Lovely, isn’t she? Thanks heavens because she almost didn’t get completed. I started with a failed project, Threads Circle Vest perfectly created in a beautiful wool. Why was it a failure? It looked horrible on me. I tried several variations of the vest. Baring some undiscovered variation or miraculous physical change, I have decided that this vest is not a good look for me. So what do to with the wool? The wool which I felt would be lovely (and it was) in this design? Lovely wool of which there was only a little over a yard, invested in a project I will not wear? What to do? Well like many good sewist, I completed the project and then put it in the Goodwill Bag, hopefully to be claimed by someone who could appreciate it’s beauty, fiber and be complemented by it’s shape.
That was several months and many, many projects ago. At the end of February 2011, I started sorting and culling left over fabric cuts and pieces. Upon a hunch I gathered up not only the left over 1/4″ of a yard of fabric, but retrieved the circle vest from the donation box. With half a hope and a big prayer, I started working on personalized version of Nancy Zierman’s California Bag:
I love these templates and think I’ve collected all, as well as her booklet on the 12 Easy Bags and a couple of books and patterns from other handbag artist/creators. Right now sewing handbags is really MY thing. When I was younger I’d buy a purse and use it until the lining wore out. Then I’d use it at least 6 months more all the while complaining of how I’d found the perfect purse but with a crappy lining. I have to confess that I had, shall we say, funding problems as well. I never considered buying the perfect Bellagio Bag. Heavens, that was not in my budget at all. I searched long and hard looking for a bag the size I would carry, in the color I wanted. Like many, I also appreciated several well placed pockets. It was hard to meet all my criteria and I therefore carried a bag until it died and then carried it a little longer.
A few years ago, with my finances greatly improved since age 13, I thought it should be a simple matter to find purses that I liked. After all, I had a far greater range to chose from. A greater range not only in $$$ but also in stores. I was no longer confined to the cheapest dollar stores (Please, forgive me if you shop there. I don’t mean to be derogatory.) Well, I was WRONG. Yes, in capital letters. In fact to my horror, I bought 4 different purses after examining thousands ((it felt like millions); only to discard each as being too small, too large, not enough pockets, too many pockets or some other criticism which had me frustrated with the latest purchase. I began sewing handbags for the sole purpose of creating my version of the perfect bag; and hence collecting patterns, printed articles and finally Nancy Zieman’s wonderful templates. To my delight, not only were these templates available but also RTW quality notions and accessories. But let’s get back to the wool bag pictured above.
In addition to the wool, I used a silver metallic yarn designed and sold for use in plastic mesh tapestries. I believe I acquired the yarn at a garage sale included in a bag/box of other goodies. I held onto it because, like most crafters, I never know when that’s exactly what I will want. In this case it seemed the perfect accent. I also used the selvedge of the wool with it’s beautiful fringe to trim the front of the purse. The back of the purse contains only an additional wide pocket with elastic across the top to help keep the pocket snug against the purse:
I used scraps of a heavy loosely woven upholstery fabric to stiffen the inside. OK, the scrap was nearly 1/3 yard. So there was plenty of fabric for the front and back of the purse (also bottom and sides since they are all attached per the template). Between the wool + Lite Heat and Bond fusible web + loosely woven upholstery fabric, I created a very firm fabric for the purse exterior.
I should pause to explain the I cut the front and back exactly according to the template. Then embellished the front after experimenting some. And affixed the back pocket before bonding to the upholstery fabric.
I cut the lining twice. The first lining was a polyester stripe in grey, black and peach. Not a transparent fabric but like linings in most RTW handbags it was light. (My fabric was left over from a summer blouse that I still enjoy). I did think it was too light and after moving it once or twice decided I should interface the lining. That done, I sat the lining aside until ready to sew it together.
I added the straps to each end of the bag and worked quite a while on the front tab. See, I’d just recently had a *blow out of a favorite purse. The magnetic closure had torn from the inside and was hanging on by 1/2″ of shreded fabric. Having only completed that purse last year, I was not ready to give it up. Besides, it is perfect in every way except the dangling magnetic closure. I wanted this purse (and all subsequent ) to avoid such a premature death. I thought the interfacing would take care of the problem. It might have, if I’d interfaced the fabric as soon as I cut it. But in those few days and 2 moves the fabric raveled without me realizing it had done so. When I picked the fabric up to finish the purse, I realized that I planned for 3/8″ seam allowences and 1/4″ had raveled away. Disgusted, I tossed the first lining and searched for a more strudy replacement.
The replacement is a solid peach-colored cotton and was immediately interfaced. I attached pockets to both sides. I make a wide pocket and then vertically stitch at intrevals making smaller pockets. In this case one side has 2 pockets 4″ and 6″ wide the other side has 2″ and 8″ wide pockets.
I did goof. I had intended to leave the bottom of the lining open for 6-8 inches. I was intending to sew the lining and purse top right-sides-together and then invert. But I forgot. Rather than picking out serged seams, I fished out the grograin ribbon I’d used to reinforce the strap. I hope I explain this right. I basted the bag and it’s lining with wrong-sides-together. Then I used 1/2″ Steam-A-Seam which was fused to the right side of the handbag. Next fuse the grograin ribbon so that the top edge is on the SAS and the bottom edge is in air. Then stitch the ribbon to the bag. Using lots of steam and patience, turn the ribbon so that the in-air-edge is inside on the lining and the top edge and bag edge are neatly folded just to the inside (so you can’t see the lining on the outside.) Like I said, lots of steam; lots of time; press inside and outside.
…And Houston we had a problem. The lower edge of the ribbon (the edge that was in air and is now up next to the lining) also would cover the pocket top edge in a few places. With a little bit of consternation and a big “F….” ah you don’t want to hear that……. I did remember some previously owned handbag in which the top ribbon was stitched only about 1/4″ to 1/2″ down and then left free. So that’s what I did. I’m sorry I couldn’t take a pic. Believe me I tried. This was such a elegant solution it deserves to be shared. And bookmarked. But alas, my photo skills have not advanced properly and I cannot share an actual pic.
It remained only to attach the strap, which has been cut to across-the body length. This may be a mistake which I correct later. Then length is fine. It works as planned. But I’m not sure I want to be putting a purse on over my head and then taking it off over-my-head. Also I’ve noticed that it does create more folds, lines, drags across my carefully fitted clothing. Seems a shame to spend hours removing the wrinkles out of a blouse only to have a purse reintroduce and make worse the same folds and drag lines.
So this probably doesn’t sound any worse than any other purse. Several fiddly pieces, a self-error or two but a completed and usable handbag after all is said, done and stitched. Thing is, when I’m working with scraps I have the think longer and fiddle more. If I’d had a solid 1 yard to start with, the hand bag would have been done in 1-2 hours. Really. I’ve made this bag 3 other times. By now, I can do the construction in my sleep (if I don’t forget a critical step). But to make it all work together; to pull together 2-3 fabrics, multiple embellisments and notions takes thought, experimentation/samples and time at each step. I can remember standing over my cutting table comparing the 3 front beads (which are non-functional BTW). Question was whether to use them; use 3 or 5, make them functional (could have been a great closure) or skip the beads and do something else. Were the beads needed to finish the bag? Or were the beads too much? And then similar analysis with the fringe and silver thread plus consideration of the width and placement. What’s good? What is too much? Red Riding Hood where are you and how do you find these answers quickly? For me each step of the embellishment required another day. The front Tab took 2 days and another 30 minutes after the bag was completed as I used the Iron Maven to pursuade the tab to take it’s rightful place. OK, this is the SECOND time the Iron Maven has impressed me. The Rowenta never would have accomplished the same effect. This tab really believes it should curve over to the front. OH and I still have a problem. I again used magnetic closure but I incorrectly estimated where the pieces should be. In the future I will be using the wonderful E6000 glue to fix my mistake.
While I’m happy with the final result, I’m also exhausted. So much thought, trial and error; AND I have 2 other projects in process that are also demanding the same amount of experimentation and thought. My next project has to be something similar. Something that I can create in a zen moment. I love this purse. I will use this purse. And you’d damn sure better believe I’m going to take care of this purse.
*E6000 is the solution for last years purse as well. I’ve already glued the magnet and fabric back in place. I use hot glue and love it as well. The difference for me is that hot glue is immediate. Whereas E6000 gives me a little time to rearrange or arrange perfectly. It is worth leaving a project isolated in protected level space overnight to cure especially when compared to all the times I’ve burned the crap out of my fingers. If you’re a crafter you understand.