Do it Yourself
Make a Canvas Bow Bag
As a bow paddler
on a day trip room is something you donít always have a lot of and even
the smallest day pack can often be too much when stowed up front. So
things often get stowed behind you; but then you have to turn around to
find it or go to shore to dig it out of a pack. This is annoying for
things like rain jackets, cameras, or binoculars that are used quite
frequently. You donít want to have them just sitting on the bottom of
the canoe but there is an alternative.
For the purposes of our Average
Joe Bow Bag we do not want to spend a lot of money on a Frost River or
Duluth style Bow Bag. While both are of superior design and construction
the cost of ordering them from America can be quite high considering
what they are eventually going to be used for. It is entirely possible
to make them from household items or items purchased second hand at a
fraction of the cost.
A good source of canvas for this type of project is a fabric shopping bag. It is fairly thin and easy to work with and quite common, I got a canvas bag at a second hand shop, some very strong button thread and a fairly robust plastic zipper to start with. The cost was well under $10
Once the shopping bag was dissected into its various components, it became obvious that there was enough material for the project, and a few other bits for future use.
I donít spend a lot of time constructing patterns. Once I decide how large I want the project to be, I find an appropriate piece of card board to measure out a template. In this case, the bow bag had to hold a rain jacket and a camera, possibly a few other small items like paddling gloves or a rope. The sides of our bow bag are just rectangular pieces of canvas so there is no need to make a template for them. It is always best to make the side panels of any bag a bit longer than you think you need them when there are any curves to sew around because you inevitably run into problems unless you are an expert at machine sewing, so measure the distance around your pattern and add a few inches just to be safe.
With all of the parts cut out it is time to get sewing. The back top section of the pack is slightly larger than the front; the back is cut into two pieces to allow the larger top section to puff out more and to make it easier to stuff full. The top side panel is also wider for the same reason. For an easier pattern just make the front and back panels identical and make the side panel one long piece that joins at the bottom instead of two individual ones. If you are really good you can make a template for the side panel that allows the bag to taper from top to bottom. The main reason I stick with multiple smaller pieces though is to conserve fabric and make use of every last scrap.
Now with all of that seamstress stuff out of the way you can start the easy stuff; adding the leather straps to the back. This can be made out of fairly thin leather but not garment leather. An old belt would be perfect but for this project I used leather known as blacksmith sides left over from a pair of chaps that I made for a girl. It is very strong but quite thin and very easy to work with and was used for blacksmith aprons at one time. Buckles can also be salvaged from various sources but I bought new ones as they were only 55 cents each. Usually I like to go with brass as it does not rust but nickel is a good second choice.
Creating the straps from a larger piece of leather is easiest if you have a strap cutter like I do. You set it for the width you want and cut away. If you do not you can make straps with a utility knife and a metal straight edge. Another method is to stick a good sharp knife deep into a board or table and drive a nail in half way next to it. The distance between the nail and knife is the strap width. You use the nail as a guide post for the edge of the leather and push the hide into the knife, cutting the strap. This only works for thicker leather though, for thinner stuff you must cut a starter line into it about two inches and pull it through.
With the straps cut you need to make long holes for the tongue of the buckle to work through. An inch or so back from the end is fine; the straps will not be supporting any weight so fewer stitches are required. You can buy a tool to cut this hole or you can punch two wide holes an inch apart and remove the leather between them with a knife. With the tongue holes in place, now you mark and punch your stitching holes to secure the buckles and attach leather to canvas. As long as your stitch holes are about 1/8th of an inch apart even thinner leather should hold fine. After punching your stitching holes to attach the leather to the bag with a spring punch or an awl, fold the straps like a belt and with the smooth side against the bag , sew through the two pieces of leather and the canvas to attach the leather strap to the bag. If you think you are likely to fill the bag with rocks at any time then add a third piece of small leather on the inside for reinforcement.
With both straps sewn onto the bag, all that remains to do is to punch holes for the buckle tongues and you are done. Secure the bag to the grab handles of the canoe as tight as possible to mark the holes before punching them. You should not need to add further adjustment holes
When the project is complete you will have a canvas bow bag that should last for years for a fraction of the cost of the major sellers, and you will have had the joy of making it. It takes a few hours but is a fun little project for the Average Joe Paddler. This little piece of kit is popular with the ladies and is an excellent addition for any one who mostly paddles in the bow seat.