A New California Bag

I have to confess that I’ve fallen in love with Nancy Ziemans Trace and Create series of hand bags. I find them very, very easy to modify on-the-fly and create a very different handbag using the same pattern over and over.   Several years ago I was forced into sewing my own handbags.  I’m not a premium shopper i.e. I need to shop in the discount stores like Walmart, Target et al.  At that particular time the pickings were very slim for what I thought I needed.  I purchased several bags because the ones in use were literally duct taped together.  I was repeatedly disappointed that the bags were either too small for the items I carried or way too large.  Really.  It’s been 3 years ago (plus or minus a few weeks), but at the time all I could find were either gigantic tote bags or the very slender wrist bags that carried the minimal (like one credit card and a house key).  So I felt forced to start sewing my own bags.


My first bags reflected what I “thought” I needed, which was many pockets to separate and corral all the small stuff.  I have one purse 9 pockets and an inner divider.  It worked great.  But it takes a bit of time to transfer all my stuff from 9 pockets to another 9 pockets.  Here’s the funny thing. The reason for all the pockets was so that I could easily and quickly find a specific item.  Not only did it take time to put all the little gizmos in their individual pockets, but then it took time to hunt through 9 pockets to find the gizmo I wanted. Yep, I couldn’t remember a few hours later where my lip gloss was stashed.


I won’t bore you with lots of details, but leap to the best solution for me:  a 3 pocket bag sized about like 2 cosmetic bags back to back.   It is enough organization to know that cosmetic/grooming stuff is one pocket, sunglasses and “other stuff” is the 2nd and in the center pocket is my cell phone and PDA.  I normally carry the 3-pocket cosmetic bag, my french clutch (wallet) and car keys. It’s quick to transfer these from bag to bag and since everything stays in the same pocket, easy to find the particular gizmo needed when it is needed. I do find that a pocket on the back of the handbag is handy for stashing stuff accumulated on the go (such as programmes or other paperwork). I also like my handbag to be large enough to drop in a diet cola (prefer the plastic bottles with tightly screwed on top).  And that’s it.  BTW such few needs makes handbag sewing a lot quicker and leaves lots of time for creative embellishments.



Today’s beauty was created using the California Bag template:

I used the deepest bottom gusset, which I think produces a 4″ bottom.  I also added 1-1/2″ width.  I opted for a single shoulder carrier and the rectangular front tab shown in the the lower right corner (brown bag). I added a back pocket dividing it with stitching about 4″ from the side to create a pencil/pen area and also keep the back pocket from flapping open too widely.


Not sure the pocket definition is visible in the photo above, but I do find it helpful.


I purchased the fabric several months ago.  Even at the time I intended to create a handbag.  This fabric might be called moleskin.  It does have the satin side as most typical moleskin on the market. BUT the fabric face is like suede. I’m not kidding. When I touch it I think leather skins.  I know it is fake faux suede.  I saw the 100% polyester marking on the end of the bolt.  ‘Course the bolt could have lied.  It wouldn’t be the first time a bolt was mislabeled, but I paid about $4 for this half yard. Definitely not the price point you’d expect for real leather.  My lining is a 100% cotton which I purchased and used as Mimie’s (my dress form) cover.


I used HeatNBond lite to fuse a paper like interfacing to the moleskin fabric.    Until the bag was almost finished, I thought this was a terrible error.  But once all the finishing pieces and lining were inserted and stitched down I realized I got what I wanted.  This  bag is supple with some firmness. It is large enough to carry some junk if I really want to, but small enough that my normal accouterments aren’t rolling around in disarray.


I did switch to my roller foot for the HV Ruby.  In pre-testing the regular foot just didn’t feed smoothly enough.  I was considering using the teflon foot, but on a whim tried the roller foot first.  Why mess with instant success?  Roller foot it was. Most of the pieces are serged together with a 4-thread safety overlocker stitch. BUT the visible stitching is all machine embroidery polyester.  I know, I know this could spell disaster for long term life.  But I used the embroidery polyester for the pin stitching on front and then repeated it anywhere the stitching would be visible.  I like the look, but agree, this could be a mistake.