Inspiration

I admit it. I’m addicted to tumblr. I’ve spent a lot of time on tumblr lately — time I should have been using preparing for Christmas.

I’ve been seeing a lot of canvas and leather bags in the tumblr posts by people I follow. I love the simple utility of theses bags. One day recently, I saw a variation on these leather-strapped and -bottomed bags made from what looks like an old Indian rug. It reminded me of old carpet bags. I thought this would be a great idea for a bag — recycling something old into something new.

I have a pile of old jeans waiting to be sorted and taken to the thrift store. Looking through the jeans, I thought that a denim and leather shoulder bag would be just the thing for my sister’s Christmas present. She is very pregnant right now and I figured she could use the bag as a diaper bag. That and I had no other good ideas of what to get her. With only 30 hours left until Christmas, I went to Tandy Leather Factory and bought some tan oily leather and various buckles. I did a quick sketch of my idea. It seemed straight forward enough, but I didn’t know if I could pull it off in time for Christmas.

The morning before Christmas day, I started my project by measuring out and cutting all the leather parts I would need. I dyed all the pieces and set them aside to dry. We were having guest over for Christmas Eve dinner, so I had to set the project aside for the remainder of the day while my wife and I cleaned the house, top-to-bottom. (Did I mention I’d had a small surgery on my foot less than 48 hours earlier, and was not supposed to be walking around too much? )Late in the evening, before going to bed, I put the finishing protective coating on all the straps.

On Christmas day, I awoke at around 6 AM. My parents were hosting Christmas dinner, but I was responsible for the pies. I went to work straight away, making my crust by hand. Once I had the two pumpkin pies in the oven I headed to the dining room (which is also my craft room) and got to work on the bag project.

I selected an old favourite pair of dark blue jeans for the body of the bag. I cut off the legs and had to do a bit of work transforming the top part of the jeans into a basic bag shape. I got to work adding the leather bottom to the bag. Things started to slow down: I was running low on the thread I was using; my machine was not happy about the heavy thread, four layers of denim, and two layers of leather; and I was getting frustrated. This was the point when I almost gave up trying to get this done as a Christmas gift. However, I persevered, and the body of the bag finally came into shape. With the body complete and the straps all ready, I headed down to my shop to rivet all the pieces together. (In the summer I had splurged and bought a hand-press and dies for setting snaps and rivets — using a hammer and punch is slow and tedious. The hand-press is more efficient and consistent. Having the hand-press is the only reason the bag was done on time.)

I had the bag fully assembled and complete by 2 PM. Did I mention that I still had to wrap everyone else’s presents?

By 3pm, my wife and I were in the car heading over to my folks. After a quick hello and a little snack (I had not eaten yet) the family started tearing into the gifts.

My sister loves the bag. Apparently she had been coveting a Pendleton bag similar to the one that was my inspiration. The denim bag saves her a few bucks and she can tell everyone it was hand made by her child’s crafty uncle.

Okay, time to go check in on tumblr.