Tuesday, January 12, 2010

DIY "Shootsac" Style Lens Bag

Let me tell you the tale of my spiffy new lens bag. :)

I spent much of New Year's Eve having a sewing day and working through some projects I wanted to play with before I had to go back to work. One result of that day was this stack of eight (yes, 8!!) pillowcases. Mom cut these out for me when she came to visit after my second knee surgery, and I was so glad to finally get them sewn up!

My other project was to make a new lens bag for myself. I've been eying a Shootsac bag from Jessica Claire, but they are $180 and I don't like the fact that they can't be zipped up or somehow closed. I did a little Googling and came across this thread at 2Peas- it turns out that several enterprising Peas have endeavored to make their own bags out of neoprene laptop sleeves or neoprene drink caddies.

I decided to go the laptop sleeve route and picked up two black 17" models for $17 each. I didn't take a picture of them before I took them out of the packages, but this is what the packaging looks like if you want to try your own.

I also picked up two of these packages of lashing straps from the camping section at Wal-Mart for $1.88 each and used them to make the shoulder strap (thanks for the idea on that one, Darren!).

I didn't take any photos during the bag construction process- the lighting was just not that great, and honestly I was concentrating more on sewing and just getting the thing finished at the time. I think, though, I was able to take enough photos of the completed bag to give you an idea of what goes into making one.

The first thing I did was sew dividers for the lens pockets. I made the center pocket the largest (about 6 inches) and the two side pockets are slightly smaller (5.5" each). The thought is that the larger (heavier) lenses should go in the middle to make the bag more balanced.

I didn't sew the seams all the way to the top or bottom of the bag- I left about 1.5-2" open on the bottom and about 3" at the top. I don't need full pockets, just dividers, and I thought that leaving some open might make the bag more flexible and make shorter lenses easier to grab.

The first time I sewed these seams I used two rows of plain straight stitch, but after looking at them decided I need a sturdier stitch. I don't know what this one is called, but it's #28 on my sewing machine. :) It's really strong, and I'm pretty sure those babies aren't going to pull out any time soon!

I found that neoprene was surprisingly easy to work with on my sewing machine. I'd expected it to have trouble with the thick fabric, but it fed super easily. I did find that it was difficult to load/remove the fabric under the foot unless I dropped the feed dogs- they kept trying to catch the fabric and hold it. Just remember to put them back up before you start sewing!

I used heavy duty upholstery thread and a heavy duty ballpoint needle, though I switched to a sharp needle later when I was sewing through the webbing. Neither needle had issues with the neoprene, so I think either is fine.

After sewing the pockets on both laptop sleeves, I put one aside and set to work attaching the handles. For this portion of the project, I just worked with one laptop sleeve. Each package of lashing strap comes with one of these plastic connectors, a loop to allow adjustments in length, and 6' of webbing. I cut small lengths from one piece of webbing (and set the other aside to make the should strap). Each length of webbing was the length needed (sorry, I didn't measure) to loop through the tab at the bottom of the part of the plastic clip that holds the "toothed" half and leave some webbing on the bottom to attach tot he sleeve. I sewed a fairly heavy boxed "x" pattern to make sure that it had a good, strong hold.

I sewed the extra webbing at the bottom to the "back" of the one laptop sleeve I was working with. I just chose a side to be the back- it's okay that webbing is hanging out in free space after this part is sewn, because it will end up between the two bags when they're attached together and won't show. As you can see, I sewed a good bit of webbing to the back of the sleeve. I wanted to make sure it was good and sturdy.

Repeat this process on the other side of the same sleeve for the other side of the shoulder strap attachment.

Once the lower tabs are sewn in, I decided to go ahead and complete the handle (since it could be detached) before finishing the top stitching across the bag. To make the shoulder strap, use the "toothed" portion of the lashing strap clips. Loop the end of a length of webbing through one of them and sew in a similar fashion to the attachment points on the bag. You can keep the entire 6' length of webbing or cut it shorter, but I recommend leaving enough length for adjustments.

Loop the other end of the webbing through the other toothed clip (but don't sew it), and then thread the adjustment loop onto the strap. You can adjust the strap now, or detach it to complete the rest of the sewing and reattach it later.

The last step of the construction process is to attach the two sleeves together. I did this by placing the two sleeves back to back (make sure that the points that the strap attachments were sewn to are on the inside of this little sandwich) and then sewing across the top of the two inside flaps only, right under the zipper. I also sewed down the sides a few inches, but not very far.

And with that, the bag is completed!! It now holds all my lenses, plus some accessories (like extra batteries, cords, and remote shutter release) with pockets left over.

I'd like to make a fabric cover for it, but that's definitely a project for another day.

I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial- it's really my first sewing project I've shared, so I hope I explained things clearly enough!

I'm linking this post on the Today's Creative Blog- it's Get Your Craft on Day over there!


Tracy said...

Wow you did a good job.

I would have never thought of that, but then again I only have a tiny Sony Cybershot.
Now my hubby and daughter might be interested in this project as they both have the Big Boy cameras LOL.


Sonja, Queen of Crafts said...

This is gorgeous. An ingeniously planned and crafted idea. I am a photographer myself and had just invested in a fantastic photo rucksack. Wish I had seen your tutorial earlier!!! Have to check your blog for other photography-related stuff now. Cool!
PS: Stopping by from TCB!

Jenny said...

Very cool! I've seen the Shootsac bags, but they are so expensive!