DIY: Thirty-One Bag Insert

We recently went on a camping trip to Spring Lake Park in Iowa.  A few weeks ago, while preparing for the trip, I thought, gee, I’d like to use my Thirty-One bag to hold stuff in when we go camping.  I say, my Thirty-One bag (singular), because, yes, I only have one.  {Pause here for gasps from Thirty-One bag collectors}  From what I can tell, Thirty-One bags are like potato chips, it is very difficult to just have one.  In my case, though, I just have the one large utility tote.  It is a great bag, I love it, but when it doesn’t have a bunch of stuff in it, it looks like this:

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This bothers me.  I can’t say why.  Maybe because my obsessiveness with things being neat can’t handle the ‘slumpiness’ of it.  It could also be because I paid extra to have it monogrammed, and you can’t see the nice monogram when it is laying over like this.  The bag is more difficult to stack things inside when the sides are falling down.

From looking online, it seems it is possible to purchase already made inserts to take care of this problem.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the bag doesn’t come with an insert to begin with.  A person could remove it if they needed it out for some reason.  I suspect it has something to do with being able to charge more for the insert when it is sold separately, but that may not be the case.  When you look at the bags in the catalog, they are all standing up as if they have inserts inside of them.  As a new Thirty-One shopper, I didn’t realize that it didn’t come with something to hold up the sides. Either way, I did some browsing on Pinterest, and found several examples of making your own insert.

The process is fairly simple.  All you need is some large pieces of sturdy cardboard, a box knife or something similar to cut the cardboard, some kind of plastic or vinyl to wrap the cardboard in, and duct tape.  I went browsing at a local dollar establishment, and found a thin vinyl shower curtain in a shade matching my utility tote.

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I got out the yardstick and measured the long sides of my bag.  I marked the measurements on my cardboard, and then used the box knife to make the cuts.  If you don’t want cut marks on your floor or table, make sure you have something underneath your cardboard protecting the surface while you cut.  I used another piece of cardboard.

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I repeated this process until I had pieces cut out for all the sides of my bag except the top.  Now, in my inexperience, I discovered something cutting my cardboard pieces.  Don’t spend a lot of time making sure the cuts are absolutely perfect.  Your plastic or vinyl will cover that up.  However, when I cut the pieces to the size of my bag, I noticed that they did not fit when I tried them in place individually in the bag.

Maybe other people out there that are used to doing stuff like this already knew that, so don’t judge.  This is my first time doing this kind of project, so I was kind of learning as I went.  I ended up having to trim at least a half inch off the edges so that the cardboard would fit smoothly into place on the side of the tote.

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Next, I took the duct tape and attached the four side pieces to the bottom piece.  Then, I flipped it over and reinforced the bends with duct tape on the other side.

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After this was done, I was ready to cover the the cardboard with the shower curtain. Maybe someone else knows a better way, but I just laid it out on the floor and set the insert on top of it.  I used scissors to cut the shower curtain at 45 degree angles to make it easier to wrap.  When I folded it over the flap (kind of like a present), I used the tape to seal down the edges.

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After that, I just repeated the process three more times, turning the insert 90 degrees each time to do a new side.  You can see my Thirty-One bag in the background, observing my work.

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Here is a picture of the mostly finished project.  Doesn’t look super pretty from the back side, but it doesn’t have to, we won’t end up seeing this part.  After it was all taped up, I flipped it upside down and put it into the bag.  This took a little bit of wiggling.  Because the insert is designed to come in and out when I want it to, I didn’t connect the side pieces to each other.  I wanted it to be able to collapse when needed.  Having the side pieces separate though, meant I had to work them into place.

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This is the view from above when I had it in.  I added some clips in a complimentary color to hold the insert flush to the bag at the top. This isn’t a required step, but it made the bag look a little neater in my opinion.  Now, since the bag has the shower curtain inside, it can be wiped out if I spill something inside.  I can hold wet objects (within reason) and just use a cloth to clean out the plastic when I am done.

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In all, I am pretty pleased with how it turned out.  As I am writing this post, I can see the bag sitting across the room on my cedar chest, standing up all by itself.  It worked splendidly for camping.  I didn’t end up using it for food, but stored small important items in it that I needed to be able to keep track of while we stayed in our cabin.  Instead of searching around the whole place, I just went and looked in my utility tote.  And since the bag stands up so well now, it is easy to see down into without digging around too much.

Have you ever made something like this for yourself?   I am exploring the world of DIY projects just like this, and I can always use some tips on this kind of crafty stuff.  I would love to hear how it turned out.  Leave a comment and share your experience with me!

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