A new custom bag
A lovely woman with the initials LC requested that I consider making a custom bag for her last Christmas. As we began to talk about what her needs were for a bag and what she liked and what she didn’t like, I became intimidated. For two reasons.
1— She is incredibly hard on bags. In the 7 months between when she asked for a bag and when I delivered one to her, I think she went through 3 bags. Thankfully none of them were terribly expensive, but when you pride yourself on your construction, finding out that someone harder than bags than you wants you to make one that will last a long time is a bit scary.
2— She’s a stylish woman with a very preppy meets punk meets modern fashion sensibility. Yes, I know it is hard to get all 3 of those to merge together into one cohesive style, but somehow she does it easily. It took quite a while to figure out how to merge them into one style.
I think this bag is a bit more preppy meets modern and not quite as much punk rock as I had hoped, but I think this bag looks great, contains a multiple of functions, and is sturdy and reliable. For at least an average user. I’ll see how it holds up to someone who is, what software specialists might call, and “advanced” user.
I have provided this bag to her. She will use it for a few more weeks. Then I will get to see the bag again and once I’ve seen how it looks after a month in use, I’ll hopefully figure out where the construction flaws are and be able to make a new bag with any issues fixed and provide that one for sale on my website. Stay tuned. If you’re interested, leave a comment and I’ll let you know when it is ready for sale.
Oh, and I need a name for the bag. Any suggestions are welcome. I’m stumped with this one.
Finding the Perfect Laptop Bag
I’m a huge fan of the CreativePro.com website and have been very grateful for the information I’ve learned over the years from reading the site. So I was thrilled when the opportunity to write an article for this community arose. The article I wrote is about choosing the laptop bag that works best for you and is titled: Finding The Perfect Laptop Bag.
I received some great feedback and a few additional questions so I thought I’d answer them now.
Why is it so hard to find a good and stylish laptop bag for a larger laptop?
In order to make a profit on a design, bag manufacturers will have to know that they can sell a minimum number of bags. The design to prototype to production process is expensive and they’re not going to go through that process unless there is a large enough market to sell their bags. Since the larger laptops tend to come in a variety of sizes, it is hard to create a general laptop bag. This is why it is often easier to get “stylish” bags listed specifically for Macs than for a PC. The range of sizes for Macs are few, and if you can fit a Mac then you can fit a wide range of PC laptops in the same bag. And if Apple comes out with a new laptop that is slightly smaller or thinner then many laptop manufacturers change only their packaging that tells you which laptops it will fit. This is why I suggest a test drive of the bag.
The fabric on my laptops wears out quickly. What kind of fabric will be better?
Owning a bag made from leather, heavy-duty canvas with a wax or other coating, or many vinyl-like fabrics will last longer than a general purpose cotton canvas. However, if your bag fabric is wearing out first, the problem may not be the fabric, but how you wear the bag. The best way to wear a bag is so it is tight to your body. I see many people wearing the bag low enough to hit their hip or even their upper thigh. As they walk the bag swings and rubs and the fabric will wear through. To cause the least amount of stress on your shoulders, your back, and the bag itself, I would highly suggest wearing the bag higher and tighter to your body. The idea is to keep it from moving as much as possible. And wearing it higher will also make the bag seem lighter due the difference in how the weight is distributed.
What is the best bag brand to get?
Mine, of course. I’m biased, honestly. And my bags don’t suit everyone. And I can’t make a bag for everyone who carries them. So I suggest trying on a number of bags until you find one that feels right.
I want a messenger bag with a flap and another zipper or other closure to keep things more secure.
That is an understandable concern. And there are bags with these options, but they are in the minority for a couple of reasons. They’re more expensive to make and fewer people seem to want them. The convenience of a messenger bag is being able to get things into and out of it quickly. Adding another zipper makes that harder. If your concern is water-tightness, you can look for a bag that folds over at the top to prevent water from getting into the bag. If security is your concern, then a zipper is really your best bet and either getting a custom-made bag or looking for “messenger bag zipper top” on Google may be helpful.
2012 Nonprofit Selection: Women in Media & News
One of the 7 nonprofit organizations that I’ll be donating a portion of the sales of each bag to is Women In Media & News: WIMN.
This organization was founded by Jenn Pozner, who I’m fortunate to call a friend (for full disclosure-sake). And it has 2 main focuses that I support whole-heartedly.
First, it serves as a resource to connect journalists and other media outlets with women who are experts in their given field. If you are writing an article about Engineering Curricula you could contact WIMN and ask for women sources to contact for your piece.
Second, it critiques coverage of women by the media, while providing training opportunities and educational (and hilarious) seminars to encourage people to engage in their own critique of media coverage.
Jenn also wrote Reality Bites Back a book that focuses on how reality television portrays gender, race, class and more. I joke that Jenn watches The Bachelor so I don’t have to, but it’s true. I have a few reality shows that I like (Project Runway and Project Accessory), which I like because it focuses on the quality of what is created instead of the weight of the people creating it. However, even I had to admit that there have been many instances of some pretty intolerant comments, the challenges are focused on selling things, and my gawd y’all the product placements are getting cray-zay!
In general, I feel like Jenn, and the other people she has writing for the website and who help with the overall message of the organization, holds media accountable. It also provides a place where people who are interested in understanding the dynamics and the behind-the-scenes decisions of journalists and media outlets can turn.
And did I mention she’s funny? Cause feminism isn’t about sapping the enjoyment out of life, but making it a better place for more enjoyment to happen. And WIMN is helping to do that.
The Well-Appointed Pouch
Photo taken by Ana of The Well-Appointed Desk
I’m very, very grateful to the The Letter Writers Alliance for teaming up with me last year to create a series of bags to truly fit their members’ needs. And I’m also grateful to Ana of The Well-Appointed Desk for taking a photograph and writing a description of everything she manages to jam in her pouch. I’m pretty great at fitting 10 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound bag, but I’m impressed by all this. Thanks, Ana!
2012 Nonprofit Selection: Chicago's Read/Write Library
Most libraries have a librarian or series of librarians who determine what is of high-enough quality to be represented in the library. And there is value in that curation. There is value in librarians. I love them and their skills and the work they do.
But there is something to be said for a place that collects every printed material of an area. They don’t just collect them and record who wrote it, but they record who created illustrations, who designed the cover, who edits it, who typesets it and more. The more is the crux of this place and why it resonates with me so strongly. They’re not just a room with a gorgeous turquoise wall and a lot of shelves. They’re a repository for culture and an attempt at mapping influence, gauging the direction a community is heading, and seeing where it started. It is the focus on community that hits my heart.
Chicagoans generally have a lot of pride in their city, in what they create, in who they know, what they did, where they did it, how they did it, and how the city played a role in that creation. And I feel that the Read/Write Library gets that this Chicago pride can be measured, quantified, mapped. It’s overwhelming and intimidating and scary as hell, but it can be done. And Executive Director Nell Taylor isn’t afraid of the task, even though it seems insurmountably huge. I’m grateful to have crossed paths with her at a number of events and places and I find her to be cheerily brilliant and so very approachable and enlightening. I just can’t help but feel a little bit inspired and encouraged after talking to her and thinking about this huge project she is leading. And for that, I’d love the opportunity to write her a few checks to cover Sharpies, and tape, and the electric bill so she can be this force for others for a long time to come.
This Year's Non-Profit Selection
Creating a business has always had a non-profit fund-raising element as part of it for me. If it weren’t for wanting to donate more money to organizations I supported and believed in, I never would have started making bags. Over the 8 years I’ve run Poise.cc as a legal business, I’ve devised a variety of ways to raise money.
I’ve linked specific bags with a non-profit so that every time I sold a bag money was donated to a specific organization.
I’ve donated hundreds of bags over the last 8 years to various non-profit organizations to use as raffle or silent-auction items.
I’ve picked a different non-profit each month and donated a percentage of total sales to that organization.
I’ve done special sales where every bag sold during a given time raised money for a specific organization.
I’m still going to be making and donating bags for non-profit organizations to use as raffle or silent auction or even donor promos. If you run a non-profit and need an item, just send me an email. I’ve yet to be asked by an organization for a donation that I won’t support.
However, I decided that I would pick six of the various organizations I wanted to support this year and would set aside a portion of the purchase price from each bag and then on a quarterly basis I would figure out my donations, divide by six, and send a check off to each organization. (If I have a quarter where donations are less than $25 per org, I will wait till the next quarter to send a check. It often costs organizations more to process small donations than they get back.)
And I do mean each bag I sell. Every bag I sell online, at a craft show, via a consignment, a custom order, or even wholesale. Each bag results in a donation to an organization I feel strongly about.
So, because I’m an over-achiever, I actually have seven organizations I want to support this year. Another one came to mind as I was creating the list and I just couldn’t take it off.
I will be writing more about each organization over the course of this month and explaining why I like each of these groups and why I think they deserve my money.
Proof of Carry
I began making custom bags for the Letter Writers Alliance earlier this year. The bags have been far more successful than I imagined, and probably more successful than Kathy and Donovan expected. I’ve made three bags for the group of 2000+ members to purchase and am delighted to be talking about how to revise, adjust, tweak for future makings.
But I was even more delighted recently when Donovan posted sketches of the bags I’ve made and included a list of everything she carries in each one. To see a bag I’ve made in use is a great thrill, but to get such an intimate peek at every item that goes into it is a delight.
There were three bags I have made for them. The first bag I created was a large messenger bag that is able to carry quite a lot. The bag as Kathy photographed it is:
The contents of what Donovan carries are here.
Which Donovan is able to fit quite a bit more into.
That can safely and securely carry quite a bit as well.
Collaborating with these women has been great in so many ways. They’ve been inspiring, encouraging, patient, and kind. I can’t thank them enough for the chance to work with them and get to meet some of their members. And while I love getting a friendly and flattering thank-you email, getting a friendly and flattering thank you letter is a true to delight to hold.
Every New Bag Starts the Same Way
Every time I get an idea for a new bag, it starts this way. I get an idea, I make a quick sketch at the top of a piece of paper. I mull it over and think about how it will have to be created and I ponder the pieces required and the order I’ll assemble them.
Once I feel like I have a pretty good mental picture of how the construction will happen, I decide how large I want the overall bag to be. Then I sit down for a few hours and determine how many pieces I’ll need and how large they’ll need to be. I need piece dimensions for the exterior fabric items, the lining fabric items, and interfacing. I need to figure out any hardware I need (snaps, loops for attaching the strap, zippers, etc.) and I spell that out.
Then I cut out all the items I need for 1 bag and I assemble it to get an idea of how much time and how much frustration it will actually take. If I have a bag that takes a lot of time but has very little frustration I’ll make it. If I have a bag with a lot of frustration but only takes a short amount of time I’ll make it.
For this smallish but utilitarian bag, I was amazed at how many pieces go into making it. Which means that the construction for this bag that is about 10” x 5” x 2” takes just as long to make as a large messenger bag. There was one fiddly bit that caused a lot of frustration. A LOT of frustration. But after reconsidering the construction elements, I realized I could get the back with less hassle by changing my method which means that this bag is bad on the “maybe” list. I’ll make another before DIY and see it can be a potential seller and then I’ll set about making more.
I’m tired of making totes. I still like making messenger bags, but I want something smaller. I think this may be a winner. I’ll find out soon.
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