Today I have Karen’s forth post in the series The Art Of Bag Making – Combining Two Loves, to share with you. If you missed part one, you can find it HERE, Part two is HERE, part Three is HERE.
Over to you Karen:
I love to do hand embroidery, and I have come to love free motion machine embroidery, but there is a limit to what I can use it for. Gone are the days of embroidered tablecloths, anti-macassars and handkerchiefs, and I needed something more up-to-date and useful to decorate.
I started off making aprons for my great nieces with applique pictures on the pockets. I was constantly being asked for bigger sizes until I was making adult sized aprons. I hated making the aprons, I just loved doing the pictures on the pockets!
When I started making bags I would recycle a pair of jeans, then jazz it up with some embroidery and applique. However my bag designing skills were very basic, and I could only make ‘slouchy’ bags. Then along came ByAnnies Soft & Stable which answered my slouchy issues, but not my lack of design ability.
So I started looking for bag designers who made bags I could make and then decorate. I particularly wanted to add a patchwork/applique butterfly using some of my mother’s vintage fabric stash. I found a bag I liked the look of in a book, and tried that. I had to photocopy the pattern pieces on the spine side of the page, then enlarge them 400% to get them to size. To say it did not work well is an understatement,and the instructions left me confused. In the end I just winged it to finish the bag. It looked great and stood up by itself, but when asked to make one for someone else I said no way.
When I found Christine W Designs I was scared that her bags would be too difficult for me, they looked so professional and complicated, but eventually I bought her “Stow it All” pattern and discovered a whole new world of sewing. She took my hand and led me through it all, even responding to my call for help when I got my pattern pieces mixed up!
Suddenly I too could produce a professional looking bag! I went on and to-date I think I have made around 8 Stow-it-All bags, as everyone I knew who saw mine asked if I would make one for them. And I could, because it was simply a matter of choosing what fabric I wanted where and then following Christine’s instructions.
I have to confess when I realised how many pages I had to print out I was a bit daunted as the ink cost so much in those days. Nowadays I have more economical ink and I print Chris’s ‘Text Only’ instructions as I can refer to the photos on my laptop or i-pad as I sew. The real point of all those pages are the detail she goes into so you are NOT left thinking “huh? What?” as can happen especially if you are a newbie but also if the designer and her testers assume a point is too obvious to make.
I went on to make the City Slicker, Christine’s offering for the first Bag of The Month Club back in June 2014. I was still a little unsure of my ability so I bought the Intermediate & Advanced Bundle. However having read them both through, I made the Advanced Version without the welt pocket, not because I couldn’t but because I wanted a clear vinyl slip pocket. I couldn’t resist adding an applique heart to the first one. The grey faux suede was for a friend and ‘Shades of Grey’ fan!
I considered it a great achievement. I felt as if I had completed a Diploma Course, and promptly whipped one up and printed it out! I felt so empowered, I soon found I was applying Christine’s methods to other bags I made, and realised what a great teacher she was.
So I was flattered to be asked to test the re-vamped Emma pattern for her, and as it came at a time when I had rather lost my sewing mojo, it gave me a real shot in the arm. I was able to use some fabrics that had been languishing in my stash waiting for the right project, and used the opportunity to decorate the flap with an applique butterfly. I absolutely love the finished result, and especially the plaited strap detail!
Then I came full circle when I was asked to make another bag with a patchwork Butterfly on the flap, like my original creation. I was so not going back to the book pattern! Instead I used The Genevieve as it has a lovely big flap. Shona provided the jeans and the printed cotton for the lining, and I used the lining and coordinating fabrics for the Butterfly.
Then in February I tested the new pattern for Ellen’s Esplanade and added an applique heart It was actually to hide a hole I had accidentally made in the vinyl, but no-one knows that, right?
My next project follows on from meeting my new local florist, and putting her business logo on a couple of cushion for her shop. She rang me up and commissioned a work bag to take her laptop with her when talking to brides about wedding flowers, and I am making the Gizmo Garage. With two pocket flaps I can do two applique designs! Watch this space…
It’s great to add my favourite decorations to a well designed bag, I can combine two hobbies I love. Thank you Christine!
Thank you so much Karen! You can read more of Karen’s posts over at Sew What’s New HERE and visit Karen on Instagram – @auntystitches
Meanwhile if you haven’t got the Gizmo Gaage pattern yet, you can grab it from my shop now!