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.