Bags


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Before my sister’s last birthday (early December) I promised her a bag made by me. I questioned her on what she was looking for in a bag, made some notes, bought fabric, and started working on some sketches.

And then a lot of bags for other people happened and we were away a lot and the sewing machine ended up gathering a lot of dust and what did not happen was a bag for my sister. When she came visiting us in late April she inquired about the promised bag and I had to sheepishly admit that I still did not make it. Luckily I bought her a shoulder bag from a Red Dzau lady in Sapa, so there was something for her. But she was clearly not impressed by my slowness.

Not long after she left I sat down and cut out all the pieces for her bag, the same design as this one. I was interrupted again for a couple of days in late May and was beginning to wonder if I’d ever finish her bag. But last week, the day before we left for Ko Samet, I sat down in front of my sewing machine and finished the bag in one go. Ready to take with to the island for some pictures

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The bag has a side pocket on the outside, a bigger one inside, shoulder straps, and a reinforced base, just as she requested.

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Now it remains to be seen if I’ll ever get to mailing it. When it comes to my recored with sending anything other than email, she may be lucky to receive it just in time for her next birthday.

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These are two other items I have sewed earlier this here, but only recently came round to sending and now posting.

The bag on the left is another diaper tube with the same features, but different contrasting fabric. I love the pink and brown bulbs and it makes a nice contrast on the inside of the bag for the side pockets.

The other item is not exactly a bag, but tube to store plastic bags in. The first time I encountered these convenient bags was when my mom made one for the kitchen. It hung behind the door and I could keep myself busy for some time pulling out bags at the bottom and stuffing them back at the top again. The fabric for this bag I also picked up ages ago at a little clothing store in Chatuchak market.

I still have lots of fabric waiting to be used, but at the moment I don’t know when that’s going to be. We’ve been very busy with this and that and we’ll be getting even busier this month. My sister is arriving on Sunday and we are going to Cambodia for a week and then later this month Alexander’s parents will come visiting. It’s most certainly an exciting and busy time for us, just sorry my poor sewing machine cannot exactly be part of the fun right now.

It’s been quite some time since I last blogged about my sewing endeavors. Actually, it’s been quite some time since I’ve last done any sewing. Although there was a period of some prolific sewing earlier this year, I never got round to writing about it.

During this time I sewed a beach bag for Alexander’s sister, Genevieve.

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It’s big enough to carry a sarong or medium beach towel and some reading matter along to the beach, plus two smaller inside pockets and one on the outside.

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I never came round to mailing it, so I gave it to her when she came visiting in March. It seemed to come in handy for our beach trip to the Andaman Coast.

A little while ago I mailed a parcel to my friends Gabi and Kevin in Taiwan. I can now reveal to you the contents of the parcel…

It was a diaper tube. They just had a baby and I wanted to give them something to carry all his baby-undergarments in. The bag is tube-shaped and has some inner pockets of the same fun fabric as the lining. I’m not sure if it is at all practical as I have never even looked at a diaper bag before, but I suggested that if that is not the case I am sure they can let little Aidan crawl around in it!

I think I’ve come through my sewing slum/ bloc/ fear. Thanks to Jess, Lorette, Vegeyum, and Alexander for your words of encouragement and support.

This past week I went crazy and did a couple of alteration tasks for Alexander, shortening the hems of two pairs of pants as well as changing the hemlines and fits of a couple of T-shirt. Now this may sound like nothing, but with limited experience in doing these things it was quite a challenge and if I may say so myself I think I did a fine job.

But that was by far not the biggest thing I’ve done.

I finally finished the bag that scared me into hiding my machine for almost two months. It was supposed to be a present for some friends, but I am not 110% satisfied with the final result and have decided to keep it. It looks like an ideal shopping bag or beach bag. I prefer it to be the latter.

Both Alexander and I like it a lot, so he suggested we share it. It can be reversed, so for all practical purposes we each have a new bag now.

This side on the left is his…

… and the one with the tabloid (thanks Katie) is mine!

And here I am working on a new project I cannot tell you what it is yet, but it’s going very well indeed.

And here is the messenger bag I made for Alexander. He suggested naming it the Ethnographer’s Messenger Bag, pointing out some of the various features of the bag that made the title a comfortable fit. I drafted the pattern just over a week ago, went on a roll and had it all finished this past Friday morning, ready for a weekend of exploring new neighborhoods.

I had some basic ideas of what I wanted to include in the bag, like a zippered pocket for spare change, pens and sunglasses, as well as a separator inside the main compartment, so that his notebooks and camera can be kept in separate sections. Alexander suggested another pocket on the bag for items like maps and cards and a small pocket inside the main part for his wallet and keys. The loop and buttons on the side was also his suggestion to give the bag a little more shape. I like the blue highlight on the brownish gray exterior of the bag.

I knew from the start that his fabric selection would work very well, but I was nervous about inserting the zipper pocket, the magnetic clasps and putting it all together. There were a couple of very nervous moments last week and sleepless nights over the bag. But, if I may say so myself I am very impressed with how the bag came out. And Alexander seems to like it too! And also thanks to him again for the pictures.

This was my first proper attempt at a bag, a very uncomplicated messenger. I created it from scraps of old fabric in my mother’s fabric pile, dating back to seventies. The detailed print I top stitched onto the bag originally covered our living room couches when I was a kid.

This bag has traveled with me for the past ten months from provincial northern South Africa and through Nairobi onto Taiwan and then California and parts of the Southwestern US. It journeyed with me through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and was by my side when we finally settled down in our Bangkok apartment just over a month ago.

It served me very well and was the ideal travel bag and is still handy for trips to the weekend market or the next trip to the beach. But I needed something a bit more sleek, a little more funky and slightly more functional for urban living here in Bangkok.

And so one morning on the way to work, Bangkok Post clutched under one arm and bag slung over the shoulder, an idea began to take shape for a new shoulder bag. I wanted something with a special pocket for my morning paper and then some.

It’s been a couple of weeks of on and off sewing since I started the bag, but this week I finally ended up walking to work with a new bag on my shoulder. The idea changed a couple of times since I first drafted a pattern and sewed a mock-up of the product; the straps were lengthened and moved, the side pockets changed a bit and I decided to add a lining.

My favorite feature of the bag is the newspaper pocket, the other outside pockets include one for my i-Pod and one for my cell phone. Inside I added some additional fabric to the lining and divided it into two smaller pockets for notebooks, wallet and keys, which left a lot of space available for lumpier items.

It had an exciting first day in Bangkok. Alexander picked up the paper on our way to work so I can try out my favorite pocket and it was a perfect fit! Besides traveling to work on the BTS and MRT trains it also sped down the tiny Bangkok klongs to Banglamphu and later traveled back here by river boat taxi and again the BTS.

Thanks again to Alexander for the photos.

I’ve recently gotten into the habit of picking up the paper on my to work in the mornings, but as there is not enough space for it in my current bag, I always ended up carrying it under my arm. I designed this one more with traveling in mind. It’s large enough for a guidebook, notebook, some pens, travel documents, wallet, small digital camera, iPod and cell phone. It is not big enough to carry around teacher’s files, test papers, or, the newspaper.

I began working on a design for a new shoulder bag, the first of my more ambitious assignments for my new sewing machine. I’ve also been promising Alexander a bag since forever, so this past weekend we decided to go fabric shopping.

As a child I often went with my mother to fabric stores, either at Cape Town’s Parade or the Oriental in Johannesburg. I was in love with the smell of rolls upon rolls of textiles, and although I did not know the names of everything I saw and touched and smelled it left a lasting impression on me. When I moved to Bangkok, I wondered where I would be able to recreate a similar experience. Mostly I’ve only seen tailor’s stores stocking suiting and silk fabrics. Not exactly what I was looking for.

After sleeping in on Saturday morning, we headed toward Pahurat, a street in the mainly Indian neighborhood just east of Chinatown. We first stopped for some terribly satisfying iced caramel macchiatos at the really cute little Fine Time Cafe on the way, and then hopped on the bus.

A couple of fabric and wedding paraphernalia stores lined both sides of Pahurat Street. None of them seemed too enticing, until we crossed the street and walked into one that was a little bigger than the others. Entering the store I noticed that at the back it opened up into another fabric store, and on closer investigation I discovered that we had stepped into a labyrinth of fabric stores. One after the other they were crammed into the tiny spaces that made up almost half of the city block. Everywhere I turned, mountains of fabric in every imaginable color, design, and texture surrounded me.

Soon I was feeling out of breath with excitement and we decided to go for Indian food before shopping for materials. In a small alley, just off Chakraphet Street, we found the Royal India restaurant where we had one of the best naan ever. I highly recommend a trip there to anyone ever in the neighborhood.

Walking back to the Pahurat fabric labyrinth we discovered a cramped but very well stocked bakeshop where I will surely be returning to once we have an oven.

After browsing around for a bit, Alexander settled on a brilliant piece of Berber-inspired fabric for the lining of his bag, and some textured gray suiting for the exterior. As usual, I had a hard time picking something out, being presented with so many options. In the end I selected a funky polka dotted piece for the lining, and a very dark brown bordering on plum for the exterior of my bag. I also noted some very retro looking fabric with orange and green floral prints, which I picked up on a whim with a tote in mind.

Now we only needed to find a haberdashery store. After asking around and not getting anywhere, I marched up to some ladies behind sewing machines. With a questioning expression I pointed to the tins of sewing thread in front of them and soon everybody around joined in to give directions.

I do not understand Thai, but I did follow the hand gestures, and within seconds we were in the most incredible haberdashery store I have seen in a really long time. The store itself was not enormous, but it was stocked from top to bottom and everywhere in between with thread, buttons, clasps, zippers, rolls of interfacing, elastic, and just about any other sewing necessity. I had to really control myself not to buy anything that I did not need right now.

Exhausted, but exceptionally content with our discovery and purchases, we returned home, all set to turn the contents of Alexander’s big shopping bag into fun new accessories.

Most of the images in this entry was taken by Alexander.