Pickle Project 2015 – Backpacks and Tote Bags

It’s finally here, the 2015 Pickle Project! 

This year’s free pattern isn’t exactly a pattern – it’s more like a formula, or a recipe. Previous free patterns have all been for items small enough that the pattern pieces can fit on normal paper that you can print out. But this year, the project is a backpack or tote bag. Those won’t fit on letter-sized paper. But fortunately, the structure is very simple, and they can be made entirely out of three rectangles of material. The “recipe” will tell you everything you need to know to cut the pieces the right size for whatever size or shape of bag you want to make. It will work for a toddler’s preschool bag, and it will work to carry your groceries and beer home. 

This project is a great way to repurpose old tarps and banners, but it also includes a list of places you can buy new materials as well. They make great gifts for cyclists and non-cyclists alike. 

This tutorial is available for free, but if you like it, please consider making a small donation to a worthy cycling advocacy organization. 

Click here for a PDF

Or click here for a Google Document

Here are some examples:

These all came from one banner from West Medford Open Studios

These all came from one banner from West Medford Open Studios

2015-11-30 16.51.33

This was a giant banner with the Saucony logo on it.

This was a giant banner with the Saucony logo on it.

 

Preschooler-sized backpack for my nephew.

Preschooler-sized backpack for my nephew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. If you ask them in the comments, then other people can see the answers too. I’d love to see what you make!

Enjoy, and happy holidays!

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Pickle Project – Cycling Wallet

 

*** This pattern is now also available as a kit! The kit includes everything you need to make any of the options for pockets in the pattern, and an assortment of fabrics and colors. Check them out on the “Accessories” page!***

For the last couple of years, I’ve been making a tradition of putting up a free sewing pattern every year around the holidays. I think that making a gift yourself is much more personal than just buying another generic gift set, and it’s always nice to give the recipient something special and unique that they can actually use and enjoy. 

three finished wallets

This year, the pattern is for a cycling wallet that will carry your small essentials and fit neatly into a jersey pocket. As with the others, the instructions are hopefully comprehensive enough that someone with little or no sewing experience (or even without a sewing machine, if you are patient!) should be able to manage it; but if you are more ambitious there is no end of possible ways to vary it. It could also be a fun project for kids or craft parties. 

The Cycling Wallet requires under two square feet of material, which can be new, scraps, or reclaimed/recycled. I made the demo wallets mostly out of scraps, since I have them. The navy and khaki one is even pieced together out of smaller pieces. The smiley-faced one is made of four plastic shopping bags ironed together, just for something a little different. The denim one is made with a “sandwich” of three materials: denim outside, tyvek in between for waterproofness, and quilting cotton inside for the stripes. The solid blue one is made of scraps of basic vinyl-coated polyester, similar to many banners and tarps. At the end of the instructions there is a list of places where you can order supplies online.

All Options

There are several options for the pockets inside the wallet. To make the main backing piece, you select the type of pockets for each half and join the applicable backing pieces at the fold line. Option A is the most basic – the fabric folds back on itself to create one lengthwise pocket, that can alternatively be divided into two card pockets with a seam down the middle. Option B is a pleated pocket, with extra depth to accommodate a bulkier cell phone or other item. Option C is a zippered lengthwise pocket with a full-length slot pocket behind it. 

The instructions are long, but don’t worry! The process is really not complicated. They’re long because they have lots of pictures of the process, hopefully lots of other helpful information, and because I might just possibly have a mild tendency toward long-winded verbosity, so don’t let the number of pages scare you off! Just in case though, the pattern pieces an the instructions are in separate documents.

Click Here for Pattern Pieces

Click Here for Instructions

Click Here for Instructions with photos removed (fewer pages, smaller file size)

Have at it, and have fun!

wallet b and c open                wallet b and c closedWallet A Closed                Option B pleated pocketplastic bag wallet inside                Plastic bag wallet outsideWallet option A both                Wallet Option A and C

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Pickle Project: Make your own wedge-style saddle pack

*** This pattern is now also available as a kit! The kit includes everything you need to make any of the options for pockets in the pattern, and an assortment of fabrics and colors. Check them out on the “Accessories” page!***

Last year I posted a free sewing pattern for a cycling cap, as a DIY project you can make with either new or reclaimed materials. If you missed it, check it out. It’s got two brim options and optional earflaps, so it works for summer or winter.

So this year I thought I’d continue the tradition and post a pattern for a basic wedge-style saddle pack. There are a million different ways you can go with this: You can buy new materials, or you can cut up an old backpack. You can use canvas, leather, denim, Cordura, vinyl, etc. It’s small enough that if you don’t have a sewing machine, it won’t take unmanageably long to sew it by hand. The pattern pieces are  in jpeg format; click on the image for a full-sized file that you can print onto letter-sized paper. The exact scale isn’t that critical, as long as all three pieces are the same scale. The pdf of instructions does include details on how to make it bigger in each direction, but you can also save yourself some trouble and print at something other than 100% if you want to change the size. It will work fine as long as the three pieces are to the same scale; the ruler is included on each page so that you can double check that the scales match.

Here are two finished examples:

blue finished        Pink finished

 

 

 

 

 

 

The blue one is made of vinyl-coated polyester, which is the same stuff as a lot of tarps and banners. It’s a great way to make use of that stuff if you have an old banner or if you ask a sign/banner shop for scraps. You’ll also notice that the sewn-down loops are made of old inner tube, and that the edges are bound with a cut-up inner tube, too.

The pink one is made of a really cheesy backpack that I bought in a drug store for cheap years ago while I was traveling and needed something for a drop bag. It’s been sitting in the closet ever since. The backpack had the added bonus of saving me a step, since I was able to use the already-existing zipper.

You can download the full instructions as a PDF complete with photos and including the full sized pattern pieces here.  The PDF is really huge because it has lots of photos, so alternatively, you can view the instructions as a web page here. The thumbnails of the pattern pieces are below; click on the thumbnails to see full-sized jpeg images, which should fill standard letter-sized paper when printed at 100%.

The instructions are fairly comprehensive and include plenty of tips about construction, materials, etc. Have fun, and let me know what you think!

This pattern is available for free for your personal use. If you enjoy it, please consider donating to Bikes Not Bombs, the League of American Bicyclists, or some other worthy cycling organization. If you intend to sell items made from this pattern or any version of it, please contact me first.

If you have any feedback, questions or comments, please consider posting them as comments to this post so that others can benefit from your experiences. Happy Holidays!

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Where New Designs Come From

Now that the new Dill Pickle handlebar bag is up, I thought this time I’d try and document my design process for all to see, in case anyone’s interested.

The first step is to figure out what it is that I want to create. Personally, on long rides I use a small-ish handlebar bag for things like food, camera, sunglasses, arm warmers, etc: basically, the stuff I want to be able to get at easily while riding. The cuesheet goes on top of the handlebar bag where it’s in easy view. Tools, extra layers, dry clothing, etc. goes in a saddlebag, which keeps it away from my grubby fingers, spilled gu, and banana peels.

The handlebar bag that I’ve used for years was actually one of the first bike bags I ever made. It’s sort of rough, and has way more buckles than it needs. I made a mount for it that keeps it away from my fingers and also holds my headlight. It’s been useful and successful, but there were a few things I wanted to improve on. The lid operates in a stupid way. It’s easy enough to unzip the back and stick my hand in, but I like the easy-open lids that the traditional boxy front bags have. It can strap directly to the handlebars, but then it gets in the way of wrapping my fingers around the tops.

My old standby handlebar bag, on its mount

So there were some things I wanted to improve upon from the one I’d made before. There were also a few things I wanted to improve on over lots of other common handlebar bags on the market. Most handlebar bags with a larger capacity and a cuesheet window on top need tools to install, leave a mounting bracket on the bars when the bag isn’t in use, and keep their shape only through completely rigid and heavy internal structure. It makes no sense to me for the bag and all its associated hardware to weigh as much as its contents when full.  There are some smaller ones that strap onto the bars, but they get in the way of your fingers and usually don’t have a cuesheet window and are less convenient to get into while riding.  Then there are the traditional boxy rando front bags, but they require a front rack and usually a decaleur as well, and really work best on bikes that are designed to carry the load that way in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, a bike with a fully-integrated design from the ground up can be a beautiful thing, but many of us use the same bike for more than one thing, or have a bike we like and don’t want to re-design that wasn’t built that way.

So the goals for this model were as follows:

  •  Similar in size to the one I’ve been using
  • Cuesheet window or other attachment system on the lid
  • Easy access to the contents with one hand
  • Stays out of the way of wrapping your fingers around the tops
  • Self-contained mounting hardware, as universally adjustable as possible for use on most road bikes
  • Light enough in weight that it’s actually lighter than whatever you might fill it with, and so that it doesn’t have as much affect on the handling
  • As much cuesheet real estate as possible, while remaining narrow enough to use with narrow handlebars and still have room for wrapping thumbs around hoods
  • Tall enough from top to bottom to be able to offer a dedicated smartphone pocket

The obvious “footprint,” or basic overall shape when looking down from above for something like this is a rectangle. But a rectangle would put a long flat side against the bars and get in the way of your hands. For months and months I thought about using different kinds of spacers to offset the bag from the bars. Rubber bumpers? Wooden blocks? Extra-thick straps? All these had drawbacks in stability, ease of use, complexity of construction, etc. If you’ve ever wondered what goes through my head when I’m out on my bike by myself for hours and hours and hours, now you know. I also began looking into having a version of my own home-grown bag-and-headlight mount produced.

But eventually, I decided that a rectangle was just not going to work. The simplest way to keep out of the way of your fingers is just to get rid of the part that would be in the way. Then it could strap straight onto the handlebars, using cords around the levers to support it at the desired angle.

In thinking about the mounting system, lid closure, etc, I spent some time browsing through catalogs of luggage hardware and realized that while shock cord on a hook is a common and simple way of keeping a lid closed, lots of handbags have something even easier to use: magnetic snap closures. They close themselves as long as you get the stud into the general vicinity of the socket and opening it is as easy as grabbing the lid, but in the shear direction they are completely secure. One way or the other, the closure would have to be off to the side, around the corner from the flat edge that would be right up against the bars and stem or it would be awkward to use.

So off to the drawing board to draft the first prototype. For a variety of reasons, I don’t use CAD. I do it the old fashioned way, like this:

pattern-draftingYep, I remember my high school geometry!

The first prototype had an aesthetically pleasing, curved “footprint”. It curved away from the handlebars, with an oval-ish lid and a curved bottom. The bottom and front were one panel, and the sides and back were one panel that curved around to the front. But it had a few problems. First, the lid overlapped the mounting straps so that the stem would be in the way of closing the bag. But more critically, the curved shape meant that it could deform too much when loaded, or even just when pulled out of shape by the mounting cords. In order to keep the weight and complication down, the shape had to make use of the structural properties of the plastic, not fight against them.

So on to prototype no. 2. The second version had side panels angling out from the bars that contained thicker, more rigid plastic with a curved front/bottom/back panel reinforced by a lighter plastic that gained rigidity by wrapping around the curve. I mounted it on the bike, and it was much closer to what I wanted:

HandlebarBagPrototype2HandlebarBagPrototype2-3HandlebarBagPrototype2-2

 

But it still had a few issues. It looked too big and bulbous, to start with, out of place and out of proportion and I felt also too big to properly support its load this way. My original idea was to offer a row of possible mounting locations on the side panels for the cords that go around the levers, to accommodate differences in bike geometry. But upon trying it out, I realized that this was stupid because the bag is most stable when supported from the bottom, regardless of where the cord goes after that. And I didn’t like the way it was distorting the fabric of the side panels – it didn’t look like a recipe for longevity. Lastly, when bouncing the front end of the bike around, the bag would bounce up rather a lot. The cords keep it from bouncing down, but it needed something countering that to be completely stable. The fork offers just such an attachment point.

But otherwise, while the size and shape needed tweaking, the basic structure seemed good. The lid opened and closed easily, and the cuesheet window offered a reasonable amount of viewable area with a reasonable amount of security for keeping the cuesheet from going flying when the lid was open. And the lid opened and closed really neatly and easily. The top was just high enough above the bars for the lid to stay out of the way of the mounting straps.

So, back to the ol’ pencil and paper again for round three:pattern-drafting-2

 

 

 

 

Prototype no. 3 fixed the major issues to my satisfaction, so now it was time for some real-world testing. Fortunately, we were off to DROVES for the weekend with our friends John and Pamela.  DROVES is an annual trip they put together to go out and ride gorgeous practically-vertical dirt roads in Vermont. What better way to test the function and stability of a new design than to go careening down a bumpy dirt road with it? And not only that, I could take the opportunity to try it on Pamela’s bike. She rides with tiny 36cm bars with short reach. I’d already tried it on a 60cm bike belonging to a tall friend, so if it fit neatly onto her bike, it should work for just about anything.

Pamela’s bike indicated one more change to the design: she has disc brakes on that bike, so any stabilization strap needs to go either around the fork blades or around the fork crown. But actually, going around the fork blades provides better side-to-side stability anyway. But aside from that, the bag not only fit Pamela’s front end, but also matched her new Honey’s navy-and-gray paint job to perfection.

I put the bag back on my bike, dumped the contents of my saddlebag plus a few other odds and ends for additional ballast into it, and took it out for its road test. Saturday was cold and raining, and even started sleeting while we were out, which felt like being sandblasted in the face on the descents. Sunday was a bit better, and we went out for longer. But a couple days’ descending on dirt and washboarding and potholes and gravel and downed tree limbs from the storm put the bag through its paces. It stayed stable, the lid stayed closed, and it didn’t bounce. HandlebarBagTest2

 

So, success!

The next step was to transfer the pattern pieces onto thicker, more permanent paper, make some more of them with the last revision of the fork straps, and take photos.

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Pickle Project: Cycling Cap sewing pattern

*** This pattern is now also available as a kit! The kit includes everything you need to make any of the options for pockets in the pattern, and an assortment of fabrics and colors. Check them out on the “Accessories” page!***

Edited: Now, with photos!
The first batch are courtesy of Lovely Bicycle!‘s photostream:

Emily's Hats

Emily's Hats

Size Small, large brim, with earflaps, wool coating.

Emily's Hats

Emily's Hats

Size medium, summer weight, no earflaps, quilting cotton.

Emily's Hats

Size large, earflaps, small brim, polar fleece and nylon ripstop.

Emily's Hats
Size large, earflaps, large brim with plastic stiffener, fleece.

And a few more, including a little of the process:

Winter and summer, both with the large brim option.

Winter and summer, both with the large brim option..

 

 

 

Binder clips are a handy alternative to pins that don't distort the fabric as much and work much better with thick materials.

Binder clips are a handy alternative to pins that don’t distort the fabric as much and work much better with thick materials.

 

Earflap piece, turned and topstitched.

Earflap piece, turned and topstitched.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing the inside seam allowance by trimming and zig-zagging.

Finishing the inside seam allowance by trimming and zig-zagging.

 

Finishing the inside seam allowance by topstitching each side flat.

Finishing the inside seam allowance by topstitching each side flat.

 

There's an x-wing on my hat!

There’s an x-wing on my hat!.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small brim option.

Small brim option.

 

I saw this material at the store and had to buy it.

I saw this material at the store and had to buy it.

 

A childhood obsession.

A childhood obsession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we get into the holiday shopping spree season, I thought it would be nice to offer a sewing pattern for a great gift you can make yourself. This cycling cap pattern offers four sizes, two different brim choices, and optional ear flaps, and works great in all different materials from light, summery cotton to warm wool and fleece. It’s quick and simple, and the end result is something any cyclist can use more of!

You can also try making it out of old or discarded cycling jerseys or jackets, sheets, shirts, t-shirts, pants, shrunken lightweight sweaters, etc. No stampeding into the mall, since you might not even need to buy anything to make it!
The hat is designed to lie flat with minimal bulk under a helmet, with optional wrap-around ear flaps that are thicker and warmer.

The pattern has two brim options: the larger one is closer in size and shape to that of a baseball cap, the smaller one is more like a typical cycling cap’s brim.

This pattern is available here for free for your own personal use, but if you like it, please consider making a donation to the League of American Bicyclists.

If you have questions, put them in the comments to this post so that other people can see them too. Happy sewing!

Pattern files (all except instructions are in PDF format):
Instructions

Ear Flaps

Large Brim

Side Panel

Small Brim

Top Panel and Hat Band

 

Pattern pieces in JPEG format, in case the PDFs don’t work for you for some reason:

Ear Flaps

Large Brim

Side Panel

Small Brim

Top Panel and Hat Band

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