm not a fan of poly ribbon and rarely use ribbons in general, but synthetic grosgrain is actually a great way to bind the edges of heavy fabric like canvas or cordura nylon. I've used it on aprons and even dog toys. It makes a clean, durable finish. And I bet you thought that stuff wasn't good for anything.

I had to make a few adjustments to the bag after sewing (I undid some of the pocket stitching since - as i mentioned before - the pockets weren't quite the right size). Overall though, I give the final object an A for style and a B+ for functionality.

Is this the kind of thing you'd like the see a pattern for? I've toyed around with the idea of offering more bag patterns, so let me know what you think!