my city Cooper bag

UPDATE 1/28/14: Thanks to all of your support, I won the satchel/pannier category in the Cooper bag contest! My prize is $100 at Hart’s Fabric in Santa Cruz which calls for road trip, right? Yeah!
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My first sew along & contest!
COOPERSEWALONG
I’ve been a sewing blog lurker for so long…time to get some skin in the game! This sew along was hosted by Colette Patterns who designed this awesome bag pattern. I’m so thankful for the effort and creativity that these independent pattern companies have poured into their craft. Their work has not only motivated many folks like myself to get excited about sewing again, but has inspired a whole new community of makers. Kudos to them for bringing a contemporary spin to a traditional craft!

Ok, we went a little bezerk with the photography (thanks Nate!)

Alison's City Cooper

Alison's City Cooper

Alison's City Cooper

Inside pics:

Alison's City Cooper

Alison's City Cooper

I had so much fun customizing this bag. Since I wanted to use my bag for traveling around SF by bicycle, I combined the messenger style with the pannier style rack straps. This seemed like a good marriage since I love messenger style bags for ease of access but I’m not a huge fan of the resulting sweaty back when riding. I have other bike panniers that have satchel style handles which are fine for bike camping and touring, but when I’m riding about town, they are a pain to hold when I’m off the bike. So, I replaced them with a messenger strap in my design.

Alison's City Cooper

I knew immediately I wanted to make this bag in wool fabric. Frankly, as practical as they are, I have enough bike bags made of weatherproof materials like cordura and waxed canvas. Most are designed by dudes. Wouldn’t it be nice to bring some softness and femininity (gasp!) to the bike accessories world? I’ve had great results with a lined tweed handlebar bag in some pretty horrendous field conditions so I wasn’t afraid to go there. The trick is to pick the right wool and interline it. For my bag shell, I chose a super soft wool flannel and paired it with heavy canvas for strength. For the lining, I selected a bright linen cotton blend for pop and texture. Before sewing up the wool, I tested it thoroughly for washability, steam pressed the hell out of it, and applied fusible interfacing for stability. That sucker is staying put.

Now the best part – bells and whistles! It was tough to narrow down the “doodad holders” to the essentials. Some of my early ideas did not make the cut:

Designing my Cooper bag

Beyond accommodating the obvious phone/keys/lady purse junk, I wanted to include a removable zippered pouch for bike tools. Sometimes I switch bags in a hurry and I want all of my tools together for an easy transfer. Done and done!

Alison's City Cooper

Alison's City Cooper

City Cooper innards

City Cooper innards

The other big change I made was to reduce the height of the design by 2 inches for a more rectangular shape. I think the original square shape is great for a backpack or a satchel but for a messenger bag, the leaner profile feels a little more natural to me.

Oh and the exterior pocket included in the original design happened to be perfect for clipping a tail light. (Don’t miss the hilarious photo bomb in the upper left corner, ha!)

Alison's City Cooper

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10 Comments

  1. Yours looks so much nicer than the sample photo bag (looks like dark brown parchment paper). The rectangular shape is more flattering than a longish bag on a short person. I even think the rectangle looks better on the bike. Guess I just don’t like the longish shape no matter what. Fabric choices also much better than the original.

    Are the straps leather or vinyl? How does it feel to sew on leather/vinyl? Antique bronze/brass hardware coordinates well with fabric/trim/lining choices.

    Great job. Just tell me where and when to vote!

    Reply

    1. Thanks! I will let you know if I am selected for the final vote.

      As for the straps, they are made of vinyl. Vinyl sticks to a normal foot and I do not have a nonstick Teflon foot. Instead I used the dual feed feature on my machine to get around this. I also used a needle designed for use with leather, as well as thick topstitch thread.

      Reply

  2. I just made a bike pannier Cooper out of some “weatherproof” canvas that is very floppy because the fusible interfacing wouldn’t fuse to it! So I am thinking to make another in wool and regular canvas.. but here in New Zealand we have constantly wet weather… any suggestions for picking fabric that will hold the shape better but handle a downpour?
    Also – did you make your handlebar bag or buy it? It’s awesome! I had given up on finding a bag that fit on my drop down handlebars.

    Reply

    1. Nicole, I think you probably have wetter weather in New Zealand than I was designing for in the Bay Area (generally misty rain). You could do some experiments with waxed canvas – I have some that is pretty stiff. But you can always just sew in interfacing or other stiff material too (no need to fuse). As for my handlebar bag, it is a Berthoud bag. These bags are both beautiful and functional. One thing to note is that this type of bag requires some attachment accessory – I use a decaleur that my husband made for me but you can also buy one.

      Reply

  3. Thanks Alison! Great tips. Another option that I was thinking might work is one of those water-proofing sprays on wool… which is naturally somewhat water resistant. The lady at the fabric shop also suggested sew-in interlining with waterproof fabrics that fusible interfacing won’t work with.
    However I realised one benefit to very a floppy bag – I can stuff it inside my other bike bag and have it ready as a “spare” pannier just in case I spontaneously decide to stop at the super market on my way home 🙂
    Thanks for the link to Berthoud!
    I enjoyed seeing all your projects – and would love to see your finished blazer, the cobalt leather was a fabulous touch!

    Reply

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