Well, I stole a few minutes here and there today and finished my bag - um, sort of. There is one more modification I'd like to make on this bag (and a redraft for the next one).
Making the front went reasonably well. One of the main modifications in the front patch pocket was to channel quilt using the front pocket divisions as a guide. Now my front pocket has places in it for pens, for my batteries, keys, and all the other skinny things that end up slipped into the outside of my bag.
This pocket is what dictates the size and shape of the front of the bag.
Placement for the front pocket area went well, too, but I'm not totally happy with the flap closure - I much rather would have used a snap for it, as with the old bag. You can't see it until the final picture, but I ended up using a self fabric covered button (I have a hunch it just won't last) and loop.
The bag is really built from the outside in, in layers. All the outermost pieces are done first, right to finished edges in most cases. The only edges that are left unfinished are those that will be in the main construction seams at the very end. In the old bag that meant many, many layers in the seams...the new bag is redesigned to eliminate a lot of the seam bulk that was part and parcel in the construction of the old bag.
Another big difference between this one and the other is that the old bag used Timtex as the interlining, while this one uses Hobbes 80/20 Black. The old bag had a good weight and body to it, it was nice and solid feeling. This one is softer, but as there are so many constructed layers it still has good body and shape. I've also done a lot more vertical channel quilting on this bag to add body and strength to the shape.
Although I changed how the zipper went in to accommodate the sides, I'm not totally happy about how it worked. now that the bag is all together, I know what I should have done. Rather than close the opening at the end, there are times during the construction process when I could have done that using construction seams - not topstitched construction. The bag is a bit of a balance between the two seam styles.
I think now that the bag is done I'll add a small straight grain binding patch over the spot where the zipper flaps are stitched to the sides. It'll just look nicer, give it a clean finish.
The zipper area is the main area that needs redraft and design. I like the placement, and for a first try this went together reasonably well, but there has got to be a better way that will give a more integrated looking final product. To me the zipper are looks like an afterthought, even though it was probably the main focus of the new pattern (mainly how to make it work now that there are the wide sides on the bag - oh wait! I just had another idea...I better go write it in my notes....)
The modification I'll make yet to the bag (it is not done yet in the final picture here) is to move the bottom of the strap (shown at left). It needs to be almost 4" higher than it is now. The way it is now, the strap leaves the back at my hip, causing the bag to hang crooked. If I move the strap higher, so that it leaves the back at my waist, the bag will hang straighter. This is something I could never solve with the old bag - I'd known it hung crooked, but did not know how to fix it. I'll probably fix the new bag before I go to bed tonight - I have a heck of a time leaving things like that unfinished!
There are a couple other things that are just not quite right yet - I had to use a narrower front strap than the old bag - The old one used 2" webbing and clips, this one I could only get 1" wide webbing and quick clips. (We do live in the boonies, here - I was lucky to find any webbing at all) All the fixtures for this and the last bag were ones that I'd cannibalized from old purchased backpacks or fanny packs over the years. When the fabric would wear out, I'd cut off all the useful things that were left - zippers, clasps, clips and webbing. This one uses new webbing that I bought locally, but all the other notions are reclaimed from other bags that have been used up. Yes, I'm a bit of a pack rat...just can't throw out anything useful!
I put the pack on tonight to see how it felt. So far, so good - but the one thing that hadn't even occurred to me until then was that I started with a purse and ended with a backpack. I guess that's what I need! When I was a teenager and in my 20's I carried a backpack that always had books and sketchbooks in it. In my late 20's and early 30's, I carried a backpack full of diapers and baby toys. Now, I'm back to the sketchbooks and pens! Add my camera, my glasses, the vast volumes of mail I carry back and forth every week day...well, maybe it's just my lot in life to carry big bags. This one will get me to New Hampshire next week, and that's all I can really ask.