back-tote: version 1

I decided that I needed to make a backpack/totebag. I wanted it to have:
– two side pockets for water/wallets/etc
– a front pocket for quick access things
– a separate area for shoes/umbrellas
– straps that transition from a tote to a backpack

I wanted to combine the functionality of my Marmot Urban Hauler and the looks of my collection of bags from Flux, and add a shoe compartment. (hahaha) Needless to say, after three rounds of this first version, I have a very, very long way to go.

I started sketching this months ago. Here are a few…

BackTote_sketches
I’ve been sketching this in the corners of work notebooks, so there were more, but these are what I could find.

A few evolved into cute little paper comps…

BackTote_comps
Switching to graph paper made it much easier to work to scale. (1 square = 1 inch)

Version 1.1

The last comp seemed perfect, and was to scale once I switched to graph paper, so I jumped right in with the nice, expensive, textured canvas that I picked out at Mood.

This was a terrible idea. Number 1, my child-sized sewing machine was not prepared for this, number 2, neither was I.

While it looks neat in the photo, this version involved a lot of no-sew iron-on tape. After pinning on the straps and trying it on, I decided that the size was much too big for me. I wanted to modify the size, and the way some of the pockets functioned. However, modifying anything assembled with no-sew tape is not ideal…

BackTote_v1.1
V1.1 assembled with no-sew tape and pins.

Version 1.2

For version 1.2, I wised up, got a new sewing machine, built to handle thick canvas, and found some scrap fabric to try out the new “pattern.” Here it is with safety pinned straps:

BackTote_v1.2
V1.2 was a trial for my new sewing machine, using of scrap cloth. Fake straps attached with safety pins.

Version 1.3

The trial bag seemed to work, and was a much more reasonable size for me, so again, I tried it out with the nice fabric. Once the bag was sewn, I set about attaching the straps. Not learning from my previous mistake, this is when I learned how to set rivets…

BackTote_360Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the results of this first bag experiment. But, Version 2 will be much better.

Lessons for Version 2

  1. Sketch, paper comps, test fabric, measure three times, check which side is up, then cut the nice fabric.
  2. While the amount of rivets in Version 1 is what I had in mind in my sketches, they seem a little much in reality. The next version will likely use them as reinforcement, rather than as a structural imperative. Either that, or the rivets should be a color that blends into the fabric.
  3. It turns out, like the idea of the shoe pocket more than I like the reality of it. When it’s not in use, the bag seems a little unstable if you want to set it down. This area will likely be modified or removed from Version 2.
  4. The way the straps convert from a tote to a back pack is a tad awkward. I think I got that bit backwards…