Boy oh boy! I have been so flat out the last few weeks that I’ve barely had a chance to blog let alone read my favourite ones. I just wanted to post quickly to let you all know that I’m still here, just very busy.
I survived the craft fair! It was great fun and I learnt a lot and met some lovely people. I have loads of pics that I’ll upload this weekend with a proper blog post on it.
I’ve also gone back to full time work as a software tester. I am really loving my new job. The people are lovely and the work constant and challenging. I don’t know how I used to get all my housework done before but I am getting a routine going again finally.
I hope everyone is keeping busy too and enjoying the gorgeous sunshine.
The craft fair is getting closer, I’m getting more and more excited! I’ve been so busy sewing that I haven’t even thought to put up this flyer that the lovely ladies running the fair made up.
The flyer has all the details if you want to pop down and say hi. I’m seriously so excited! I’ll be blogging about the bags I’ve made recently including some pics. I’m almost about down to 13 bags made. Only 7 more to go after that! Woohoo! I’ll keep sewing right up to the last minute though so don’t think I’ll be stopping at 20!
Finally, I can share with you my first custom bag! The lady in question has received it for her birthday and I can finally blog about it! YAY!
I spent quite a bit of time working on this bag and boy did I learn a lot!
The pattern I used is the Love Tote Pattern from Lisa Lam at U-Handbag. I made it bigger and turned the corners up on the outside instead of cutting them off. I also added a top zipper, an internal zipper and used interfacing I’d never tried before. Boy was that an experience!
So on to my lessons learned!
Firstly, I learnt not to panic no matter how many things don’t seem to be going to plan when bag making. Many (and I mean many!) things didn’t go as planned with this bag but in the end, the bag turned out better than expected. So in future, no more panicking! Just call it a design feature and move forward. No one needs to know about your mistakes, especially if they don’t know what it was originally meant to look like.
The second most important thing I learnt was how to sew in a top zipper.
Now this may not sound like a big deal but it was well worth the trouble. No grubby mitts will be sneaking into this bag to make off with her wallet! My reason for attempting this was that one of my friends said that she loves a similar bag that I’ve made for her but that sometimes she’d prefer it if people couldn’t see into her bag. Valid point as a woman’s handbag is quite a private space. The top zipper provides privacy and security. Bonus!
I also learnt how to use this you beaut, extra stiff, interfacing I bought from U-Handbag some time ago. It makes anything and everything stand up and I mean anything! This denim is really quite soft and drapey and yet its standing to attention like a little solider. Very impressive. I can see a few little clutches being made with this in them in the very near future.
A dropped in lining was another thing I learnt.
Actually, it was a heck of a lot easier than even attempting to turn a bag this size (and this stiff!) inside out. I think I’m going to use it more often. I really hate scrunching a bag through a teeny tiny gap in the bottom of the lining of the bag. Just feels so, well, messy and damaging. Not to mention the wrinkles did take some time to iron out of the bag with my old iron. Now that I have my new one, it shouldn’t give me any grief but I think I’ll still do the drop in linings. Just seem to prefer them for some reason. I also dropped in some fluffy, sew in interfacing. Gives the inside of the bag a nice feeling. Without it the bag felt hard and unfinished. It just was all angles and no softness.
I also made my first ever bias binding using a bias binding maker and a tutorial from Collette Patterns. My first attempt was too narrow so I went back and made it wider and boy does it really look nice on the top.
I’m so awfully proud of it. I had to hand stitch it down on the inside but I’d do it all again just for the fact that the finish is to die for. It ties in wonderfully with the fabric buttons at the bottom which are another thing I learnt how to do.
I made my own handles! Oh yes, I made those little babies! It was all me!
I got the idea from Lisa’s Handbag Bible. One of her bags had two-tone handles and I though, hmm, that would look good. I bought the metal circles and then attached the studs for extra strength. I repeated it on the bag itself to keep the handles facing up the right way.
And finally, I made a pretty bow.
Obviously not a difficult thing to do but never done it before so I’m pleased with the results. I attached it to a brooch pin and it does look quite cute if I do say so myself! I ironed some fleece to the fabric to give it a nice puffiness. It really helps.
So, in all, I’ve spent probably about four days on this bag. I’ve learnt a lot in that time and I am really pleased with the result. I do hope its new owner loves it as much as I enjoyed making it.
Not sure what has happened to me but it was either too much excitement for me over the last few days (a social event, a new iron and my first sale) or maybe it was something else but either way, I’ve ended up feeling pretty darn sick. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, I’m just angry because I have so much to do and was hoping to be better by Monday. I am finally starting to feel better this evening so I am really happy about that. Maybe it was the nap I had this afternoon or the horrid brown stuff my friend gave me to take when I get sick. Its repulsive but it gets the job done!
But, even feeling sick, I’ve done a little bit of sewing here and there. Here are the two little guys who take my tally down to 17.
Now I know these two pouches should bring my bag total down to 16 but, I sold a clutch on Friday! YAY! Someone at Weng’s work viewed my little Junk Food clutch and wanted it. I’ve wrapped it in tissue and sent it to her today with Weng. All reports says that she’s happy with it so far so I am thrilled! So now that its sold, I have to remake the little sucker for the craft fair. I love making those little purses so it’s no big deal. They’ve always been my favourites.
Also, I got this little beauty.
Isn’t she gorgeous? I definitely think so! Ironing interfacing to fabric now takes barely a second! Creases come out without me having to swear and curse and the steam is CONSTANT! And, this is the best bit, there is no brown water coming out of my iron! Awesome!!! Oh I am in love! I am so happy with my new toy! I wish I had of bought this iron earlier! Honestly, it is fabulous!
Because the steam generator base is so big, I put it on the floor. I have a problem with my cats trying to get onto my ironing table and I already had the old iron fall off a few times (maybe that was why it was so rubbish!). Thankfully, the cord on this beauty is long enough for it to sit on the ground under my table and I can still reach every inch of my table with the iron. Brilliant! I feel silly to rant about an iron so much but seriously, it makes a HUGE difference to my sewing. It’s so awesome!
I also got me this little guy.
This sleeve ironing board is invaluable for bag making. So much easier than trying to cram a small bag onto the edge of a large ironing board.
So with all this new kit, you can understand why I’m so annoyed that I’m feeling sick. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better sewing day for me.
When I saw this event mentioned on the U-Handbag Facebook page. I ran off to speak to Weng about it and told him I’d like to go. Not for the networking (although I didn’t do much) but for the chance to listen to these inspiring women speak about their business experiences and how they started it all. I didn’t get a negative response so I ran off and bought myself a ticket without delay. No messing around for me!
I know how busy these Stylist events get. I’ve heard tickets sell out in just hours! The acting editor who hosted the evening said that she’d received a lot of irate phone calls about not being able to get tickets for this event from ladies and their partners but unfortunately, there were only 250 seats and it is first in. I’m really glad I didn’t wait for an evening to think about it and just acted then and there. I’d have been so disappointed to have missed this! It was definitely worth my £40 plus booking fee. And there was champagne!!! To someone who doesn’t get out often, a night of talking craft, drinking champagne and meeting lovely ladies sounded awesome!
I’d been eagerly anticipating it for some time but when the day arrived, I felt a bit tired and cranky. But I pulled myself together and went along. Networking with ladies all wanting to start craft business sounded like a top night out. Well for me anyways. I hadn’t been organised enough to prepare any questions for the end but the acting editor actually had some really good questions that drew the four ladies out into conversation and I had no need to ask a question. It was set up like a panel and all of the women were given a chance to answer the questions asked in relation to how it affected their particular business. It was fascinating to note that most of these ladies started up their businesses with little or no debt. They did it organically, they did it slowly and they just worked and worked at it until it began to reward them for the efforts.
The ladies on the panel were:
Donna Wilson who owns her own craft company called Donna Wilson. She produces soft toys and other craft items. She’s stocked in John Lewis and around the world.
Claire Martinsen who owns her own soft drink company called Breckland Orchard. She left a very high-powered job as a marketing executive in order to spend more time with her family. She started this company after having quit her job.
Chrissie Charlton who is a partner of the printing company called Harrington & Squires. Previously Chrissie was a graphic designer who by sheer chance bought an old fashioned printing press with her business partner and they started printing with it as a hobby.
Emma Goss-Custard who owns Honeybuns Bakery. Emma used to sell cakes and other baked goods to shops and people in her area while working full-time as a teacher. She took the plunge and quit teaching and took on baking full-time and is now very successful. She makes a lot of gluten-free products.
They were all very inspiring women. I spent most of the evening in total awe listening and nodding along with these ladies. These ladies had done it. They had knuckled down and worked at their business and reinvested anything they made back into it until it took off. That is so admirable. A lot of their views on starting the business was “what have I got to lose other than my time and effort?” and since they all tried hard not to start with a debt, I guess it was a very reasonable view to have.
I now feel better about starting my own company. I’ve had my doubts for some time. I know it will take me a while to get profitable and longer to actually be able to pay myself a salary. I am ok with that. I never had a problem with that part of starting a business. I am fortunate enough that Weng is able to help support me through the first few years of setting up my business. I know many people out there aren’t as lucky as I am. I am not going to throw away this chance or take it for granted.
As everyone says, nothing worthwhile is ever easy. I have never expected to sell my first bag to a store like Debenhams or Selfridges and instantly be made famous. That’s a pipe dream. It will take a lot of work for me to get to that point. It will take me getting out to craft fairs and possibly getting a market stall and me approaching boutiques to stock a few of my products. It’s all about how far I’m willing to go to promote myself and get my name out there. Guess its a good thing I’m not hugely shy then, huh? Something that will help is if I have products and designs that I believe in and am proud of. Then I have nothing to be worried about or shy about. If I know my work is good, what do I have to fear?
At this moment in time, I am still learning about handbags. I love making bags out of cloth but where I truly see myself going with my bags is framed leather bags. I have this obsession with them. I longingly stared at one lady’s vintage handbag in the toilets at the function and even spoke to her about it. I want to make bags that make people draw up their courage and say to the person carrying it around, “I love your bag, where did you get it from?” That is what I want to do.
I think its time I prepared myself a business plan and started working towards making that dream happen. The ladies on the panel all said that this has helped them focus on what they want to achieve and where they see themselves in five years time with their business. I think this is a fab idea and I’m going to sit down this weekend and have a good, long think about what I want from this business and how I can go about achieving it.
I really, really enjoyed this night out, I met some lovely ladies, heard some inspiring words and drank lots of champagne. My blood is stirred up today and I am keen to get into my sewing room and try something new today to challenge myself and learn.
Ok so to keep myself motivated (and not slacking off!), I’m going to blog my bag making progress for the Craftaganza Fair I’m attending in March. I’m aiming for at least one bag or a purse a day. Better if I can do two because the sooner I’m done, the sooner I can think about how I’m going to decorate my stall.
Today was not as productive as I had a bit of a meltdown this morning. My iron is just rubbish. I’ve been complaining about it to Weng for a while but it wasn’t until today that I really got annoyed. This morning I tried to get some of the limescale out of it in the vain hope that it might make the steam button work again. Talk about wishful thinking! I stood at the sink for close to five minutes pressing the darn limescale removal button and the steam button at the same time and shaking the iron for all I was worth and nothing! Not a single bit came out. I’m guessing it means that the limescale has finally taken over my iron and there is nothing I can do about it. Great.
So after a few email exchanges with Weng and a telephone conversation (in which I must have sounded like a hysterical, deranged psycho!), I’ve got a new Phillips steam generator iron ordered and on its way to me. I’ve lusted after something like this for the longest time. Not just because I hate ironing but because I have had such trouble getting interfacing to stick properly with my old iron. The heat and steam just wasn’t good enough. I’d love a professional steam iron and vacuum table but if I’m eventually planning on making leather bags, I really won’t use the iron as much as I do right now. Also, they are really, really, really expensive! Maybe when I’m a rich bag designer selling my bags for stupid money I can have one but until then, I’ll stick with a moderately expensive steam generator iron.
So after having wasted most of my morning researching steam generator irons, I frantically looked around for a bag to make and finish up today so as to keep up my tally and blog posts. Here’s a pic of my little beauty.
I had already cut this out a few weeks back and had made quite a start on it. The exterior was done. I just needed to finish off my zipped internal pocket, sew on the zip closure and then insert the plastic base, attach the feet and sew the lining to the exterior of the bag. Not a lot of work but mostly just time-consuming. I had to baste the zip closures in and that always takes that extra bit of time. Worth it as it saves me having to unpick. I’m so glad I got this bag done as it was bothering me to see it sitting on my sewing table waiting to be completed. I was also sick to death of having to extract one of my kitties from it whenever they thought my back was turned!
Here’s a pic of the incomplete zipper.
And here’s one of it done.
I love putting in these kinds of zippers. I’ve only done one of these before but they get easier every time. This zipper is used to close the top of the tote bag. No grubby mitts will be getting into this bag to steal any goodies! The instructions for sewing a zipper like this are in The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam. I SERIOUSLY recommend this book for the bag maker. Honestly, there isn’t a day when this book isn’t open on my table in front of me. It has been an invaluable resource to learning how to make gorgeous bags.
Here is a pic of the handles. Love these so much. I get them from U-Handbag.
I also put in some feet as I have this thing about putting bags on filthy floors, ick! I put in six because I’ve found in the bigger bags, the middle sags down and defeats the purpose of the other feet.
In the previous pic, you may have noticed my little design details that make this bag different to the one I made for my friend. Well that and the fact that this bag is HUGE! I put in covered buttons. I made these up really easily. I also love the folded edges. Just something different rather than cutting them off.
So there she is. She’ll be going up for sale at the Craftaganza Craft Fair in Brighton on the 26th of March.
I know its cheesey but every time I see one of my tags/business cards on a finished bag, I feel so proud. Call me mad, I don’t care. It just does it for me!
I’m down to 19 bags to make in 29 days. I hope I make it!
I’m heading out to Brighton to take part in the Craftaganza Craft Fair on the 26th of March! It’s my first fair and I’m both nervous and excited. Never sold my bags at a fair before, I don’t know what to expect. I hope I sell some bags and that people don’t say mean things about my work in front of my stall. They can go round the corner and say them.
Weng will also be selling some of his photographs on the day as well. So if anyone says anything mean, I’ve got my bouncer! Hee hee hee! Actually, I’m really quite pleased that he’ll be there with me. It will make getting lunch easier and also taking, um, comfort breaks, much easier too.
So today I did my estimations on how much stock I need to make between now and then and boy do I have a lot of work to do! I’m thinking that it might not be a bad idea to kinda do a Julia and Julia thing and blog progress of my bags with photos or at least a description of what I’ve been up to. Eh, I’ll give it a shot. Lets see how long I stick to it.
In light of that, I knuckled down today and made a baguette clutch using this pattern from U-Handbag. Unfortunately, something went wrong. I’ve made this clutch many a time but this time it looks dreadful. Maybe a good iron might help but maybe not. I’m so gutted. Ah well, I’ll pull it out of the frame and try again tomorrow with a fresh brain.
Speaking of brains, been so distracted with Zombie Farm on my iPhone. Maybe that’s why my clutch didn’t work out! No zombies for me tomorrow!
Back to it! Honestly my concentration today is rubbish! My calculations in my Excel spreadsheet tell me that I have 30 days to make 19 bags. Hmmm, I think I can manage that so long as I don’t slack off. Definitely means no more zombies for a while.
Today I also cut out a Big and Beautiful Betty bag (also from U-Handbag). I haven’t started sewing it up yet as I am waiting on interfacing. It needs some fairly strong stuff as it’s a large bag. I’m keen to see how this bag will work. I’ve not made one before so I’m crossing my fingers like mad to make sure it’s not another failure like the Baguette Clutch.
And I’m also working on another large tote bag. Its half done so no pics of it as yet. Its made of denim with red quilting fabric that has white fish printed on it. I made one similar to this for a friend about a year ago as she likes fish. Making the bag this time round, I incorporated her one of her wise suggestions. It was to make it so that people couldn’t see into her bag or get into it. To this end, I added a concealed zipper to the top instead of a tab with a magnet clasp. I also added a zippered pocket for any extra personal or valuable items.
Here’s an awful iPhone pic of the one I made for my friend. Please forgive me for putting up such a cruddy photo but this was before I had my fancy camera.
I also made it bigger. The one I made for my friend is a good size but it does get full rather quickly. I know because I made myself one as my first ever work bag. It’s this pattern from U-Handbag. I love the bamboo handles. Feel so nice in your hands. Here’s another awful iPhone photo of my first bag.
The Apple Bag was the bag that started my addiction. I’d made a Baguette Clutch purse from a kit I’d bought from U-Handbag but it didn’t grab me like this bag did. I liked it but it couldn’t carry a lot which was a shame. I still have them both somewhere in my sewing room. I don’t have the heart to let them go.
So before this bag, I’d attempted to make a couple of bags using a Vogue pattern. I don’t know if it was my inexperience at sewing, the pattern or the use of incorrect fabric but back then, I sucked big time at making bags. I was so upset at my attempts that I promised myself I’d never touch another bag no matter what. I’m so glad that promise didn’t last stick!
When I was back in Australia last year, I found one of my first bag attempts. I looked it over with a critical and more baggy experienced eye. I DEFINITELY used the wrong fabric and interfacing! Damn! I found that the interfacing was way too stiff and that the fabric was way too fine and stretchy. I think it was great for making a skirt with but not a bag. Ah well, lessons learnt, right? I had cut it out in denim too but was so gutted that my first effort didn’t work out that I never bothered to attempt it in denim. Although, not that it would have worked anyway because I had foolishly chosen to use lining fabric for the lining of the bag. A cotton would have worked, the lining fabric is just too slippery. Well at least I know why it went wrong and what not to do now. I’ll stick to my cottons for the time being. Until I learn how to work with leather, that is.
Well that’s it from me. I’m off to grab a tea and to sit with Weng for a bit before bed. I’ve been here at my computer for way longer than I should have been.