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        1. Shop

          So, it seems about time to post some images of the shop in all it’s official-like glory. This space is shared with the Sharchitecture folks in Chicago IL. Perhaps the delayed manner of this post is so that by the time the shots were loaded up to the web, the shop itself would be fully activated and less of the pipe dream it once was. So far the Brother is very comfortable there, and of course the tables work like a dream. The building has 220 volt access if needed, but unfortunately is on a single-phase circuitry. The possibility of running the old Mitsubishi Limi-StopZ motor was very exciting, but once againg the 3-phase system escapes, which is necessary for such a beastly motor. However, because of some of the tooling Sharchitecture uses, maybe in the far off future, 3-phase circuitry will become available.

          Needlefeed would like to extend a thank you to Jreidko for the imagery provided and intensive seminar in lighting with remote flashes. Thank yous.

          PostScript: Shortly after these images were taken there was a major overhaul implemented in the tables construction. Due to necessity of a more dust free environment for the materials and storage below, a skirt-like system was developed. It consists of multiple flaps of Dow Weathermate tacked around the perimeter of the tables. Also a second shelf was added to the table closest to the wall, it will serve for all the full-roll materials leaving the shelf below for smaller swatches.

          Batch Backpacks

          So the last two bags (the Dow Pack and the walking bag) were an enlightening process, starting with the more difficult bag, and then simplifying that difficult-ness, to form a more holistic bag (sans the bells and whistles). The walking bag was of course simple in nature, but complicated in it’s use of materials and accessories, this does not mean it wasn’t fully able and willing, but a bit over-designed. The Dow Pack on the other hand was made from as few alternating materials, and with the simplest form/pattern-set in place (i.e. simpler pockets, matching liners, no zippers, no compression, etc.). The walking bag was a technical experience, and the Dow Pack was the formal experience. With the Dow Packs major insights and contributions being made through the dimensional aspects of the pattern – taking on a lasting footprint to continue from there.

          Now, enter the next generation of packs, which bear a semblance between the two earlier bags. This set of three Batch Backpacks would combine the most useful/desired ideas of the walking bag with the simplicity in form of the Dow Pack. Well, sort of, in all these Batch Backpacks are still a complicated foray, but the processes were streamlined to reach the end results. Feature wise, the first major change was doing away with the traditional bottom boot, and instead creating a durable bottom of the bag which does more than protect, now becoming another pocket for large flat files. In theory it wraps from the base of the back of the bag to the top line of the exterior pocket, with the compression straps being anchored to it, in order to keep this extra large pocket static/secure. Also to clean up the compression straps, they are now tucked into the seams along the sides of the most-exterior pocket, rather than being placed directly to the exterior shell as was done on the walking bag. This not only creates a smoother look, but centers the compression in the areas which will receive the most weight due to how the cargo is situated within the bag via the distribution of pockets. In fact, with the compression straps now more completely integrated with the body of the bag it would have to be theorized that they are not compression straps at all but instead a kind of system to constrict excess cargo movement – simultaneously supporting the cargo, which helps the load on the users body not be unpredictable*. Going from the protective bottom which extends into a flat-file pocket, and then is integral with the stabilizing straps, we end up at the most-exterior pockets. This explanation of straps and pockets is strangely useful in this order, because it talks about the bag in a rational, neither linear or spatial, not from the top down or even from the ground up, but almost in a sense of the bags eye upon itself (the backpacks seem to be explaining themselves through intuition, just like the bag is built, in a manner which jumps around the whole of it – going back and forth, up and down, side to side). So as this process of looking at the bag uncovers the process of the bags making there is a rigor-moral of looking that is indirectly the result of the sewn process, which now reflects in the written process.

          Onto the exterior pocket: unlike the last two which were made from side to side, these pockets were made from no point of start or stop, but actually with a loop in mind. There are two reasons for this construction, one is that on the two older bags the bottom of the exterior pocket was created by installing the boot, essentially they are/were false bottom pockets, but as the bottom boot is sewn across the bottom edge of those pockets, to make a sensible transition from pocket to boot to bag, it becomes the stitching which closes off the hollow end. However, because these newer backpacks do not have a bottom boot (in the traditional sense), the exterior pockets would have to float on the secondary exterior flat-file pocket, this would require a more unified pattern so that the pockets would have complete bottoms (obviously – so your stuff doesn’t fly away). What we came up with was a simple pocket that could stand on it’s own, it is essentially a small bag itself, that begins and ends with itself. The only thing creating the closed loop, is the Velcro. Like the older two bags, these pockets were built to billow, so that they could expand if needed. With the most-exterior pockets complete it brings the explanation back to how it was placed on the bag which led to how the stabilizing straps were anchored, and also how the U-Lock slot was created. This was achieved by pre-tacking the stabilizing straps into place to make the process easier later on, and then simply sewing around the sides and bottom of the pockets, this left the top open for U-Lock placement, and also doubled up on the stitching for the stabilizing straps. The only thing to do now was to actually stitch the whole of this outer pocketing system to the backpacks exterior layer. On the side that would become the back of the backpack(s), the seam is made like a flat-felled seam but without having to tuck under the backside (because it is not exposed), while doing this the 1″ webbing used to mate with the ladder-locks of the shoulder straps was also fastened in. This time opting for the Dow Packs method, unlike on the walking bag where 1″ webbing anchored in to 1″ single-loops (loop-lock, or standard loop). This type of anchoring is subject to debate, both methods have their plus and minus; one theory is that the simplicity of stitching the webbing into the seam not only saves time but is stronger, alternately some people believe that using the single-loop makes it easier to replace the webbing if it breaks. However, it is probably easier to break the plastic single-loop than it is to break or tear webbing – not to mention that even if the webbing broke the chances of it breaking near the very bottom of it (where it is sewn in) is slim, therefore there will undoubtedly be excess webbing to stitch new webbing to. Anywho, with that end of the outer pockets foundation stitched, the exterior pocket system is more or less done, as the top stays open and the sides will be sewn when the complete bag is ready. One thing to watch out for is, now that this pocket wraps around the bottom of the bag, if you’re not careful anything placed inside may end up stuck way underneath all these layers, as there is no sewn boundary along the front side towards the bottom. To remedy this, after the backside stitching is complete, then the liner of that flat-file exterior pocket is sewn in along the bottom end of the front of the backpack – to the exterior of the main bag. That makes a reasonably deep pocket without having to fish things out that are trapped under the foot print of the bag, while at the same time not just stitching across the front (this is not for aesthetic reasons, it also decreases the amount of times stitches are made which puncture multiple layers resulting in possible entries for water).

          After the pocket phase was complete the next item was shoulder straps. This time around the vote was to make them from scratch, rather than use seat belt webbing, as was done on the Dow Pack. The reasoning behind this was mostly to satisfy curiosity. Everyone knows that using seat belt webbing for shoulder straps is a quick way to go, which is not a bad thing, on the Dow Pack the shoulder straps were very affective this way and greatly reduced build time. But, custom-built padded straps needed to be re-addressed for peace of mind. Looking back at the notes from the walking bag the new design came to mind easily. the first thing to adjust was the width of the shell material’s pattern, not only does it need to consider the width of the padding, but the thickness of the padding. On the first run with the walking bag these measurements were over-compensated for, which left the shell a bit loose over the padding, so the new pattern was scaled down a little and the padding itself was cut a little wider. This way the padding was compressed to fit into the nylon sleeve, and then as it relaxed it filled the void nicely not leaving a saggy shell. The other difference in design was the ergonomic factor. Last time the padded straps were built in a kind of zig-zag shape, so that they would wrap over the shoulder and then turn back again towards the bag. While that worked well, it still was not perfect, and after using a straight-strap on the Dow Pack (which worked perfectly), it seemed sensible to at least try it out this time around. So in the end there were three pairs of straight padded shoulder straps (with sternum straps) – the padding part is about twenty inches long, with the shell extending further about 6 inches (three in each end). The additional shell material is necessary to make it easier to anchor the ladder-locks on the bottom end, and to anchor the tops of the straps to the pack(s) at the top ends. When the time was right the tops of the shoulder straps were loosely tacked into position on the exterior shell of the bags, this would hold them in place until it was time to finalize their position – using an additional patch of 2″ seat belt webbing over the excess nylon that extended beyond the padding to create a wider sewing-footprint where stress is largest.

          Once the shoulder straps are complete, and the backpacks exterior-pocket-system is in place the only other steps taken for the outer of the bag are to finish anchoring the shoulder straps (to the actual bag) and then place Velcro closures which will be used to keep the roll-top securely closed. As one could imagine, the placement of these items is a matter of taking a few random measurements and then making some objective decisions. For all the backpacks built so far, the only consistent closure motif has been to use about 8″ of top to create the rolling material (to be rolled). On the walking bag the closure used a Velcro system, and on the Dow Pack a side release buckle was used. Both of these ideas worked well, but on the walking bag the problem was that the length of the Velcro was not quite right, and also it was only 1″ wide. The main problem with the length was that the hook side which was attached to the front of the bags face did not travel high enough into the area which would roll – but this was for good reason as the closure for that bag used an over and back loop to keep it closed. This looping back had it’s own problems however – because you had to fish the Velcro through the eyelet every time. The good part about the over and back approach is that you can then roll up the top in either direction, it does not need to close in a specific manner. Then, on the Dow Pack a side release buckle was used. This too was good and bad; like the over and back style it allowed the user to roll the top in either direction, but how much it closed was limited to how long the webbing used, was. These two systems of closure rely on the webbing lengths to be very accurate, which simply put, was not simple enough. Alas – this latest batch of bags puts the closure issue to rest. Taking a cue from the always venerable Ortlieb messenger bags, we figured out the right combination of materials and lengths (sometimes there are reasons why the tried and true are ages old). The first thing that was re-assessed was how much the top actually rolls up, in this case on the two smaller bags the top has 8 inches to work with when rolling, the larger bag (blue and grey) had about 11 to 12 inches to work with. (The third bag that is blue and grey is much larger than the other two so it does not share similar dimensions). With the proper length for rolling decided, the last part was simple, place the loop side-Velcro, in this case using 2 inch wide Velcro both hook and loop on the front of the bag in an 8 inch length – situated about 2 or 3 inches from the top of the rim: then place a slightly longer strap of 2 inch seat belt webbing with attached hook side-Velcro on the back side, having it stitched in at the same height as the base side of the loop side-Velcro on the front. What this will achieve is that the roll rolls itself into the hook and thus cannot loosened up not only because of the security of the Velcro, but because of the force of the roll attempting to un-roll itself under the pressure of the hook side (gulp, apologies for the long-winded explanation).

          Onto the interior and the final steps of preparation. The interiors of these bags are simple. Not as simple as the Dow Pack which has about 3 interior pockets, but certainly more simple than the walking bag, which has 8 interior organizing pockets plus a 9th full-length pocket (against the back side of the bag – that could be used to place foam into for more structure, or even a plastic sheet for further stiffness). The somewhat jovial addition to these new interior pockets are the multitude of pen slots. The largest bag (blue and grey) has 15 total pen slots, which easily exceeds room for the visible spectrum’s coloring: and then the two other bags have at least a dozen pen slots each for all your writing and discursive needs. Altogether the interior has 6 regular slide pockets – one of them being closed with a zipper. All of the interior pockets are large enough for books, magazines, drawing-pads, etc.. They feature full Dow Weathermate construction for weight savings and recycle-ability. The rest of their interiors are basic “truck-tarp”, which in the real world is known as vinyl coated polyester, in this case 10oz. per square yard. The 10oz. weight is not the heaviest of VCP’s but it is definitely waterproof, in the case of these packs anything heavier would have been over-kill. The usual bias tape rounded out the rest of the seams and the interior was complete. With that done, the last few steps are seemingly simple. We installed the boning material around the perimeter of the bags opening: this component is about a half inch wide and is sandwiched between the interior’s material, and the exterior’s material, being anchored down when the bias tape is stitched in on the first pass. The boning helps to keep the rim stiff so that when you roll the top down it is easy and accurately placed to line up the Velcro. Lastly, one last round of checking the bags (up and down & in and out) and then tacking all the loose ends of the various webbing.

          *Unpredictable in the sense that if the body is making sudden movements, in order to navigate through traffic, or jumping between crags in rock fields – it will stay close to the body and not shift around. However (side note), these bags are rather low capacity packs, so the load will never be that great weight-wise, but the enhancement for stability, is one for now and the future, so it stands on its own as an accomplice to the process.