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!


  1. I can't wait for you to release this pattern. Enough with your procrastinating! Forget dinner! The kids are old enough to pick themselves up! Crack! goes the whip!

  2. That looks totally awesome! So many possibilities! Can't wait to get my hands on that one!

  3. I have an unjustifiable amount of art supplies for a non-artist adult, that currently sit in a small bucket that drives me insane. This might be the perfect solutiong!

  4. Oh my gosh, I was getting increasingly excited as I read down the page, and I was hoping that you were going to make a pattern for sale, and you are! I'm so happy! (except for the fact that I can't buy it this very instant) Yayyyyyy!!!

  5. I am so in love with this bag system. It's perfect for carrying supplies for adult coloring books, small on the go knitting projects...and I've been looking for a fun camera bag to make too. I can't wait until the pattern comes out :)

  6. I can't wait to buy this pattern!

  7. Wow! You've outdone yourself! Love the versatility of this. I think I might buy the pattern to support your wonderful and clever work.

    As a seamstress who has learned how to sew from first drafting and sewing an apron, via sewing a doll's dress from a pattern, to sewing dresses off patterns, I agree with the "learning new technique" approach. First dress I made (hanging in the closet full of errors and weird fit, but I've used it om several occasions) was fully lined with princess seams, interfacing, invisible zipper, sweetheart neckline, and a gathered skirt. My skills grew rapidly, and I allways recommend that approach to others when choosing patterns, the approach being "make something you'd use".

  8. Ok, you've done it. At the start of the bags tutorials I was a I little unfazed (I know, I'm sorry! - I'm more of a Menagerie kinda gal) but this one has done it.

    I am lusting.

  9. Ok, so now I'll sit here and (not so) patiently wait for the pattern! I need to make 2 portable art caddies for my kidlets, a sewing caddy for me. 2 knitting caddies for me. A crochet caddie for me. A lunch caddie for me. A lunch caddie for hubby. Another lunch caddie just because.

  10. Ooh.. one quick question though... will this be made using ripstop fabric?? ...there is a 30% off sale on them in a store near me ending tomorrow and I could stock up in advance ready for this awesomeness bag!

    1. Rie, I'm so glad you're excited about this bag! Yes, I used both ripstop nylon and thermaflec (which is the silver ironing board fabric you see as the lining in the photos). You'll probably need about 1/2 yard of each per bag at the most. I'll be better able to estimate the yardage when I do some actual measurements of the layout later. That said, you can also substitute either or both of those fabrics with cotton or home-dec. The ripstop and thermaflec tend to be sturdier while still being thin, which is why I used them, but they can be hard to find for some folks, so cotton is an alternative, too.

    2. awesome sauce thank you! ...and any leftover ripstop fabric I can make a marker pouch!

  11. Why yes, I now have visions of all the projects I will be making with this. It's a long list of projects. I envision bulk production and Christmas presents, just like with the owie dolls last year.

  12. need this! Perfect teacher gift!

  13. That is a seriously awesome bag. And you have a seriously awesome daughter.

    The bag patterns and books I have (and would recommend to others) are essentially skill lessons and I love learning a new skill or a new way to tackle construction. Some of your zipper skills are new to me and they open new possibilities.
    My favourite thing about the whole process of making is looking at something and trying to work out how it is constructed and how I can adapt it to suit me.
    I may already have the pencil out playing with this idea... even if I never make it I've still enjoyed the challenge.

  14. I seldom purchase patters anymore but this will be the exception. Can't wait!

  15. Brilliant! Can't wait to make these!

  16. Pure Genius.
    I want to make this.
    I want to use this.
    I want to share these with others.

  17. Holy Guacamole, Batman! I can't wait!!! I have 5 kids, 2 grandkids, my husband and myself that all need these! Not to mention a dozen or so coworkers and a bunch of other kids that I know! Thanks for knowing what I want in advance!

  18. This is fantastic!! Can't wait to get my hands on it. If you need a tester let me konw ;-)

  19. that is a great teaser.. I need it and is looking forward to the pattern to be available.. Possible for u to advise how much time is needed to make one bag? i am so afraid tat it will take me months. hahaha.

  20. Yes! A bag to hold the mug upright without squishing the other food! And the portable art caddy. Truly a brilliant design! I'm delighted you're releasing this as a pattern. I foresee some Christmas and birthday gifts.

  21. Yeah, I cannot wait for this pattern. Your tutorials are always so great and know your pattern will be as well.

  22. A W E S O M E !! I can't wait! ;-)

  23. Aaaaah! I need this pattern NAOW!!! It's wonderful LiEr!! I can't wait!

  24. Absolutely brilliant. I love that Emily helped with the design, too.

  25. I love to and would like to also truck my tea mug (iced tea now, my Foods classroom is hot) in my lunch upright. Looking forward to purchasing this pattern.

  26. This is the best bag pattern i have ever come across. I could use it, my 20 something daughters could as could my 10 year old. And all of us differently! Just cant wait 🤗

  27. I love this bag! Can you tell me details on the zipper you used for the outside of the bag? So excited to prepare to make it!

  28. This is exciting news! I can't wait to get this pattern and make dozens of these!

  29. As a beginner sewist I can only hope that I will one day be able to sew this fantastic invention...let alone come up with it. Just wanted to say your creativeness and technical execution is slightly mind-blowing.

  30. Nice idea! It is great to take lunch along for my children.


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