Bags. Handmade!, From scratch

The Bangkok Bag

Like I mentioned before, we went on our very first backpacking trip with my sister to South East Asia. It was not backpacking in it’s traditional meaning as we stayed in the nicest hotels we could afford and had our whole 3 weeks planned out, but all our luggage consisted of a smallish backpack (well, one for me and one for her of course).

Since the Berlin bag is quite heavy without any load, I had to look for another one. I looked online for a nice and practical one, but for some reason this combo is not popular in my price range: you can either get one that’s useful or one that’s pretty. I have already made a backpack earlier this year, so I didn’t see a reason why I could not give it a go again. Please welcome the Bangkok bag! 🙂

The Secret Costumier -The Bangkok bag

The Secret Costumier - The Bangkok bag

The Secret Costumier - The Bangkok bag

I must have spent the same amount of time researching backpacks again, now looking for some lightweight options as well as checking the details that make a bag sturdy. Since I’ve spent so much time on trying to find new solutions, while sewing bikinis and dresses for the trip, I decided to stick with the same shape that I chose for the Berlin bag.

I used the black cotton drill for the main body that was meant to be used for the Berlin bag; the gold fabric on top and the lining are leftovers from the military jacket’s lining, and the tie-dye fabric is an African waxprint cotton that my Dad brought from Nigeria years ago. I bought some D-rings and reused some from an old bag, so I managed to only spend about £3 on this bag in total.

The Secret Costumier - The Bangkok bag

The Secret Costumier - The Bangkok bag

The only new function on the backpack is the outside pocket on the back panel. Unfortunately the zip broke, but it would have been a great solution for keeping money safe during those hours spent on airports, trying to catch some sleep between the flights.

I made a silly mistake and sewed the closing strap to the bag the wrong way around, but I will have to remove that black webbing that goes across it anyway, as it is not long enough to go from edge to edge. By the way, this is why the stitching came loose on one of the straps on day 4. Not cool. Even though the bag only weighed about 9 kilos by the end of the trip, I had to be very careful with putting it on and taking it off to avoid having to carry my stuff around in a plastic bag. 🙂

The Secret Costumier - The Bangkok bag

The Secret Costumier - The Bangkok bag

I also made a cover for my first DSLR from the same material. I could not fit a full camera bag into the backpack, so I decided to copy this brilliant idea I’ve found on Pinterest. It was a last minute make, so it’s a bit wonky, but it does the job!

The Secret Costumier - The Bangkok bag

The Secret Costumier - The Bangkok bag

The Secret Costumier - The Bangkok bag

The Secret Costumier - The Bangkok bag

I think my favourite thing about sewing must be knowing that I can fix most things. Knowing how the pieces go together and become something functional, and if something needs to be changed not being afraid to take it apart and put it back together – better.

After carrying the bag around Asia for 3 weeks I now know that I can make something pretty (if I say so) and useful. I also know that it has some flaws, but (luckily) I also know how to fix them.

The Secret Costumier - The Bangkok bag

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The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier
Bags. Handmade!, From scratch

The Berlin Bag

I made a bag guys! This is the first non-clothing item I’ve made that’s actually super useful and looks pretty much as I imagined it.

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

We planned a trip to Berlin with some friends (and my sis, of course), with the flight arriving at 9am and a check in time at 2pm. Since I didn’t feel like carrying my stuff around in my hand all day, I decided to make a backpack. And the endless research for the perfect backpack started. I already had a Pinterest board for bag ideas, but this time I focused on roll top backpacks. I wanted something that’s stylish, simple and expandable.

The problem with the ones for sale, apart from being overpriced, is that they tend to be more on trend and less functional in my eyes. Most of them have the vintage looking buckle fastening (which is just a hassle to open/close) and the sleek looking, unpadded leather/canvas straps don’t look comfortable to me at all. After spending hours looking at the DIY options, the handmade ones on Etsy, and pretty much every vintage looking/cycling rucksack on Pinterest, I found that  the HHI Day Pack and the Voyatzer Backpack bags that seemed to be the closest to what I had in mind.

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

The bag’s top can be folded or rolled down. I thought a lot about how to close the sides under the flap, and I am more than happy with the solution, as I didn’t want to insert a zipper and I didn’t really trust putting a button there.

The leather cover on the bottom was made of a piece of leather that I scored for about £4 in Fes, Morocco last year. I bought some black cotton drill to do the top bit, but since it was a different shade of black, I got the chevron patterned wool instead. I’ve checked the measurements of other similar bags and measured my torso length before I cut the fabric out. In the construction of the straps and the back panel, this tutorial proved to be very helpful (it’s a somewhat unusual source, I don’t quite want to know what the guns are for…). I got my hardware from this eBay shop, and all I regret is not getting more at the same time (so that I can make more bags! 🙂 ).

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

Pretty much everything went smoothly except for one thing. My machine can’t sew more than 2 layers of leather. There were parts on this bag where I had to attach 3 layers of leather, 2 layers of wool, and 2 layers of the lining fabric. It was not fun. It took me about 4 hours to do it by rolling the machine by hand…but it’s done!! Ever since then my sewing machine runs a little weird, so I’m thinking about getting a half industrial vintage one, or something more heavy weight as a replacement in the not so near future. If you have any suggestions on what machine to get next, I’m all ears!

All in all, I am pretty much in love with my little “Berlin Bag”. If it wasn’t as heavy as it is, I would definitely take it to the South East Asia trip too, but since it is, I must make another one. So watch this space! 🙂

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

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