the bag of my dreams

Dear, dear readers. I’ve had this post written up for at least a week, but have held off on pressing the publish button until I got some photos of me actually wearing this bag. Those photos have yet to exist.  And I really want to share this bag with you, so I’m afraid you’ll just have to picture me wearing it. And maybe someday my brain will be less sleep deprived, and I’ll be able to think far enough ahead to coordinate blog photos of myself. Now let’s proceed!

A couple of things: 1) Getting out of the house before noon with every person presentable is a monumental feat for our family right now. 2) Now that a babe has joined our ranks, we need All the Things when we leave the house. ALL THE THINGS.

Behold, the accessory that makes sanity more attainable: the diaper bag. Specifically this diaper bag, the diaper bag. Making my own diaper bag was in the works as soon as that pregnancy test read positive. The bag I used when Asher was a baby had lived its life. I used that bag every single day for a year and a half, and it is worn out and stained. I tell you, diaper bags are the ultimate workhorse. You need a good one, and for me this time around, I needed a new one.

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This bag was the second to last project I finished before Evie was born, and 95-percent of the time it was a complete delight to work on. I spent hours researching and mulling over prints and leather sources and hardware options. Making this bag was going to be both time intensive and monetarily expensive, so I wanted it to be exactly what I wanted.

Guys, I love it. Love love love love love it: the crosses, the lambskin leather, the antique brass hardware, the modifications, the fact that this diaper bag doesn’t look like a diaper bag. It turned out just as I pictured, and it’s glorious. Without this bag I’d be a mess of a mother, and I’m not even exaggerating.

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Now for some nitty-gritty specs and technical details. I used the Colette Cooper pattern (from their Walden line). I’ve made this bag two times before (once for Josh and once for Asher), so I was familiar with the techniques and construction. I didn’t follow the pattern’s exact guidelines on main fabric and contrast fabric, but rather went piece by piece and decided where to use leather and where to use the Swiss cross. (These decisions were also heavily informed by the limited amount of leather I had.)

modifications

So, modifications. The Cooper bag wasn’t designed as a diaper bag, and diaper bags are a specific type of bag. I needed something versatile, convenient, and heavy duty. I referenced Devon’s Cooper bag throughout my own bag-making process,  and adapted many of her modifications to my own Cooper. The Cooper Companion, an ebook from Colette, was also highly helpful for this project.

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The backpack version was my base, and I used Devon’s idea of making my own quilted straps instead of using just webbing like the pattern instructed. And people, a backpack diaper bag is awesome. Especially now that I have a toddler in tow this time around, wearing my bag on my back frees up hands and and arms. It’s fabulous.

Though I wasn’t ready to relinquish the shoulder strap completely. Borrowing from both the Cooper Companion and Devon, I added a removable shoulder strap. I use both the backpack straps and the shoulder strap equally and am so glad that I have both.

I sandwiched high-density batting between the strap pieces to give them cushion and also quilted the back of the bag with the high-density batting. I like the extra support the batting gives, but it was a beast to sew.

One of the key modifications I made was to the exterior bottom panel. Whenever we go out I make sure Asher has a water bottle. The downside (that I’ve experienced way too many times) is leakage. While his current water bottles haven’t fallen victim to leaky lids yet, when Evelyn starts using a sippy cup in six months, leaking water and juice will definitely be a thing. So this bag needed a place for the water bottles and sippy cups.

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I extended the top part of the panel and then added an elastic casing to create the cup pockets. They fit Asher’s Contigo bottles perfectly.

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I maybe could have spent more time designing the best lining, but I just added more pockets, some deep and some shallow. I like the idea of an ultra-organized diaper bag, but let’s get real: Everything goes from blankets to burp cloths to wipes to toy helicopters goes in there, and when I need something I stick my arm in and hope for the best. Regardless of how many specialized pockets a bag has, I will inevitably end up with a bottomless pit.

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One pocket, however, did get special attention. While I don’t hate digging for diapers, I do loathe mining for my phone or keys or that elusive pacifier. So I extended the front pocket down to meet the bottom panel (and sewed the front bottom panel pocket shut). This front pocket is the perfect place for those small essentials that I need at my finger tips. I also added a key clip so that my key ring is always in easy reach. (I wasn’t sure if I’d really use this feature, but so far I’ve found it quite handy.)

sourcing and other notes

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I spent a little less $150 on everything for this bag, including shipping costs and supplies (I went through so many leather needles!)

Swiss cross canvas: fabric.com

Italian lambskin hide: Rolipel shop on Etsy (only $45 with shipping!)

Ripstop water-resistent lining: Rockywoods Fabric

Antique brass hardware: Hardware Elf

1.5-inch navy webbing: A Graff Supplies (Etsy)

:: A tailor’s clapper was key in sewing with the leather. I bought mine on Amazon, but you could probably use a smooth block of wood as well.

:: Topstitching thread was key in making my results professional. I bought white topstitching thread for stitching the canvas and tan thread for topstitching the leather. The topstitching thread made a world of difference in the product. (Also, placing a strip of tissue paper between the presser foot and the leather makes topstitching leather so much easier.) I also used the Bernina #5 presser foot for my edgestitching.

:: Using the right needles was essential. I went through at least a whole pack of leather needles and used heavy-duty needles for the rest of the sewing.

:: If you want to sew your own bag–especially if you’ll be working with leather–take your time. Because this bag was such an important project to me (and because of the money I’d invested in the materials) I went slowly. Very slowly.

:: Once I was completely finished, I weatherproofed the bag all over with the spray you can buy for shoes. I live in a very wet place, and I am so glad I did this. I’d hate for that dreamy leather to be ruined after one run through a rainy Costco parking lot.

I think this bag and I have a bright future together. We’re a team, this bag and I, and perhaps I can do this mom-0f-two thing after all.

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3 Comments

  1. Sonia Crawford
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    You did an amazing job. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Posted December 11, 2015 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Wow! That is quite an accomplishment! You did a phenomenal job. Very impressed.

  3. Posted January 11, 2017 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m taking your process and following it precisely! My sister-in-law is pregnant with a girl and I want to make her one! Thanks Charlotte :).

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