Join Janet on her adventures as a designer, writer, maker, and farmer in montana. no two days are ever the same. you might even see a bear or two.

Another Fight Inside My Brain

Another Fight Inside My Brain

Creative Brain and Practical Brain had an argument yesterday. After sitting on this travel bag idea for months, Creative Brain decided that yesterday would be a great day to give birth to it. Just like that. Of course, Practical Brain had already mapped out the plan for the day and the to-do list didn’t include being a midwife.

Practical Brain put up a good fight:

“We need to work on the job search.”
“The husband needs apples and we have to make a trip to town.”
“No new projects until that Caravan Tote is complete.”

I spent a couple of hours in my office doing paperwork and then I did finish the Caravan Tote, but by noon, Creative Brain insisted that it was time. Practical Brain sighed and strapped itself in for the ride.

This is how Creative Brain operates: Creative Brain knows that there is a stack of home dec fabric in the stash, so it says, “Hey, let’s make a practice travel bag out of that black and white canvas toile. There should be enough.” So I retrieve the piece of black and white canvas toile (that detail is going to be very important shortly) and measure it. It is a remnant 58” wide x 22” long with a directional print, meaning that the fabric has to be cut a certain way.

Practical Brain: This is going to be tight.

Creative Brain: Nonsense! There is plenty of fabric! Look, you need two pieces that are 10-1/2” x 23” for the front and back and one piece that is 8” x 23” for the back pocket. It’ll fit!

Practical Brain: This is a toile. You can’t just cut a pocket and slap it on the back; you need to fussy cut it to make sure the print matches. (Small but crucial detail.)

Creative Brain: That is your department. I just come up with the great ideas. It’s your job to figure out how to make them work.

Practical Brain: I hate you.

Practical Brain did indeed find a way to fussy cut the pocket and make it match perfectly. (There was a great deal of luck involved.) If you’re having trouble finding the pocket in this picture, look for the black topstitching that goes along the top edge:


I showed this to the husband after dinner. Even he, who has very little sewing experience (none, actually), was astute enough to ask, “Why didn’t you just use a solid color?”


Making the back exterior piece and pocket took most of the afternoon, but it was enough progress to get Creative Brain to shut up for a while. The plan for today is to tackle the front exterior piece. It might have a pocket (I am still undecided), but perhaps just a small one between the handles. The bottom pieces likely will be black cotton velveteen; I’ve used that on other bags and it’s sturdy enough. I’ll put purse feet on the bottom, too. I think the handles will be black seatbelt webbing. This is supposed to be a prototype, mostly so I can see if it’s big enough.

Experimenting is the part of designing I have the most trouble with. Frugality has a lot to do with that struggle; I don’t want to waste fabric on an idea that bombs. At least with knitting, you can rip out and re-use the yarn (usually). Still, I recognize now that that dislike of experimenting is why I spent so much time as a knitting designer analyzing the daylights out of cable patterns and how they behaved. I needed to set up a matrix of rules for myself in order to minimize the amount of experimentation that was required to design a sweater. I am okay with a bit of experimentation with this bag because I am using up remnants. I’d be much less willing to experiment with some $40 a yard home dec fabric.


And the Noodlehead Caravan Tote is indeed finished:


I went way off script with this one. That mudcloth fabric was left over from a failed experiment (see comments above), and while it worked well for this bag, I had already interfaced it with fusible fleece instead of the Decor-Bond called for in the pattern. I suspect you could carry fine china in this bag and it would be well protected. The lining is a gray twill; my love-hate relationship with twill used as lining fabric continues. I didn’t interface the twill, both because the pattern didn’t call for the lining to be interfaced and also because the fusible fleece made the rest of the bag bulky enough. However, twill which is not interfaced has a tendency to stretch when it’s being sewn. That’s just an inherent property of the weave.

Also, because the lining was not interfaced, I did not use the magnetic closure called for in the pattern. I just didn’t think the twill was sturdy enough to hold it without ripping eventually. The result is a bag that is open at the top. I think it will make a fine knitting bag, actually. That was the intent of the original pattern, which also included special needle pockets on the interior. I left those off in favor of a single slip pocket.

It moves to the “finished” column, and once again, I have to say that Anna Graham does a great job writing clear, accurate instructions. She and Betz White are probably my two favorite bag designers from that standpoint.

We’ll see if Creative Brain behaves today or not.

Avoiding the Swamp

Avoiding the Swamp

Over and Back to Spokane

Over and Back to Spokane