Practical Sewing: Duffel Bag Repair/The Perils of False Economy

Well, this isn’t an exciting post about a fabulous new project or a new technique learned, but it is exciting if practical things interest you. I’ve been pretty busy lately, so I haven’t had time to sew until last weekend. My first project: fixing a duffel bag that belongs to my boyfriend.

The duffel bag was seriously broken- one seam had burst, which is annoying but easy to fix, and most of the handle/binding straps had fallen off. The handles/straps are made out of one piece of fabric that is attached under the bag and on the sides to add structure and strength, with gaps for the handle. So, all in all a pretty standard duffel bag construction. It’s the sort of simple, utilitarian travel bag that my partner likes.

It was easy to fix- just sew up the seam and follow the stitching lines to re-attach the handle. I used the triple stitch on my machine for extra strength, did two to three lines of stitching, and added extra reinforcement to the handle attachment areas. Now we’ll see if the areas that haven’t broken yet are going to break the next time the bag gets used, since I didn’t feel like reinforcing every seam.

Looking at the bag, it was easy to see why it broke the first time it got used- The fabric itself is a cheap, thin polyester or nylon that obviously is much too weak be used for a very large duffel bag. And the stitching is terrible- there are only 5 stitches per inch in a thin, weak thread! No wonder it didn’t even last one use. How could something that is obviously shoddy NOT break almost immediately?

OK, now onto a little diatribe about false economy. Not to be a nag, but I pointed out that the bag was obviously cheap, and if if you buy cheap stuff from places like Walmart (the scourge of America and other countries) it is clearly going to break. If you spend $15 on a large duffel bag, or any piece of sizable luggage, you have to be realistic and realize that any luggage that cheap is going to break immediately.  It would be faster to just go ahead and throw your money into the trash can. So, save your money for a while and buy a better quality bag that you won’t have to replace immediately. Or, buy used! I love my local Goodwill- sure, a lot of the stuff people donate is worn out and should really be in the trash. But, a lot of the stuff is in good condition! And, since its older and not the cheap made-in-China stuff we have in stores now, the quality is much, much better than new stuff. Sometimes used is just a better buy.

As a side note, my partner claims he got the bag at Academy and that it wasn’t cheap. Ha ha, I’m not buying it- Wal Mart has the bag on their website, while Academy does not. Ug. If you buy the cheapest thing you can find in a durable good, you’re just throwing money down the drain. Sure, he saved money by not having to replace the bag- but only because I was willing to spend hours fixing it!

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