I get asked a lot about ironing patches onto bags.
So I did what I've learned to do in my old age, I asked a professional.
Walter of Falls Creek Outfitters is the guy who makes patches for just about everyone.
If you want custom patches, call Walter, the nicest guy in town.
Anyway, this is what he said.
The best way to iron on patches. Is 2 clean the Garment make sure there's no lint. As the first obvious step, next place the patch where you want it and place a thin bandana or a washcloth over top of the patch. If you're using a household iron put it on the highest setting with no water and no Steam. Next, push down on the patch with the iron and hold for about 45 seconds to a minute. Closer to a minute probably. Once you lift up the bandana, washcloth, or (ideally) heat transfer paper. lift up and check the edges of the patch. Make sure that they are fixed in place and secure.
The next step is very important to. If you can flip the Garment inside out and apply the same pressure on the back side for about 45 seconds. It helps draw the heat seal chemical through the fabric and helps adhere better to the garment.
Hope that helps!
-Ely Ruth Rodriguez
I've always been confused as to why Rando racks are shaped the way they are.
The typical rando rack looks like this Nitto.
See the platform? It's about 4" side to side and 8" front to back. They are all about the same.
This is great if you have a bag that is about 4" wide and 8" deep.
If you did have a bag like that, it would look like this Zimbale.
Rando bags are typically 6" front to back and 10" side to side.
This is great, except when plopped on a rando rack the sides are unsupported and there's a little extra rack sticking out the front.
Pictured is the wonderful, smart, and beautiful bag by Ron/Acorn.
Of course, some people mount a light up front.
Some say the extra front rack supports a 3-D pocket.
Some say the bag sag helps keep it on the rack.
Some people carry a minimal load, so don't need the support.
Here's an idea, a rack made to support your rando bag.
In fantasy land, it would be 10" wide, and 6" from front to back.
No sagging sides, no extra front rack sticking out, light mounts would be on the side.
Also, the tombstone/backstop would be vertical, not slanted. The slanted tombstone matches the angle of the headtube, so the rack looks good when there's no bag mounted. I get it.
But how about a vertical tombstone that isn't a pain in the ass to use when mounting your bag?
Some people will say it'll cantilever forward and snap. It won't.
There's no place for the bag to cantilver forward to, the rack deck is supporting it.
Images below are from Winter Bicycles. Eric also makes traditional style randonneur racks.
Next time you buy a rack, do yourself a favor and get the correct rack for your application.
Last week I received a shipment of fabric.
One was 40 yards to replace the roll that just ran out, this stuff is expensive.
Another roll was a fabric that I've used before, and decided to try again because I liked it so much, and it was slightly on sale, which is always good.
The other two were new, but I was familiar with their properties, so decided to give them a go, just to keep things fresh and exciting around here.
The fifth roll was totally my choice. I saw it and said fuck it and paid money for it.
It may not have been the wisest choice, but sometimes you just have to say fuck it and cross your fingers.
My son does not like it for bike stuff but said a backpack might be cool.
It's actually fun trying to make a fabric work.
Lot's of brain-work.
It's fun having a lot of fabric to choose from.
But most of the time, it's better just to have one type of fabric.
Having one type of fabric is very liberating psychologically.
Kind of like Einstein wearing the same clothes every day.
You focus on the work.
Along with the rolls were two samples of a new fabric they just developed.
It was the first time, in a long time, that I looked at a fabric and said "what the fuck is this?"
-In a good way.
I did some research, checked out the design intention and application, checked to see if any other bag makers used it, none.
Then I checked to see who was using this. I found some people on the east coast and looked at their construction.
It turned out, they were using this in a significantly heavier and more critical way. The stitches and tacks were very strong and reinforced with other material in critical areas. Good stuff.
I noticed the thread was significantly thicker than my t-70 and t-139. Very good.
This meant anything I wanted to try would be fine.
I was so excited I checked back with my supplier about specific construction requirements. He has a pretty good understanding of what I do, so he recommended a few other variants of the new fabric.
Popped them in the mail, and again, I was blown away.
I rolled some seams and tried a few stitches, filled the structure with water, and it held 100%, without any seeping from the seams. Now I did not test it over a seven day period, like I usually do, but it was pretty darn impressive!
At this point, I showed the fabric to my test team.
All responses started with "whoa, what the f#ck is this?"
That was a good response.
Afterwards,discussions about application, aesthetic, function, pricing, and proposed usage led to agreements and disagreements.
I'm excited about this. Probably because it's new?
But mainly because it will build into something new, that I've never seen. That's fun.
This is the best part of my job, being excited about what could be.
And so I'll try.
If it works, great. If not, I'll at least have a bad ass set of bags for myself.
Probably the single most satisfying thing about making bags is seeing them used. Wether it's going to the store, riding to work, walking around town, getting on an airplane, or touring.
You would think that images of bags for bicycle touring brings the most satisfaction to me, as a bag maker.
Traveling to a distant place, planning your meals, or having a flat tire in the rain.
But the reality is that our bicycle tours are typically short, lasting only a week or few weeks.
The beauty of the bag, rack, and bicycle is that you can continue using your equipment every day of our lives.
Those beautiful panniers can be used to pick up toilet paper at the store.
Yeah, perhaps custom bags should be saved for special occasions, but to me, every day is special.
If those bags bring a smile to your face, wouldn't you want to smile every day?
Sometimes, when I think of my bags getting stolen, or my bike stolen, I wonder if I shouldn't use them so much for daily use.
But then I think about all of those friends and family that have passed on, and say fuck it, I like riding awesome shit and I want to ride awesome bikes every day.
For me, I'd rather spend every day riding the bike I want to ride, using the bag I want to use, and wearing the shoes that bring a smile to my face.
Who knows when our last ride will be?
Big ups to Ryan Jones for the photography and adventure. Eric at Winter Bicycles for another rad bike/rack build. Justine for the inspiration to write.
First, I'll start by saying I don't make belts.
Belt making, in my opinion, is what I call leather work.
Leather work is not the same as bag making.
Leather work, or leather craft, ends with a single piece of leather that is worked to perfection. The piece itself, alone, is the reflection of the workers skill.
With bags, the end result is a bag with some leather on it.
Usually, there are so many leather elements that they sometimes get lost in the overall aesthetic of the bag.
I try not to incorporate too many leather elements, which can cause the bag to look "leather-heavy".
Usually, when I use leather, I try to showcase the leather element for a strong visual.
The fabric needs to speak and have presence.
Finding balance between the two is not always easy.
In an ideal world, I would spend 100% of the time working the leather the way it should be done. The other 100% of the time would be making the actual bag.
Think of it this way, you pay $40-$80 for a handmade belt. The amount of work going into that belt is the same as a leather strap on a randonneur bag. Except there are 4- 9 leather elements on a randonneur bag.
What I love about making a leather belt is that it combines several skills into one final simple product. I love the groove work, bevelling, punching, embossing, and the final edge work.
Different edge treatments yield different finishes.
Lately, I like using dye, then cream, then wax, burnish it up smooth, then finish it with a Japanese glaze.
It still amazes me that each belt I make will last a lifetime, that's a long time.
At some point, I'd like to spend time with a master leather worker.
Until then, back to bags!
Usually, if I'm lucky, I don't think about what I'm doing when I'm making a bag. I just keep pushing until it's done. What I've learned is that sometimes it's best to not think. Thinking usually causes doubt and hesitation and that leads to fear and insecurity. So I'm usually best when I don't think. However, I'm known to overthink, so you see how my life is a constant struggle with myself.
Back when I was studying martial arts quite a bit, I was asking my master about some boxing techniques we were working on. I wanted to understand the technique so I could do it correctly and went on and on with my questioning.
My master stood there, arms crossed, with a deep concerned expression on his face, as if processing data. Then he said in broken stereo-typical old chinese man talk "less think, more do".
And that's pretty much how I get things done.
I divide my work day into sections.
1. Brain time
2. Do time
Also, I used to worry about what I do. Now, after a bunch of years doing it, I don't worry. Mainly because I know I can do it and whatever it is, it will probably turn out pretty good. I guess that's what happens?
I guess the downside is that things aren't as shocking or surprising or exciting as it was in the beginning. But I'm quite happy with not having the anxiety I used to have the first few years.
It's a good trade off.
I don't know anything about making shoes, so right now, I like it a lot. Kind of like going out on a first date, you don't know anything about each other, so you seem like a perfect match. Then you find out she likes mung bean flavored ice cream or synthetic socks.
Bags and shoe making are actually really similar. You use thread and leather. A lot of the machines are the same, this is based off of the fact that I know nothing about shoe making.
The leather is the same, so is the thread.
The main difference is that a shoe is three dimensional and has to fit perfectly or else you'll be real uncomfortable.
There are patterns involved. I recently learned that most bag makers use patterns. So I learned how to make patterns. Do you know what it's like to make a bag without a pattern? I do, because most of my work is custom, so I make a lot of bags without using patterns. I guess you could call them patternless vs. patternful. It works like this: I kind of imagine the dimensions of all the components and scribble some numbers on a piece of paper. They usually turn out ok.
The leather for shoe making is totally different from bag making, but otherwise exactly the same. I could use this leather, about 7oz? for the flaps of my rando bags. I've done it a few times, it usually turns out awesome. Amazingly enough, this leather wasn't even super fancy. It was good, consistent, and well dyed, but amazingly not amazing.
I guess the lesson here is that shoe makers often make bags because bag making is much easier than shoe making. At some point, I'm going to start making shoes. Hopefully starting with someone like this very nice 79 year old gentleman.