Making a bag — Using Your Brains

I’m making a bag. It’s part of a larger costume, consisting of coat, pants, shirt, winnegas (leg wraps) and maybe a hood or coif.  I haven’t decided about the hood; it’s a complicated thing to get right and still look friendly.  And part of my goal is for the outfit to be brown or woodsy but friendly.

Making a bag doesn’t have to be a complicated thing.  This one is parts of three fat quarters of cotton fabric — two black and one green.  And it could have been three bits of black fabric, but I didn’t have enough left.  And then it’s the remnants and leavings of a yard or so of brown wool that I used as trim on the coat you can see in the video.

The design is simple. Easy.  The knowledge comes from figuring out the assembly of the bag — the lining, the strap, the outer shell — ahead of time, and then cutting your fabric to match that design.  I learned how to do this by assembling about a half-dozen bags and another half-dozen belt pouches and generally ramping-up my skills as a sewing hobbyist. And I got by today.  I even finished the bag a few minutes after making the video — because the making of the video helped me solve the problem I was encountering.  Huh, how about that?

Chances are, your school or library’s MakerSpace has or will eventually have a sewing machine.  And some widower will drop off his wife’s quilting supplies someday.  But the chances are, you don’t know how to use your sewing machine, and you don’t have the knowledge of patterns and assembly techniques to be able to put that sewing machine to good use.

It takes habits of thought, and habits of consciousness.  The materials and tools, in other words, by themselves do nothing.

What will it take before your MakerSpace or Design Lab has the technical wherewithal to use all the tools and materials it has to really make things that people want to use?  How will you get from making models, to making useful objects?

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  1. […] Yes, MakerSpaces are frequently about that — but let me say, those of us who teach or taught Maker work in schools are forgetting the importance of the soft skills, and of artisanship.  It’s part of the reason why I taught knitting, and built inkle looms, and learned to spin wool.  It’s part of the reason I learned to work a sewing machine, and to make costumes and hats and bags. […]

  2. […] A bag has challenges — thinking inside and outside, choosing fabric, figuring out waterproofing as needed, sewing stitches, mashing together three or four or more layers of fabric, determining inside compartments as necessary, and more. There are a lot of things that can go wrong. But it’s a great student project — the finished bag serves as a useful tool for transporting notebooks and textbooks from class to locker and home and so on. Designing a bag for a school means that all the needful school supplies should be able to fit within it.  You can even pair it with a pencil case design for a more thorough experience in sewing (adding zippers, yay!), and thinking in three dimensions. […]

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