Laptop Bag: Making a Pocket

A couple months ago, while I was working on some other artwork, I took apart an old dress I’d picked up from FreeCycle eons ago and had been hoarding because I loved the pattern. I’ve decided I want to make a laptop bag with it. However, there are some modifications I had to make to the original Instructables pattern.

See, isn't that a gorgeous pattern?

See, isn’t that a gorgeous pattern?

First off, the material isn’t as heavy as that of a suit jacket. So, I needed to add some moderately thick interfacing to give it some extra stability. I only have 2 kinds of interfacing on hand – very thin fusible web and some generic sew-in interfacing that I picked up from somewhere ages ago (probably from my paternal grandmother) and I don’t even think the company that made it is around anymore. I don’t want to make a trip to the store, so I went with the 20+ year old sew-in stuff. It’s awesome how well this stuff kept. The point is, if your outer material is on the thin side, just about anything will do to stabilize it. If I didn’t have any interfacing, I could have used a layer of some slightly thicker fabric to add more durability.

The other thing I have to do is to create my own pockets. See, the beauty of using a suit jacket is that it already has pockets, so you don’t have to make them yourself. It’s a time saver, it really is. It can be a bit of a pain to draft and construct a pocket where none previously existed, but it can be done. Here’s how:

GE1) Measure out on the back where you need the hole for the pocket mouth to be. I do this my marking the center line. Then, you’ll want the mouth to be about 2.5 – 3 inches from the top. I decided I want my pocket to be about 5 inches wide, so, I made sure to put that 2.5 inch mark on that center line. You can use a rotory cutter or good scissors to carefully cut along that line.

Ignore the stitching along the sides. I had to play around with the pocket installation before I got it right. Also, you can tell the top bar hasn't been trimmed yet.

Ignore the stitching along the sides. I had to play around with the pocket installation before I got it right. Also, you can tell the top bar hasn’t been trimmed yet.

2) For each pocket I made, I cut out a rectangle of lining fabric about 5.5 -6 inches wide (wider than the mouth hole) by anywhere from 12-14 inches. It all depends on how deep you want your pocket. Say you want your pockets 6 inches deep. Since you’ll be folding the piece of lining in half, multiply the number of inches (in this case 6) by 2. Then, use some scrap piece of the outer material to line the top edge of each pocket piece. You will need this piece of outer material to blend in when pushing back the edges of the opening creates an open space. You’ll see what I mean later.

3) Starting with the bottom edge, face the right (face) side of the pocket to the right (face) side of the bag face, lining the edge of the pocket along the edge of the mouth hole. Pin into place and then sew. Go ahead and sew along the entire length of the pocket piece, even if it’s wider than the mouth hole. You can always use a seam ripper to pull out a stitch or two if you need to later.

GE4) Now you’re going to do the same thing with the top edge. Kind of loop the pocket lining over so that the edge of the right (face) side of the pocket runs along the top line of the mouth hole.  Sewing this one with a machine can be a little tricky, but it can be done.

GE5) Push the pocket into the mouth hole. Very carefully, work the edges of the mouth hole , pinching the edge from the pocket and the face, creating a smooth seam edge. Pin as you go. Pay particular attention to the two sides of the pocket slot. This is where you may need to take out a stitch or two – but just enough that you can push the pocket edges all the way in and create a smooth edge all the way around. Now, stitch around the pocket slot, making sure you don’t sew the pocket shut.

6) Sew the sides of the pocket shut.GE

Tada! You have created a pocket! I told you it was a pain in the ass, didn’t I? Now do you see why you needed that matching fabric at the top of the pocket piece?GE

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What I Get For Thinking

From this point forward, no more promises… I promise.

So, I’m still not quite ready to show you all the completed jacket. After I finished installing the back panel and tacked on the new cuffs, I noticed something…

GE GE

… The outer edge of the cuffs, and on the wrist along the bottom of the cuff, are more spots that are fraying too badly for me to just ignore. The entire reason I am doing this creative upcycle is prolong the life of this jacket for my friend. If I don’t do anything with these worn spots, they will eventually get worse. Well, even without those spots, the jacket will still eventually wear down, but I’m aiming for later rather than sooner.

As a result of this problem, I’ve been experimenting with different ideas on how to reinforce these weak zones without just throwing more patches on them. So, I had one crazy idea that I spent way too much time on only to fizzle out on me. I thought that perhaps I could use a decoratively cut strip of contrasting denim to cover those areas – providing the needed reinforcement while at the same time looking interesting.

GE GE GE

If you notice, while the band fits well at the cuff, it’s too short on the other side as the arm of the jacket begins to expand out. If I secure this band onto the jacket, it will cause bulging and puckering. So, now I need to come up with another idea. In the meantime here are some photos of the jacket showing the completed back panel replacement.

GE GE

In other news, I have about a week before I am set to share a table with another friend, Julia, at C4A’s Race Street Bash in Urbana, Illinois. This means the jacket is going on the back burner while I finish making things for that event. Given that the temperature has been in the 80’s this past week, I don’t think Melissa will be needing her jacket back just yet. Besides, as I’ve been experimenting on it, I’ve decided there are a couple more things I want to do, for the sake of aesthetics. 🙂

Red Bull Fueled Late Nights – On the Journey from Concept to Art

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A page from my art journal. What started with one idea bloomed into an entire theme.

Right now, it is around 2:45 in the morning as I start to write this. Since I don’t have to work tomorrow (er, today), and I am behind schedule from where I would like to be, I decided to pull a late night working on pieces for the Boneyard Art Fest.  What started out with one idea grew into multiple pieces with an overall theme. And I am paying for it now. Check here to see how it started.

I’ve been looking back into my past and my experiences with domestic violence and have built each piece as various portraits of a woman – a hybrid between myself and my mother, but also extended into portraits of those who’ve had to endure these experiences in general as many of the feelings and themes are, sadly, universal.

The screams and cries

You may have already read the entry on Seeing Sound, or if you haven’t GEyou can go back and check it out. I’ve since hashed out the image I will be embroidering onto that denim hem background. I found a good diagram of the larynx online, and GEwith the help of a nurse friend of mine, we enlarged it to more or less be life sized. I then sketched out a rough (very rough) outline of what the embroidered image will look like. I still need to actually embroider it.

The Cycle of Violence

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Mother and Child planned layout

Violence begets violence. Children who grow up in an environment where there is domestic violence are more likely to learn and repeat those behaviors. This does not have to be fate, however. Cycles can be broken, but to do so takes effort. My mother made every effort she could to make sure the cycle would be broken with me, and I’d like to think that it has, but some days I’m not sure. It can be hard, when you’ve never seen an example of a healthy relationship, it can be hard to know what one is *supposed* to look like and it can be hard to tell if your reactions or feelings are normal and natural or conditioned.
I wanted to capture this generational cycle in another portrait. A portrait of the mother and child in utero. To plan the layout, I had a friend trace my outline onto poster board and I made the abdomen GEwider to incorporate a pregnant womb. It’s entirely possible that I’m not medically accurate as far as fetus size or belly size, but I made an honest attempt. I am currently in the process of creating the surprisingly complicated background for this piece and, once complete, intend to outline the body, womb and fetus with embroidered descriptor words and phrases (I may replace embroidery with a quicker method if I hit a serious time crunch).
For this background, I am using several different fabrics, all used clothing, in shades of black and blue (to symbolize bruising). This is what I was playing around with the other day. I am piecing these fabrics together crazy quilt style, to reflect the shattered lives, emotions and homes that must be stitched back together if we are to survive. And it goes deeper than that. I took a light blue fabric, the lining of an old prom dress, and wrote down the stories, the experiences, the feelings that have been handed down. Because I had to. Because in creating these works, I am digging deep into my own life and those stories needed to be GEthere. And I cut them into shards just like the other pieces and covered them with a layer of sheer fabric. I have done this for two reasons – 1) While these are my stories, they do not belong to me alone and I need to respect that. I’ve made it all but impossible to actually *read* them. 2) Like anything else, these histories are broken apart and distorted from time and perspectives. What I would have to say, what the other actors in these stories would have to say, are likely to be different parts of the same whole. And so, cutting them and obscuring them symbolizes that fact.

More to Come, Stay Tuned

I’ve more to say, but this is getting long and I need to get some amount of sleep. Check back Saturday, March 30th for more.

Nowhere on the Horizon

I want to thank my readers for sticking with me despite my negligence in posting the past few weeks. Almost immediately after I finished dealing with all the holiday happenings and the post-holiday take down, I was viciously attacked by a nasty flu bug bent on world domination… or, well, at least the domination of my immune system. After almost a week of full on war, the entire flu army has been obliterated. Somewhere in my sinuses there are still bits of mutilated flu bodies scattered around, and on a cell wall is a photo of some of my white blood cells in combat fatigues and helmets, climbing over a tonsil and raising the flag of victory.

Now that life is settling back into it’s normal rhythm, I’m back to work, sewing away. I’ve been doing most of my work on the Nowhere Man.  Have a look at what I have been up to:

Adding the second later of diamonds...

Rather than applique the star onto the back of the jacket, I decided to replace the entire back panel. I ended up using one of my collector knives as a seam ripper because I had lost mine. It actually worked rather well, however I did get a proper seam ripper as a replacement for Christmas.
I wanted to replace the entirety of the back panel, so, it’s obvious that I needed to add more diamond layers. One thing I would like to point out now that ended up turning into a huge pain later on: Do you see how the original panel is sewn together in 3 sections? Notice how they are curved? It’s a seam trick that makes the garment a little more form fitting — this is a woman’s jacket afterall. It also does not allow the fabric to lay 100% flat, there is an ever so slight curvature to it. With the way the star is put together and laid out, I can’t very well replicate those panel sections. So, I had to alter the shape of the entire back somewhat to accommodate my design.
I toyed around with the idea of orienting the star in such a way as to designate the cardinal directions (North, South, East, West) in red and using the grey for NNW, NNE and the like.  I also, ultimately, wasn’t able to do this either once my star was big enough to cover the majority of the back.
All the diamonds come from old jeans. The bigger chunks of denim come from scrap material left over from when I made myself a pair of bell bottoms 4 years ago. I save everything. I have some scraps of fabric I have been toting around since 8th grade that I’m still not sure how I will use. Maybe someday I’ll make some twined rag rugs or maybe I’ll get really industrious and use the smallest bits of fiber to make my own paper. I don’t put it past myself. The point is, I do not want to waste anything if I can at all help it.
Right now, I am actually in the process of installing the new “Nowhere Man” panel into the jacket. I still need to pick up some more yellow denim thread to do this properly, so all the current stitches are just temporary stay stitches. Something else that’s going to be super fun (and a super pain in the butt): Do you notice how those big chunks of new denim are so much lighter cleaner than the rest of the jacket? Left alone, it probably won’t look right once the installation is done. That’s right… I’m going to have to manually age/dirty those sections so it’ll fit into the surroundings better.  That’s something I have never done before.. so, on one hand, I am excited. On the other, I am nervous and worried that I might end up ruining this piece that I have spent so many hours toiling over. This is how I learn though, I play around and experiment.

Reigning in the Muse

It is the curse of the creative mind to constantly be thinking about the next project. Inspiration is always showing itself to me and my mind plays around with all kinds of new scenarios. I might see some new fabric or an old jacket and can just see how these items can be used to give life to new art or some new purpose. And yet, I must be self-disciplined to not simply jump in and start some new project each time the muse strikes me. Otherwise the projects I have already begun will never be finished and my room will become overcrowded with newly started works in progress.
As of this moment, I have 3 projects I am working on.. the Nowhere Man I talked about last week, a double knit scarf and a quilt I started last year that was intended to be my brother’s Christmas present.  Maybe he’ll get it this year… maybe.  Since I am reigning in my muse and not starting anything new until this is completed, here is the progress of my quilt (don’t worry, I’ve already shown it to my brother, he likes it and is anxiously awaiting it’s completion. lol):

Playing around with design schemes..

This is actually my mother’s fault. I had found this Batman panel of fabric and had originally thought to make a simple wall hanging out of it for my brother, because he loves Batman. I asked my mother what she thought and she said, “well, you know, he needs a new blanket..”.  And so, I got to work trying to create an original design that incorporated the panel but made it a central focus rather than taking away from it.

The final design

And I set to work cutting out the pieces, after doing some math and figuring how many inches each of the squares on the graph paper were supposed to equal.

Organizing the cut pieces

This is the quilt entirely pieced together.  I machine pieced it, but am hand quilting it. This is also my first quilt.. and I had no idea just how long and tedious the process is.

To give you some idea, the bed which it is draped over is queen sized.

All that is really left is to applique the little bats in the corners (in the yellow.. the corners are meant to resemble the bat signal that would appear in the sky that called Batman into action). After that, I will finally be able to ship it to my brother and begin the next quilt. 🙂