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Originally published Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 6:00 AM

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Hide your camera in a stylish bag

Craft: How to make an insert for a stylish handbag or tote to hide and protect your camera gear.

The Associated Press

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While the thought of lugging around a heavy camera and even bulkier bag may have you reaching for a small point-and-shoot or your smartphone, consider camouflaging your camera in a padded insert tucked into a pretty tote bag or purse instead. It might not weigh any less, but you'll look more stylish. And you might be safer carrying a bag that doesn't scream "expensive camera inside!"

While several online retailers sell camera bags that look like fashionable pocketbooks on the outside, they can be pricey. Making your own padded insert is less costly, and allows you to swap outer bags when the mood strikes.

This project consists of a lightweight plastic canvas box for structure, lined with foam for cushioning.

The secret ingredient is "headliner" fabric — the type you probably have on the interior roof of your car. It consists of a layer of soft fabric backed with thin foam, and is available in fabric stores — look for it with the vinyl and other utility fabrics. The one drawback to headliner fabric is that you have to sew with the foam sides facing each other, otherwise the foam will get stuck as you try to run in through your machine. This means you'll have the seams on the outside of your camera bag insert, but that's a minor issue given that the entire insert will be tucked into a larger purse or tote.

MATERIALS:

A 12-by-8-inch sheet of plastic canvas

1/2 yard of 1/2-inch thick foam

1/2 yard headliner fabric

Embroidery needle

Thread

Sewing machine

Scissors

Ruler

Optional: adhesive Velcro

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Measure the interior of your purse or tote to determine the best length and width for the box-shaped insert. The height can vary, depending on how deep the bag is, but there's no need to fill the whole space. You just need the insert to be deep enough to nestle the camera in, so about 6 inches is plenty.

2. Cut five pieces of plastic canvas to make the sides and bottom of your box.

3. Assemble the plastic canvas pieces into a box shape by holding them together and sewing them together at the edges by hand. Don't worry about being neat — just run the thread in and out of the holes in the canvas. Another option would be taping the edges together with masking tape.

4. Cut five pieces of foam to fit along the sides and bottom of the box, taking into account that the foam's thickness means the pieces you cut for the sides of the box will be smaller than the plastic pieces. Insert the foam pieces into the plastic canvas box.

5. Cut five pieces of headliner fabric to make what will essentially be a one-piece slipcover and lining for your box. Using the measurements of your box, but adding a half-inch seam allowance on all sides, cut one piece for the bottom of the slipcover. The other four pieces will become the sides of the slipcover. Each should be the same lengths as the sides of your box (plus half an inch seam allowance), but TWICE as tall, because the slipcover will be folded down into the interior of the box to become a lining.

6. With the foam sides of the headliner fabric facing each other, sew each of the four side pieces to the bottom piece, stopping 1/4 inch from the edge on each piece. At this point, you will have what looks like a large fabric cross. Bring the sides together and sew each of the four side seams, creating a tall, fabric box. If desired, trim the seam allowances with pinking shears. This will create a neater appearance but isn't necessary because the headliner fabric won't fray.

7. Insert the foam-lined plastic box into the fabric slipcover and push it all the way to the bottom. Fold the top of the slipcover down, so it becomes the lining. If desired, cut another piece of headliner fabric to fit the bottom and cover up the foam. You can hand-stitch it in place, but it will stay fairly well without stitching.

8. If desired, apply strips of Velcro to the interior of the box. Use leftover headliner fabric to make dividers that can be stuck to the Velcro, creating sections in the insert for lenses and other equipment.

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