Monday, April 2, 2012

"simple" re-use project goes outta control ...

** Edit: Story update at bottom!**

Heh. If you know me at all, the subject line should come as NO surprise :-P

First, a little backstory;

Back when we first started dating, Himself showed me a small canvas bag (very like one of those "World Famous" shoulder bags). The bag was worn, and had definitely seen a lot of use- a younger version of Himself had even scrawled his name on it in black ink (it's faded, but you can still read it).

He told me the bag had belonged to his grandfather, who had served during WWII.

Before I fell ill two weeks ago, I came across the bag in our bedroom- lying on top of the waste bin. I picked it up, figuring that it landed there unintentionally- there was a new stain on it, and it smelled pretty rank, so I decided to wash it. Given the age of the bag, I opted to launder it by hand to prevent it from getting too damaged by the machine ...

Turns out, Himself had, in fact, thrown it out on purpose, thinking the bag was beyond saving (between the stain, the smell and a missing buckle), so I decided I would fix the bag up and let our Littlest Man use it for school; he needed a bag for school anyhow, and wanted a messenger bag- I figured, under the circumstances, this was close enough.
Needless to say, once the Littlest Man learned to whom the bag once belonged, he was all over the idea of using it himself- so we went to a fabric store to seek out replacement strapping and a buckle.

Who knew this would become        A Project.

We found something that would work for the strapping material, but surprisingly, not so much a buckle (I wasn't even hoping to match the buckle exactly, just wanted something comparable). The woman I dealt with suggested I check out Werier's.

Now this is about where I became severely incapacitated by a fever and subsequent bronchitis (ooh, and laryngitis, what fun!), which rather hampered my search for a buckle ...

A friend suggested I try Tandy Leather for the buckle, and I was out and about at the time, so I did.

No buckle, but I did find a few other interesting things ... onward and upward!

By this point, Himself was getting into the action- we went to Werier's (which is like stepping back through time, btw, but that is another post). We picked up a few buckles which were really not at all like the one still on the bag, but would do in a pinch (we picked up two so as to have the option of matching buckles).

We also came across another bag, obviously military issue, same fabric (same buckles!). It was smaller than our bag- we guessed it was, perhaps, designed to hold a canteen. It was a dark green in colour (our bag is a faded khaki/tan colour). It was in unbelievable shape; looked brand-new, in fact. The gentleman at the counter only wanted $5 for it, so we ended up buying it (with no certain plans for its use- kind of crazy, I know, but it Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time).

Next stop was to Imagine Games & Hobbies (they are also home to HM Surplus, which specializes in military gear, old and new). We figured if nothing else, they would be able to point us in the direction of a place we might find a buckle ... What they did have was bins full of strapping (which I learned is called "webbing" in military parlance). Here we picked up two more buckles, modern, plastic ones, that we thought could be an alternate alternate (er, does that even make sense?). We also got some green webbing that we thought might work for a strap for the new bag (which was missing its shoulder strap).

But still, no buckle comparable to the one we have on the bag ... Imagine was definitely able to point us in the direction of another place which might have the buckle we were seeking.

Fast forward two days, and we are back on the hunt once more for a buckle- this time, we were headed to Marway Militaria, the shop we learned of from our friends at Imagine.

Success at last! We not only found a buckle we could use (not identical, but a close match, as I had hoped to find), we also found a shoulder strap for the green bag and a spare shoulder strap (er, sorry, "webbing") for the bag that started this all ...

And we found the bag. Not our bag, of course, but one virtually identical to it, complete with the gas mask it was designed to hold. This was the major difference, as this other bag had dividers sewn into it to hold the respirator in place. The price tag? $125 (again, this included the gas mask- a bargain at twice the price if you're into that sort of thing).

We also found a bag identical to our new, green bag, and discovered that it was not, in fact, a canteen holder, but rather, designed to house a mess kit!

We also learned how the two bags would have been connected to each other via some other webbing we'd come across in our travels ...

So, finally, after two plus weeks of searching (and researching, what the hey?!), we had all the pieces to fix the bag up- all that remained was for me to find the time to sit down and, you know, sew it.

I am happy to report; Mission Accomplished. 

Photos to follow, if the Littlest Man will part with the bag long enough for me to photograph it :-P

How does all of this relate to the theme of love?

First of all, this project has definitely been a labour of love; a multi-generational bag, carefully restored, not to "like-new" condition, but certainly serviceable condition, and pressed back into service.

Secondly, recycling/up-cycling is part of loving our planet ...

**Thirdly, the bag once belonged to my husband's maternal grandfather, IE, my Mother-in-Law's father. My strong desire to reuse the bag rather than throw it away came from a need to try and keep her memory alive.**

It's especially been fun to watch Himself as he really got into the search- doing google searches on military gear, trying to figure out the serial number stamped on the inside of the bag, learning about how the various pieces of webbing work to connect several pieces together ...

Who'd have thought being too cheap to buy a new bag would become a history lesson?

Always learning means always growing. What a wonderful way to live life.

**Update to the story (2012-04-12): My Father-In-Law was over yesterday and I showed him the bag, and told him the saga above. He was able to offer new insight and a correction to the origins of the bag. It is, in fact, from WWII, but it was *his* bag, not his father-in-law's. He used it as a book bag in high school, and told me how he used to hang it on a telephone pole when he was heading in to his after school job at a butchershop in Manitou (where he went to school at the time). He'd come out after work and collect the bag, it was always there waiting for him. Prior to it being in his posession, he further told me, the bag had belonged to his cousin, who had served in the war ...

So, still a family bag, passed around a few more times than we'd realised. Boo is no less impressed.

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