Last year as my photography gear collection began to expand, I decided I needed a cuter way to carry around my stuff. I loved having my DSLR with me at all times, but hated carrying both a purse AND a bulky camera bag. I started shopping for a purse-looking camera bag to carry my stuff in that didn't scream, "Expensive Camera Inside! Steal Me!"
As I shopped around, I realized the only place to get a camera bag that looked feminine, and purse-like, was online. I bit the bullet and purchased a Jill-e bag, which cost well over $100. I've never spent that much money on a purse before, and it kind of turned my stomach. I did love the bag, though, as it fit all of my stuff and I was able to schlep it around more easily. But... that love faded. The bag (as you know if you clicked the link) is very cube-ish and square and boxy. When loaded up with gear, not only is it heavy, but it's very bulky and doesn't stay on my shoulder very easily. It's a pain to carry around.
So lately I've been shopping for a camera bag/purse again. I've found a whole bunch that I love a lot. The Posey and B-Hobo bags from Kelly Moore, for example, were at the top of my list and very tempting. The Epiphanie bags are adorable. The Ketti bags are drool-worthy and a total hot item. The problem with all of them is that they all cost well over $150. Also, none of them were just right. For that much money, my bag/purse should be perfect. They were all either they were too big, too wide, or a weird color. I was getting frustrated.
Then, a lightbulb turned on somewhere in my big hollow head. All of these uber-expensive bags were nothing more than padded purses. Fancy fancy pricey padded purses. Why couldn't I just make my own out of a regular purse?
Over the last year and a half, I've purchased several different little camera bags, and had collected quite a few of those little velcro insert separators that come with each one. I counted them up, and realized I had at least six that I really didn't use. I realized then, that all I had to was find a big enough purse that fit my criteria, and slap my own padding on the inside. Brilliant!
I shopped around for the right purse, and had something very specific in mind. I wanted something no longer than 16", no wider than 5" and not too tall. It had to be a cute color, but nothing obnoxious. It needed to be sturdy and have a zipper top. It had to have space for my camera, and at least one or two lenses comfortably, and even be able to accomodate my huge 70-200mm lens if I needed it to. It also needed space for all my purse junk too. To top it off, I wanted something tapered: skinny at the top, then wide at the bottom to make it easier to carry. Tall order, no?
After looking online, and through the racks at Ross and TJ Maxx, I finally found the perfect purse at Target. Best of all? It was only $24.99!
It has a big section in the middle with a zipper top, and then a separate space both in front and behind for purse junk. It basically fulfilled all of my wishes.To complete the project, I stopped by Hobby Lobby and bought some foam (for the bottom), some velcro strips, velcro glue, and a cute yard of fabric that was on sale for half off.
In hindsight, I wouldn't have purchased the velcro glue. That stuff is evil.
Assembling the purse was easy. I measured the base of the purse and cut to foam to fit. Then I sewed a simple pillow-case-type cover for the foam using the fabric. I slid the foam into the cover, and then slid in a cut-to-size piece of cardboard for the bottom, to create a little more stability.
Then, I cut the loop-sides of the velcro strips into 6" sections, and hand-stitched them to the insides of the purse in the spots I knew I'd use them most. I tried to avoid hand stitching to begin with by using the velcro glue, but like I said, the stuff was evil. The fumes alone made it not worth it, but the lining of the purse was just too thin to withstand it, and it ended up soaking through and making a mess. I caught most of it with my fingers, and am still peeling it off a day later. So, if you try this yourself, skip the velcro glue.
I also made sure to put a little foam separator on each edge, too, to add full protection for my camera should I swing my purse into doors or walls or trees or whatever. This project definitely works best if you have at least three or four separators from other camera bags at your disposal. If not, they seem pretty easy to make.
Including the foam, velcro and fabric, this whole project cost me a total of only about $35. I saved well over $100, and got the EXACT camera bag I wanted. Swell.
While it would be nice to have one of those gorgeous fancy expensive camera purses, I'm pretty happy with my own little DIY version. You should try it too!