In sifting through the applicants for the Refine My Line series, I had to reject some volunteers because their products seemed so well put together there wasn’t much -if anything- to be made in the way of suggested improvements. Then, just before falling asleep one night, it occurred to me that it could be educational were I to point out the kinds of details that made these products great.
For the inaugural entry Paul Jacobson agreed to become our first volunteer RML Reject. His label is 48North a line of natural fabric messenger bags, backpacks and bags for travel. He’s also developing a line of diaper bags that men won’t be embarrassed to carry. He said he was flattered to be an RML Reject and agreed that it would be helpful to hear what he got right “as there may be some things that I do and maybe don’t know why I am getting the good result”. He is still finessing the product line with testing and the like but you can look over the product portfolio as time permits.
I’m at a loss to know where to start with 48North. It is much easier to pick out flaws particularly if they are scant. I suppose the things that stand out are engineering (design), construction, quality hardware, crisp finishing and the appropriateness of materials. Let’s take a look at his messenger bag (shown at top).
The utility of design can be difficult to gauge unless you’ve used an item for awhile but obvious care has gone into these. Double buckle closure considering the size of fold over flap size is a must. I like that the application is not overdone; box stitching the buckles would be overkill since duty is not likely to require it. It serves no purpose to inflate your customer’s cost for something they do not need; it is not congruous with this product line to do what amounts to being overdone.
Under the flap, the bag’s front has a utility zip close large pocket. There’s also a zip close side entry pocket (right). Note that the existence of the pocket isn’t evident when closed, it is concealed by a nicely top stitched placket. One very nice feature is the contrasting lining. First it is functional; the lining lets you see that the pocket hasn’t been secured. Second, the contrasting lining is a nice splash of color; it’s obvious some thought went into this. If serviceability -the need of a lining- had been the only consideration, Paul could have used the light grey used elsewhere. Using a bright color splash ups the ante to a safety feature.
All of the features are well thought. Consider the grab handle available on many of his styles. Sure, a lot of utility bag lines have those but his grab handles are encased in a sleeve making them more comfortable to carry. A sleeve is also functional from a structural standpoint in distributing weight more evenly over the strap. It isn’t evident from this photo but other photos show the sleeve ends are also finished with trim as opposed to being turned under and stitched flat. And not that it would be bad if someone didn’t use trim. My point is that these products have a lot of integrity.
Paul is a mechanical engineer and has been sewing since 1970 although he hadn’t been sewing for about 7 years before he starting making these bags. The finishing is immaculate. Here’s one thing he did that impressed me. The same trim used to finish the top of the inside bag and flap is one and the same. That’s no big deal. What is a big deal is that the lining and seam finishing with the same trim is sewn contiguous with finishing the flap. That’s not such a hard thing once you try it but it can be intimidating so a lot of people never try it. Through out, all stitching is clean and even and obviously sewn with appropriate equipment.
In spite of being a RML Reject, Paul says he isn’t happy with the bag linings and wants to explore better options. Judging from the results I would say he’s more competent than I am to enumerate improvements but at least in his case, these short falls can’t be determined without a hands on inspection. He says he’ll send me one. I’ll let you know what I come up with then.
In the meantime, feel free to share what you think -Paul says any style suggestions are warmly welcomed- and of course, anything you see that I missed. And also, do you think featuring “rejects” is fun? I do and hope you agree. Further discussion of Paul’s line is here in the forum. I’m sure he’d be happy to speak with you there one on one, especially if you think the answers to some of your questions may be proprietary.