I Can See Clearly Now

Spectacular

I have been wearing glasses since my the end of primary school. Perhaps it was the result of childish naïveté that I was above any good visual practices or maybe I was just so absorbed with my life ‘priorities’ back then – cue long stretches of video games whenever I could sneak in that opportunity. Just like many people, I thought I was invincible when I was younger. One thing I know for sure that did not contribute to me putting on my first pair of glasses was obsessive reading because there was none: I hated books and my inability to focus made reading even a chapter of anything, a chore.

Fast forward 20 years later, and having acquired a knack for reading and having cycled through several pairs of glasses, I have started frequenting the use of sunglasses. I love how they are cool and come in so many shapes and sizes. Not only that, they are another opportunity to accessorise and express ourselves. After finding more about sunglasses, I discovered Gentle Monster pretty soon and I fell in love with their history and ethos (read about their history here). Though I do not own a pair, I admire the brand’s origins: having started out as an independent Korean eyewear brand that wanted to create something different from the offerings of optical giants Luxottica and Safilo, and now evolving into the brand to keep a lookout for.

Personally, my introduction to sunglasses came after a visit to my friend’s spectacle shop (check out Oblique Eyewear here) where I was introduced to the idea of prescription sunglasses. They opened my eyes (literally) to a new world! They protect my eyes and also lessened the harshness of a bright sunny day, and perhaps as a side effect, made a blistering day feel a little less hot.

Quandary

I admit, I have a bad habit – I tend to not wear my prescription glasses all the time. And now that I have a pair of prescription glasses and another pair of prescription glasses, I was carrying two spectacle cases wherever I went. They took up a lot of space and considering that I only use one of them at any given moment, the idea of bringing around two cases sounded less and less appealing.

I started envisioning a case that can keep both pairs of glasses. It could technically half the time rummaging through my bag looking for it since I would only be carrying one case instead of two. I really liked the idea.

Off it was, to scour the web and brick-and-mortar shops to find spectacle cases that could hold two pairs.

However, I quickly realised that it might not be feasible to make one with the materials I wanted. Most of the dual spectacle cases I found were made of leather or other thick materials that held their shape well.

I started studying available spectacle cases and questioned their properties. What must my case do? Besides protecting the two pairs of glasses, will it also allow quick access to the contents within? What about the cleaning cloth? Would there be a compartment for it? Will it be made to only fit the glasses I own? What if I switch to something bigger or smaller? Will the new glasses fit within?

With these questions in mind, I started sketching some designs and prototyping.

At First Glance

The first, is still the one I personally use to this day.

It started with a Revo sunglasses case that was given by my dad many years back (I lost the pair of sunglasses that came with it). Its dimensions and design was the foundation for the first version.

It had a simple concept: two spectacle cases joint together via a common spine with a felt backing. The felt gave the case some structure and protection as the glasses would face inwards, against the spine. The sunglasses would be in a black compartment and my regular prescription glasses would be in the patchwork compartment. The compartments would be opened at the short end and I went for a simple velcro button for fastening.

Initial drafts and sketches during ideation.

Trying out different ways of fastening and making measurements.

After using them for a few months, I realised that since the felt backing was only at the common spine, the rest of the case offered little protection. Moreover, the cleaning cloth have to be stuffed either on top of the compartment or under the pair of glasses (which made it impossible to access).

Back for Seconds

Building on the lessons of the first prototype, I wanted to explore other designs.

The second was to have its opening on the long side of the case. This would hopefully mean easier retrieval and keeping of either pair of glasses. This also allowed me to experiment with different fastenings to secure the case. Its design would be more similar to a handbag, with a divider in the middle to separate the two pairs of glasses. I also wanted to experiment with making the case more compact and chose not to include any felt or backing throughout the case.

Back to the drawing board for V2.

The opening of the second ended up being a problem – the loop and twines were insufficient to keep the glasses from falling out of the case. Also, a friend commented that the twine and loop ended up making the case less practical because of the amount of time it will take to loop and knot the twine securely around the fabric loops. Moreover, since there was no backing, the case ended up offering even lesser protection to the pairs of glasses.

Third Time’s the Charm?

I knew I needed to incorporate a backing or use the existing felt I had for protection. I also ended up using a different fastening solution – fabric loop and fabric button.

Trouble arose as right on schedule. During the sewing process, I was struggling with the thick felt so much so that I broke multiple sewing machine needles and ending up having to hand-stitch the edges of the case before flipping it inside out. This gave the appearance of ‘teeth’ at the sides of the case – which were evidence of the inconsistent hand stitches partly due to the really thick felt.

And due to the thickness, I was unable to even attach a second compartment for the second pair of glasses. But that also meant that the case was built like a tank, albeit a tank that did not achieve its main goal of keeping two pairs of glasses. Nevertheless, the one thing I did like was the fastening of this prototype. The fabric loop and fabric button was secure and gave a matte look that was consistent with the rest of the case.

The ‘teeth’ appearing on the side of the case. 

Four Eyes

A few days later, I re-examined the design and also the pattern pieces of the third prototype.

To improve on it, I had to leave extra seam allowance to compensate the thick felt layers. And I had to secure the felt layers down to the outer piece to keep it in place.

I also considered how the second pair of glasses does not need to have a compartment the exact same size as the first. Perhaps it could be more similar to a cardholder, with each slot cascading from the one above.

It was also at this time where my interest in sewing curves started to develop and I wanted the entire case to have curved patchwork all over. Moreover, because this was to be a present for a friend, the stakes were high as I was also working towards a deadline. I had to run through the game plan and the course of action in my head a couple of times before I committed them to action.

The end result gave a case that had a premium finish to it. It curved at the right places and the sashiko outlines that were used to keep the felt backing in place, added an interesting dimension to the case. Moreover, the colour blocking was the most pleasant to me, of the four cases. The one qualm I had and still have is the velcro fastenings. Perhaps I was short for time or perhaps I forgot to sew the fabric loop before I sewed the case close. Though I used sashiko thread to sew it in place, such that the outline can be seen on the opposite side, I still believe that to be the weakest link.

Closing Thoughts

In the end, the fourth iteration, was mainly used by my friend to store only one pair of glasses but the other compartment gave him room to put something else inside – whether that is a phone or a cleaning cloth or credit card, it ended up serving more as a pouch or clutch.

The quest for the perfect cloth spectacle case ends here, for now, while I move on to other projects.

Nevertheless, the development process was rewarding and I really like how the fourth version turned out. If you are looking for a good cloth spectacle case, I encourage you to learn from my mistakes and give making your own a try. It is not as difficult as you might think, and it is definitely a great way to get a case that is perfectly suited to your needs.

– The Kind Oddball, 優しく個性的な人

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