the papercraft lab

One bag at a time


I used to have a collection of several purses to match different outfits and one or two for special occasions. I bought them like I bought earrings or shoes - as a cute accessory, and if it was on sale, even better.

Once I grew up and got a "real job", I never got into the expensive handbag game like many of my peers. I carry a purse nearly everywhere - I didn't want one I'd be stressed out about getting dirty or losing or god forbid, STOLEN. I also don't care about designer labels, so I didn't need the latest "it" bag. Prior to 2006, I hadn't paid more than $40 for a purse.

While on a solo (with beagle) road trip to the Bay Area, I fell in love with a white leather bag with lots of silver hardware at Macy's. I didn't need a new purse but this one was *beautiful*.  At $98, it was by far the most expensive bag I'd ever bought. I decided to make it "worth it" by using it as my main handbag.

That bag taught me an important lesson. One high quality bag is a lot nicer to use than a bunch of cheap ones. I was happy to see it and use it, and it seemed "solid" and classic, rather than the cute patterned or trendy-shaped bags I was forever buying on clearance. It was neutral and matched most outfits.

I wore that bag out. The handle fell off after 4 years in a way that couldn't easily be fixed. At that point I was mostly carrying one of many unsatisfactory diaper bags. After 2 kids, I still haven't found the perfect diaper bag/purse combo and muddled through the first couple of baby years with a series of cheap and unsatisfactory diaper bags and backpacks.

A few weeks ago while trying to juggle our diaper bag and my DSLR camera for T's dance recital, I realized I needed a real camera bag that could also function as a purse and carry the things we need for an outing with kids. I like to have wipes, a couple of diapers, a change of clothes, and a "restaurant kit" which includes crayons, a snack, a small notebook, a bib for M, and a little book.  

After reading a lot of blog posts, many of which were less than useful because they had gotten free bags to "review", I settled on the Jo Totes Gracie bag.

It's in the price comfort zone for me - expensive at $120-ish, but good for a "one and only" bag. It's faux leather, which I'm fine with, and has removable velcro inserts so you can create the compartments needed, which I absolutely LOVE.  It has a ton of zippered and easy-access pockets, and the non-negotiable zipper over the main compartment. (Ask me how many times I had to repack our last diaper bag because it did not have this feature.  Sigh.)

After a lot of indecision, I finally chose the mustard color. Which is nuts because I'm not at all into yellow. But it looked so cheerful and bright I couldn't resist. It arrived quickly (ships from Idaho, only one state over!) and I purged the contents of my previous bag and the diaper bag and put the keepers into my new one. Even with the diapers and kid stuff, there's still a huge amount of room to fit my camera and lens. 

It's pretty heavy with kid stuff + my stuff + camera, but I don't take my camera *everywhere* I go, so that's fine.  If I am going out for a while without the kids, I'll take out the kid stuff, though it's been a bit of a challenge to remember to put it back in.  I'm using the longer strap without the shoulder protector.  I've made it as short as possible so I can use it over my shoulder so it's essentially a double strap. 

Sadly, my new yellow bag had a broken snap on one of the front pockets. Since it was brand new and not an insignificant expense, I didn't want to "just live with it". I contacted Jo Totes customer service and they replied right away and were super helpful and friendly.

Bag #2 arrived today. I asked if they would send me the teal since I wasn't so sure about the mustard color after all.  It's less of a sunny yellow and more muted, and the teal was my runner up color choice the first time.  

The teal is lovely. It's the same color as my fabulous blue chairs (best photo prop ever!) and a close cousin of my craft room paint color (Benjamin Moore Island Paradise 606). It's the same color as my new summer dress that I adore.  It's bold and saturated and awesome. The hardware is antique brass, which I don't love as much as silver, but it complements the color nicely.

I've already transferred everything to the new bag and it makes me smile every time I see it. It feels solid and sturdy and has room to spare. The perfect choice for my new One Bag.

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