02 May 2009

137. Refashion 19: My [Maybe] Perfect Messenger Bag

Can't... resist... craftiness...

I gave up the search (in stores) for My Perfect Messenger Bag long ago. It would:
  • Be vaguely structured
  • Be an appropriate size for my stature
  • Not be made of ripstop nylon or in a camouflage print, or deconstructed or distressed or anything of the sort.
About 2 years ago, I felt confident enough in basic sewing and construction skills to draft my own pattern for My Perfect Messenger Bag. I wanted it to fit my laptop (12" iBook) and a small notebook. Here's what I made:

It might have become my daily go-to bag, except:
  1. I thought it would have enough structure, with 2 layers of canvas, without interfacing. It didn't.
  2. Once the laptop was in its neoprene sleeve, it had to be crammed against its will and all laws of friction into the messenger bag. Room for nothing else.
  3. In my quest to make it slim, I used 1" wide cotton webbing for the strap. When I carried it with the laptop or anything else substantial in it, it hurt my shoulder to carry.
  4. It's natural, unbleached canvas, which is basically ivory-ish! I don't do ivory!
  5. I love the fish but it is a little large compared to the bag size.
  6. I could probably think of a couple more things but let's keep going.
Sooooo... fast-forward to last October, when I volunteered at Maker Faire, grabbed a pair of men's cargo shorts from the swap pile, and made a Lionel Richie tote bag. I saw how ready unused cargo shorts/ pants are to be refashioned into bags, with all the pockets and loops and sometimes d-rings and other hardware.

Aaaaand... fast-forward again to last week. I modified My Perfect Messenger Bag pattern from so long ago to increase the gusset width (from 1" to 2.25") and round the bottom corners as I'd seen in Johanna Lu's recent bag project. Thursday I picked up a pair of size 18 boys' cargo pants in navy cotton twill at the thrift store and got to it.

Placing the pattern pieces and cutting the body of the bag went quickly based on the location and size of the leg pockets. But then I had to agonize over what hardware to use for the closure, how many inner pockets I wanted, and whether to find a store-bought strap or make the strap from pieced-together pant remnants. Partially in the spirit of sustainability and partially out of curiosity, I used pant remnants. This was a good exercise to remind me why I don't quilt. The lining is interfaced with heavyweight fusible craft interfacing.

I considered refashioning another garment for the lining, too, but decided instead to use some stash fabric. Here comes that unbleached cotton canvas again! LOL  There are a few lining pockets, including one in each gusset!  I'd never done that before -- it's so simple and so functional!

The bunny came from my sketchpad, though to be fair, it is a variation on other animals I draw much better, and the face is achingly familiar -- very much like Miffy, or an Aranzi Aronzo bunny, or both. The bunny was just the easiest of my sketchpad animals to translate to applique. Bunny is constructed of polar fleece. And the grommets? I got $3 grommet pliers from the hardware store and HAD to try them out. No other reason. I showed the WIP to my parents via Skype and my dad suggested grommets in a pattern (like a heart-shape) next time. That Dad. Great ideas, he has.

Cargo pants are now my primo choice for refashioning into functional bags. (I got an olive green pair in a super-soft cotton canvas I'm eager to refashion.) The laptop in its neoprene sleeve fits in this new messenger bag just great with a slim notebook. I'm down with the size and pocketage. Now I need to take it for a floor run and see how it plays. I shall keep you posted...


  1. That is TOO cute. Now you are going to have me wanting to make a bag! Good idea huh, since I am a bag lady.(lol)

  2. Cuuuuute. I love the way the bunny's ears are standing on end. Very clever. Am going to have to get a grommet plier. They are such a cool little detail.

  3. It looks really good! I've yet to delve into seriously useful bag making. It seems difficult. Thanks for sharing!

  4. This is cool. This is very cool indeed. I've been thinking of making my very own cross-body bag just for my cell phone, keys and small bottle of hand cream. After five years of searching, I still haven't found the perfect one in the perfect smooth, black leather in the perfect price. After seeing yours, I'm rethinking.

    As for the macbook, I thought about a sleeve but then ended up getting a slim, black case by Tucano.

  5. Awwww! That bunny is so perfect :-)

    So are the three grommets on the front, such a nice touch. They're from the refashioned pants, right?

  6. I adore the cargo pant messenger bag!!! I soooo need to make a bag; for now I use my backpack (not good). :)

  7. And once again you prove your many talents. This looks amazing. I love looking back in shame at some of my previous attempts at bags. =)

  8. you can't have enough bags is my motto! love the reuse!! I have a pair of cargo capris in a goodwill bag that I need to retrieve!! thanks.

  9. Thank you, ladies!

    @Faye: Gotta work in some bag projects every now and then, in between those tailored jackets and perfect fit pants! :)

    @Mary Nanna: I have a lot of notions tools and these grommet pliers are the simplest and easiest to use! I actually was looking for things to grommet today, randomly applying them to various objects...

    @Sarah: Bag construction is easier to me than garment construction simply because of the limited range of fit issues, but I also pick very simple bags. Strongly recommend trying to sew one... if you want me to email you the messenger bag pattern I drafted, let me know.

    @geek sewing: I have a sweet little Japanese bag book with amazing bag inspiration, including some fantastic leather pieces. Umami something... I can grab it off the shelf tomorrow if you don't know it offhand and want more info.

    @Wendy: The grommets are not from the original pants. All three cargo pants from the thrift store are on the plain side, feature- and hardware-wise, compared to the cargo shorts that got me on the cargo bandwagon last fall.

    @MushroomMeadows: I might make a backpack for my son after his cheap ol' vinyl Speed Racer one falls apart. Which I hope is soon. ;)

    @Columbia Lily: Thanks, and I really, really hope it's comfortable to use and functions well. I realized after finishing it that I wish I'd used canvas pants instead of twill. But c'est la vie... time will tell.

    @Cindy: Look forward to reading about your cargo pant refashion!

  10. You know I do! Drop me a line at FB please.

  11. I just made a distressed camo bag out of my hubby's old uniform pants... LOL Your bag turned out great.

  12. Your bag looks great - though one thing that stops me from trying to make one is that wearing a messenger bag across my body makes me look like I'm trying to display my boobs.

    Laptops are pretty heavy - are you going to have to pad your strap to make it more comfortable?

  13. That bunny is soooo cute!! LOVE IT!

  14. I love this bag -- you are such an inspiration!!!

  15. I really enjoy the level of detail in your posts. Feels like I was right there along side you while you were making that great bag!

  16. awesome work!--I love the grommets, too

  17. What a clever use of a pair of cargos, I love the bag. And I agree about interfacing - it's essential for shaping a bag. The use of the pant's details are ingenious BTW. I'm actually doing a Diana messenger bag for myself now, I got hooked after I borrowed my daughter's last weekend.

  18. Hi, I just started checking out your blog. And this messenger bag really caught my eye. I was wondering if you are still emailing the pattern to people who want it. Thanks!


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