Ahem. 'Satchel' is a placeholder until I've decided on a proper name for this wee gem-in-the-works.
I started work a few months ago on a small item. Something practical for our currently fairly minimal-carry lives. But it was during a red light period on my broken traffic light, and things have moved slowly.
This week, I got to see it come to life in not one but two fully-developed samples. Queue the trumpets!! (Seriously, I can't quite convey the relief of seeing exciting work in flow after a mountain-range of challenges.)
Previously, I've been pretty much closed-lipped until a product was fully developed. Which is normal and sane as so many things are liable to change before a product launches. I'm going to shake things up though, this time.
I'm going to take you along on the process of development. Hold on to your hat, though, as many of the elements may well change.
Step 1: The brilliant Bex, converting my sketches and muslin prototype into pattern pieces.
It's gonna be a satchel.
Something handy for small carry needs, keeping items always in reach. Phone, keys, wallet, book, notepad, snack, mask — ya know, the small basics.
I've always been anti-one shoulder bags, so this may seem like an unusual move.
But, I also hadn't lived through a global pandemic before, and — seeing as I don't need to carry a full day's worth of items around to literally every place I go — I'm craving a handy, small bag.
Step 2: Tracing the pattern pieces onto the fabric. Then, of course, cutting.
A few months ago — after drawing up countless sketches — I began work on a muslin prototype (see top pic), and then on a lightweight canvas prototype. These gave me a loose idea of sizing and construction.
With the official samples, we wanted to test: the patterns, the closure, the material, the colours. I also needed to confirm zip types (I'm completely out of zips, and given a high minimum order quantity needed, and 6-8 week turnaround time, I want to make sure I order the right type.)
Step 3: Bringing the pieces together.
The first type of material we tested was a very happy sunflower colour supplied by a different mill than previously used. This canvas was listed as heavier in weight, with a slightly courser weave; two qualities I quite liked for this item. Especially as I'm running very low on the beloved cumin used in previous bags.
Also being tested was a turn-lock closure, though with a showier lock than I'd like simply as it was the one we had on hand.
Step 4: Testing it out. We ran out of time to add the top part of the lock (no matter), and didn't bother binding the seams.
Verdict? I absolutely loved the colour and material and ADORE the two front pockets. But the zipped top felt like a needless faff, and the overall depth a pinch too narrow. I did also have a concern as I put my airpods in that they'd slip out. <shivers>
The type of items I wanted to be sure could be carried without concern.
Well, if last time the result was a bit too minimal, this time it was a bit too, erm, maximal.
We added a zipped pocket on the back and a zipped pocket on the inside. I love the inner one, but the the one on the back is far more work (which equals cost) without enough reward. I just can't get to it easily enough, or imagine what it'd really be used for.
And the closure method? Gah, too much hassle as well! (I have a really low tolerance for engaging with products — I just want them to work, without effort.)
I do think this g-hook method can still work. But it needs tweaking. And I LOVE the colour pop.
The big success here was realising that both fabrics performed equally. I may still get some sunflower to fill the coffers when cumin is gone, but I'm also excited that I don't have to.
So, sample 2 verdict? More work to be done, but fewer items necessarily to buy. Definitely on the right track, but a sample or two still ahead, along with some longer testing times as I get closer to the winner.
Now, although I absolutely loved how the colours came together for Sample 1, I do still have plenty of existing fabric. And that 'heavier weight' the sunflower was listed as felt just about the same in reality as the fabric I literally have countless metres of. (Just not in cumin.)
So, for the second sample, I decided to see whether the existing fabric could do the job.
I also wanted to see whether we could incorporate the g-hook closures that we already have. Use what we have if it works, right?
There's the excitement of seeing a bag coming together, even though you know there's some way still to go.
But then there's this: a creation that hits the mark. It nails the mark. I can't quite describe the feeling of getting there, but it's pretty similar to the sweet sound of a baseball bat cracking as a homerun is hit. Excitement and satisfaction and — despite all the work — surprise.
Absurdly easy to secure and open. A generous zipped pocket for precious or loose bits, with a zip that's quick to get to. (I also designed the zipped pocket to pull in the sides of the bag to minimise gapping and, in turn, contents' exposure to the elements.)
No faffing. No excess elements or materials. Just pure awesomeness. HUZZAH! Relief and excitement in one.
Is it done and ready to go? Well, no, not quite. I've been an advocate for the user, and now I need to be an advocate for the Makers (and all wallets). When each product is starting to come together — as this now is — I ask 'what area is the biggest pain in production?' (This translates to 'what is the most expensive part to make?')
If it's possible to improve that area without compromising on what makes the result exciting, it's worth doing.
So, we're going to tweak a little here and there. Also, the latch doesn't stay closed as snuggly as I'd like, so I need to source a better size. Lastly, I just need to use the bag for a bit! But it's ever so simpler than the Rolltop, where months (erm, years) of testing was really needed.
We're ridiculously close!
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