Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Zip A Bag Chapter 22: Zippered Lunch Bag

If I thought the Better Marker Pouch tutorial was a post long delayed, this one was an even longer time coming.
Fabric: Jessica Jones' Time Warp barkcloth in Navy Loop, by Cloud9 Fabrics

Let's talk about that now-somewhat-notorious aforementioned Better Marker Pouch for a while, shall we? It seemed a shame, I'd always thought, that such a clever compressible pouch be only one-sided. Imagine the storage capacity if the zipper could extend all the way down the folded spine - 

we'd be able to store our entire collection of art supplies in it! Okay, maybe not truly "entire", especially if we're talking about my children. But it could be, in effect, a portable art station.

Which, incidentally, is the theme of my children's lives. They take their art materials everywhere. They feel insecure if they leave the house without a pouch of markers or color pencils, and they often concoct complex plans with each other so that so-and-so brings the brush markers, and so-and-so brings the chisel-tips, and so-and-so brings the color pencils, sharpener, blender pens and other miscellaneous bits. "And then we'll share!" They scheme in glee, rubbing their little hands together.

People like them, I think, simply need a more all-encompassing receptacle for their art supplies.

Now, this particular design began as a lunch bag. 

Almost all my designs begin with some custom-use thing I covet but can't find to buy - bags, toys for the kids, clothes that actually fit. This was just another.

I wanted a lunch bag that could hold my traveling tea mug, which I go everywhere with. Whenever I have lunch at school with my kids, though, I can't fit my tea mug in a typical lunch bag, and have to carry it separately, which annoys me. Or, if it does fit in a lunch bag, it's lying down and squashing my sandwich. I needed a lunch bag that let my tea mug stand up, the way God intended for tea mugs to behave.


Then, Emily came by and said that if we installed dividers (which aren't really necessary in a lunch bag, for obvious reasons), this lunch bag could be an art supplies pouch of the n-th degree -

or - if those dividers were temporary - 

still a lunch bag

but with side pockets.

And, she continued like a steamroller downslope on neutral gear, if we introduced even more options, such as removable compartments, 

we could create a traveling art station, 

or - I contributed - sewing-kit-to-go, 

or camera bag,

(although - full disclosure - in order to completely zip everything up, I had to take out the spare lens, leaving the big DSLR with its kit lens, the little videocamera, spare batteries and cables)."

My initial tutorial photos, which were for just the plain lunch bag, became sorely insufficient to capture all these new variations.

For instance, the straps, which could be single 

or double,

with or without hardware,

attached or detachable.

And the top flaps, which could be magnet-ed - visibly,

or invisibly -

 to stay folded down 

for even easier access to the contents.

And so I turned it into a pattern.
Which is coming soon!

In the meantime, I want to share two things of relevance to this Zip A Bag series, though.

One is the zipper (of course). 

Like the Better Marker Pouch, it hides a bottom and walls which, when the zipper is closed, fold like a pleated gusset 

and when unzipped, expands the bag to its full volume to hold all kinds of things. 

Because this pleated gusset needs to completely flatten out, the zipper tape must separate on both ends. 

The logic is simple, and dictates the design. End of story.

The other is how a simple concept evolves into a pattern. 

See, people make patterns of all kinds of projects - from the very simple and "Really, You Don't Need A Pattern For This" to the very complicated and almost require an actual sewing course of several sessions to tackle. I don't make Beginner Patterns, for the simple reason that true Beginners should not need patterns. 

Not DO not; should not. 

True beginners are learning the basics - straight seams, curved seams, good layout, good measurement-taking, the different kinds of stitches, things like that. They should be able to find free tutorials for projects involving those wonderful, fundamental skills on the internet, or in simple sewing books. Patterns to make truly entry-level projects do not add much value to one's sewing repertoire; they simply provide practice for the same skill set, over and over and over again. More importantly, true Beginners are probably going to be unable - or at least find it very challenging - to handle a sewing pattern without a fair bit of hand-holding by an actual human mentor.

Sewing patterns, I've always believed (and this is my own opinion, so go ahead and ignore me if you disagree), should add something hitherto unknown to a person's experience - a new technique, a unique construction, the use of an unfamiliar material or type of fabric, a bump-up from their current level of sewing know-how.

And so, by that philosophy, my patterns are all intermediate-level things, or at least meant for people who are familiar with sewing, and who would like to try something with a bit of a twist. This means that some of you might find my patterns Difficult, while some of you might find those same patterns Easy But I Bought It Anyway Because I Wanted The Templates Instead Of Drafting Them Myself.

And, in order to justify their Intermediateness and Interestingness, I try to make my patterns versatile, so you can use them in different ways - add different kinds of straps, for instance, or omit certain things to create a new look. Or as a starting point to customize the project for your own particular needs.

This sewing pattern combines a new design - this lunch bag - 

with an old design - the zippered-bottom fold-flat boxes,

which are removable organizers that fit into this bag,

in two different heights, 

for stacking,

and which themselves compress with their contents

or unzip

to fold up for storage within the bag.

The whole system, in fact, folds pretty much flat when not in use.

Look - all lined up like books on a bookshelf!

I hope you like it enough to want to make some portable art stations - or lunch bags/sewing totes/camera kits/thing to carry your pet squid - with me, 

because I can't wait to share the pattern with you!