DIY Domke/Billingham bag for under $10
I have a tendency to do random and archaic things, partially because I'm handy, partially because I'm cheap. But this is a step-by-step process on how I built a Domke/Billingham hybrid bag for under $10 in less than 2 hours. I really like the APUG community and the things it has taught me, so maybe I can pass on the favour and share my experience in this project.
Intro: I went to Value Village and picked up my necessary materials -a bag and materials for a liner. I then ventured to the dollar store for velcro. I used some thread and needles I had at home and some extra inserts that I also had.
Picture#1: This is the bag. I bought it for $2.99. It was an H&M bag with 2 nice from pockets for a meter, filters, film, etc. It also has a back pocket that I can put a notepad and pen in. Inside there's some hidden pockets for secret things I cannot discuss here. I wanted a nice shoulder bag that is discrete and does not look like a camera bag. I take photos in some sketchy areas, so I wanted something low-key that would draw any heat from anyone who might want to jump me.
Picture #2: All my materials and pricing. This is all in one trip to Value Village. You could continuously shop and find the perfect materials, but I'm impatient and had the day off, so I made due with what I could find. I scored the cover for free because the Cashier didn't ring it in. I was okay with not saying anything and saving the money as I was pretty keen on doing the bag for under $10 to prove a point. The velcro is not shown yet, but that was $1.00. Regardless, it all still would have came to just under $9.50 + tax for a GRAND TOTAL OF $9.98, $7.50 after my fortunate savings. I know I got pretty lucky with finding my materials and everything, but it was only one trip. If you wanted to invest more time and effort, you could definitely find the lightest and most efficient materials.
Picture #3: Because the bag was very thin, I needed padding. The padding was a cover that is meant to be stuffed with padding -perfect! The only problem is that it is quite heavy and the materials sheds, which I don't want all over my gear. So, I got a pillow case that fit over it perfectly. For padding I used some old bubble wrap I had kicking around the house. I chose bubble wrap because it was light and offered the extra padding I needed with no extra weight. The downfall is the noise it makes. (NOTE: I will later regret the bubble wrap and it's crinkling, but I was almost finished when I realized how much noise it made. It isn't as bad as I make it sound, but if you have another alternative that is light and mailable, use it).
Picture #4: The bottom will need support, not only for shape and protection, but to hold the inner liner in place as well. I measured the bottom and went from there.
Picture#5: I used some old matting board (acid fee of course!) as it's light and offers just enough support. I tapped it into the bubble wrap to keep it in place, then put it in the cover for a perfect fit. I zipped it up and then cut the zipper off so that it wouldn't potentially scratch anything. I put the pillow case cover over it.
Picture #6: Once tucked in the pillow case, I cut the end and stitched it shut. Perfectly soft, no cloth shedding. A masterpiece.
Picture #7: I'm not the greatest seamstress, so finding the perfect fold as a pain in the ass. But I did it after 30 minutes of adjusting it in the bag, fitting it properly and finding a fold that wouldn't leave open ends isn't as easy as this photo makes it look. I think at this point I was also a few beers in, which didn't help. I also almost failed grade 12 geometry, which would have came in useful. Any sober person with some fabric and geometry skills could have done this in 5 minutes. I held it with safety pins for now, but will stitch it later when I'm sure it will work properly. Do not have metal or sharp ends in your bag (ie. glue, safety pins, buttons, etc.) as this will scratch your camera.
Picture #8: I took some inserts I had extra from other bags. I know you all have them, so don't send me messages like "not fair man, you had those for free and if you had to buy them it would put the bag up to $20". And if I didn't have them, I could have used the extra fabric from the pillow case to fill with cardboard (or similar) and stitch my own. It would have looked nicer and matched that way too. And I would have saved $1.00 on velcro, but let's not argue and accept the fact that I'm resourceful. I got the velcro at the dollar store.
Picture#9: I stitched the velcro to the bag. Although the adhesive was pretty damn strong, I thought I should be safer to secure it. I positioned the dividers first so I knew where to put them. It's not a good idea to freestyle this.
Picture #10: Then I put in the dividers. I currently have a Canon P with a 50mm f1.8, 35mm f1.8 and 21mm f4.0. I have a Konica S3 with a fixed 38mm f1.8 attached. I wanted to make sure my bag held all this stuff. I will eventually replace the Konica S3 with a second Canon P body and telephoto lens when I have the money.
Picture #11: Despite fitting it for 30 minutes, I still have problem spots where the liner appears to be too big, so it starts to wrinkle. I will later stitch these to the side of the liner of the bag, but it will still cause some deformation. I'm okay with this though. If, at this point my biggest mistake is not having the creases perfect, I'm pretty awesome.
Picture #12: The finished product on it's side so you can see the size. It's a little bulkier and heavier than I would have liked, but it's well padded and supportive.
Picture #13: At the time, some of my rangefinder equipment was still in the mail. So, I put in my SLR system, which is bigger and heavier. Check it out. The fit is a little tight for an SLR system of this magnitude and taking in and out the lenses wouldn't be the easiest task of my life, but it works.
Things I love about the bag:
-Lots of pockets for accessories
-Very padded liner
-Perfect size for my system
-I have a few inches at the top that will fit a small jacket, hoodie, book, and other things you might want to take with you on a photo outing.
-Style is discrete, yet sexy.
Things I don't love so much:
-It's not as durable on the outside as a Billingham or Domke bag (although I've toyed with the idea of waxing it).
-front pockets don't close (so I have to be careful if I'm biking with it, so accessories don't fall out).
-Bubble wrap noise. It's quieter when everything is done, but I shouldn't have overlooked that detail.
I hope you all enjoy this read and get inspired to make your own DIY bag. Not that I don't like Domke or Billingham bags, but come on. Not everyone has $300 for a bag.
wow, very cool. thanks for sharing. I bet the time it took you to write this up almost equals the time it took to build the bag lol.
....well to edit the photos, type and post, yeah....almost as long.
Good job. Years ago I (of course) bought a Lowepro bag to hold my two bodies & pile of lenses & stuff. I don't think it has left the house in 5 years. I'm not as clever, but I lined an army surplus shoulder bag with neoprene foam and no one has ever been tempted to steal it from me. My 4x5 + holders go into a $12 MEC shoulder bag.
I made a backpack before a trek across Canada a few years back, well two packs - one large, one smaller and padded (thin, hand-felted wool between canvas...not exactly dust-free) - used copper pipe as framing for the larger, but it worked very well and helped me gather attention and became a great conversation starter. Thanks for the post - I hope you inspire some DIY'ers to follow suit!
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I agree about improvising camera bags. I have a kids rolling backpack that can be dragged along the sidewalk, or converted with straps to carry. I line the inside with blue closed cell foam ala Canadain Tire camping sleeping pad, and divide up the interior with foam core board inserts held together with clear packing tape.
I have different inserts for: the Crown Graphic and holders, the Mamiya C330 its lenses and a Metz 60 Pack and head flash, and one for a couple of 35mm bodies and assorted lenses.
I also buy beater camera bags at camera shows. Who is going to hit up a guy for a 35 year old canvas style camera bag?
my real name, imagine that.
...thanks for all the Canadian support and encouragement.
Cool bag. I've been wanting to make my own bag in a domke style, just havent gotten up the motivation to do so.
M. David Farrell, Jr.
~Buying a Nikon doesn not make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner!
~Everybody has a photographic memory, but not everybody has film!
Very interesting, I'm going to try and make one out of a suitable bag that doesn't scream cameras for street shooting, waterproof enough for our climate, like some sort of ex army medical pack, and modify the interior with dividers, I have two Billingham bags, but would still enjoy doing this as a project, I hope with my wife's help
You're a true DIYer! You could also do it the cheat's way by buying an army surplus bag and put your own lining in it.