Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Laptop/Art Bag that Thinks it's a Travel Bag

I made this bag as part of Abakhan's £15 budget challenge.

Abakhan kindly provided me with £15 worth of materials (which rather confusingly ended up being a bit more - my fault, I confuse easily!) and I made this bag.  To be fair, I added some plain calico from my own stash to make the fabrics go further, a great ploy when you're on a budget.  The buttons were all from my own button box too.  I chose some lovely fabrics from Abakan - the leaf and stripe are actually heavy cotton curtain fabric - perfect for bag making!  As per usual, they arrived promptly.

Because everything was 100% cotton and I wanted this bag to be machine washable, everything had a whizz in the washing machine before I started.  It softened the cotton up beautifully. 

I wanted a bag that would safely house my laptop but into which I could stuff lots of other things too - a travel bag or weekend bag, if you like, although it may well end up being called the Agnes bag (more about that here) after my Mum.

I wanted to make this bag as a tutorial or pattern, but I'm not yet fully happy with the way the central pocket joins up to the rest of the bag - it works, but it's a bit on the fiddly side and I think there's got to be an easier way to do this!

 I've also decided the laptop pocket needs a closure: buttons and loops or Velcro are options, but I might go back to my original plan of a simple zip.  I abandoned the zip idea because of the over-complicated central pocket join. So, this bag, while I'm going to really enjoy using it, is really the practice-run/learning curve for another, super-improved bag.  I shall need a break and some thinking space before I tackle version two though!

this join is the bit I'm not happy with - where the centre pocket joins the rest of the bag

Despite a few niggles, there are some things I really love about this bag:
  • The soft, natural scrunchiness.  The fact its main outer part is made from two layers of heavy but soft cotton makes it feel just lovely: very soft and quite squishy.
  • The cosiness.  The internal pockets are padded (the idea of those is to help protect the laptop in the middle pocket) which makes the bag even softer and squishier with quite a luxurious feel.
  • The colours.  I love pale duck-egg blue with red and white and it's nodding at the patriotic too in this Jubilee/Olympics year.

  • The pockets - there are so many of them! The Kindle pocket is (sensibly, I think) next to my glasses pocket (yay, an actual pocket for my glasses - I'm always losing them!), the zip pocket will fit my pencils, pens and even a 12" ruler.  Oh joy (I'm easily pleased!).  Pockets either side of the laptop pocket will fit an A4 sketchpad and an even bigger pad, too.

    zip pocket for pencils pens and even a 12" ruler
    • It can be used even when I don't want to take my laptop along - the bag works as a travel bag or weekend bag and doesn't look at all like a laptop bag, which I like.  In a darkish corner of my mind, I imagine that travelling with what obviously looks like a laptop bag might just make you a target for muggers, if there just happens to be any hanging about looking for their next victim. I'd guess the muggers wouldn't look twice at my squishy fabric concoction!  Maybe this is just me, and is a legacy of many years working in prison education.  However, I feel quite safe sharing the information that this bag might house my laptop when I'm travelling, because muggers surely don't read craft blogs.  

    For extra security the bag can be worn cross-body!
    • The buttons on the front.  When I design something, I don't always have it all mapped out at the start.  In fact, I'm quite bad at that, and usually make things up as I go along - it's the same when I'm painting.  This button heart was a last-minute addition and I love it!

     So, if you're inpired to make a bag using these fabrics, you'll find the Leaf pattern (Covent Garden) and the stripe (Metro Stripe) on the curtain fabrics pages at Abakhan and the dotty fabric I used is on the cotton prints pages. They all come in other colourways too.  Usefully, Abakhan also sells wadding, zips and buttons so you may get everything you need in one place and delivery is quick (well, it certainly always has been for me).

    There are loads of bag patterns on Craftsy, so you may find one you like (or can adapt) on there.  Meanwhile, I will at some point polish this design up a bit before I offer it you as a pattern or tutorial!

    As modelled by my lovely daughter and granddaughter...

     So, Mum, can I get in on this modelling lark too?

    Lovely, let's lean against this wall and pretend we're waiting for a train.

    OK, I've had enough now.  Let's go.
    P.S. I'd love at some point to offer this as a pattern or tutorial, so I'd love feedback from others who might use a bag like this:
    • what would you like to see in a laptop/travel bag?
    • what bits do you like/not like about this bag?
    • what would you need to house in a bag like this?
    As usual, please do leave a comment - I'd love to read your feedback.


    Unknown said...

    Wendy, the thing I like most about it is does not look as though it has a lap top in it... which is great from a security point of view, having had a few chums mugged for their laptops. The other great thing is that I could put other stuff in there, reports or make up and a purse so that I don't end up looking like a bag lady from Waterloo!

    I like the wide strap too, and finally I know that could wash it if I need to. I likes it!

    Wendy said...

    Thanks Ros, your feedback is much appreciated - I hadn't thought about reports (duh!) and my sketchbook pockets would work for that too. I have seen so many laptop bags on the market I thought it might be just me who didn't like the idea I was potentially advertising my laptop to muggers. All the photos are posed with a laptop (plus other stuff!) inside the bag!

    testing said...

    I love your bag, I would probably use it more as a travel bag (i don't own a laptop) but it would be great for carrying all the kids bits and bobs. size wise could it also be usable as a baby bag?

    Wendy said...

    Hi Clare - yes, it'd be a good size for a baby bag. I think it might need a pocket on the side for a bottle or trainer cup, and a simple fold-up changing mat. You've given me another idea - thank you! x

    Pickle Lily said...

    Fab bag - I like the extra wide strap as after years of carrying a laptop bag I gave up as my shoulder ached so much! Would be a great teacher bag - did you put a phone pocket in? Maybe a small pocket for change if you don't want to get your purse out or to hold a ticket / pass/ id card?
    Jo x

    Wendy said...

    Ooh, thanks Jo - a teacher bag! Yes, it would work as that. There's a small pocket that I thought would work for change, but I think it needs to be higher up.

    fatmonica said...

    I love this bag!The size is perfect.I love the idea of padded pockets and the wide strap.It's fab!

    Anonymous said...

    I agree, a beautiful teacher bag. I would suggest a section for pens, a section for mobile phone and for the laptop power cable.

    I totally love the heart shape you've created with the buttons. I love the combination of colours too.

    Ali said...

    Hi Wendy, I love the fact the bag doesn't look like a laptop bag. I'm as cynical as you, would be thinking I might be a target. Lots of pockets for essentials. The only extra I could think of was a space specially for passports and tickets. I once left mine on a tray in the airport and it was cleared away, silly me. Love the fabric and design.

    Ali x

    scrapdemon said...

    Great bag . This size of bag with lots of pockets is always great for travel or carrying art supplies to classes etc.

    Helen said...

    Thats a lovely bag and i would think it has way more uses :)

    Wendy said...

    Excellent feedback - thanks everyone! I like the specific passport pockets idea Ali - there are three pockets on the front of the bag, but I will double check the size of them and maybe make at least one with a fastening on the pocket for security. Thanks x

    The undomesticated scientist said...

    its lovely, loving all the pockets :)

    Ali F said...

    One of the best things for me would be to create my own bag - and in chossing fabrics and colours I would be able to recognise my bag instantly among all the grey and black laptop bags! I feel a ruumage in my fabric store coming on....

    Unknown said...

    I Love bags!
    I would use it as a laptop bag as long as padded enough. Compartments great. very very diff and bet you could sell these as laptop bags. It would catch my eye.

    I'm always away one night a week so too small as an overnight bag for me lol. Beach bag good though. Even a Yummy Mummys funky nappy / toddler bag.

    You wouldn't be thinking of making camera bags would you? Sturdy, padded, long strap, funky...?? Something that a camera would not fall out of!

    Fiddly Fingers said...

    I seem to be a bit late with my comment but I think it is a wonderful bag and could use it for lots of things. I agree with you, I think the laptop pocket needs a closure, personally I would prefer a zip, a nice chunky, easy to open one! Love the wide strap and the fact it is washable. All in all a great bag :)

    Wendy said...

    Bathtime team: I'm not going to be making bags to sell, but I will be selling the patterns. It's possible I'll do a camera bag at some point!

    Thanks everyone for the feedback. It's been a lot more useful than I ever imagined it would.

    Tetiana Otruta said...

    Lovely bag! :)

    Ellouise88 said...

    What a lovely bag, particularly the heart on the front!

    Unknown said...


    how could I get the pattern for this bag
    I start chemotherapy next week
    i would like to make a bag like this over the weekend to take my stuff into hospital
    thank you

    travel bag anak said...

    I am a bag lover, I like a simple bag capable of carrying all of my needs. Your post is really very good, creative and gives a lot of information