All Well Bucket Bag -- Origins + Inspiration
Origins and Inspiration for the All Well Bucket Bag — Pattern coming soon!
The All Well Bucket Bag pattern release is just around the corner and I couldn’t be more excited! Tester versions are pouring in (you can browse on Instagram at the #allwellbucketbag hashtag, and I’ll be posting a tester roundup on the blog later this week!), and they are so beautiful!
As the release looms, I’ve been reflecting on the pattern development process, amazed at how something that felt like a small idea at first has become something real that other people can make! I thought I’d share some of the road-to-the-bucket-bag with you, a little bit of my design process and personal background. Then, later in the post, I’ll share some inspiration for future All Well Bucket Bags!
Origins: Bag-making started for me with an interesting stitching job I had when I lived in Chicago. I worked for a few months for a design firm that made small batches of custom bags as promotional material for big brands. I can’t give many details about what we made, but I can share that I learned A TON about the principles of bag design and construction — what makes a good bag, what materials work best, how to cut, what sorts of pieces each kind of bag needs and how they get sewn together. I began to learn that it’s all just simple shapes combined in endless permutations. I learned about straps, about grommets, stitched a million zippers, learned some industry tricks, got to use a beautiful industrial sewing machine daily. It was a hard job too (imagine sewing the same bag over and over, eight hours a day, for a week straight to try to finish a big order!), but looking back now I’m realizing that the knowledge and comfort with bag-making I was absorbing through my work was incredible. I got good at bags! We made bags of all shapes and sizes — duffle bags, tiny pouches, totes, backpacks, all manner of zipper, and it was at that job that I stitched my first bucket bag — or rather my first fifty bucket bags. The one we made there had a totally different design finish, different straps, different pockets, different proportions, but I learned what makes a bucket bag a bucket bag, and it was one of my favorite things we ever made. I especially liked sewing the circular base, feeling satisfied every time I finished one without a single pucker. (Also seam-ripping a lot!). I knew then that I wanted to make my own bucket bag design someday for my own personal use.
And then I promptly forgot about it.
A year later, I was living in the Northwoods of Wisconsin knitting my second-ever sweater and I realized I needed a project bag. I had spent all my money on the big pile of wool yarn I was staring at so I couldn’t buy the Fringe Field Bag that everyone was posting about. I looked at the product photos thinking about how to hack it to make something like it for myself and I realized that what I really wanted to make was a little short and squat bucket bag! The old design idea rushed back to my mind! I started with a circle base and went from there, ending up with a sweet little bucket bag project bag with a drawstring top, bias tape bound seams, a couple of grommets, a cotton webbing wrist strap, and two interior pockets for holding stitch-markers and things. It was exactly what I needed. Photos below of my first project bag prototype (PS I’m planning to make a tutorial for how to hack your All Well Bucket Bag pattern into a project bag like this one! Stay tuned if you have some yarn or other needlework to wrangle!)
So I filled it up with yarn and knit a sweater, and then forgot about it again.
Another year later I was gearing up for a trip to the Bay Area and the Napa Valley with my three best friends and I realized I didn’t have the sort of bag I really wanted for the trip. I was severely limited in my luggage space (airlines killing me with cheap seats with only a mini-sized carryon bag allowed!? What’s that about???), so I needed my “personal item” to be a real workhorse that would also look cute at a vineyard where I’d soon be sipping dry white wine. I knew I wanted a backpack for travel ease, but I wondered if I could also make it switch somehow to a cross-body bag, my favorite way to wear bags. My husband had recently found a super long belt at a thrift store that he urged me to use for a strap and I had some natural canvas left over from some garment sewing I’d been doing. At first I thought of making a standard tote — and then I remembered my bucket-shaped project bag! I thought about it for a few days and came up with this design recipe I posted on my old blog as a starting point.
I dug out the manilla pattern pieces I’d made for the project bag (thank goodness I didn’t just do it on scrap paper and throw it away! I’ve been known to do that sometimes!), and riffed on the dimensions of that design. Same circle base circumference, eliminate the original four body panels and switch it to two large and taller body pieces instead to accomodate more stuff, move the two interior pockets to the outside for ease of quickly grabbing a boarding pass or stashing a granola bar, one small interior pocket for my phone, four grommets instead of two (already in my studio because of flag-making), and one long strap the length of the super long thrifted belt. I measured my iPad to make sure it would fit, height-wise, since I knew I would be bringing it along.
And the first All Well Bucket Bag was born!
My first prototype turned out great, which was a good thing because I made it the day before the trip and had no time to tweak it. I was still a little nervous to take something newly handmade on the trip — would it fall apart on me in the middle of a hike or in the security line at the airport? Would there be something annoying about it that would bug me throughout the trip? Was there some glaring design flaw I hadn’t noticed at first? It went all over with me throughout the trip, and it was wonderful! I especially loved that I could switch it to a cross-body bag to take out to dinner and feel a little less like a traveller. (and oh my goodness we had some very good dinners!)
After the trip, I kept using the bag! It went everywhere with me, quickly replacing most of my other bags. It was then that I started to think that maybe this was a bag that other people would like to make too, and it was also then that I met Amelia, and the rest is history! We’ve been clarifying and tweaking the design little by little, and we are so excited to release the bag soon! We are so proud of what this pattern has become, and I have still been enjoying using my bag samples daily. We hope you’ll love it as much as we do!
Plans and Inspiration: I’m excited to try some new things with the pattern in the next few weeks. A lot of testers have been experimenting with surface design for this pattern. It’s an excellent candidate for block or screen printing or even hand-painting because it doesn’t use a ton of fabric and canvas is super easy to print or paint on! I made a hand-painted sample recently that I love!
I’m planning to start my first indigo vat this summer and you can BET I’m going to dunk some canvas to make some hand-dyed indigo All Well Bucket Bags. Materials-wise, I’ve also been curious about Waxed Canvas and Cordura — it’s a super-durable nylon fabric that really waterproofs whatever you’re making but is still nice to sew with. We used it for a few bags at my bag-making job and I really liked working with it. I might use it to make a more rugged version of the bucket bag! There’s an amazing local Pittsburgh design studio that makes waxed canvas bags lined in Cordura and their result is super durable and beautiful! A couple of testers have made the All Well Bucket Bag with waxed canvas, and they look incredible!
Also — I’ve been really inspired by some testers lining the bag! Currently the pattern has you bind all your seams with twill or bias tape (like you can see in the interior of my first project bag) — but I’m going to try a lined version to see if I like it — maybe we’ll make that a pattern variation! It’s a great way to add some extra structure to the bag body and eliminate the stitching lines from the interior pocket on the back body piece.
I’m already planning to make a tutorial for hacking the bucket bag into a needlework project bag like the one I started with — and also maybe one for making a quick circle cross body bag sort of like this one I’ve been eyeing at Baggu. (great canvas bag inspiration all around!). In theory you could just cut four of the bottom circle base piece from the bucket bag pattern and then cut one much shorter main body piece and modify the other one into a zipper piece and add a strap and it would be great! Will look into that hack too! Could do a mini and a regular! Ah! Ideas!
Amelia also has an amazing round up of bucket bag design inspiration with tons of color/fabric ideas and other design ideas on her blog! Check it out for tons of great ideas! So many amazing canvas fabrics and configurations out there to choose from! Endless hacks!
We can’t wait to share this pattern with you officially soon! Subscribe to my newsletter to be the first to hear about it, and follow us on Instagram for frequent updates too! Let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Can’t wait to see what you make!