Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Suitcase Makeover

Packing for 5 months is a difficult task. Especially if all your belongings must fit into the confines of 50 lbs or less and a specifically small size. My biggest fear in anticipating my trip is whether or not I will ever see my suitcase full of belongings again once I get to Germany. I pray with every fiber of my being that it shows up on that luggage return in Köln. Because if not, I get to spend 5 months with only the supplies in my carry-on and the small reimbursement from my travel insurance. Not one to leave things to chance, I am taking every precaution. Nobody else is walking away with my suitcase thinking it's theirs! I was planning on taking my medium/large sized navy suitcase with me to Aachen. Keyword "was". Now I'm planning on taking my laguna blue/kiwi chevroned suitcase with me to Aachen. No, I didn't buy a new suitcase. I PAINTED IT!

Some well-placed advice from friend-travel-gurus got my gears cranking...how can I make my suitcase stand out amongst the hoards of other navy/black suitcases in an airport the size of New York's JFK and Paris' Charles de Gaulle? I thought about doing the whole ribbons or stickers thing, but I felt like breaking out the paintbrushes. At least this way I don't have to worry about some angry French businessman with a Missouri State sticker stuck to his briefcase or my ribbons grabbing six other suitcases along the way. Anyway, now I get to sport a screaming loud striped suitcase through Europe. And hopefully if it doesn't get lost, I should spot it right away on the luggage carrel! Sounds fun, right? 

I figured I would make a sort-of DIY of my project, because several people were asking me about it. Feel free to adapt and let me know what worked and what didn't! I apologize for the sort of crappy photos, but I did the whole project at night, and didn't really feel like gettin' all artsy. Regardless, it works. :) 

I spent a grand total of, wait for it, $11.82  (plus some painters tape that I had laying around the house, two paper plates, and my cheap-o suitcase)! I think the price could even come down if I would have used primer, because I had to buy two bottles of paint in each color due to the layers upon layers of paint used on my thirsty canvas case.

It took me about four days to complete-1 day for painting and drying each color of chevron, and I did both the front and back. Although it's not a hugely time consuming project, you will have to allow for a lot of time to dry between coats. It took about 30 minutes to measure and tape off each time, and the painting took maybe 3 minutes each coat with about 1 hour dry time between coats with a fan.

    You need:
   -2 8oz bottles of each color Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint  (I used Laguna and Kiwi, although I think dark colors would have covered with less coats and show less dirt).
   -Scotch blue painters tape
   -paper plates (2-3 depending on how environmentally friendly you want to be-- you can honestly use 1 plate, if you just let the paint dry and reuse)
   -small foam brushes  (I used two $0.97 packs of four each because I was lazy and didn't always wash them out right away)
   -ruler or measuring tape (if your suitcase is larger) or both
   -a suitcase in need of a makeover! 

My suitcase had some weird stitching on the front (you can tell in the very first photo) so it limited what I could paint, but I taped off the section I wanted to design, and started measuring for my chevron pattern. The photos below are of the back of my suitcase, which was a lot easier to measure and paint on.

Deciding, measuring, and marking for the chevron pattern was the most difficult of the whole project, and it was hardly difficult at all (just a little lengthy for perfectionists). I decided I wanted 2in thick stripes. Starting at the top left corner, I used the marker to put a small mark every 2 inches. Repeat on the right side, making sure the markings are level from L to R.
 *Be careful if using light colored paint, as I had to add extra coats to my green stripes to make sure they covered the permanent marker.

Next, decide how steep you want the chevron to be. I settled on a relatively shallow chevron. There's probably an easier more engineer-type way to measure this but here's how I did it. I did a really bad paint diagram of how to measure. Th red dots are where you should make marks, and the thin black lines (not the arrows) are where you should connect the dots.

1. The top of my chevron valley is 3 inches below the edges of the top left edge of the chevron. I measured and made a mark in the center (along the seam of my suitcase) 3 inches below the top left and right marks. I took a ruler and drew the connecting line to both side creating a 'V'
2. Because the width of the stripe is two inches, I measured from the bottom center point of the 'V' and marked every two inches to the bottom of the suitcase. Because the top chevron is too thick, I needed to measure 2 inches up from the top line of the top chevron and mark lines there too.
 If you look closely, you can see the marker.

3. Once you have all your lines marked off, tape off your chevrons like so:

4. Start painting! I used about 5 coats of each color to get the desired opacity and color. I used a TON of paint for the first coat (and I mean globbed it on there) because the canvas just soaks it up. It took about 2-3 coats to even get a good base to paint on.
**I would recommend using some sort of primer instead of trying to paint 5 coats of each color because it's very time consuming.

5. Now, take off your tape, and tape over the chevrons that you just painted. Get ready to repeat the process all over again! (My tape didn't work so well with the canvas, so I had some leaks but they touched up really well when all was said and done.)

6. You should end up with a suitcase that looks like this! 

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