29 September 11

The Germuska Bag

So I made a new bag for a friend. My buddy Joe wanted to ditch his backpack that was literally falling apart so we talked about his needs. And I got to thinking, and I came up with this.
Germuska Bag

There are a couple of features I’m really proud of. I’ve often done a pocket under a flap. But Joe wanted so many pockets for tiny items that I did a pocket, within a pocket, under the flap:
Germuska Bag

Joe also frequently rides his bike with his laptop. Which means that he may have to ride through rain. And what’s the sense in using waterproof fabric if the construction isn’t waterproof. So I ached my head until I came up with this:
Germuska Bag
I’m sure I’m not the first person who created this, but I think it is a classy addition that solves a functional problem.

I also wanted the bag to lie flat against his back while not getting in the way of the flap or straining seams. So I attached the strap like this:
Germuska Bag

Joe wants a handle on top to make it easier to carry, so this bag isn’t finished. But I’m happy enough to share how it is now.


06 August 11

Interfacing as big as my cutting table

Interfacing as big as my table

I’ve been looking for the perfect bag interfacing for years, like 8 years, actually. I started out buying the Pellon #30 stuff I could get at my local fabric store, then realized it was expensive enough I should start buying it wholesale. So I did that for a while and my local distributor went out of business. Shortly thereafter I went to New York City and spent some time scouting in the fashion district looking for bag hardware and interfacing and a few other things. I came across a roll of interfacing that was a little thinner than I would have preferred but had the crispness I was interested. And instead of the measly 20” bolts (like Pellon comes in), this new roll was 48” wide. I was in heaven. No more having tons of 2-4” wide strips that were hard to find a use for. However, the company I had ordered my interfacing was went out of business and there was no information on the roll to help me know who the manufacturer was. I remember when I originally purchased it I’d asked where it was made and the older gentleman writing up my order shrugged his shoulders and asked “Why?” I replied that I was trying to only source materials that I could be sure were sweatshop free. He laughed and wished me good luck and continued writing up my order.

So while I used all 250 yards of that bolt, and it took me about 2 years to do, I never felt comfortable about not knowing where it came from. So when I ran out of my thin interfacing I decided to contact the company I get my thick interfacing from. I’d heard from a different distributor of their products that they’d stopped making lightweight, but I figured it was worth a shot.

I was thrilled to find out that not only did they sell it, but they sent me a very large sample. I got to cutting it out and fell in love with it. It’s 60” wide, so it is kinda bulky to work with. But it was the perfect texture, drape, thickness, etc.

And purchasing this roll reminded me why it is so important to purchase wholesale materials. This entire 60-inch wide, 250-yard roll cost me $267, including shipping. I paid less than $1.07 per yard for this interfacing. The most similar product you can find at fabric or craft stores is the Pellon I used to purchase. That is 20” wide and costs around $2 a yard. So, 1 yard of my new stuff = $1.07. 1 yard of equivalent square footage of Pellon = $6+ per yard. I save $5 per yard by purchasing wholesale.

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24 July 11

Letter Writers Alliance

Writing letter is so old fashioned, eh? I mean, who has the time? And why bother paying almost 50-cents to send a basic letter to someone when you can get the same information to them instantaneously by email. Right?

Well, on the flip side, think about how much cooler it is to get a letter in the mail. When was the last time that happened? When was the last time you were excited to open your mail? But if you saw an envelope (not even a fancy, arty, decorated envelope) that had a friends name and address in the upper left corner, would you toss it on the table to read later? or would you sit down right away and tear it open with a smile on your face?

I’m betting it is the latter, and so do the ladies at 16 Sparrows who created the Letter Writers Alliance. Donovan and Kathy are not only designers of some amazing stationery and envelopes and cards, and other paper products. But they’re encouraging of others to just take the time and sit down and write a letter to someone you care about. They’ve had letter writing gatherings in public. They’ve gotten shop windows to display their wares and ideas and encouragement of writing letters.

And they’ve also branched out and have offered some wares to their members with their special logo and special focus. I was honored to have them approach me about doing a custom order of 10 messenger bags. We talked about their interests and then I got to working on the bags and the designs. I even posted on Flickr about my process of creating these bags.

And then I sent them off and they wrote about the bags and they sold them all in a day. It was only 10 bags, but it was so encouraging to see that the people who like writing letters also liked something I created. It was a delight and an honor to have these bags that were designed for someone else sell so well.

So I was touched and delighted when we started talking about making something smaller. The messenger bags are great, but they’re a bit pricey and they take quite a long time to make. However, I assumed (pretty correctly it seems) that people who write letters also need something to carry pens, stamps, and other writing utensils in on occasion. So we worked together to design a small stand-up pouch. I didn’t even get to tell Kathy and Donovan about the decisions I’d made for the design of this bag. But they got them all. (Because they are very smart.) And it was thrilling to see the thought I put into a bag recognized by others.

I owe them a mailed thank you note. Which then makes me think about all the other people in my life I care about and I feel like I should write to. What about you? Got anyone special who deserves a hand-written note, letter, or even a postcard?

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25 February 11

Ah! That's why!

I got to hand-deliver a custom-bag tonight. It was very similar to a bag that I’ve made before with a few very important modifications. Modifications that permit this man to carry a bag that worked with his health needs, that fulfilled his style desires, and that fit his work and play and lunch needs. I got to show up at his place of business, meet his co-workers, and watch them smile and faun over his new bag. My business card was photographed on phones and emailed to their clients.

I came away from this meeting feeling like the cold wind blowing off the lake was a warm breeze. I floated so lightly that it took me less time to walk the mile+plus to get to my next destination than it ever has before. I was delighted and awed and thrilled that I got to meet this delightful man again in person and see him with this bag that he requested specially.

And yet, later on, as I was headed home, I got several text messages from HIM. HE was thanking ME! For making him feel cool and special because he had a custom-made bag that fit him and that looked cool and that fit physically and stylistically. He wants me to make a bag for his partner. He glowed and raved. And this made me feel even better than I’d felt before I got his string of text messages.

So, in February in Chicago, there isn’t much bright and shiny. But this meeting, this client, he was my bright and shiny. Because of him, I can’t wait to get cracking to make a copy of the bag I made for him to put on Etsy. Thank you, delightful sir!

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08 June 10

Maybe for sale after all

Cool Closure

I happen to have found this very fabric and just may be able to purchase enough to make a few bags just like this after all. I’m going to mull it over and see if I want to duplicate this (bag-making is emotional people) for sale. I’m leaning toward a very strong maybe. Now if the wrist strap hooks can easily be found, I’m definitely selling this bag. I need to figure out what the true cost would be before creating a price, but I’m hoping to keep it affordable.


07 June 10

Wedding Clutches

116-Wedding Clutch

Not mine, obviously. But I’m so proud of them, and so happy to have something new to show off, that I had to put up even a crappy picture of one.

This bag was made for a friend and is a custom order. The fabrics represented are in the bridesmaids dresses, so they will be a bit matchy at the wedding, but afterward, I could see someone using this clutch with a casual to semi-dress outfit.

Starting on Saturday I started cutting out scrap fabric and mocking it up. I tried it in three different sizes before I got something that seemed to have the right balance. I knew the width I wanted the center panel to be. Any narrower and the buckle just looked out of scale. Any wider and the buckle seemed ineffective. With that as my constant design-wise, I played around to find the perfect height of the bag. I wanted something that fit right in a hand, but that could also be held by the corner.

There is a zipper under the flap to keep all of the contents truly secure, so the gold-tone buckle is purely for show, but I really, really like it. I’ve had them for years and always imagined they’d be on a clutch but couldn’t quite get them to work. I think this solves that problem.

When I made the prototype bag I was using a faux-suede for the body (the solid red part) and a polyester satin for the flap and the stripe. It came out great, or so I thought. I like the prototype bag enough to use it myself, actually. But, I took the same measurements and went to make the bag out of the Thai silk and linen light-weight canvas print. And that’s when I realized I’d made an error in judgment. Faux suede + polyester satin ≠ Thai silk + canvas-weight linen. Which means that the measurements for the zipper, the height of the flap, the corner curve angle. the placement of the buckle, and the measurements of the lining weren’t matching up. Which means I pretty much spent two days making a pattern, just to spend today making it again and then making 3 complete bags.

But in the end, despite my lapse in judgment (and we won’t talk about the 2 hours I spent ripping stitches because I was lacking in enough fabric to start over) I’m really happy and proud of how these came out and I think the woman giving them as gifts will like them as well. The wedding is in a few weeks, so I’ll hopefully get to show off how they look in person. There’s one bridesmaid in particular that I’m really hoping likes it. She’s kinda girly retro punk-rock and I think this may be rock-a-billy enough to make her happy.

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27 April 10

The Liberty Waxed Canvas Bag in Burgundy


This bag is now available for sale on Etsy or you can click the Buy Now button below. The price going forward will be $100. It’s the most expensive bag I’ve sold that isn’t custom, but the materials used in the bag are more expensive and the construction is more complicated and requires more time to construct.

I’m particularly happy with the new pocket flap design and the closure that makes the bag adjustable. The pockets can be opened and closed with one hand. The tongue and groove closure will keep the contents secure if the bag tips over or you place it on it’s side. However, the lack of hardware means that the bag is lighter and the pockets can be overstuffed a bit.

And speaking of overstuffing, the magnetic closure is now adjustable and constructed differently than it was previously. This makes it possible to overstuff the bag a bit. And the raised design means it is easier to sanp and unsnap the closure with one hand. Cause not only do we like lotsa pockets here at Poise.cc, but we also like convenience and multi-tasking. Oh, yes we do.

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01 April 10

April Charity of the Month: Harpswell Foundation

The mission of the Harpswell Foundation is to provide housing, education, and leadership training for children and young women in the developing world.

Since April happens to be Genocide Awareness Month, and since I’ve admired the work that Anne Elizabeth Moore has done regarding genocide in Cambodia and the Harpswell Foundation, I have decided to donate $20 from the sale of each bag I sell during the month of April to Harpswell Foundation.

Thanks to the generous matching grant program offered by my employer, I’ll be able to have them match each $20 donation I make, which increases the total going to Harpswell to $40. But! wait there’s more! The Jay Pritzker Foundation with Dan and Karen Pritzker are matching all donations Harpswell receives this year. So this translates to:
You buy 1 bag.
I donate $20 to Harpswell and fill out a matching grant form.
My employer matches that donation.
The Pritzkers match those two donations which means that $80 makes its way to Harpswell Foundation.

Harpswell has a great list of what they will be able to do with the funds they receive. I’m duplicating it below, but it is available on their donation page.

* A donation of $150 will pay for a teacher’s salary in Tramung Chrum for six months. * A donation of $300 will pay for a year’s food for one woman in the Leadership Center. * A donation of $375 will pay for a year’s college tuition. * A donation of $1000 will pay for a year’s health care for Tramung Chrum. * A gift of $1300 will pay for a year’s internet costs in the Leadership Center. * A gift of $5000 will pay for a year’s 24-hour security service in the Leadership Center. * A gift of $500,000 will pay for half the endowment of the new dormitory and leadership center and will entitle you to name the building

So that’s the “what” and the “how”, but here’s the “why”. Why Harpswell Foundation and why these women.

I owe a great deal of gratitude to Anne for my knowledge and awareness of issues related to women in Cambodia. In 2007, Anne traveled to Cambodia to document what it was like to teach women in Cambodia how to make zines. It seemed like an odd Westernized idea to present to a group of women who were living in a country where I knew freedom of the press didn’t exist. But as I began to read more about how little these women knew about their country’s history, how little it was discussed among the population, not to mention the media or in school, as I realized there was only one dormitory in the entire country for female college students to live in (there are now other options, but Harpswell runs two dorms), as I began to think back about how empowered and encouraged I felt when I was of college-age and reading zines and how I’d seen the following generations grow empowered and encouraged reading blogs, I understood exactly why Anne’s work in a country like Cambodia was important.

She recently did a question and answer session and has graciously posted the dialogue on her website. I encourage you to read it.

But it really is more personal than just hearing about an organization doing great work. It’s about seeing a bit of myself in the words of these women in another country whose life situation and abilities are drastically different from my own. I was also a poor young woman who was lucky enough to attend university classes and become acquainted with ideas and classroom experiences that changed the core of my being. But even more than that, I had a woman who came into my life by chance who explained the basics of feminism to me, gave me zines to read, and my broadening world view blew up. I remember reading the personal story of a woman who didn’t share her real name in a photocopied and stapled set of pages. And I felt connected to this stranger. And, even more importantly, I began to feel that my words might also affect someone else I’d never meet.

I wrote text that I intended to turn into a zine, but I never did. I wanted to, but it just seemed so intimidating. And now as woman in her late 30s who has a HUGE network of people she’s met through the internet, who’s life has changed and expanded because of this socialization tool and through reading the words of women I’ll never meet, I see that in these women in Cambodia. And I want to help that influence increase and spread. I want these women to have more opportunities to change their world and to stand as mentors for other women, the way I had a feminist mentor, and the way that Anne has been a mentor, an educating force. Everyone deserves to have that encouraging and educating force in their lives. And women who had an encourage and educating force deserve the opportunity to pay it forward. I believe that Harpswell Foundation has created an environment where this force can continue.

And, as I look at the images on their website, and I see these smiling young women, I can hear them giggling and talking. Just like the college-aged women I encounter in Chicago. It may be egotistical to think so, but I imagine that they’d be delighted to know that someone else’s desire for or gift of a bag would enable them to continue in their education. But it’s true. And even if you can’t purchase a bag, don’t like the bags I have, I encourage you to make your own donation.


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