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getting good

A few weeks ago, I shared some thoughts on deep work and how it applies to my sewing. After a busy season of stuff, and some random blog posts, it's time to commit.

I'd mentioned my hunger for a good Every Day Carry (EDC) bag, one that will keep everything with me. It was a rational response to caring for a terminally-ill sibling when I was growing up. My passion for self-contained organization followed the skills that developed from that difficult time. All this came together, recently, in a laundromat.

Preparation, Meet Opportunity
Our washer's out, so until we find a replacement we like, we're doing the coin thing. Very early Saturday is the best time; last Saturday, it was the very best time. A group of German students were in the laundromat, trying to get all their clothes washed up and stuffed in rucksacks for the rapidly-approaching flight home.

Since I speak German, and they were chattering nervously in their native tongue, it was fair to warn them that I understood. We struck up a conversation as they hurried.

Turns out each student carried on three rucksacks coming over, but the flight home would only allow two. They didn't trust checked luggage, so I helped them neatly fold and compress their items into two bags apiece, treating twelve rucksacks as communal luggage (luckily, they were all from Munich). We got all their stuff into two bags each, along with all the empty, extra rucksacks -- except one. As they left, we exchanged phone numbers, and they gifted me the extra rucksack as a thank-you.


Well-Made Versus Fancy
Two quick discoveries followed: first, I immediately found the rucksack to be a very good EDC. It isn't about the pockets, because there are only two small ones on the outside. Instead, it's about the shape and size. Following their quick advice, and putting everything in differently-shaped containers, it's incredibly easy to reach in and find what I'm after. Something about the wider, rounded shape of the main pocket makes this possible.

The second discovery can best be summed up like this: simple construction and materials, excellent workmanship. I'd been spending a whole year looking for ever-more-clever ways to design bags. What I really needed -- what I really need -- is more precise sewing, using the materials already available. For example, the drawstring lock is just a piece of fabric, stiffened with interfacing and neatly sewn to create a precise amount of friction on the strings.

Likewise, the eyelets are precisely installed in the front of the bag, under the flap:


While the drawstring is attached to webbing loops inside the bag where an eyelet might create a rain leak:

It's basically a very simple bag, but the well-thought-out size and shape, the precise execution, and the use of only two materials (duck and webbing) make the rucksack very functional and professional.

When the Student is Ready
I once overlooked a throwaway line that went something like, "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear." Shouldn't have ignored it. I mentioned in my earlier post that I can't get to the bag I want, because I just don't have the correct equipment, skills or experience. Turns out I have all three. I don't need to improve my repertoire or build more complex designs; I need to improve my precision. Sewing a simple bag very precisely, with deep thought about ease of use, will bring me much better results.

And I'm betting they'll be more salable, too, but that's a thought for another day.

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