Designing and Making The Carolina Go Bag

The Carolina Go Bag

This is my baby:) Designed, drafted, and made by me.

The Carolina Go Bag by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson of JH2 Designs

Design Process

I designed this bag for air travel (once we can do that again). I developed the design by designing, drafting, and making 5 prototypes over 2 years. These iterations were based on functional requirements (such as aisle width and under seat height of various aircraft, and roll-aboard handle circumference ranges), competitive benchmarks of over 100 competitor under seat bags, and rigorous user testing including overpacking. Through this process I developed a list of key features for The Carolina Go Bag.

Key Features

The Carolina Go Bag is sized to fit upright under the airplane seat in front of you with the mouth up. The mouth is wide so it is easy to grab what you need from your seat without pulling the bag up into your lap.

The exterior color is dark to hide stains and dirt. The corners are covered in leather to protect them from wear and tear. The interior is bright so it is easy to see inside. The hardware is extremely high quality brass.

There are 3 ways to carry The Carolina Go Bag: over the shoulder using the detachable strap, on your roll-aboard using the luggage strap, and by the short handles.

In the latest version I added an internal zipper pocket sized for upcoming smart phone releases. In future versions, I plan to add a magnetic or snap closure mechanism to prevent spills and a way to adjust the length of the shoulder strap.


When I heard the founder of DaD’s Sewing House in San Francisco saying that sourcing was often the biggest hurdle to product development, I wondered, “How can that be?” We have the internet, we can source from anywhere. What’s the problem?

Little did I know that only a year later I would be in vigorous agreement with her. The materials I used in this bag took thousands of miles of travel and multiple years to amass:

Hardware, leather, strapsOregon LeatherPortland, OR2019, 2020
Canvas outerTextile History MuseumGlencoe, NC2019
LiningIkeaPalo Alto, CA2018
ZipperJoAnn’s FabricsCupertino, CA2020
LabelDutch Label ShopPhiladelphia, PA2019
Material Sourcing
Sourcing: Hardware, straps, zipper, outer and lining shown.


Materials are definitely important to the quality and durability of an item. How it is constructed also makes an enormous difference. For The Carolina Go Bag, I set the rivets by hand using an anvil, a rivet setter and a hammer. I used an industrial sewing machine (with an external powerful motor) to sew through through heavy layers and to make strong seams that I am confident won’t come apart.


How much time did this bag take me? We already talked about how long development and sourcing took. Here are some other ways of looking at it.

Unit of work Time
Development: Accumulate market requirements, design iterative versions, user test each version, improve2 years
Sourcing2 years
Calendar days to finish one bag30 days
Hours of construction inc. cutting fabric, sewing, steaming~20 hours
How much time did it take me?

Check out more of my bag design projects here.