My Bag for All Seasons is done!!!

As you may tell from the profligate use of exclamation marks, I am pleased – with both the bag and that it’s done 🙂

Parts of it have been seen before on the blog. The feature fabric in the centre is “freestyle rosepath”, blogged here. It was initially intended as a very simple bag, similar to one I’ve done before (here). There was a certain amount of languishing and distraction, then I decided to use it in a class.

This meant more fabric was required and it was a fun and fast (for me) weave – read its story here.

The bag class with Helen MacRitchie was a very pleasant weekend. I posted about it here, and you can see some of Helen’s lovely work such as her award-winning bag pictured here and at the moment some in her etsy shop (including one with nunofelted silk georgette in a spiral fabric which I rather covet…).

At this point the bag could pose with others from the class and looked fairly complete – except for the vital detail of handles, plus how was I going to attach the tab closure artfully balanced for the photo shoot? The photo on the right shows some of the sampling done to answer those questions.

None of the commercial handles available worked with the bag so I decided to try braiding some, using the same cottolin that was the warp for both the fabrics used. The first attempt was the flat braid on the left, but it was too flimsy and stretchy. I decided to try a round braid with a commercial cord at the core to provide some extra strength.

This photo shows the setup. I used the warping wheel to wind the warps for the braid, and it also provided a very convenient way to hold the core cord while I was braiding. I wanted mixed colours – version one was too green, but I was happy with version two. (An aside – my original improvised tama seen here used plastic embroidery thread bobbins attached to metal washers. They weren’t really comfortable in the hand, so now I’m trying some door stops with more metal washers inside. A definite improvement).

The next issue was how to attach the braid handle to the bag. First idea was some kind of tab on the bag creating a channel – the braid goes through and is finished with a knot and tassel. Lots of problems with that.  On my bookshelf I found a copy of Stuart Gainger’s Creative ropecraft. In the photo above of samples you might be able to see the Turk’s Head knots on the practice braids. The idea was to sew the braid directly to the bag, working around the knots which would hide the join. I actually started on the bag doing this, but it was harder to do than I expected plus I worried that the weight of the bag on the small sewn area would tear out.

On the right of the sample photo is the final idea – a Prolong Knot, which Mr Grainger informs us is “a method of extending a flat three lead four bight Turk’s Head into a rectangular form”. The “rope” used is three strands of cottolin, twisted together very tightly (using an electric drill with a cuphook instead of a drillbit to hold the threads) then folded in half to form a two ply cord. At the bottom right of the photo is the knot, still loose. Above that is the same knot, with the lead doubled and everything tightened up. I have to admit it took me quite a few attempts to get the hang of this. It was only when I used my “weaver’s eye” to follow the developing interlacement that I got it. At the top of the photo is a version that has been extended by a lengthening/repeating process, which was no trouble at all (really – no sarcasm. By then I knew it followed our familiar over-under).

Here is a closeup of the result. I sewed on the braid, over a wider area than was possible with the earlier attempt. I used a tacky glue to attach the knots, reinforced by sewing around the edges (using more of the cottolin plus thread heaven). I’m hoping the combination of all this will distribute weight in use well enough. As you can see the knots also solved my closure attachment problem. I just kept extending the knot until it was long enough, then used the sew-on/glue-on/sew-on technique.

At one point I was going to wind some more cottolin cord over the central areas of the handles, as extra reinforcement where it will be held and to camouflage dirty/sweaty handmarks. But it didn’t look good, to be honest I’m a bit over the whole thing, and I can always add it later if necessary.

Here’s a final shot of the inside of the bag. Have I mentioned the attention to detail of Helen’s bags? Fully lined of course. A couple of pockets, zippered, open, and nice&tight for a pen. A neat casing to hold a snap-open frame. The tab and magnetic catch closure. And you can’t really see it, but a firm bottom supported by cute little feet.

This has always been intended as a gift – fortunately to someone close so I feel comfortable saying “it’s my first – give it back for me to fix if something doesn’t work out”.  I’m already thinking of a few changes for mine – but there’s quite a queue of things beforehand.

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June 2011

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