Prototype shopping bag Style# 4213

how_my_day_went And now, a progress report of sorts. The photo at right  could be described as a summary of how it’s gone since my last entry. ~sigh~

Obviously I’m still not used to cutting seam allowance for the safety stitch on my new handy dandy overlock. I don’t know how many times I’ve made this mistake over the past year since I got it. Oh wait, I know. Every time. The bag shell isn’t overlocked but the lining is -or rather, it should have been.

I appreciate the many useful comments, I’m still sifting through those but off the top of my head, this (style number 4213) isn’t intended to be a grocery bag. I think a lot of people missed the nuance; it’s intended for other kinds of shopping such as at a mall or something. It’s too high end for grocery items that seep (ick!).

Of course I cut a prototype previously, a smaller version (style number 4211) but this is also a prototype. Normally I cut leather protos in pig but having done a previous rendition, I knew the pattern was well enough along that cutting the better goods wasn’t an issue. It was only the design execution that concerned me and you only get an accurate result with actual materials. Working on the first version was a bear; just try cutting a lining to match this sort of gusset and you’ll figure out what the problem was. As to the lining, I still have another iteration to go which will be simpler than my second try but I don’t know if it’ll perform as well. It’s one of those trade offs you sometimes have to make. I had less problems sewing it than I thought I would; it’s matching dots and pivoting which may pose a problem for those of you who may want to download the pattern to sew one for yourselves.

Here’s finished views of the bag, sorry that the side view is so blurry. Note the gusseting at the bottom; this allows the bag to expand. The bag looks much better in real life. Also, I haven’t pressed it yet (that’s a long story to come next week). It will be a trick to photograph these soft bags.

4213_front_finished 4213_side_finished

Pattern design:
The pattern was inspired by a grocery bag but there are differences. For one, it’s at least an inch larger in girth than the typical plastic throwaway. The handles are long enough to carry comfortably over your shoulder (another 2 or 3 inches longer). Lastly, the bag itself is two inches deeper. Although this isn’t intended for groceries, the sizing standard was developed based on a pizza box in a throwaway bag. Since the bottom gusset isn’t wide enough for the box, it forces a plastic bag open to it’s widest girth and the bag length is shortened by two inches (hence the 2″ length increase of mine). Then, due to the shortened height of the bag, you can’t pull the handles close enough together to carry it well. I just include that information in the event it helps you think about ways to design your own products.

Bag weight and hand:
People mentioned weight as being an issue but I did say this was lamb. Some garment lamb hides can weigh as much as 4 ounces per square foot but then leather producers are known to use the word “lamb” loosely. If the hide is over 12 square feet, it’s more likely to be sheep (heavier). This “lamb” hide was originally about 20 sqft making this lamb to have been calf sized. Maybe it was cross bred with a water buffalo, rather like I suspect this bunny was. Anyway, this “lamb” hide was skivved and I’m guessing it weighed about 2 ounces per square foot. I weighed it; it’s less than a pound all told.


Likewise, being so soft and pliable, it will roll up and fit in a purse which is handy because you can then put your purse in the bag should need arise. You can roll the bag more tightly, for the purposes of illustration I did it lightly and it’s still only 3″ in circumference done loosely. I don’t know what the weight load is for it but the lining and fusible interfacing gives the bag some stability and strength.

21605_black_velvet Speaking of interfacing, I used a new kind for this project and I’m very very pleased with it. It’s called Pro-Tricot Fusible (I heart and heartily recommend this vendor) which has a bit of give to it but it also has some threads running through it that stabilize the piece. Normally I just use whatever interfacing I have laying around left over from other projects because I’m usually making demonstration pieces rather than official prototypes. I went full bore and used the good stuff on this one because I wanted to test this bag for performance.

I’ve written two other entries on the process that I’ll post next week; I’m well into another version, style #4214 which is made in black velvet and decorated with nail heads. The look of it and the design configuration of the nail head placement will be nearly identical to this blouse (at right) if you want a sneak peek. A larger version of the blouse is here (100 kb).

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  1. Kaaren Hoback says:

    Im one of the people who misread it to be a grocery bag- This is brilliant and gorgeous.

    What’s the price point going to be?

  2. Kate in England says:

    I think it’s gorgeous, too, and hooray for handles that fit over the shoulder – I’m constantly amazed by how few bags there are that meet this very simple need. Are people really happy to carry handbags around by the handles? I love that it folds up small, too.

    I used to have a big sign pinned to the wall in front of my cutting table that said – “STOP! Which way up is your fabric?”…

  3. Milena says:

    I like this bag. I would use it to carry my tennis clothes and shoes for my game after work. And I’m pretty sure my racquet would fit nicely inside, with the handle sticking out. If it’s comfortable over the shoulder, it’s a winner.

  4. Faye says:

    I love it and that’s a pretty blue. I’m an antique market shopper and would carry my finds in this, and I also like that it folds. Kate, I see a lot of women who wear their higher end bags with the handles in the crook of their arms and wondered if the bag was heavy. I’m a shoulder bag wearer.

    Kathleen I’m curious about how you press leather, so I’ll look out for that entry. Thanks for sharing this process.

  5. Noora says:

    Can’t wait to see the inside. All the little pockets and compartments and stuff. Love the lining I see peeking through.
    I write myself notes like that all the TIME, hahahaha.

  6. Chrissy Game says:

    I second that the lining peeking through looks very cool. Probably not the exact idea of your target market but maybe mum’s might like this type of bag design too for all the extra bits and pieces they need carry with them for the kid/s, whilst still looking great with their outfit.

  7. Amy says:

    I’m enjoying reading your trial and error design process so much. Every item I create is one-of-a-kind, which amounts to confronting and figuring out a learning curve for many steps on every project I tackle. Visualizing and then trying to turn it into reality can be very challenging.

    I suggest using balled up bubble wrap–to keep the bag lightweight but filled out to the max–to show the full effect in your promotional photos.

  8. Catherine McQ says:

    “…this (style number 4213) isn’t intended to be a grocery bag…it’s intended for other kinds of shopping such as at a mall or something.”

    Many people think shopping bag is synonymous with grocery bag, so you might want to call your creation a tote bag, or drop the word bag and just call it a tote. A “stowable leather tote” or “compressible velvet tote” warrants a much higher price point than a “shopping bag.”

  9. Kathleen says:

    Hilarious! I got an email today from Becky Chiodi who says

    My reason for emailing today, however, is because I came upon the website of a London based designer that has leather shopping bags like the project you are working on. I found it on another blog site I frequent. The website is They produce the style you are working on and one that looks just like a brown paper shopping bag, as well as a couple of others. I thought you might be interested in checking it out.

    Pretty cool eh? Of course I had to go poke around. The designer is Natalie Thakur. It was hard to find a close up view of her bag but I poked around and found this. There are differences between our two bags. Hers aren’t lined but the handle fold lines (which become the bag sides) are top stitched. Type of leather isn’t described but I imagine it’s cow which is a sturdy choice. The dimensions are listed as L = 52cm x W = 28cm x D = 13cm. Mine are L=58, W=33, D=16 (cm) so mine is a bit roomier. I can only guess she copied the same source I used for the basis of my bag, the ubiquitous throw away plastic bag.

    The price of her bag is 140 pounds ($230.). Interestingly enough, her bag was voted #1 of the 50 best xmas gifts for women in The Independent’s Information magazine in Dec 07.

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