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!

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