Monday, 27 May 2013

Another kind of strap for the shoulder bag

The orange leather shoulder bag that I resurrected a couple of weeks ago has proved to be a very practical bag indeed for everyday use.

It is of course larger than the faithful-but-getting-tatty black Radley bag that I've used most of the time over the last four years, and consequently it will swallow a bit more stuff. I had initial doubts about the carroty colour - would it go with my clothes? - but the colour hasn't mattered, and the bag has won me over. We've bonded.

It hasn't got a special name yet: I still automatically think of it s 'M---'s bag' or 'the Florence bag', and that's how it may stay. That said, if it develops a definite friendly personality, and particularly if it shares some unforgettable adventure with me, it may find itself with a name. I believe (having given this matter deep thought - someone's got to) that utilitarian possessions do tend to acquire a special name if they are there at your side all the time, to help and support you in everyday life, and especially if you find yourself interacting with them. As if in some sense they were 'alive' - though don't take me literally on that! Thus my car - whom I drive, and who has her quirks - has a name (Fiona); and similarly my individually-customised touchscreen tablet and phone have names too (Papagena and Eloise respectively).

But my house and caravan remain nameless: they are both merely living spaces - well-loved comfortable safe havens certainly, one fixed, one mobile, but neither is a personality, just a base for operations, a warm shelter from the weather, somewhere to cook and eat and sleep. Whereas I can get out and explore (and have all kinds of experiences) with my car, my little gadgets - and my bag. They are companions, and thus deserve a name.

Bonded though we are, the Florence bag has one niggling drawback: it slips too easily from my shoulder.

Now that's a very common complaint that women have about their bags. Shoulder bags are desirable, and they score very highly for style - it does look swish and trendy to hoick a smart bag up onto one's shoulder. Somehow that position shows the bag off best; or at least makes it catch the eye most, because it is carried high. It's a jaunty, catwalky, young person's way of carrying a bag - not like having it crooked on your arm, like granny might have.

But you're lucky if it stays up there for long. Just look around: everywhere women are reslinging their shoulder bags again and again, because they slip off. Making the bag heavy helps, but that's not good for you. So there are commercial solutions, mostly based on introducing a measure of friction between the strap (or straps) and the shoulder, to keep the bag in place. Thus we have discreet strips of stick-on rubber or suede, and even clever velcro and hook systems, to stop that bag dropping down. I may well become a humble disciple of Silicone-Do ('The Way Of The Stick-on Rubberised Strip' as taught by the Korean martial arts masters), and the bag's wide leather strap is especially suitable for this solution; but meanwhile I have been busy pursuing another solution entirely. Something for sunny Bank Holiday Weekend afternoons, when you are happy to stay at home and do some sewing.

Procedure is as follows. Keep eyes on honourable opponent throughout.

1. Buy length of wide black webbing (three metres, to ensure sufficiency), plus reel of strong black polyester thread.
2. Take one orange leather shoulder bag with matching brown leather shoulder strap and clip-onto-bag brass fastenings.
3. Detach matching brown leather shoulder strap, and carefully put aside for future use, as will be when this person is black belt in Silicone-Do.
4. In attic, find unused long shoulder strap made of wide blue webbing with clip-onto-bag brass fastenings.
5. Measure ideal length for long shoulder strap in wide black webbing that can be worn cross-body, long enough to form continuous loop with six centimetres of overlap for join - exactly two metres needed for this person's unworthy physique.
6. Cannibalise brass fastenings from wide blue webbing shoulder strap, and attach to orange leather shoulder bag.
7. Loop two-metre length of wide black webbing through brass fastenings and sew ends together.
8. As refinement, fix strap into positon by sewing both surfaces of looped webbing together at rear fastening.

Ah so!

I suppose that what I've got now resembles a messenger bag, but that's where the bright orange colour comes to the rescue, and adds a jazzy note that dull, dull, dull messenger bags lack. And I can still swap between the original short strap and the new long strap at will. But the new one gives me that cross-body option, which means it's a lot easier to wear when I need both hands free, and it's much more secure from being snatched by thieves in city situations. Cross-body would definitely be my preferred strap mode for a country walk, or scrambling over rocky coasts, or for any long day out for that matter - it's an unglamorous but practical way of wearing a bag that is also better for neck muscles and one's spine.

Black webbing is fine, but it's not ideal for this particular bag. I will be on the lookout for dark brown webbing, if it can be bought, and then remake the long strap. Another possibility is buying an inexpensive (possibly secondhand) bag with a long dark brown strap (it can be leather or webbing) and brass fastenings, and then transferring that strap to the orange Florence bag. Then the setup would be perfect.


  1. Who are you trying to convince Lucy? As long as you like it that's all that matters. I have bags which do exactly the same, slip off the shoulder but I usually hold them in place just like the girls in your photos. I always carry my bags on my right shoulder, never my left. Do you find that you have a preference?

    Shirley Anne x

  2. I seem to naturally favour my left shoulder, with some alternation with the right if I remember!



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