Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Palin bag is FINISHED (at last)

This project has been in the works for a long time. Tigerboy and I are complete doco nerds intellectually well rounded and he has a penchant for Michael Palin, Ray Meers and Jeremy Wade doco's in particular. At some point in time he will decide that he needs x (insert anything a person would be likely to use or wear), just like y (insert documentary star's name) has in the show. Late last year he decided that he needed a travel bag, just like Michael Palin. Just in case you aren't familiar with his travel bag (I've watched the doco's but I wasn't), here are some pics.

I did some research online, surprisingly there are quite a few people with the same feelings that tigerboy has about the bag, odd sycophants intellectually well rounded people. There are several ongoing discussions on which bag it actually is - everyone's an expert on this subject it seems (except me, obviously) - some of the (rather firm) suggestions didn't look anything like it. Here were the top contenders from those discussions:

Barbour Cotton Canvas Tarras Bag GBP 99.95
Hadley Large Khaki GBP 137.50
Billingham Classic GBP 466.77 -
Brady Bag - Large Ariel Trout with liner from Brady Gelderburn GBP 155.00
Whitehouse Cox - Gamekeepers Bag GBP 466.67

Most of those aren't what you'd call budget friendly - I could just see him continually fretting about his bag getting dirty, wet etc. Then he tells me that he wants it made out of denim jeans with all kinds of changes. I got him to do a sketch of what he wanted (he now considers himself a designer - move over Louis Vuitton) then I added some features for him and generally got it to make sense. I reiterated that this will not be a 'good' bag, for one, it's made out of denim, secondly, it will always look like a bag made from a pair of jeans!

 You might wonder where he got the idea - I made myself a big bag out of jeans years ago (over there on the left) and it gets a lot of use (roomy with lots of handy pockets) and quite a few comments, for some reason he's really proud of that bag (that I made and I use). (Subconciously, I think he wants something that generates comments - maybe he'd already delved into the online discussions on Michael Palin's bag and thought he could get a twofer? Who knows, there's a Y chromosome at work here.)

I finally realised that not only did he have a bag (that he uses everyday) that fit his criteria, he actually had two, ok, they weren't made from jeans but they had most of the other things that he had assured me were features severely lacking in bags that he'd looked at to buy.  According to him, one was too businessy, the other too casual (because denim jeans made into a bag just screams dressy?). I showed him some great messenger bags on Etsy, at really good prices I might add. No, no, no tigergirl, he wants it to be individual and made out of jeans, by you (there you go, now we've finally gotten to the crux of the matter). The final result?

I know what you're thinking - "Oh, look at that, it's an exact replica." You can see that it's a dead ringer for the one in the pic with Michael Palin can't you? Yes, so can I, if I squeeze my eyes shut and hold my breath until I pass out while watching a doco.

 On to the the features:

 Personally, I think the flap is a bit long but c'est la vie, tigerboy doesn't.

 Under the flap is a gusseted mobile phone carrier (closes with velcro, which unexpectedly didn't give me problems to sew on) , pen pocket and of course the straps that are extendable for when he wants to shove a jacket through there. I used jeans hems to keep the straps up - I detest hanging straps. The original jeans pockets and zipper still work, so basically that zipper is the entrance to the secret compartment between the lining and the outer shell (so very Get Smart). I took the black snap attachments off an old backpack of mine that had a disintegrating lining - my packrat tendencies actually paid off.

The back has of course the original pockets but it is also a full depth, full width pocket itself (apparently there is a need for a compartment that can hold A4 documents - when you're backpacking?). I added a gusseted zipper pocket to the strap for mp3 player, loose change etc. I also made the padded bit (no idea what it is called) from that same old back pack's straps. The strap is actually luggage webbing covered in denim and goes right down the sides between the lining and the outer, into the bottom of the bag where it is also secured - the rest of the bag will come apart before that strap gives way.

Snap securing the document pocket - he had a choice of fastenings, this was what he wanted. There's some dodgy stitching there, you would not believe the nightmare I had putting in the 'lid' of the bag. Initially the plan was to only have the lid attached to the lining but I was concerned that it wouldn't be strong enough. I'll have a rant later about some of the obstacles in the making of this bag. The back document pocket also has a zipper compartment in it. I'd never done this type of zipper before and used these instructions at ikat bag.

This is the shoulder strap padding from that same old back pack's straps - cut it to the right size and shape, sandwiched it between three pieces of denim (an extra piece so that it slides along the strap and is adjustable) and then bound the edges with more denim.

I added an extra bottom to the bag. The butt on these jeans had had some wear and it didn't seem like a good idea to start off with a worn out bottom. I left one side open to be closed with velcro and donated an old flexible chopping board to be the removable insert for the bottom (it was nearly 10 years old - time for the kitchen to get some new ones and retire the old ones anyway).

Inside the bag:
Since this picture was taken I have tacked down the lining in all of the seams, here it was still all loose which is why it's flopping all over the place. On the left edge of the pic you can just barely see a D-ring - it's attached to a tab sewn in to the top between the lining and the outer. I put in some elasticised water bottle carriers on the left of the pic too. More pockets! This is basically a big pocket that's nearly the height of the bag and is the full width, divided into two - the larger one is secured with a snap. On the outside of that is the pocket with the zipper, the other side has a pocket that contains yet another little pocket the D-ring on the tab from above sits in. Below are pics that might explain that mess better.

The only things I had to buy for this project were the lining fabric and the luggage strap - everything else was on hand. Tigerboy is nutty about birds, parrots in particular which is why I bought this fabric when I saw it (one of his main goals in Ecuador was to see macaws in the wild, thankfully, it happened). When I saw this parrot fabric I hadn't worked out how much lining I'd need, just that it was perfect for him. At $16.95 pm I didn't want to get more than I needed (I rarely pay that much for the outer fabric of something I'll wear, let alone a lining for a bag), so I just got 1/2 a metre - I ended up with a couple of slivers of fabric where I'd cut off the ripped edge to make it square and a 5cm x 3cm piece left, that was it. All of the other lining fabric for secret pockets and under the flap came from leftovers. There's some of the lining of my girlfriend's dress lining the lid, left overs from making a summer bathrobe for an ex-boyfriend line one of the secret zippered pockets and other random scraps used here and there. I used at least three pairs of jeans for this project, I'm pretty sure it was more but I'm not sure. With all of that denim, webbing and metal, this bag is heavy - I think it was nearly 1kg! And that's before anything is put in it. Another reason for doing away with any batting, aside from weight, is that this is for travelling, so it needs to be as 'compactable' as possible.

The problems:
  • Lots of layers of denim = thickness - nearly all of my pins are bent. Normally, I throw away bent pins, early on in the project I realised that I would end up in the poor house due to buying pins if I continued with that practice while making this bag - they just got reused. I ended up using bull dog clips and old fashioned nappy pins in some places.
  • Next time just go and get more of the lining fabric instead of spending so much time figuring how best to make use of not enough (eg. actually have some of the parrots show instead of random backs and tails) - the time saved will easily offset the cost you cheapskate!
  • Dealing with jeans in this instance is such a pain - nothing is square. When I made my bag it was easy because all I was doing was making a rough lining and a strap, I didn't have to deal with all of the other things like extra pockets and lids etc.
  • Well worn stretch denim will do what it wants, not what you want it to do. There will be some parts that have lost their stretch and others that haven't, it's potluck. Thank your lucky stars when things actually line up the way you intended.

Regardless of the fact that the only thing this bag and Michael Palin's bag have in common is that they're both bags with straps, this is tigerboy's "Palin bag" and he spent the rest of the afternoon and evening proudly wearing it around the house declaring that he now has a better bag than that Michael Palin, all the while planning on the trips that he and THE Palin bag will take together. (Since it's inception, whenever we went somewhere I'd have to hear "Next time we come here, I can bring my Palin bag." or "Normally I'll be able to use my Palin bag for this kind of thing.", until I countered with "There won't be one if I have to hear that one more time.")  Oh, just in case you're wondering, no tigerboy is not my child and he has lived for more than four decades, yes, four. Of course, being him, he couldn't help but comment on the lengthy wait - I told him that, if I were him, I would most definately take it up with the maker and punish them by never, ever allowing them to make me something again because they clearly don't deserve the honour. Unfortunately he thought that was going a bit far, probably due to the fact that he now has a pair of linen pants on order.

Now that that nightmare is over, I'll continue with the other ones in the line up.


  1. Great man-bag tigergirl! In one of the pics you can almost see a bottom in it...

  2. Hey - I wanted to comment on the Vena Cava Dress but the post seems to have disappeared in to cyberspace. I will say that your mother sounds like Marie Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond! No offense intended - just made me laugh like she does.

    1. Gah! That post wasn't meant to be published, it was still a draft (haven't added the 'after' pics - the ones I was supposed to take this afternoon).
      You're right BeaJay, she is like Marie, must be the Italian. You're just clearing up mystery after mystery for me!

  3. What a fabulous bag! Your blog is as adorable as you are! I'm your newest follower!

    1. Thanks! I have the Maggy London knit dress pattern that you like - it's on my hit list. Hope I can make it work as well as you do.

  4. Holy moly, I got tired just reading all the work you put into that bag - it looks awesome! I feel bad now about the crappy iPad cover I made for my brother that just had measly elastic to hold the iPad and buckle things to close it up. It had cardboard reinforcements inside the camouflage fabric to protect it, but your flexible cutting board sounds like a better idea. I've been requested to make my niece a jean purse, so I may try and look at yours, if you have a post about it....

    1. Man, don't feel bad - I'll bet the iPad cover didn't take you 8 months! I don't have a post on the jeans bag but it's really easy. You just cut the legs off the jeans. (I usually undo the crotch stitching and resew it so that the front and back lay flat). Sew across the bottom to close it. Sew across the bottom corners to make it sit flat. Make a lining (very approximate) with the same flat bottom, finagle it so that the top is the same length as the waist of the jeans and sew it on around the inside top of the bag. Done!

  5. Super great bag! I am impressed with all the details. Your efforts paid off I'd say

    1. He'll be paying it off for a long time!! ;-)

  6. Hey that's really great! I love that you added so many functional details to the inside of the bag too. Also fab that you used a pair of that :)

    1. What a relief that it all worked out and he likes it huh? I was determined that I'd never have to touch the thing again. He's already been told that if there's something missing or some stitching comes undone, I don't want to know. The warranty ran out the moment it left my hands. What terrible customer service!