Custom Order Round Up

Over the past 6 weeks or so we’ve had several custom orders come through. They’ve included  custom color/fabric requests as well as tweaks to our standard designs. Here’s a recap (click on the photos to make them bigger):

M-8 Messenger Bag

ImageAt the SF Bazaar Holiday Show, we had a customer who was interested in one of our seatbelt messenger bags. He needed a larger size than we had with us at the show and had one more special request – no velcro!  So we made him an M-8 messenger bag with an inside pocket and no closure for the flap.  The flap is heavy enough to stay closed on its own and we were pretty happy with how the bag turned out.

Credit Card Wallet

We brought a wide selection of our Slim Mini Credit Card Holders to the Renegade Holiday show.  Not quite wide enough, as it turns out.  We had a special request for a credit card wallet in orange and silver seatbelt webbing with dark gray nylon card pockets.


Toiletry Case

ImageThis one was a special request for my good friend and awesome art teacher, Pam.  A year or so ago, I gave her a toiletry case with a print I knew she would love.  It turns out that her daughter also loves it and keeps trying to run off with it. So Pam ordered a second one for her daughter’s birthday. This one features a flashy red interior and zipper.

Custom smartphone cases

We have a longtime customer who has an unfortunate habit of losing smartphones (and their cases). So far he’s dropped one in the bay and left another on a plane.  Last time he ordered from us, he got two custom phone cases, just to have a backup. They are still going strong and now that his partner needs a smartphone for her work, she’s come to us as well. She’s a stagehand and a ranch hand so she needed a case that will stand up to some rough treatment. She decided to get a pair of cases – one to attach to her toolbelt and another that can clip to her pocket.


A pair of phone cases


Smartphone case with loop for tool belt


Smartphone case with belt clip and grommet for extra security

What’s New?

We’ve started on some new wallet and bag models and thought we’d share a couple with you.

During last month’s holiday show season we got several requests for a coin pocket wallet with a grommet for attaching a wallet chain.  We already had coin pocket wallets and wallets with grommets, but hadn’t gotten around to making wallets with both features. It’s something we had planned on doing, but just hadn’t found the time for. The good news is that we’ve worked them into the production schedule and have already added a couple to the shop. You can see them here.

We’re also updating our Weekend Bag. We’ve added zippered pockets to the outside and inside and changed the interior fabric to 4 oz. pack cloth. The new version has a hidden magnetic snap closure.  Here are some photos of a prototype. Enjoy!


We love the midnight blue/black color combo.


We’ve added a zippered pocket to the lining.

Bags For All

What better way to work through some new bag ideas than to make bags for friends and family. Awesome holiday gifts? Check!

Our standard M-7 messenger bag in Ocean

Our standard M-7 messenger bag in Ocean

In our standard seatbelt messenger bag, the strap runs completely around the bag and forms the sides of the bag. Most of our bags have a single interior zippered pocket.

I wanted to see what would happen if I beefed up the design, so I made the bag deeper and added pockets to the inside and outside.

The experiment turned out pretty well and there is a good chance the new version will turn up in the shop in a few months.

Will’s bag

Will's big bag.

Will’s big bag.

Will likes a big bag. He uses his bag to haul around large amounts of library books, and random stuff he needs throughout the day. I made Will an M-9 (nine strips wide) in Fire aka black with oxblood and cranberry red stripes.  It’s actually a little too big of a bag for the  current .retool. sewing machines – there was much rolling and folding of the excess material. There may have also been some minor cursing at times.

Side view.

Side view.

The sides of the bag are two webbing strips wide (a little under 4 inches). I used a contrasting color for the side panels, red for Will’s bag. The shoulder strap wraps all the way around the bag and is stitched securely to the bottom of the bag.  I really like the black strip of webbing against the flashier red webbing. And no matter how many heavy books he throws in there, I’m pretty confident that strap isn’t going anywhere!



Under the flap, I added two pockets for carrying smaller items because, really, it’s hard to have too many pockets. I wanted the pockets to be easy to access, yet still secure so I went with a flap closure without an additional fastener. The outside of the pockets is 1000D Cordura® nylon. The pockets are fully lined in contrasting burgundy pack cloth. One of the pockets is just about square, the other is rectangular.

Onto the interior. The inside of the bag has a zippered pocket in burgundy pack cloth. It also has 2 slip pocket dividers attached to the back of the bag – perfect for papers or gym clothes. You can’t see it in the photos, but the interior bottom of the bag is the same red webbing as the side panels (it’s one long continuous strip). The red makes it easier to see what’s in the bottom of the bag. Plus, it looks sharp.

Zipper pocket.

Zipper pocket.

Dividers at the back.

Dividers at the back.

Jamye’s Bag

I made Jamye a smaller bag, an M-7, which is still large enough to hold a 13″ MacBook.  His bag is in our newest colorway, Venom. It’s black with foliage green and lime green.  The side panel is in the foliage green webbing. I used a grayish-green pack cloth for the pocket lining and interior pockets. It’s a pleasingly close match to the foliage green webbing. Here are some photos of his bag:

Spotlight On: Enflux

Enflux – handcrafted jewelry

Every now and then we like to feature a fellow local artist. This time around, Ashley Reese, from Enflux was kind enough to answer a few of our questions. We love the clean lines of Ashley’s jewelry and we’re excited to  share a booth with her next month at the Noe Valley Harvest Festival.

Let’s get started!

How long have you lived in the Bay Area?

I have been living in San Francisco for 12 years now. I came out to visit a friend and loved it so much I moved here.

Ashley's workspace.

Ashley’s workspace.

How did you get started making jewelry?

I have always been interested in jewelry. My mother had a beautiful collection of pieces from her mother and grandmother, and my father’s love of geology always attracted him to the colored gemstones. I started making jewelry by taking a class at a bead shop on Valencia Street and after that, I was hooked. I continued taking classes in jewelry fabrication and metalsmithing at the Revere Academy in downtown San Francisco.

You use reclaimed metals in your jewelry. That’s awesome. What led to that decision? Where do you get the metal?

In a business where a lot is unknown about how metals and stones are mined, I think it’s important to do what we can to help minimize the negative impact we have on our environment. And luckily, many other jewelers agree. I buy my wire and sheet metal from a company called Hoover and Strong that does their own refining from scrap metals and sells back to the jewelry trade.

What are your go-to tools?

Mmmm... tools.

Mmmm… tools.

I haven’t met a jeweler who isn’t completely obsessed with tools, whether they do it as a hobby or are a professional. I have to admit I have this problem as well. The tools that almost never get put away on my bench are an assortment of pliers, my goldsmithing hammer, my saw, and my half round hand file. I do the majority of my work with these tools. One day I hope to acquire a rolling mill to texture and and customize the thickness of sheet metal.

Tell us a bit about your design process.

I come up with designs in many ways. Usually I draw out ideas first on paper and then when I start working with the metal it turns into another thing entirely. Other times I use a sharpie and draw directly onto the metal to get a feel for it as a finished piece. I’ve even been known to make sand drawings of an idea I have in my head.

New pieces. We love the bracelets!

New pieces. We love the bracelets!

Do you have any new designs in the works?

I’m working on a line of geometric pieces in brass. I’m liking the angular lines at the moment. We’ll see how it goes.

Do you sell your work in any local shops?

I sell at a shop in Hayes Valley called California Made Mercantile (formerly RAG SF) which sells home goods, art, jewelry and clothing made entirely by artists in California.

What’s your favorite local area/neighborhood to hang out in?

Besides the bar hi lo club on polk street for occasional happy hours, I hang out in the Mission area, mainly because most of my friends live there and it’s walking distance from my house. I’m always finding new shops and restaurants there.

Thanks Ashley!

To see more of Ashley’s awesome work, check out her online shop, Enflux, on Etsy.  If you want to see her (and us!) in person, come stop by the Noe Valley Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 26, 2013 from 10-5.

The Big One

New Prototype – Large Wallet (aka The Big One)

Work is well under way on our latest prototype and we wanted to share our progress with you.

This one is for the folks who have a lot to carry and want to keep it all organized.

Interior view.

Interior view.

The Background

It’s relatively easy for us to design mini wallets, because that’s we tend to want to use. However, we fully realize that not everyone is looking to cut down on what they cart around every day and that’s just fine with us. The challenging part for us is to try to design a larger piece that fits within our aesthetic.

We’ve been working on a large wallet for ages, (an embarrassingly long time, in fact). Nothing we came up with felt quite right. Our test versions were either too bulky, didn’t seem to have a good mix of features, or the proportions just seemed off.

We think we finally have it figured out and our prototype is ready for field testing. We’re excited!

The Breakthrough(s)

The welt style zipper pocket is lined with ripstop nylon and has a slot behind it.

The welt style zipper pocket is lined with ripstop nylon and has a slot behind it.

We recently had a request for a custom passport wallet – the customer wanted to add a zippered pocket. I played around for a bit and decided to form a pocket on the outside by folding the seat belt webbing and stitching up the sides (she loved the results, by the way – yay!). I liked the design, too and thought it would scale up nicely (our passport wallets aren’t quite long enough to hold paper money unfolded).

The next issue was the interior of the wallet. I’ve been experimenting with bag linings lately and that really came in handy. I decided to essentially line the wallet with a long strip of Cordura® nylon. Then I added a bunch of pockets and slots to the ‘lining’.

The current test version features one lined zippered pocket on the outside perfect for a smartphone, a bunch of change, small cables, some lipstick, or even some pens. There is a slot behind the pocket for tucking notes.

The interior has 6 card slots that will each hold around 3 cards, a lined zippered pocket with a slot behind it for paper money or receipts, and an additional long pocket for paper money, receipts, or even a checkbook.

Two large slots for paper money / receipts plus another lined zippered pocket.

Two long slots plus another lined zippered pocket.

Six card slots help keep your cards organized.

Six card slots help keep your cards organized.

Stay tuned – we hope to have it ready for production later this summer!

Backpack progress

Weekend Challenge: The Backpack (part II)


The front of the bag with 2 zippered pockets.

When we left off last week, I was about halfway done with my new backpack. The back and sides of the exterior of the bag were mostly finished.

Next step was to make the front exterior panel. I wanted a couple of zippered pockets on the front – one large one for easy access to a notebook and one smaller one for snacks, pens, and my iPod.

The top pocket goes all the way to the bottom of the bag and is lined with red Cordura® nylon. The bottom pocket with the gray zipper has a gray lining (go figure).

I attached the front of the bag and added the flap and a small handle onto the back to complete the exterior of the bag.

Lining is now attached to exterior

Lining sewn to exterior

Time to make the lining! I used international orange (aerospace) 200D nylon. It’s bright, but not too bright.

I put another zippered pocket in the lining. Because it’s hard to have too many pockets, really.

Once the lining was attached to the exterior, the moment of truth had arrived.



It requires a bit of patience and maneuvering to turn a padded backpack inside out through a hole in the lining. I finally got it turned and everything was in the right place – the flap, straps, and handle were on the outside where they were supposed to be (it kind of sucks to turn a bag and realize that you’ve sewn the flap inside the lining of your bag. Not that I would know from personal experience or anything…).

I sewed up the hole in the bottom of the lining and the bag was done.

All packed up and ready to go to class

All packed up and ready to go to class

On to field testing!

So far, my new backpack has been on trips to the library, a wallet delivery run, and, of course, to class. It’s performed well so far and has gotten a bunch of compliments.

There are a few minor things I am planning to change for round 2, like making the bottom outside pocket deeper and making the bag flap shorter.  I may also play around with a roll-top bag so there’s no gap on the top sides. Overall, though, I’m pretty pleased with this as a prototype.

Time for a new backpack

Weekend Challenge: The Backpack (part I)

Late Friday evening I decided to make myself a backpack to carry my martial arts gear to and from class. I’ve got a heavyweight uniform, plus a water bottle, snacks, glasses, iPod, some pens, and a small notebook.

I thought I’d try to make the bag on Saturday before my next Ju Jitsu class. That meant I’d have about 4 hours to plan the bag, cut the fabric, and actually sew it all together. To make things even more interesting, I’ve never made a backpack before. I’m making it all up as I go along – no patterns or tutorials, though I am using my current backpack as a reference for some technical details.

Spoiler alert – I did not finish the backpack before class. I did, however, make a huge amount of progress on a prototype and I like it quite a bit so far.

I’m using 1000D Cordura® nylon for the outside of the bag. I’ve got a shipment of some lighter weight nylon that’s supposed to arrive on Monday and should be perfect for the lining.

After making some notes about size and features, I cut out the pieces for the exterior body, flap, and straps.

Padded straps with fancy red stripes.

Padded straps with fancy red stripes.

Then I started in on the straps. I wanted padded straps so I used 3 layers of 1/8″ closed cell foam that I stitched together about an inch from either end to avoid shifting. I had some trouble actually getting the foam inside the straps. I ended up attaching a binder clip and some string to the foam, feeding the string through the empty strap tubes, and pulling the foam through.

It's starting to look like a backpack!

It’s starting to look like a backpack!

After I got the straps all sorted out, I moved on to the back. I decided to make padded back panels so I cut some more foam and nylon. I made a couple of pockets for the padding with a vertical 2 inch gap between them that should run along my spinal cord if all goes according to plan. I attached the tops of the straps to the top of the back panel and sewed some small triangular panels near the bottom of each side of the back panel to connect to the bottoms of the straps.

By the time I attached the exterior gussets to the back it was time for class.

To be continued…

Tiny Wallets, or Hooray for Minimalism – the Evolution of the .retool. Credit Card Wallets.

Minimalist Wallets

Here at .retool. headquarters, we occasionally talk about how ironic it is that we are working toward making a living selling things when we neither of us really likes to participate in consumer culture.  We don’t like acquiring stuff just for the sake of having it.

We do, however, both greatly enjoy objects that are well-designed and well-made. We like simple things that work and that are pleasing to the eye (and hand). We keep these concerns in mind when we design our products.

We also happen to have soft spot for small things.  So we have always liked having a line of credit card wallets in addition to our billfold wallets.  Credit card wallets are great if you don’t (or don’t want to) carry a ton of stuff around.

We started with a couple of basic designs.

Round 1: The Classic and the Slim Mini


The Classic Card Holder – this wallet holds a surprising amount of cards (15+) and can still fit in your front pocket.

The Slim Mini Card Holder - thinner than the Classic with a slightly smaller capacity.

The Slim Mini Card Holder – thinner than the Classic with a slightly smaller capacity.

Then we came up with two other variations.

Round 2: The Classic Mini and the Slim Mini Deluxe

The Classic Mini has a smaller footprint than the Classic. Plus, it has an elastic band closure.

The Classic Mini has a smaller footprint than the Classic. Plus, it has an elastic band closure.

The Slim Mini Deluxe Card Holder. We got a number of requests for a card holder with a coin pocket. We were happy to oblige.

The Slim Mini Deluxe Card Holder. We got a number of requests for a card holder with a coin pocket. We were happy to oblige.

After those two additions to the fleet, we thought we were done with credit card wallets. Recently, however, we got a request to  make an even smaller version.  So we came up with a few ideas and started prototyping.

We had two clear winners .

Round 3: the Double-Sided Micro Mini and the Micro Mini with Flap

Double-Sided Micro Mini

The Double-Sided Micro Mini is approximately 3 3/4″ by 2 7/8″ and less than 1/4″ thick. It has one pocket on the front and one on the back and holds about 8 cards.

The Micro Mini with Flap is approximately 3 3/4" X 2 7/8" X 1/4". It has a pocket with flap that wraps around your cards. Pull on the flap to lift out your cards.

The Micro Mini with Flap is approximately 3 3/4″ X 2 7/8″ X 1/4″. It has a pocket with flap that wraps around your cards. Pull on the flap to lift out your cards.

So now we make 6 different credit card wallet models – a little something for everyone.

.retool. wallets are handcrafted in San Francisco. For you.