From Savers Suit to Bottomless Bag

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When’s the last time you had a conversation with an inanimate object? For me, such talks often involve cursing, but not this time. No, this is a story of a happy chat, one where the thing spoke to me, not the other way around. I was browsing men’s suits at my local Savers when one decided it had something to say. It knew who I was, clearly, and it didn’t waste any time.

The second I slid its hanger along the rack, the suit got my attention and began. “I MUST become a bag one day,” it shouted up at me. “Look at my funky pockets,” it continued. “They’re not meant for a suit. They neeeeed to be part of a bag. It’ll be cross-body. Slouchy and so cool. C’mon, I know you see my ’70s vibe. Come ON. Did I mention my funky pockets? The POCKETS, I say!”

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Yes, that’s one of THE pockets, right there in the center, all giant and cool. Only now, it features custom embellishments involving a sweet button and an upholstery scrap from my stash.

As you most certainly know by now, I found myself unable to dispute such claims. I may have been searching for fabric for a cap, but these were some well-articulated points! Whew. I bought the suit and continued my initial search. (For documentation of this fateful trip, check out my post, From Thrift-Shop Jacket to Newsboy Cap.)

You know how this story ends: I did make a bag, and I love it. Getting from vision to bag, though, was harder than I thought it’d be. I knew what I wanted to do, but first I had to figure out how. I searched for a pattern that fit my vision, one that would let me feature two contrasting suits and a belt for the strap. After finding a series of near misses, I admitted what I’d known all along: I would have to wing it.

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And so it began. Through the weeks that followed, I spent mornings, evenings, and weekends tinkering. I cut into the jackets. I reshaped their fabric into rectangles and strips. I pieced them together to suit the bag living in my mind (ha, ha). I tested interior fabric (called interfacing) to influence structure.

I sewed pieces together. I ironed their seams. Then, when something wasn’t right, I got out my seam ripper and took them apart. I bought a second one while making this bag, as I needed it nearby at all times. Seriously. I used those darned seam rippers at every step. Every. Single. Step.

Along the way I wondered, more than once, why I was spending so much time on just one bag. Cursing at inanimate objects became a regular occurrence. But here’s the thing: Every hour I spent was an hour that got me closer to making something new. This was a chance to put something on this earth that wasn’t there before.

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My new seam ripper in all its glory. The experience of using it is more palatable now that I have an artisan version. It’s handmade from acrylic and feels substantial in your hand. At the local sewing shop where I got it, each was different. This one’s hand-labeled tag read, “Italian Sunset.”

Making something new is an urge that compels me greatly, persistently, but I was equally drawn to the process of transformation. I also got to give new life to something that’s been discarded. I got to pluck a suit from its industrial rack and turn it into a bag unlike any other. I got to play with color and surround myself with possibility, all while working with my hands. When viewed from eye of the maker, my question then became, “How can I not spend time on this?”

If you’re a maker, you know the feeling of getting lost in your craft. You’ve lived the journey of getting inspired, starting, slogging, reworking, walking away, coming back, toiling, seeing, believing, then finally–sometimes, anyway–finishing.

Now here’s the part where I get to play fangirl to another of my favorite podcasts. Do you want to hear a description of the making process that’s so eloquent you just may cry? Of course you do. Get yourself immediately to Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project. There you’ll find his beautifully crafted installment, “How Working with Your Hands Changes You.” If I had a glass, I’d raise it to all you creators out there. Instead I have a laptop and a cat on my lap.

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P.S.: Are you a crafty blogger looking for a link-up? Try The Casual CraftleteMerry Monday. or Coastal Charm.

 

 

From Bargain Bin to Mat Carrier

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Projects that can be done in a weekend are the best. Here’s a simple one that brought high satisfaction for relatively little effort. Last summer I got tired of carting my yoga mat around all by its lonesome. Off to Pinterest I went (of course) to find a carrier tutorial. I wanted something more substantial than the strappy kind, and I was immediately drawn to this cute version from Design Sponge.

A trip my local Hancock Fabrics was all I needed next. The bargain section at the back led me to this shimmery green fabric. I loved it as soon as I saw it, always a good sign I’m on the right track. While passing by the elastics, a cheery turquoise one caught my eye. Thinking it might make a nice riff on the intended straps, I switched gears on the spot. Pairing it with the thinner striped-pink elastic nearby, I decided that, yeah, this new strap idea was worth a shot. In the end, the sturdy bounce of the elastic turned out to be a favorite feature of the carrier.

So, weekend craft warriors. . . what have been some of your favorite quick-but-rewarding projects?

Gutsy Purple Bag

Photo by Half Light Photography

jessbag_chairThis isn’t a bag I’d make for just anyone. It’s fearless, and it’s one of my favorite projects ever. It was a custom job for a particularly hip girlfriend of mine.

She knows the local music scene. She has an appreciation for indie rock, which she’s evidenced by taking me to both Metric and Dinosaur Jr. concerts. She changes her hair color regularly and runs a photography business on the side. (Yes, she took this header photo.)

Last year she accompanied a group of teen designers on a trip to Jerusalem as part of the powerful and innovative Design Diaries International museum-exchange program.

So I was thrilled when she agreed to be a bag tester for me. I’ve been dreaming of expanding my crafting hobby into some sort of side gig of by own, and she signed right up to help me out. The plan: She’d give me design parameters, I’d make a bag for her at cost, and she’d give me feedback.

Her wish list: a) incorporate her fave color purple, b) lots of pockets, c) a 60’s vibe, and d) a mix of patterns that look like they don’t go together but end up working. This final request made me want to do the happy dance.

I love working with upholstery fabrics, so I hit the rolls at my local fabric store. And here’s the result. What’s on your bag wish list?