Saturday, September 10, 2011

My sewing room has a floor!

Over the last few days I finally decided to knuckle down and tackle the mess that was threatening to overwhelm my sewing room. I'm not done yet, but much progress has been made.

Open floor! Space to move around! The only areas left to be tackled are the ones at the far left of this picture, where I have about 7 bins and boxes of fabric and "stuff" to be sorted out. Also, I need to go through all the bookcases and organize the books, binders and pattern boxes stored there.

Here's the view from the opposite corner:

I love the open space! I'm not tripping over anything anymore!

But here's the best improvement, and the one that took the most time:

This is a built-in bookcase original to the house. I love to organize things into plastic bins, but there wasn't a real "system" in place, and I ended up with duplicates, overstuffed bins and underutilized bins. Plus, there was no real way to corral the itty-bitty stuff like snaps, cord locks, zipper pulls and the like that would get lost in even the smaller boxes.

So I went through every single plastic box, sorting and purging as I went along, and then labeled every thing with my P-touch labeling machine (I love that thing!). I also found a nice-sized storage thing with little plastic drawers; you can see it on the far right of the top shelf. I have no idea what these things are called, but they're great for small parts!

So, I'm getting there. Once I've gone through and processed all the bins and boxes still lined up against the railing, and dealt with the bookcases, I'm sure I will feel much happier in the space, and that will translate to a whole lot of creativity!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Designing the Tron Bag

Thanks for all the incredibly nice comments on the Tron bag! I guess I kind of take it for granted that I can look at a picture and figure out how to translate it into a finished product. So, here's a glimpse into my thought processes surrounding this bag.

First, the sketch stage. All I had to go with were the two pictures in my previous post, plus the necessary dimensions for the finished bag, based on the measurements of Ian's laptop.

Looking at the pictures, I saw a flap with a pocket in it, and two main compartments, with smaller pockets on the front: one zippered, one with Velcro. And it looked like one of the main compartments was not covered by the cover flap, so that was going to present an interesting challenge.

Here's the first sketch I made of the bag:

Not terribly detailed, but enough to help me visualize the relative size of the pockets. Note that I added side pockets, which weren't on the original bag, but I knew they'd come in handy.

Then I had to start figuring out the depths of the various compartments, so I would know how big to cut the pieces. This required a second sketch:

The sketch shows a height of 11", but I changed that to 12" on the off chance Ian would switch to a larger laptop. Here you can also see how the flap is anchored between the two main zippered areas, which would allow him access to his laptop without having to open up the flap. As it turns out, this was not a feature of the original bag, but he loves it.

Now I was ready to cut fabric. I'm sure I wasted quite a bit, simply because I was making it all up as I went along, but the black denim had been in my stash for at least eight years so I figured its time had come. I did line some of the pieces with black drapery lining (still have a roll of that hanging around from my drapery workroom days!).

Based on this sketch, I knew that I had to cut four pieces for the largest components of the bag; since the finished dimensions were 17" x 12", the pieces were cut at 18" x 13", with a 1/2" seam allowance. The zippered front pocket was cut 18" x 9", and the pocket with Velcro was cut at 14" x 6. The pockets all had sides; this made doing the zippers much easier. So the main compartment, with a finished depth of 3", had sides cut to 4".

The laptop pocket got a layer of quilt batting between the main fabric and the lining, to cushion the laptop. In retrospect I should have added a layer of Decor Bond, but it's too late for that now.

I didn't take any pictures during the assembly process, and I won't try to describe how I put the bag together. The one part that almost flummoxed me was how to sew the two main compartments together while enclosing the end of the flap. I had already sewed the two compartments as separate pieces, and there was no way I was going to be able to machine-stitch the two together and have it look half decent. In the end, I machine-stitched the flap onto one main compartment, then pinned the two pieces together and hand-stitched the two together at the edges.

When I look at a project like this, I tend to break it down into measurements and relationships between the parts. I also think about the construction sequence: the pocket with Velcro had to be sewn onto the front of the zippered pocket before the zippered pocket was attached to the front of the main compartment... things like that. And I did have to adjust and re-cut a few pieces as I went along because they didn't quite go together right. But that's part of the fun and the adventure of trying to tease the details out of an experimental project. Still, any project can be broken down into the simplest of steps, and one just has to take the steps one at a time.

So I challenge you: find a picture of something you would like to make, and see if you can figure out how to make it. And let me know how it goes!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Tron Bag: A Journey

This project has a LONG history behind it. Let's go back about two years, to the Sewing Expo at Puyallup in 2010. That's where I spotted something called "Dazzle Wire" at Tammy O'Connell's Peacock Patterns booth. I bought a 5-foot piece, not knowing what I was going to do with it, but knowing that it had to be a part of something pretty cool.
So it came home, and sat in my workroom, waiting for a project.

And waited.

Finally, I showed it to my son, and he said, "Wow, that would be great on the front of a messenger bag." His favorite messenger bag (a "Bag of Holding" from ThinkGeek) wasn't holding up as well as he would like, and wasn't quite the right size for his needs, so he asked me to make him a new bag, but using the Dazzle Wire to give it a "Tron" feel.

What could I say? I seldom get the chance to sew anything for my son. All I had to go on was two pictures:

From these two pictures, I could figure out approximately how the bag had to come together. One of the requirements for Ian was that his laptop had to fit into the bag. So, with his measurements in hand, I knew the bag had to measure 17" wide by 12" high.

Time for some deep thought.

It looked like the bag had two main compartments, one of which was intended to hold a laptop. It also looked like the laptop compartment was not covered by the front flap. Hmm. There was a zippered compartment in the flap, as well as two smaller compartments attached to the front of the bag. And, although the original bag didn't have them, I figured side pockets would be a good thing.

So I got to work.

The first element was how to do the Dazzle Wire. I thought about couching it, using thick thread covering to fill in the gaps, but finally realized that the only logical way to approach it was to thread it in and out of the front via eyelets. So, I mapped out an abstract path for the wire, and made eyelets for each "in" and "out" point. Once they were all sewn, I threaded the wire through the eyelets and glued the exposed portions to the fabric. I also made openings in the flap so the end of the wire could hook up to the power supply, nestled in its own little pocket in the bag.

I wish I could say I knew what I was doing, but really I was just winging it the whole way through. I cut and sewed pockets and flaps that looked right, and put everything together so it matched what I thought it should look like. And, lo and behold, it all worked out in the end, because Ian absolutely loves his new bag.

So, here are some pictures.

Ian admiring his new Tron-inspired messenger bag.

With the flap open, the inner compartments are revealed.

There's a zippered pocket in the front.

Also, a Velcro-fastened pocket.

You can also see the short pieces with the snaps on them; these allow the top flap to be closed in two different positions, depending upon how full the bag is.

A nice, big main compartment. You can see the wire on the left, coming out of the flap.

This little pocket holds the battery pack that powers the Dazzle Wire.

And a second large compartment, not covered by the flap, is a padded laptop pocket.

There are also two side pockets with Velcro-closure flaps; perfect for a cell phone.

The Dazzle Wire lights up when the battery pack is turned on; here's a picture of what the effect is like in a darkened room.

Ian is absolutely thrilled with his bag; he's already trying to figure out whether he should use it as his carry-on luggage when he goes back to Arizona on Sunday. How does one explain to a TSA agent that one's carry-on bag has wires and a battery pack? I think I'll encourage him to simply put it in his suitcase instead.