Saturday, May 21, 2016

Scalloped edge laser cut neoprene binary backpack

This bag was my entry for Pattern Review weekend 2016 accessories contest.  This post is about the process...and the binary twist.

Using Clover Wonder Clips for attaching piping

The bag
I used the pattern from Mollie Makes Issue 42, just like I did for my black/raspberry double sided neoprene backpack that I sewed earlier this year, and is also piped.
I bought the laser cut scalloped edge neoprene at Gorgeous Fabrics online, after searching for some laser cut neoprene to do my favorite layering technique.
The double faced white/black neoprene was purchased at More Than a Notion Fabrics, a little shop near my house.
Sewing on a strap

Exterior pocket
For the exterior pocket, the scallop neoprene was layered over the white neoprene.
A "window" was cut for the zipper.  This allowed the white neoprene underneath to peek through in a really cute way.  I was pretty excited when I started as I had run through several ideas for a few days/weeks and finally I was committing to an idea and beginning the bag.  I also got positive feedback right away on IG and that fueled me further.

Interior pocket
The interior pocket is also cut from the scalloped neoprene, but I lined just the pocket with white so that anything in the pocket wouldn't poke through the design.
The exterior and interior pockets use custom made zippers I bought at Botani in NYC.  They are Lampo gunmetal zippers in 7" and 9" sizes and have this adorable girl with the ponytail zipper pull.
The main zipper with two pulls is a 22" zipper from either Joann's or More Than a Notion.  It's a nylon zipper which reduces the weight.
That awkward "cat bed" stage of bag construction

The Rest
The remainder of the bag was sewn from the black/white double faced neoprene, black on the outside, and white on the inside, so it's easy to see all my stuff in my bag.

Strips of black ponte were sewn over the raw edges on the inside, making a clean finish.

Piping was from Joann's or More Than a Notion; strapping was from Pacific Trimming, and the metal rectangle rings and sliders were from etsy.

My "vacuuming the lawn" tags are from

The twist!!

This year is the 15th anniversary of PR so the number 15 had to be incorporated into the accessory, either figuratively (as in, 15 has special meaning for you) or literally.

This was my 7th PR weekend; I've sewn a bag for PR weekend almost every year.  My very first idea was to make a sporty backpack that would have "15" on the top of the back like a sports jersey, and try to jokingly tie it into how fabric shopping is like a sport.  However, this felt waaay too literal (anyone on Project Runway who literally does the challenge never wins, and usually gets kicked off).  Also, the neoprene I had in mind was pink and gray.  I had no gray zippers to match and no time to go to NYC to buy such zippers.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to incorporate the #15 in some other way and brainstormed with two of my coworkers, friends, and my Dad.  I was thinking of using Roman numerals or Braille, but Dad suggested Morse code or binary.  As it turns out, the # 15 in binary is four ones, which I could easily cut into a logo by representing the bars as 1's, and I could tie it back to PR being a database.   I really was doubting this idea though up until the end.  Would the audience look at me with blank faces when I explained this idea? I ran out to a hardware store on my lunch hour and bought some house number 15s.

Nixed idea:  metal 15 housenumbers painted white

The scriptier font was too large (4") and the 3" housenumbers which I painted white were metal and clanged about way too much (I hung them as if they were keychains off each zipper pulls).
Another nixed idea:  Wooden number 15 painted white

I also bought wood 15 at Michael's and painted the white as well, but they tended to superimpose over each other when dangling from the keychain in an nonsensical way.

I thought about sewing the metal or wooden 15s to the bag at the top, but it just felt too literal.
So I went back to the binary idea.  I learned just enough binary to be able to explain how four 1's are 15 (now I can count up to 15 in binary).  If you want the explanation, it's here.
And my binary 15.  

At first I used white sticky felt tacked on to make the binary 15, but then removed them and replaced them with 4 strips of the white/black neoprene sewn on at the top and bottom.  All of these pix have the binary 15 in felt, but this one below has the neoprene 15.

Explaining my bag during the Accessories contest; picture taken by Deepika

The Verdict
The bag is really fun to use, large enough for my stuff, and  fairly lightweight.  It's the perfect size.

I rehearsed my spiel for the competition, so when I got to the binary I said something like, "So, for the #15:  I was thinking of different ways to represent 15, like Roman numerals or Braille,
but my dad said 'what about Morse code or binary?'" and that got a really nice, hardy laugh.  They got it!  So I explained that 4 one's is 15 in binary, and PR is a database so it relates.

And that was that!  17 of 89 of us entered the contest; prizes were given for top 5 and were judged by the PR Contest Committee and Emilie from Jalie patterns.  I came in second and won two pieces of fabric from Emma One Sock.  To see other entries, check this recap by Deepika.

Oh, and other ideas
Here were my sketches for various bags for this contest.  I thought you might enjoy them.  :)

Original sketch the night I found the scalloped neoprene online
Thinking about not using the scallop, and having the binary 15 repeated a lot
Or maybe the binary 15 rotated and repeated 15 times
Or some other variations!

The PFF is back! Loooove the poppy!
Be well!


  1. Your sketches are fantastic, but your final choice was the best! Can't wait to see what you do wth leather.

    1. Thanks Anne! I started watching the leather bag Craftsy class this weekend and am making a list of things I need to buy. :)

  2. Yes, binary was the best choice!

  3. Great bag and I am reading about binary next:)

    1. Woot! That page clearly explains how to count up to 15 in binary. But I don't know how to count after that!!

  4. Love your house # research. Interesting to view your thought process.

  5. You are an exceptional bag maker and I love everything about this one. Your attention to detail is amazing.

  6. that is super cute but wow it looks like so much work.

  7. That is totally cute! You are so creative!


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