Just a simple mandolin case, that shouldn’t be too difficult to design and make. I quickly became disillusioned of that idea after getting started.
My son has added a mandolin to the growing collection of music instruments that he plays. But, it came without a case. That should be easy enough to make, I thought.
First, I traced the outline of the mandolin and measured the maximum depth so I could make a pattern. Then I rounded up materials.
The fabric for front and back pieces, the zippers and the strap are from recycled luggage. A couple garment bags were purchased at a thrift store and then disassembled for their fabric and hardware. Lots of zippers in a garment bag. It was an inexpensive way to get a long double slider zipper and some heavy duty fabric.
But it required some extra effort of seam ripping and done carefully so as to not ruin the zippers. There was just enough of the dark blue fabric for the front and back fabrics. I was even able to cut out the front piece so that it included a zippered pocket from the original garment bag.
For the side pieces, I was going to use fabric from the black bag, but the fabric has a fairly open weave, which did not seem like a good choice.
I needed less than a 1/4 yard of fabric for the side pieces, but did not have any leftover scraps that would do. This meant a trip to a fabric store. I went shopping with a friend to a fabric store closing sale where I found several yards of a brown fabric that would work nicely. Didn’t need or want that much, but the whole thing cost about the same as buying a 1/4 yard of fabric at regular price and it was suitable for the project.
There was one more material to find and purchase, which was 1/2″ thick foam for padding. The rest of materials needed was just thread, needles, inner fabric and stabilizer; all of which I already had.
The inner fabric was a scrap that had migrated to the box of fuzzy fabrics that my dog likes to sleep in. It got washed, cut up and stitched into the case. Don’t worry about my dog, she has plenty of fluffy fabrics in her box.
To give the bag some rigidity, a layer of heavy duty stabilizer was added to the bag. The foam was stitched to the stabilizer and trimmed to the same size as the stabilizer.The stabilizer and foam had to be cut to a tad less than the finished size with no seam allowance so that they would not add bulk to the seams.
Trying to cram stiff stabilizer and 1/2″ thick foam through the machine took patience and a shorter presser foot. The need for a shorter presser foot was an idea that came to me after a long struggle with a regular foot. I used a free-motion embroidery foot since it is a little shorter. Even then, I had to compress the materials to get them through the machine.
The hardware was stitched to the outer fabric pieces. Should be simple enough.
Nope, I mistakenly attached the handle to the hinge side of the case instead of the zipper side. That would have not only been inconvenient form my son to have to set the case down and turn it around to unzip it, it could have been disastrous. If the case was not zipped all the way shut when picked up (which might not be noticed since not on handle side), then the mandolin could have fallen out.
So, back to seam ripping again. This time I had to carefully remove the handle and D-rings (for strap that got omitted from final product), then figure out where to locate handle on the other side and reattach it.
Next, the stabilizer/foam pieces were stitched to the fabric pieces. First to the liner and then to the outer fabrics for the front and back pieces and in the reverse order for the side pieces.
What I did not realize was that the stabilizer in addition to the foam would make the pieces rather stiff. That was a good thing for the finished product to protect the mandolin, but for construction, it made assembling on the sewing machine a physically challenging step in the process.
Flat pieces were not difficult to sew together, but once the thing starting to take shape it was becoming a monster to handle. In the picture below, I had just started to sew the side to the back piece and it was relatively easy going at this point.
I am pleased with the finished product and more importantly, so is my son.
If I had to do this over again, it would be a little easier for the lessons learned and much easier if it could be made on an industrial sewing machine that was built for this type of sewing. This is not a project I would volunteer to do again even though it was worth the effort of making the mandolin bag, both so the mandolin could have a case and for the value of the learning experience.
Of course, there is all those leftover zippers that I am sure will find their way into future projects. Hmmm, I’m thinking of one of my zippered bags which is going into self-destruct mode after many years of service and needs replacing. With all those zippers, there could be different compartments and there could be….