(I'd just like to say up front that for the purposes of this post, purse = bag or handbag = possibly also what my American friends sometimes call a 'pocket book'. I have never been quite clear about whether pocketbook means what I would call a wallet, or what I would put my wallet into, along with all the other stuff I cart around in my purse. Or bag. Or handbag, if it's the kind of pursey bag that only comes with short straps. Are we good to go?)
I don't know about you guys but I seem to spend a lot of time looking for 'the perfect bag'. Have done for years and years. Still don't have one. I've paid $200 and I've paid $20 and I can't figure out why every time I go bag shopping I am surrounded by a dozen other women all with the same expression on their faces: "how can so many designers be making bags, and not one of them gets it right??"
Obviously, some of them do get it right, for some of the people who buy bags, but I am a knitter, and I range between walking and driving and using public transit at busy times of the day, so I have Needs.
Top Five Essentials for Bag Content
I need a bag that will allow me to carry the following, plus one or two fold-up fabric shopping bags and maybe a compact umbrella:
1. My house and car keys, where I can get at them quickly but not mix them up, in either a zippered section so they don't fall out or a clip section so they don't fall down amongst the other debris in there.
2. My cell phone, which I need to be able to get at quickly and Hello! hear ringing?, but stash in a secure area from which it can't drop to the ground.
3. My wallet and changepurse, in a zippered area buried out of easy pickpocketing range
4. Tissues for sneezes, and any other small toiletries or headache fixes I am going to need NOW, which is invariably in the moment I do not have access to anything useful other than my bag.
5. KNITTING. and not just the tiniest possible amount of knitting. if I'm excitedly knitting thick socks, I want to be able to throw them in my bag.
I have many many bags that allow me to do all this. Actually I have one really cool one that people comment on every time I use it, even. But they don't stand up in other ways.
Top Five Essentials in Bag Design
Maybe I am picky, but I think these qualities are just basic for a really good bag:
1. A light weight. The bag shouldn't be heavier than what I'm carrying in it. And I shouldn't constantly find myself jettisoning things I will probably need just because they weigh too much. All those metal clasps and chains designers are using now may look cool, but I am a real person racking up real mileage and I prefer to do my weightlifting at the gym.
2. Waterproof exterior. I haven't got time to change my bag for the weather. I know leather is gorgeous and all, but it doesn't love rain or sleet the way recycled pop bottles do.
3. The right size zipper pockets for the essentials listed above. And not magnets! You only have to trash your credit card once from exposure to a bag's magnetic closure to steer clear of them ever after.
4. A cross-body strap. Because you can't knit and walk if your shoulder bag is slipping down to your elbow all the time, or your hand bag is digging into your wrist.
5. SPACE. Because knitting takes up room, and it's nice if you can also throw your mitts in there in winter when you finally get inside a store, or the small purchase you just made.
Five Pictures to Illustrate the Lists
Here is the bag I settled on for this round, after really trying hard to make a shoulder strap version work:
It's from Roots, and it's a larger variation on the standard bag all my friends seem to use as a glorified wallet (pocketbook?) at 10" x 9" x 3" deep. It's made of some sort of vinyl so it's waterproof, and I can fit all my essentials in it in accessible places, and it's got that critical cross-body strap.
It falls down on the size front, so did have to make some compact-friendly concessions, even to the point of putting my religious medals onto the fun pin I just really want to keep in the bag:
The religious medals ensure safe passage when I'm driving. You can read about the tornado-day when I found them, here.
Also - and this is why I am still shopping - I am only able to carry one sock at a time, even if it's an ultralight Vesper sock:
Incidentally, I finally figured out how to fold up a sock and its free needle to stuff into my bag in a hurry:
I told Trish about this very proudly yesterday, and she looked like I was maybe a little slow or something but honestly, I used to just roll the loose needle up with the knitting and then it would drop and roll away when I took it out again (so awkward on a bus) or else I would confuse it with an active needle and pull a real active needle away from its stitches so I could get back to work. Slipping the loose needle into some sock a good inch below the working needles is so much safer.
And those are my thoughts on bags. Got any essentials of your own, or recommendations for a better solution? Because I would love to hear 'em!