Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Leif Labs in Ecuador!

My friend Jay just got back from down south and brought back these awesome photos of his bag in action. Thanks, Jay!

Hey Babe

I was trolling through some old photos the other day and found this pic.
Proto-Leif Labs in Cork, Ireland. That's the great grandfather of the current 15incher.
Good times.

Saddle Shower Cap

Here's a seat cover I made for my friend's Brooks. Two layers of lightweight Gore-Tex. Woo.
I made one of these for my Brooks saddle a while ago but just used Velcro to attach it...which works kinda okay (I need to put some more Velcro on it). The drawstring works a lot better, though.

Baby, I Love The Way You're Shipped

Two hundred yards of seatbelt webbing. Yeah!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


19incher. Acrylic tartan, Cordura nylon, Top Gun polyester.
Yes ma'am!


This bag is currently at Maude V, downtown Columbia, Mo.
15incher, Cordura lined with Sunbrella. No cross strap.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Sewing Machine!

After sewing with this for a little while I can tell you this:
This is not a good machine for sewing messenger bags. It's feeding capabilities, while "advanced," are not as good as my Sailrite Ultrafeed's, which is unfortunate, 'cause it cost three times as many bones. I just made a tool pouch where I stitched a 1000d Cordura pleated pocket and the Pro could not climb the folds. I had to use my Ultrafeed to finish the bag...with no problem whatsoever. (I will very quietly scream "fuck" right now.)

I imagine this machine will, however, be a kick-ass applique machine...whenever I get another table and motor for it. I have a Singer 111w-155 (facsimile) walking foot/needle-feed machine in the mail right now that will be taking it's place in my sewing corner. It's suppose to be a classically awesome machine. Expect a review of that machine sometime soon.

I know, I know...I should've just got a needle-feed JUKI like everyone else (e.g. the JUKI DNU 1541S)...but I wanted a machine that could do everything. But I've sadly realized that in the industrial world no such machine exists. Zigzag machines make shitty straight-stitch machines. So it goes.

FYI, the Sailrite Pro is the same as the Tacsew T146B and a handful of other machine, which I'll list on another post (when I'm talking about my new new machine). The only machine that Sailrite actually "manufactures" is their Ultrafeed series...which are great little machines. Unfortunately they're not true industrial machines...more like domestic machines full of meth: they get the job done, but if you use 'em long enough, you go crazy and your teeth fall out. Ha. I think that analogy needs some work...

Lucky for me I'm independently wealthy and I can afford to spend the big bucks and buy whatever sewing machine passes my way...um...*sigh*

Happy trails from the Laboratories.


Woo woo. I decided it was time to go bigger, stronger, faster when Sailrite offered free shipping on their sewing machines. Damn...I'm a sucker for free shipping.
Behold! The Sailrite Professional:

I've been using a Sailrite Ultrafeed zigzag machine for the last four years, which I've been pretty happy with. The Professional is like its older brother.
I was thinking of getting a Juki for a while, but I don't think they make a zigzag walking foot machine (or I couldn't find one), which I really like having. Plus Sailrite provides amazing service for their machines and is committed to DIY sewing and maintenance...which is sweet.

I'm really excited about having a reverse lever and big bobbins. Yeah! And a thread-length knob, too...though its action isn't as smooth as I'd like...maybe I just have to break it in... Walk! foot, walk!

The foot height isn't amazing--about 8mm, just a hair more than the Ultrafeed's--but it does the job.

This is the motor I got for the machine...well, this is is a picture of the speed control box... Made in the USA for Sailrite. I'm always surprised when electronic stuff is made in the States...ha.
Great slow-speed control...and it gets fast real quick, which I'm not quite used to yet. Yee. And it's quiet. I've never used a clutch motor and I don't know if I want to.

I'll still be using my Ultrafeed, though. It has a more convenient zipper foot. So it goes.


Patches. Yeah!

Leif Labs on Storybook Lane

Wisconsin Dells.That's Dan. He's a big fan of small periwinkle houses. Yeah!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A How-To Guide for the Suspended Messenger Bag

So I've had a couple of people email me with questions about the Suspended messenger bag and where exactly should they attach the shoulder strap and whatnot, which is cool, 'cause I like getting emails about bag making...just so long as you're not asking me to make you a bag. Woo.

Unfortunately, I don't have a whole lot of experience with this bag design. It's a really cool design, and the first bag I ever made has a semi-suspended shoulder strap on it. (That's from 2003. Yeah!) But I don't use it on the bags I make now--I've come up with something I like better.

And if you don't know what I'm talking about, be patient, pictures will follow. The Suspended messenger bag is a bag that uses a shoulder strap setup known as a suspension strap. This term is borrowed from backpacking bags, where the harness is also called the suspension system...I'm pretty sure...unless I'm making things up. (The pack is suspended from your back by the webbing, right?) Anyway, on these courier bags, there's a main strap that's attached to the back of the bag and then there are secondary straps (the suspension webbing) that are attached to the corners, which change the shape of the bag. These straps are comparable to the load-lifter straps on a hiking pack.
This feature makes 'em good for holding big things like boxes, while still riding well on your back. Pretty sweet, huh?

They look pretty tricky to make, but once you understand what's going on, they're not so bad...I think.
Oh, and for more on bag designin', check out the first post on this blog.

Okay, so there seems to be two camps when it comes to the strap positioning on these bags: the angled and the horizontal.

Like I said before, I'm no expert on these bags, so I can't say which one is better than the other, I can just show you some drawings and hope they help you with your bag design. I'll leave the research to you.

Here we go...
Let's start with a pattern for a big bag. This makes a pack with a 27" flap that's 14" high, 9" thick & a bottom that's 18" wide. Pretty big. And this pattern has a 1/2" seam allowance. The flap is 13" long...there's definitely room to make it longer...I tend to like my flaps a little shorter. They're more managable that way.

Here's how the strap ends are attached to the back. Put 'em all the way at the top of the back, 14" up.
And here's what the front'll look like.
A word on ladderloc placement on the suspension webbing: put it wherever you want. You can put the buckle on the bag or on the strap. I would probably put it on the bag, 'cause it feels more natural pulling the strap towards me when adjusting it. Though, especially on the top buckle, if you put it on the bag, it might be hard to get to if you want to adjust it while you're riding. Play around with it, see what works for you. I would probably just make the webbing longer on top so I could grab it...
Here's what it looks like when the suspension straps are all the way out. Makes a box, 18x9x14. That's about the size of a copy box...little bit smaller.

So look at the ends of the main strap there: notice that there's an extra piece of webbing there. That's a pretty important reinforcement. I'd include that if I were you. The shoulder strap's like a snake biting the edge of of the bag--won't let go. Yeah.
Okay, here's what the angled pack looks like:
Boom, that's at about 45 degrees.

Again, really reinforce the strap ends. Especially with the angled strap, 'cause you'll get some weird stress points there. Side view. From seam to x-box there, that's about 12". Double check, though. Make a paper bag first and make sure everything matches up okay.
So here's what I've got to say about these two designs: I like angled straps. I angle 'em on the bags I make, and I think they're more comfortable--they have cleaner strap lines...no kinking, bending. But here's the thing: with the suspended design, the strap ends are attached lower down on the pack, in effect shortening the height of the bag. In theory--mine at least--you could have problems with your load rocking. This is less likely to happen with the horizontal design, since the straps are still high up...and really, if you have a big bag that wraps around you, strap angle is less of an issue. In my opinion, it's more important in smaller bags (which I tend to make).
So, I hope this helps you with your bag design. Maybe I'll make one someday...we'll see.
Oh, bag makers that use this design: Pac (the first), Bagaboo, Zugster, Archie's, and, I think--I'm not totally sure yet--that ReLoad just came out with a bag with a suspended strap. I know they just came out with a split-strap option, and there's something going on up there on the top. Ha.
Happy trails.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


15incher for my friend Jay.
Hmm, another crucifix bag.
But with red trim. Oo la la.

Every day a new pocket.
Pretty soon I'll have as many as T2. We'll see.
Side loops to stick things onto your bag...stick things on there like bottles...or kittens. Hold on.Loops on the straps. Loops for bottles. Bottles with clips.


Woo woo! Going to Chicago on the Megabus. This is a nineteen-inch bag for my friends Liz&Lance at Permanent Records (Ukrainian Village). And in this bag is another 19incher--in green. Unfortunately I forgot to take more photos of the bags. Woops. I did, however, snap this beaut at the NABPC at the NACCC. Yeah! Comopolo vs. East Van. Sean: "Oh shit!"