Sewing Duffel Bags, Harvesting Hardware, and Claire V. Samsonite

I have a little problem with blogging ADHD. If you’re a loyal reader, you must be very patient with the way I skip around from one project to the next and leave half of them unfinished. I apologize for the inconsistency – maybe this year I should work on my follow-through. Here’s a couple things I owe you a post on:

  • The results of my Kaffe Fasset dress! (cute but with some serious fitting issues despite muslining – I see seam ripping in my future)
  • What became of Josh’s shirt! (It’s finished! He wears it! I’m gonna make another one! Eventually…)
  • Photos of the finished wedding dress! (Are we even interested in this anymore? I only just got a hold of the official photos)

Now that I got that off my chest, I’m going to blog about something new! Whoops. Actually, it’s new-old. I have to give you a belated Christmas sewing report because I want to tell you about my adventures sewing duffel bags. So if you’re so over Christmas…

…and you’re not interested in sewing bags, perhaps you wanna sit this one out.

I managed to sneak in sewing time and even made some last-minute Christmas gifts. I’m quite proud of this for two reasons. First, I was totally scrambling to get everything together for Christmas this year. There’s never enough time, but somehow there was time to make a few gifts. And second, I somehow managed to resist fabric shopping for myself whilst out buying fabric to make others’ gifts, even though everything was on super Christmas sale and even though I found many fabrics that would make a fantastic holiday dresses. [I guess you know from my silver dress that I did cave, eventually. But not til after Christmas!]

So what did I make? An apron for my sister – more plain, practical, and durable than the last one. (Katie! Send pics!) Second, a duffel bag for my brother-in-law:

With the release of two beautiful bag patterns this season – Cooper from Colette Patterns and the Portside Travel Set from Grainline Studios – I suddenly had the itch to sew luggage, if not the spare cash to buy patterns.

Colette Patterns Cooper bag

Grainline Studioes Portside Travel Set

So, using the power of geometry and some trial and error, I drafted my own pattern for a duffel bag.

[I finally had to look it up – duffel can be spelled “duffel” or “duffle” and the word comes from a town near Antwerp. Or at least so says]

I used leftover wool from my Minoru coat, duck cloth from Joann’s, and hardware that I scrounged from a Goodwill bag. Pro tip – it is much cheaper to buy a piece of luggage at the second-hand store and harvest it for the hardware than to buy all those pieces new. Plus, you find interesting looking options that Joann’s doesn’t stock. I particularly like the antique-y looking brass of this set I found.

The bag has a zippered pocket on one end and pockets on the sides.

The shoulder pad thingy was also scrounged from the Goodwill bag. I also lined the duffel with rip stop nylon (also from Joann’s). The bottom of the lining is made out of the duck cloth though, for extra durability.

There’s also an interior pocket.
I think the lining makes it look very polished. I tried inserting it by machine, but that didn’t work so hot. It was very hard to work around the bulky wool of the outer fabric. I ended up ripping out all my machine stitches and sewing the lining in by hand. Also, I’m not sure there’s an easy way to insert a lining when you’re working with a lapped zipper. Anyone know?
I’m very proud of my sewing machine for powering through all those thick layers of a fabric. She was a real trooper. I was also surprised that sewing this bag wasn’t as boring as I expected. It was actually pretty enjoyable. I didn’t have to mess around with fitting. I liked the drafting process. I liked sewing a bunch of straight lines – it made me feel fast, efficient, powerful! And I like that the outcome is such a useful object. Hopefully it holds up to lots of wear and tear.

I already have more bags planned. In fact, I’m in the process of making one for my brother’s Christmas gift. Yes, it will be a late gift. A very late gift. Actually, I was aiming to make it in time for his birthday, but I’m afraid I’m going to miss that mark as well, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because I harvested the hardware from a Samsonite bag, and Samsonite bags are apparently built to never come apart, ever.

The D rings are fastened to the bag with strips of metal, and removing them was a battle waged over several days. I attacked, retreated, attacked with a new tool, retreated again, etc. I was too lazy to go buy the proper tool to hack through metal, but I am extremely stubborn, and I did win in the end.

All in all, the bag yielded up three zippers, a couple of lobster claw clasp thingies, some D rings, and a metal slide for the strap. The bag was $2.50. A single zipper can cost more than $5 at Joann’s.

But was it worth the energy to extract all that hardware? Considering the triumph I felt overcoming a laptop bag, I’ll say yes.

As for the irony of destroying one perfectly good bag in order to create another? Well, I haven’t sorted out how I feel about that yet : )


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