Periodically I make a bag (or set of bags) that I’m so excited about they never see the light of day. They remain buried in my photo files, described only in my head, viewed by only myself and the customer. They are "oo’d" and "ah’d" over by no one.
That's not because I don't want to share--quite the opposite. Sometimes in the flush of excitement and pride I tell myself that This One is special enough that I need to set aside some time to properly feature it, maybe write a whole blog post calling out the details, highlighting the innovative features, and including lots of photos–you know, give it it’s rightful moment in the limelight.
And then it happens. I look at the work queue and diligently move onto the next project, letting that Featured Project slide into obscurity, perhaps never to be seen.
So, I’d like to share a few projects from 2021 that deserve a moment of attention before we launch headlong into the new year.
This Waxing Longflap Saddlebag was made for a customer in Brooklyn last spring. In terms of size and shape it is no different than the standard issue, but sticks in my mind for it’s aesthetics. The bag is made of Navy #8 waxed canvas–a subtle and deeply lustrous color.
The plan called for accent stripes in Butter and Terra Cotta–colors not available as waxed material. As an experiment, I decided to try waxing the canvas stripes so they’d match the visual and textural quality of the rest of the bag. I made a homebrew of paraffin and beeswax and saturated the accent colors. As one would expect, it deepened them, and the result was perfect. Together with the rest of the bag they created a beautiful and unified whole. Waxed canvas options are limited and tend towards conservative colors, so being able to expand the palate a bit is exciting and opens up possibilities.
Note the snap closure on the cover strap. I call this the Quick Access Snap and it allows you to open the main compartment by simply unsnapping the straps. I find buckles cumbersome to open repeatedly, particularly when I’m impatient or the weather is bad. The snap option maintains the adjustability of buckles, but facilitates opening the bag easily. If you ask me, it's the way to go!
We all loved Yehuda Moon, right?
If you are not familiar with “Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery”, Yehuda was the central character in the web-based comic strip that ran for a number of years starting in 2008. Yehuda embodied a “BOB-ish” approach to life and cycling; his daily commutes offered a musing on the joys of moving on two wheels while he negotiated the irritations of modern car culture and humored the friendly taunts of his speed-focused co-worker Joe. Anyone who’s ever commuted on a bike could easily see themselves in Yehuda. Like many others, I loved the poetic vignettes and lovely comic art.
Imagine my utter amazement when none other than Rick Smith contacted me to order a substantial set of Waxwing bags. Yes, Rick Smith, the creator of Yehuda Moon! I was beside myself. In writing back to Rick I indulged my fan-excitement, let him know how much I loved his work and then gathered myself together and got to work. Making bags for Rick would be, you know, sort of like making bags for Yehuda himself. How fun!
Rick plans to do some long-distance touring in the next few years and this set of bags will be ready when the time comes. In the meantime they'll meet his needs for journeys closer to home on his Rivendell Saluki. The set includes front and rear camping panniers, a medium front handlebar bag, a large longflap saddlebag, and a matching reflector to round it all out. You could carry a lot of gear with this group of bags!
You might notice I shortened the rear panniers front-to-back dimension from 14” to 12” to avoid heel strike issues. (The front set remain standard at 14"). A DockIt decaleur and a set of RaClips provided the attachment scheme for the front bag while the panniers are all secured using RixenKaul mount hardware, which has become my standard go-to.
File this one under: You Can’t Buy this Bag on 5th Avenue.
I had the great pleasure of making a frame bag for a fellow Vermonter out of a deconstructed Louis Vitton bag. Working with patterned fabric requires care to ensure the pieces are cut correctly for the left and the right sides and that the pattern lines up neatly. Note the original bag’s printed lining used for internal pocket material.
Word is the owner is on the hunt for more material for the next bag. What a fun challenge!
"Can you take this shoulder bag and use it for inspiration?"
Of course! Given the array of colors I have available, I did my best to touch on the beautiful shades of this shoulder bag. The handlebar bag was a gift to a brother from his siblings, and I must say, being given free reign to interpret made me a little nervous, but word is the lucky brother is quite happy.
It's an honor and a pleasure to be able to do this work.
Sometimes a project requires specifically that I NOT share it for reasons important to the owner –in one instance the bag I made is a part of a project-in-development that isn’t yet public-- or in this case, the bag is a central feature a bike shop is using with a new build to highlight the shop. The slow trickle of components has meant patience in this one seeing the light of day. Similarly, a bag specifically designed to house an e-bike mechanism is still under wraps.
Lastly, I want to spend a moment musing on a bag I’ve long wanted to make, but had not yet found the opportunity. This bag is modeled on the classic Alex Singer style front bags with up-and-over the top straps providing the closure. I find this bag gorgeous and was so pleased to make one for a rider’s Jo Routens; it just seemed appropriate and right for a bike of this pedigree. Since a sewn-in map case would sully the neat appearance of the cover, I made a removable version that I’m happy with. A matching tool roll sized to fit the front pocket rounded out the project.
I don’t often get myself in the project queue, but I might have to get in line for one of my own later this year.
I could share many more projects that deserve some attention, but I won’t test your patience!
It's good to look back and take stock while I anticipate what the new year will bring. Part of the fun is seeing the amazing ideas and challenges my customers bring to me. I’m excited already. Thanks for following along and I wish you and yours' the best for 2022!
Comic images: ©Rick Smithfirstname.lastname@example.org
Cyclist and craftsman.