Thursday, September 29, 2011

SLR Camera Bag Tutorial

 As you can see, it’s a soft-sided over the shoulder bag - a fairly simple design. 

It was my first ‘big’ sewing project - definitely rough in a few places but still serviceable. 

I added a few bells and whistles, namely, a foam bottom, padded sides, lens dividers, and a zipper. 

Camera bag tutorial (with pattern links) - after the jump. 

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

I sat down and identified my basic needs for the camera bag. 

I own three lenses and a small digital SLR camera. 

I once made the mistake of buying a bag with the camera attached to the smallest lens. When I had the big zoom lens on, it didn’t fit in the bag. Oops. 

So I stuck the larger lens on to find the tallest height. The total length stayed the same. 

I also made a list of extra features that would be nice to have. Basically I needed several internal pockets, a strong strap and a zipper. I also decided early on that I wanted a bag that could endure abuse and that hung diagonally across the chest. It also needed to have quick camera access. I have a regular camera bag that I never use: it’s very cumbersome and each lens needs to be fitted in just so, otherwise the top won’t zip shut. It’s a royal pain. 

I read that foam is the most supportive and since I had some on hand, I decided to use that, rather than batting. Hey, I’m cheap. Or thrifty. That sounds better. 

No wonder Chris has to sharpen the knives so frequently. 
My idea was to construct the supportive foam box and then build the bag around that. 

 By this time, I’d selected my template: Shoulder bag tutorial by TinyHappy.  It looked do-able for a novice sewer [seamstress?], didn’t require any fancy equipment, and had excellent step-by-step instructions. It also looked easy to modify, given that I needed a larger, deeper version to accommodate camera equipment. 

My bag dimensions ended up being 15 1/2 inches wide by 14 1/2 inches tall (not including the strap). I kept the strap width the same as the tutorial and lengthened it according to my height. 

It wasn’t until I cut out the lining that I came to the conclusion that the foam box was significantly bulkier than I was envisioning for the finished product. 

Time to re-evaulate. 

I ended up ditching the foam sides and using batting. [Thanks Amanda, for the suggestion].  I still have a nice thick piece of foam on the bottom and foam lens dividers but the overall product is now less bulky. If I can keep lenses from clanging against each other and on the ground when I set the bag down, than I’m hopeful that massive camera injury will be avoided. 

 The hardest and most frustrating bit was adding the zipper placket. Next time I suppose I should actually read the directions on how to undertake this task, rather than blindly making it up as I go. 
 Fortunately, through sheer dumb luck, it worked. 
 The hardest part about sewing, for me, is that I have to visualize each step, and make sure they’re done in the correct order. This is difficult when you’re making modifications and adding features. I’m not known for that kind of planning. In sewing or life. For example, pockets, zippers, lens dividers, and key fobs all need to be sewn into the lining before it’s attached to the exterior fabric. 
 Or, if you’re like me, and forgot to do the lens dividers and key fob, it makes for a lot of clumsy hand sewing later.  Whoops. 
 Fortunately, I’m the only one that knows exactly where my mistakes are. I am especially pleased with all the pockets, especially the ones that will hold the extra battery and memory cards.

One time I went to go hear President Obama speak at UW, forgetting to insert a memory card into the camera upon my departure from home. No memory card= no pictures. That was a dumb mistake. [And, frankly, I was a little annoyed at Nikon. They need to make it so all their camera models have a tiny bit of built-in memory]. 

There is also room for extra battery storage, the battery charger, and a cell phone. 
 A good fit. 
 A few more shots of the finished product:
 As you can see, this thing still takes up a fair amount of space. But I supposed that couldn’t be helped, given that the camera is rather bulky. 
 I almost forgot to add: I added some reinforcing fabric in the shoulder strap so the fabric doesn’t fold in on itself when fully loaded. Even distribution is a good thing. 

 One other thing I’d have done differently [and I hate to admit this]: I think I would have gone for a slightly more subtle pattern. In case you haven’t noticed, most of my clothes and accessories are without much color - or flair. I’m pretty conservative and bland when it comes to color. You’ll find a lot of dark blue, blacks, and grays in my wardrobe. 
 But I’m trying to branch out a bit. Going for a splashy green with lots of swirls and patterns was a big step for me [never mind that I still stayed within my cool color circle]. I sat in the fabric store debating between this one and a very reserved forest green with a slightly darker stripe. But forest green with a subtle stripe is not bold, Peeps. 

So I went with the green swirls and bright peacock lining. And I’m sort of wishing that I hadn’t. I want something that’ll not attract a lot of attention. Something that doesn’t scream “I’m a bag filled with lots of camera stuff, plus a wallet to boot. Come STEAL me!”. 

So much for subtlety:
 I was also thinking that I might have a better chance of getting my dear husband to carry the bag once in a while, too. Somehow I doubt he’ll be very enthusiastic about that prospect, given the bag’s bold exterior. Oh well. Live and learn. 

Before I made the camera bag, I made a test bag, per the pattern’s sizing guidelines, that is turing out to be a great purse. 
 I’m a fan of the hands free options. 
 As you can see, this one is significantly smaller, lighter, and slimmer. 
 Pretty colors, eh?
 I did a zipper on this one as well but it was a very simple one, sewn into the purse as I did a final seam along the edges. 
 Bailey thinks it’s nice but frankly, he prefers his backpack. 

 Thanks to Megan for sending me some bag ideas - you definitely got the ball rolling on this one!