By Christine Koh
Though the DSLR handbags now available for women are truly lovely, they’re an investment and a wee bit too permanent feeling for someone who likes to switch bags as frequently as I do. Recently, I invested in my first DSLR and was looking for a way to protect the camera in my handbag du jour. So I decided to craft a DSLR bag – a super camera cozy, if you will.
1/2 yard laminate fabric for exterior
1/2 yard cotton fabric for interior washed, dried, and pressed
Foam, 1/2″ thick
Magnet closure I used Dritz sew-on magnets
Eye hooks or snaps optional
Scissors one for paper and one for fabric
Rotary fabric trimmer
Step 1: Create template
My DSLR body and 50 mm lens are about 5″ x 5″ x 4″ (length x width x height). I decided to create a base of about 6-7″ and a height tall enough to allow the bag to shut. (I erred on the side of roomy to accommodate the strap and also left room in case I acquire another lens). I first created a template on paper. For the inner fabric, the template was 14″ x 12.5″, with 3.5″ squares cut out on the bottom (wide end) corners, which ultimately rendered a bag 7″ x 9″.
Step 2: Prepare fabrics
Cut out two pieces of inner fabric. Pin together three of the sides (sides and bottom of the bag). Cut out two pieces of outer fabric, making it 2″ taller (14.5″ high) than the inner fabric to allow for the top seam.
For the inner fabric, sew the three pinned sides using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Do not sew the cut out corners. If you are using a patterned inner fabric, sew the right sides together. Now, with the fabric still wrong side out, pinch and pin together the unsewn corners, lining up the bottom and side sewn seams. Do the same for the outer fabric but use a 3/8″ seam allowance (this offers a little room for the foam). Remember to switch the thread in your sewing machine if you’re using very different color thread for the inner and outer fabrics. Leave the inner fabric turned wrong side out and turn the outer fabric right side out. Line up the side seams. Admire your handiwork so far!
Step 3: Attach foam
Measure the bottom of the outer fabric of the bag (mine is 7″ x 6″) and cut a piece of foam to fit. Remove the inner fabric from the outer shell and sew anchors to hinge the foam and inner fabric together. I sewed three hinges on the center seam allowances and then three along each of the outer seams. Now, the results of this step aren’t the prettiest, but they’re functional and ultimately won’t be seen.
Measure and cut two foam pieces for the front/back of the pouch (the sides with no seams). The foam should be taller than your camera but not as tall as the bag. I made mine 6″ x 4.5″, knowing that they would sit on top of the bottom foam piece (rendering a total foam height of 5″). Secure foam to the inner fabric with stitches.
At this point, fit the inner liner and back into the outer shell to check the fit. I pinned the front and back layers together and also the inner and outer side seams to ensure good fit. Put the camera in the bag and push in the sides of the bag (the sides with no foam yet) to create a triangle seam. The goal now is to cut two foam trapezoids for the sides. Start by cutting two rectangles of foam as I did for the front and back sides. Then, angle the foam to fit within the triangle seam. Ultimately, my foam pieces were 4″ wide at the top and 7″ wide at the bottom. Remove the liner from the outer shell and sew anchors, as before, to attach the side foam pieces to the inner liner.
Step 4: Create the front flap
At this point, you could call it a day by seaming up the top and attaching some handles or a magnet or button closure. But I wanted a little more structure and a completely covered top (in case of a spill on my bag).
Make the flap template wider than the bottom of your bag. The front/back width of my bag is 6″ so I made the template 7″ wide at the bottom, 5″ wide at the top, and 6.5″ tall with 1″ seams all around to allow for fold-over seams. Cut the outer fabric to the with-seam allowance template (so here, 9″ wide at the bottom, 7″ wide at the top, and 8.5″ tall), taking care – if you are using directional fabric – to align the fabric upside down (i.e., so when the lid folds over it will be right side up). Cut your inner fabric to the final flap measurement (so here, 7″ wide at the bottom, 5″ wide at the top, and 6.5″ tall).
Step 5: Finish flap magnet and edges
To attach the magnet for the flap, make sure the polarity is correct and line up the magnet about an inch from the top/middle of the inner flap fabric. Pin guidelines for the magnet placement. Sew the magnet to the inner fabric.
Face the magnet side of the inner fabric to the wrong side of the outer fabric. Fold over and pin the side edges, then the shorter top edge (this will give you a natural indentation at the corners – no special tucking required). Sew the three flap sides; at each top corner I slowly cranked the machine by hand since the fabric layers were thick, and sewed in a small continuous square to secure the corners.
At the bottom seam, fold each corner in on a 90-degree angle, then fold over and pin the seam. This will indent the corners. Do not sew the seam yet.
Step 6: Create top seam
Now, back to the bag. Pull the inner fabric snug, line up the side seams, and fold over and pin the the top seam along the side and back edges (The finished top band of outer fabric that sits in the interior will be about 1″ tall). Pin the flap to the back side of the bag.
Fit the camera in the bag, tuck the side seams in, and fold the flap over. Now you can see where the other side of the magnet needs to be. Pin guidelines and slide the magnet between the inner and outer fabrics of the front side (Triple check that the polarity is correct!). Sew in the magnet between the layers. Fold over and pin the top front edge.
Step 7: Final steps
I decided to make a little handle to make it easy to pull the camera cozy out of my handbag. To make a strap, cut a 3″ x 11″ piece of outer fabric. Fold the right sides in and sew a ¼” seam. Turn fabric inside out (you might need a chopstick or capped pen to help you).
Bend the handle into a V-loop and slide the ends of the handle in between the flap and back side (extend the raw ends of the handle so they go in as far as possible while still being hidden by the front flap). Sew a double seam around the top – at 6/8″ and 1/4″ allowances. Again, I hand cranked and went slowly along the back edge of the back since it was quite thick with the bag, handle, and flap pieces layered.
Congrats! Look how cute your finished cozy is! And now you can move your camera around to different bags and it will be protected from bumps and spills.
Optional step: One thing I found with this design is that even though the magnet is pretty strong, if you yank the handle hard, the magnet (and flap) will release. This isn’t an issue for me because I never carry the cozy by the handle; I simply use it as a way to feel for the top of the cozy. But if you think you’ll carry this around by the handle, then I recommend securing the front flap to the bag body with an extra eye hook or snap at each corner of the front flap.
About the Author:
Christine Koh is a music and brain scientist turned freelance writer, editor, and designer. She is the founder and editor of Boston Mamas, the designer behind Posh Peacock, writes a personal blog at Pop Discourse, and pens the column Minimalist Mama. She resides in the Boston area with her husband and almost 6-year-old daughter and is expecting a second daughter in March 2011. She tweets about it all at @bostonmamas.