Post archive

My Fabric Happy Dance

I'm a fabric addict, I admit it.  I can't stop buying fabric and have enough to keep me in sewing projects for a very long time.  Having said that, I am quite selective.  I definitely know what I like and what will work for the peg bags, laundry bags, doorstops and cushions that I sell.

Whenever I visit a fabric shop, I look for a remnant bin.  Why pay full price when you don't have to?  To be honest, they are usually full of odd fabric that, let's face it, nobody else who has rummaged in there before you wants.  But just occasionally, your timing is perfect and you find the most fabulous fabric remnant, that is perfect for your work.

That's when I do the fabric happy dance!

I try to hold myself together until I at least get home.  If you dance around a shop you get odd looks from people.  I do find it hard to contain my triumphant glee though and stand there grinning like a fool at the checkout.

Today, I did the fabric happy dance followed by a lap of honour around my sewing room.  I dropped into my favourite local fabric shop, just for a quick look and found not one but five fabulous remnants which will be perfect for toy bags and laundry bags.  The best of the lot was the "Under the Sea" fabric by Prestigious Textiles.  I love it!  Not only was it only £2 a metre, I found three pieces each measuring 2.5 metres long, all scrunched up in the remnant bin.  Talk about perfect timing.

I shall no doubt be spending most of the weekend sewing the new toy bags and laundry bags but who cares when you are working with such joyful fabric.  The octopuses (octopi?!) just make me smile.

A Return to Blogging

Wow!  I've just realised it is more than 18 months since my last blog post.  Where does time go?  I hadn't actually meant to take a break, I certainly have plenty to say still.  Finding the time to sit down and blog is actually the issue.


Business is booming, so when I am not working the day job, I am sewing, photographing new products, listing across various market places and then posting out orders.  It all takes time and when you factor in life generally, there never seems to be much left.

So many times, I have thought, I will blog about this or that and then the moment passes and it seems too late down the line.  I have still managed to keep on top of the Facebook page though, as well as Instagram, so hopefully some news has escaped into the world.  

I have realised that my compulsion to write is just as strong as my compulsion to sew, so I signed up to Patreon recently too.  You can find me on www.patreon.com/AlisonKeeble.  I hope to add some tutorials onto there at some point in the future ... when time allows.

In the meantime, I shall seize this moment and write another blog post.

A Crafty Fix

Don't you hate it when you buy a new piece of clothing and ruin it within a week?  Well, that's what I managed to do. 

I bought a new top and managed to get two dark splodges on it by the neckline, so in a fairly obvious place.  The spots were both about  the size of the pencil end and no amount of washing and stain products would remove them. I have no idea what the marks are or how they got there, so was a bit stumped as to how to get rid of them.



I was on the verge of throwing the top away but couldn't quite bring myself to do that as I had only worn it a couple of times and it had obviously cost money to buy.  Thankfully, I had a flash of inspiration, I could cover the marks over with something.  My first thought was a pretty lace trim around the whole neckline and then I decided on a few mismatched mother of pearl buttons.
 
 Having found a button that was big enough to just cover both marks but not too heavy, as it would drag the neckline down, I was pretty pleased with the results.  I have got a wearable top again plus I have now got a unique piece of clothing.

How to Make Curtains

Vegas is one of those places you either love or hate and we love it!  My husband even collects used Las Vegas casino dice and playing cards and has built up quite a collection in his man cave.  Each to their own. 

Last year, whilst I was lurking in a local fabric store, I found some Las Vegas print fabric featuring the iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign as well as various hotel neon signs.  I had to buy it for him and decided I could make him a pair of curtains for his man cave.

Fast forward a year and the fabric was still sitting in my fabric stash.  I never seemed to have the time to actually make the planned curtains, there was always too much other sewing to be done or just other things in life generally.  It eventually dawned on me that I was avoiding making them as I wasn't actually sure how to make a pair of lined curtains.   I had never made any, in fact I had only ever made one pair of curtains before and they weren't lined.

Having finally realised why I was putting off making the curtains, I decided to look on the internet for instructions on how to make them.  Not sure why I didn't think of that earlier, as when I did a search there was plenty of instructions.

The first site I tried was We're In Stitches which gave really good detailed instructions on how to measure your windows, pattern match your fabric and eventually sew your curtains.  I quickly realised that I couldn't actually be bothered to read all of the instructions, sometimes it is just easier to watch someone show you.

My next stop was You Tube. I found a fantastic video by movingcurtains.com which gave really good, step by step instructions from start to finish.  To be honest, I don't know what I was worrying about really, it made perfect sense when I knew how.   (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yrg5vI6m0Ug)

Having decided that I was far to lazy to hand stitch the hems of the curtains, I also found a really good You Tube video showing my how to blind hem with my Brother sewing machine.  It worked perfectly and took minutes to do.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Yq73-gRUko)

The curtains took my four hours to cut out and stitch in the end, plus the year of thinking about it!  I am really pleased with the result ...



The Craft Book Review

I have probably said this before, but I can't help browsing all of the craft magazines whenever I am in the newsagent.  I always hope to find a really good sewing magazine I haven't seen before and often end up buying a magazine based on an eye catching project on the front cover.  However, when I get home I soon discover the only bit of interest in the whole magazine was the item on the front cover!

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to come across a new publication amongst the magazines simply called "The Craft Book - Techniques and Projects".  Needless to say, the cover image piqued my interest and a quick flick through prompted me to buy it.  I didn't even check the price.

Having got to the checkout, I was slightly taken aback to find it was £9.99.  As I had found the publication amongst the magazines, I had expected a magazine price, of say £4.99.  With nearly 170 pages of content, "The Craft Book" is actually what it claims to be, a softback book and not a magazine at all.  Given the amount of content, I think it is actually a really fair price.

The book is split into five main sections, Textile Crafts, Jewellery, Ceramics & Glass, Candles & Soap and Eco Crafts.  Each section then gives really clear written information and photographs of all of the tools you will require and instructions on a wide variety of projects, from silk painting and needlefelting, beading and metal clay to basketry and rag rugging.  Also included are crafts I hadn't even heard of at all, including ribbon weaving and cold enamelling.  I was really surprised to find such a wide range of crafts included in one book.  Whilst each subject offers only a taster project, it is enough to give you the confidence to experiment further.

I would really recommend a buying a copy of "The Craft Book" for yourself or a gift.  It is ideal for anyone with a love of crafts, from mid teens upwards.  The only problem you may have is finding enough time to try out all the crafts!

If you can't find the book in your local newsagents or for more information, click here.

The Art of Giving

It's Christmas Eve, the decorations are up, the Christmas cards sent and the presents bought and wrapped.  Sitting quietly with a cup of tea, I can't help thinking about all of the orders I have posted out over the last few weeks not just to the UK but the USA, Europe and even Australia.  I hope they have all arrived safely and in time for tomorrow.  More importantly, I hope that whoever receives the items as a present actually likes them!

Buying presents is tricky, whether it is for Christmas or a birthday.  Even if we think we know someone really well and know their taste inside out, I am sure sometimes we just get it wrong.  So what's the answer?  Well, everyone could write a list of items they would like or need, I do that for some of my family who ask.  Whilst you know you will get something you actually like, it does take away the element of surprise though.  You may not know who will buy which bit but you still know what is probably under the Christmas tree for you.

Some people announce they don't know what they want (not very helpful!) and just want cash or a gift voucher.  That's fine but if we all gave each other a voucher, there wouldn't be a pile of presents under the tree on Christmas Day.  Somehow a little bit of the Christmas magic would be lost for me.  I do like to eye a pile of presents, even if they aren't for me!  I also think that if we all just swap a gift voucher then we may as well not bother at all, you are just passing cash between you at the end of the day, so what's the point?

Buying presents for someone can be an art.  I believe it takes time, thought and care.  And that for me sums up a gift.  It isn't about how much it cost, or if it has a designer label or not, it is about the time someone has taken to choose it.  The thought they have put into finding something they hope you will love.  Best of all for me, is the smile that lights up their face when they open a present they genuinely like.

Have a lovely Christmas everyone and a very prosperous 2015!

Small Businss Saturday

The UK has millions of small businesses in its villages, towns and cities, many based online, like From Rags To Bags.  They are all dependent upon the continuing support of existing, loyal customers, as well as new customers to promote growth.

Small Business Saturday was the idea of American Express who first promoted it in 2010 to show support to small, local business.  The date chosen was the first Saturday after the popular shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, at the end of November, which primarily favour the major retailers.

This year's Small Business Saturday is 6th December.  It is the perfect time to revisit your favourite small businesses or discover new ones.  With Christmas around the corner, small businesses are often the perfect place to discover unusual gifts, often handmade locally.

For more information on the Small Business Saturday campaign in the UK, click the link:

Small Business Saturday website 



Upcycled Teal & Tape Table

I've been painting furniture for the last twenty five years, it is a great way to create bespoke furniture and to give an old piece of unwanted furniture a new lease of life.

A few years ago, I bought a very uninspiring little occasional table at the local dump for the bargain price of 50p.  I looked handmade and was thickly, and badly, painted in a dark varnish.  I liked the size and shape of the table and thought it would be useful somewhere around the house.  At only 50 pence, it was worth buying.

I spent a lot of time wondering what to do with the table.  It didn't actually look too out of place as it was, so I gave it a clean and used it as it was.  I thought about painting it cream and stencilling a design on the top and then thought about covering the entire table in decoupage, which I have done in the past on other furniture.

Having recently bought a new teal, brown and cream rug for my sitting room, I decided to paint the table teal.  Whilst I was pleased with the colour, I felt it needed something more.  I had read about Japanese Washi tape in craft magazines and had wanted to try it for a while, so that seemed the ideal solution.



Washi tape is a strong, durable paper like tape, similar to masking tape but is actually made from bamboo, hemp or tree bark.  It comes in a huge range of widths, colours and patterns so is perfect for craft projects.  It is readily available in craft shops and online.  I looked on eBay for mine as I wanted one that was a teal colour.  With postage it was a few pounds, so not very expensive.


I decided to run the tape around the top edge of the table and also down the legs.  It took about ten minutes to simply unpeel the end of the tape and then run in along each surface, smoothing it as I went.  You have to take some care as you can't really stick, peel off and stick again too many times as the tape with loose it's tack.  Once stuck, it seems to stay put though.

As the table is in constant use beside a sofa, with cups of tea always sitting on it, I needed to protect the paintwork as it is a water based paint.  If I wiped the top, the paint would come off.  To seal it, I rubbed on a few coats of Annie Sloan Soft Wax which is designed for the purpose.

I am really pleased with the transformation of my table.  It has gone from a dark, dull table to a bright, contemporary piece of furniture which will have a place in my home for a long time to come.  When I am bored of it, I can simply peel of the tape and paint it another colour.

Seaside Cushions on Wow Thank You

A week ago, the website Wow Thank You, which is a platform for UK artisans to sell their products, ran a poll on Facebook to see which seaside themed cushion was the voters' favourite.  I got an email to let me know that one of the four cushions chosen for the poll was mine.

Voters had a few days to cast their votes on A, B, C or D, with one voter being picked at random to receive the winning cushion as a gift from Wow Thank You.


I never expected my cushion to win and was amazed to get an email saying not only had my cushion topped the poll, it had won by a country mile!  The other three cushions received about 42 or 43 votes each in a surprising complete tie.  My cushion gained over 280 votes though, 70% of the whole vote.

I have to admit, I'm not sure winning the poll had much to do with my cushion sewing skills.  Having read some of the many comments left by voters, I think it was the appeal of the British beach hut that swayed the vote.


Faking It

Like most small businesses, I don't have a vast budget to hire professional products stylists, photographers and studios.  I am the stylist and photographer and my home ends up as the studio with product sets wherever is practical, usually in the kitchen as it has good light. 

One issue I always had was that virtually all of the walls in my house are plain magnolia paint.  I happen to like it from a decor point of view but from a photographic backdrop point of view, it's not very inspiring.  I didn't really know how to resolve it though.

Earlier this year, I came across an online photography course aimed at crafters.  The first two weeks taught photography techniques, including lighting, exposure and focus, the second two week module concentrated in styling products.

To say the course transformed my product photos is an understatement.  I no longer use my camera in the auto mode and adjust the light and focus manually.  More importantly than that though, I learnt to fake it.  With the help of very simple props, you can create all sorts of different photographic scenarios to stage products to their fullest.  My favourite prop of all is rolls of wallpaper which can very simply be dropped down behind the product to create different backgrounds.  No more magnolia paint.  With so many different wallpapers available, you can create fake wooden pannelling, bricks or use flowery designs.  Whatever fits with your products.

My kitchen is still my studio but you wouldn't know from the photos, they have been taken anywhere, even a professional studio.




If you are interested in the course I took, visit www.photocraft.org, I would highly recommend it.

Decluttering and the Laws of Attraction

Since starting From Rags To Bags, over five years ago, my study/sewing room has become overrun with fabric, ribbons, buttons and all sorts of other craft bits.  I admit I've had a tendency to hoard but you never know when something will come in handy. 

The result of my hoarding was not only the built in wardrobe packed to the rafters but fabric being stacked over every surface and also overflowing onto the floor.  Trying to get to my sales stock in the wardrobe was a nightmare as I was constantly having to shift everything stacked up in front of the doors.  The bookcase was groaning under the weight of fabric piled on top, the shelves were bowing and the sides were falling apart. I realised a few months ago that I really needed a sort out.

Having mulled over the problem for a while, I decided to invest in some heavy duty racking.  Whilst it may look a bit industrial it was the most practical solution.  I was going to buy cupboards but I was worried about the load bearing capabilities of the shelves and also realised that having to constantly open and shut the doors would wear thin eventually.

I was pleasantly surprised when I searched online for racking, to find that it came in a variety of colours, including a royal blue which matched my chair and curtains.  The shelves could also hold up to 250Kg each.  Perfect!

I have spent the last couple of days sorting through every single piece of fabric, trying to decide if I liked it and more importantly if I would ever use it.  Some has gone in the rag bag which I donate to a local wildlife charity.  They in turn sell it to a rag merchant for recycling, so nothing is wasted.  The useful remnants I discarded (which was a really big bag full) have gone off to the local hospice shop for them to sell and raise funds.  The remainder, is now neatly sorted and stacked in plastic storage boxes on the racking.  My sales stock is also easily accessible now on the top with the remainder in the wardrobe which I can now get to as well.  I can't believe I have so much more room again now either.

However, I am now fighting the universal laws of physics.  I am convinced that as soon as you declutter and make space an invisible force field kicks in sucking new items back into the void.  I popped into town yesterday to drop off the large bag of remnants into the charity shop, only to find myself ten minutes later buying a fabric sample book from the soft furnishings shop on the way back to the car park! The shop had very helpfully put the book outside with their remnants so I couldn't miss it.  They label they had stuck on the book suggested patchwork but the fabric is perfect for my doorstops.  How could I resist? 

So, once again, I found myself this morning sorting through more new fabric, trying to decide which bits to keep and then trying to cram them all into the already over full storage boxes.  Perhaps if I have paid more attention in my physics lessons at school I would know how to avoid the magnetic laws of attraction.  I blame Newton personally, I'm sure he would have had a theory about it.

Butterfly Clothes Peg Bag Competition

Want to win a pretty butterflies clothes peg bag?  Then simply follow the link and enter the competition From Rags To Bags is running in conjunction with the website Wow Thank You.

Entering is easy, all you need to do is browse the From Rags To Bags shop on Wow Thank You and find the answer to the question, "There is a peg bag in From Rags To Bags’ WowThankYou store that depicts a famous city – which city?".

Answer a, b or c to the options and leave your name and email address in the boxes provided. 

The competition closes at midnight UK time on 15th March, so you have plenty of time to get your entry in.  Everyone is welcome, regardless of where you are in the world.

Click here to enter competition.

Good luck! 

Farnham Maltings Patchwork Show

Every year in January, the Farnham Maltings, in Surrey, holds a Quilters' Exhibition and fabric sale. The rabbit warren of a building is packed to the rafters with stalls selling fabrics and accessories as well as patchwork quilts and samplers from patchwork groups in the area.

Whilst I don't patchwork in the real sense myself, someone mentioned the fabric sale was worth going to, so I thought I would go and have a look last weekend.  As Farnham is not far from me and the entrance fee was only £5, I thought it was probably worth a look even if I didn't buy any fabric - which seemed unlikely!

I was slightly surprised to find the nearby car park was packed, as it was a cold and wet Sunday.  As soon as I got through the door of the Maltings, I realised why though.  Every inch of the building was filled with eager patchwork enthusiasts all looking for a fabric bargain.  Whilst it was all very good natured, there was a lot of jostling and bumping as people tried to get a look at the fabrics for sale.

I did eventually buy some fabric at a very reduced price,  but it was the patchwork quilts on show that really made the trip worthwhile.  I was astonished at the variety, not to mention quantity on show, in all manner of colour, shape, size and design.  Some very traditional, others more free flowing.  Whether hand or machine stitched, the hours of work involved was quite extraordinary.  I really don't know whether I would ever have the time or the patience.

There were quite a few that I could quite easily have bought if they were for sale.  I loved the quite traditional, multi coloured quilt above which utilised a huge assortment of fabrics.  On the other hand I was also drawn to a more arty piece which was inspired by a moonlit walk in Crete.



















Behind the Costumes

In recent years the fashion for bling has grown considerably with everything from mobile phones to trainers being customised with diamantés. One of the founding fathers of bling though has to be the late entertainer, Liberace, who was world famous for not only his vocal and piano playing skills but also his flamboyant stage costumes.

The release of the biopic film "Behind the Candelabra", starring Michael Douglas as Liberace, has certainly brought Liberace back into the limelight.  If you are in Las Vegas soon, don't miss the free exhibition of some of Liberace's costumes, his diamanté covered grand piano and car, at The Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Having seen this car (you really can't miss it!) prominently displayed at the entrance to The Cosmpolitan's casino, I wandered into the exhibition of costumes. Once you are over the shock of so much bling in one place, you can't help but be amazed at the amount of work which went into each suit, not to mention the full length capes.

Thousands of beads and crystals were appliqued all over the costumes in intricate designs, making some suits alone weigh about 80lb.  Capes could add a further 40lb in weight.  Looking at the mannequins displaying the costumes, you soon realise that Liberace was not overly tall and also a relatively slight build.  In order to counter balance the weight of the costumes he was wearing, Liberace had extra lead in his shoes.

A museum of Liberace's costumes and personal effects was open to the public in Las Vegas for 31 year but sadly closed a couple of years ago.  There are plans to hopefully reopen the museum in the downtown area in 2014 though.  In the meantime, you can view the Cosmpolitan exhibition from 3pm to 10pm daily.

Please click on the photos for a closer look.











A Tale of Two Tea Towels

I am constantly on the look out for interesting fabrics.  I think I actually do it subconsciously,  whether it be in fabric shops, car boot sales, charity shops or jumble sales.  Or as was the case the other day, the local supermarket whilst doing my weekly shop.

I tend to find that one item just leads seamlessly to another and this time it all began with a small wooden anchor I was given at some point in the past, which is painted black.  Then a year or so ago, I bought half a metre of fabric on the market in Salisbury as it had yachts on it.  In my mind I pictured a doorstop in the fabric with the wooden anchor attached.  Needless to say, it has all sat in my to do pile since.

A couple of weeks ago, I was drifting past the home ware aisles in the supermarket, no doubt thinking about something else entirely, when I spotted a pack of tea towels.  One had small yachts sailing across it, one was red with thin white stripes and the third was plain white.  The similarity between the tea towel with the yachts on instantly jogged my memory back to my fabric with larger yachts on it, so the tea towels ended up in my trolley.  I can't help myself sometimes, I just love fabric.

Having discarded the plain white tea towel, it took me another week or so to ponder what to do with the other two.  I finally came up with the idea of a patchwork cushion.  I thought about including the wooden anchor which start the whole chain of buying but decided it wasn't really practical.

The narrow red and cream fabric was a remnant picked up recently in Marlborough when out with a friend shopping. I had the cushion in mind and knew I needed another fabric to complete it. Thankfully my friend is a sewer and fabric hoarder too, so is quite patient when it comes to trawling through fabric shops.  The red and white spotty strip was a piece I had floating around in my ribbon box.  I have to admit, I am pretty pleased with the result and even have enough fabric left to make a few more.  As for what to do with the wooden anchor, I still have no idea!

Wow Thank You

Having successfully sold my creations on my own website, Etsy, Folksy and Dawanda for quite a few years, I decided to try my luck on another similar site - Wow Thank You.

Based in the UK, the site was launched in March 2010 by Tracey Kifford and a friend but is now solely run by Tracey.  The aim of the site is to support and promote small, UK based art and craft businesses.  Having seen the name Wow Thank You pop up regularly in magazines over the last couple of years, I believe that is certainly being done very well.  With a background in journalism, I am sure Tracey certainly has the knowledge to not only market the site but also the members in the media.

The one off joining fee for the site is usually £40 but with promotion at the moment, I only had to pay £20.  With no listing fees to pay, regardless of how many items I list on the site, joining didn't really seem much of a gamble.  When I make a sale (fingers crossed) I will have to pay a seller's commission of 10% which again seems very reasonable and is certainly in line with other websites.

Even setting up my Wow Thank You store was easy.  I had to fill in a form with all of my business details and the Wow Thank You team did the rest.  As soon as I received my log in details, all of my information we already filled in for me, so all I needed to do was start listing my products.  With a very useful duplicate option, I could very quickly list all my door stops, just changing titles, some of the description and the photos.  The remaining details such as postage costs etc we all copied from the previous listing.

My Wow Thank You shop is now offering 49 products for sale and I am awaiting my first customer.  If you order in September, I am offering a 10% discount on your order.  Simply visit my store at:

http://www.wowthankyou.co.uk/from-rags-to-bags/

And quote "WOW10%" at checkout for your discount.

Upcycling Patchwork

One of my favourite shopping haunts is Salisbury as it offers an array of shops as well as numerous charity shops, craft/fabric shops and also an antique centre over three floors.  As I am always on the hunt for interesting fabrics and old textiles, I am usually spoilt for choice and never fail to come home armed with more fabric for my pile.

Patchwork SkirtA few months ago, I was browsing the items for sale on a vintage clothing stall in the antiques centre, when I spotted a piece of folded up patchwork.  It caught my eye instantly as it was made from pieces of tweed and other suit fabrics.  Whether is was actually made from old clothing or just off cuts of fabric I shall never know but it was the perfect weight for handbag fabric.

When I unfolded the patchwork, I discovered it was in fact a long patchwork skirt.  It had been completely hand stitched with even the zip and lining sewn in by hand.  It was quite weighty and I would imagine too warm to be practical with modern central heating.  I loved the skirt as it was but my thoughts were to actually cut it up and turn it into handbags.  At a cost of £22 it seemed a bargain to me.  I hate to think how many hours it took someone to make, not just the sewing but also cutting out all the pieces to start with.

Patchwork SkirtWhen I finally took the skirt apart, I did feel slightly guilty I have to admit.  Cutting through someones handiwork made me feel even worse!  As soon as I had cut the side panels for the handbag though I knew I was doing the right thing.  The patchwork matched perfectly with some pale green corduroy which I had found in a charity shop.  The inside has been lined with an old shirt and also has two mismatched shirt pockets sewn on one side for a phone and tissues.  A further zipped pocket on the other side completes the bag.


Now that it's finished, I am really pleased with the result.  I love the colours and the fact that it is a totally unique handbag which will never be repeated.  I have enough patchwork for another bag but the fabrics and colours will be different as the original skirt was made up of so many different fabrics.


Patchwork HandbagPatchwork Handbag
 
Patchwork Handbag
   
 
                         











Sampling Fabrics

I am always on the look out for new fabrics to use.  I have to admit it is a slight obsession as no matter where I go, I keep on the look out for fabrics in any form, from new to old, remnants to clothing.

Fabric Sample BooksIf you don't need large pieces of fabric for sewing projects fabric sample books are a really good source.  Once a range of fabric has been discontinued, the stores no longer need the fabric sample books and often sell them off cheaply.  Needless to say good ones get snapped up quickly, so it helps if you have a good contact in a store.

Yesterday, I spent a fabulous half hour or so rummaging in a shed at the back of a furnishing store - with their permission obviously!  There were shelves and boxes full of old sample books for sale.  When it comes to fabric, I know instantly what I like and also, more importantly, what I will use a particular fabric for.  Some samples are too small to be of use to me and other fabric have a design that is too big, so they get discarded as well.

Fabric Samples
I ended up with six sample books all with completely different patterns and colours of furnishing fabric.  Looking at the price lists in the back, some of the fabrics were really expensive.  I certainly would never have even considered buying them off the roll as they would not be economic to use.  The sum total for my six books was the bargain price of £20 though.

The best bit but also the hardest bit is taking the books apart.  You can simply cut the fabric out but you lose a few centimetres doing that.  If the samples are small to start with, you don't really want to lose any more that you have to.  I prefer to rip the binding apart and gradually rip the fabrics out.  Most are stuck in with really strong glue, so it's not easy.  I ended up with a large stack of gorgeous fabrics though which will last me a while, so it was definitely worth the effort.

Getting to Grips With Oven Gloves

Oven gloves have been on my ideas list for longer than I can remember.  When I am constantly spending time remaking sold items, I never seem to quite manage to try anything new.  I realised that unless I actually discontinued some items and took a break from restocking, I probably never would.

Owl Oven GloveI finally decided to give oven gloves a go when I found a pattern template in a craft magazine.  I duly cut out the pattern, sewed the bits together and wondered why it had taken me so long to make a pretty simple item.  However, as I was looking at my glove, I couldn't help thinking the thumb looked a bit small.  When I tried it on, the thumb was skin tight and I hadn't even lined the glove at that point.  Looking at the pattern again, even that looked a bit out of proportion, so I don't think it was my sewing skills.

Having wasted some perfectly good fabric, I got annoyed with oven gloves and decided pot holders were far easier.  How hard could a padded square be to make?  Very easy as it turned out, until I came to put bias binding around the edge to hide the raw edges of the fabric.  I had forgotten what a complete fiasco binding things is.  Well maybe that is down to my sewing skills as lots of other people seem to make perfectly bias bound pot holders.  I got even more annoyed and shelved the whole oven glove idea again.

Owl Oven Glove
Having calmed down (a few months later!), I decided to have one more go at an oven glove.  This time I drew my own pattern and chose one of my favourite cotton fabrics.  If this had gone wrong I would have been really, really annoyed.  I cut it out, sewed it together and it fitted my hand, well, like a glove really!

The only tricky bit was pinning in the lining as I kept sticking myself with all of the pins.  Next time tacking it will probably solve that issue.  Yes, there will definitely be another and hopefully another after that until I realise that I really do need to make time to try out another item on my ideas list.

CRAFTfest

Before the dawn of the internet, I spent lots of weekends packing up my wares and setting up shop in a village hall somewhere in a neighbouring village.  There was never any rhyme or reason to how many people came to the event but if it rained then you were probably in for a slow day.  Even if lots of people did come to the craft fair, there was no guarantee anyone would actually buy anything.  Most came just to browse the crafts and then go home with a homemade cake.

The internet has certainly changed all that!  20 years ago, I never would have imagined selling my products countrywide, let along worldwide.  Let's face it, I never would have imagined selling via my computer - I didn't even own one back then.

I am still not a fan of packing up my wares and driving them around the countryside to a school or village hall.  It is far too much hassle for hit or miss sales figures.  I would far rather spend the time at home sewing, knowing that my products are being viewed 24/7, globally in cyberspace.

When I heard about CRAFTfest, it seemed the ideal solution.  For one week, from 16th to 23rd March, 146 different craft businesses are gathering for a virtual craft fair.  Not only can the public come and view a huge variety of handmade items from the comfort of their armchair, the sellers don't have to leave home either.  Perfect!

The CRAFTfest concept is very simple.  Anyone can view the products for sale at creative-connections.ning.com where all of the different sellers are split into a variety of categories.  Every seller has a photograph of each of their products in an album and every item has the price, description and a link to where the item can be bought.  Sellers can click through from the photograph of an item  to buy it from the seller's website, Etsy store, Folksy store or whereever.  That's all there is to it.

It's free to visit CRAFTfest and you don't need to join either.  You've got all week, so come and take a peek!

http://www.creative-connections.ning.com/photo/albums/from-rags-to-bags-craftfest-stall

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

There are three things in life that most women would say you can never have enough of, shoe, handbags and cushions.  A sofa is incomplete without a whole array of cushions in various shapes, colours and sizes.  Once the sofa and armchairs are full, there's always the beds to cover in cushions too.

Retro Cushion
 On the other hand, most men would probably agree that there are always too many cushions everywhere cluttering up the furniture.  In my house, cushions seem to mysteriously disappear down the side of the sofa or end up thrown all over the floor, only to be placed neatly back on the sofa each night when I go to  bed.  Oddly the culprit complained the other day that he needed a new cushion as his was now too flat.  I suggested he try the one he had secreted down beside the sofa a few weeks ago.

Embroidered CushionFor me, my love of cushions will probably never end.  I can't keep buying them though, there's a limit even for me.  Instead I keep my cushion buying habit at bay by making my own and hopefully selling them on to other cushion lovers. 

I have to admit though that one of my retro ones is now residing on one my sofas and I am rather partial to the tie cushion I made too.  Actually, now I think of it, the embroidered one I made would look good in my kitchen ....

Upcycled Tie CushionSo, if you are reading this, feeling a little uncomfortably in your chair, why not take a look at what else I have in stock?  Everybody could do with at least one more cushion in their life.


Make Do And Mend

Vintage Poster TinIn recent years, the slogan "Make Do And Mend" which epitomised the Second World War has been embraced once again, with it appearing on all sorts of merchandise from mugs to cushions.   Even my sewing needle tin sports a picture of the war time poster campaign.  With the increase in crafting, it seems that many of us have followed that advice too, whether it is due to the current recession or we are all more environmentally aware.

I recently read "Nella Last's War" the war time diary of a housewife who lived in Barrow-in-Furness, in the North of England. When war broke out, she was 49, married with two grown up sons, looked after her husband, home and enjoyed sewing and knitting as hobbies. The war and all of its shortages really brought Nella into her own though.

Nella Last''''s WarThroughout her diary, as well as day to day accounts of bombings, food rationing and trying to keep domestic life running, Nella gives a constant dialogue of her craft activities from knitting socks for sailors to making dolls for the children's ward at the local hospital. It would seem that if it could be knitted or sewn, the Nella could make it.

One account tells of unpicking a donated mattress, washing the cover together with a dozen sugar sacks and making four single mattresses from them. Realising that she didn't have enough stuffing for four, she sorted out scraps from her rags bag and cut them into small pieces. She added cut up silk stockings and mixed all the bits together with the stuffing she had until four mattresses were finished and delivered to the Sailors' Home.

Reading Nella's diary highlighted an area of rationing in Britain during the Second World War that I was completely unaware of.  Most people know about the food shortages, with many still remembering them as they continued post war.  However, with metal needed for weapons and textiles needed for uniforms, wool, fabric and evening sewing needles became hard to buy.  As well as ready made clothing being rationed, the clothes themselves became simpler with pockets and pleats limited.  The number of buttons allowed on garments was also restricted.  Nella Last mentions in her diary the difficulties in buying sewing needles as they were no longer being manufactured.

The slogan "Make Do and Mend" was born out of necessity rather than today's austerity.  People had to repair and reuse their existing clothing as new clothes simply weren't available.  Whilst today there is an abundance of ever cheaper clothing available, embracing the past is certainly becoming ever more popular.


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In Favour of Lavender

Lace Lavender BagsFor the past few months, the majority of my sales seem to have been lavender bags.  I don't just mean one or two at a time, it has been 20, 30, 40 and even 140 at a time!  The lace ones are definitely the in favour at the moment.

I never quite understand what makes an item sell or not as the case may be.  I wish I could predict the market a bit better, I would make a fortune.  Interestingly though, when my lavender bags were listed as a single item, they didn't sell very well.  As soon as I listed two lavender bags at double the price, they started to sell really well.  Same item, same unit price, so what's the difference?

Lace Lavender Bags
With discounts offered for bulk orders, the demand for my lace lavender bags as wedding favours has grown this year.  My first wedding order years ago was for a bridal shower though.  I recently made a batch as gifts for a tea party and in the last few months, I have had three large orders for lace lavender bags to be used as favours at Christenings.

Lace has certainly been fashionable this year, particularly after the lace covered wedding dress worn by Kate as she became the latest Royal bride.  It will be interesting to see if lace goes out of favour again soon.

News From The Sewing Room

For the last couple of months, I have been really busy in my sewing room, replacing sold items and running up custom orders, as well as finally finding time to stitch some of the ideas in my head. Having got lots of ideas out of my head though, lots more have flooded in to take their place and my "to sew" list is now even longer!

I have been on a couple of fabric buying sprees too. Going to fabric shops is always a risky business with me. I go in with my shopping list of sewing machine needles, different colour threads and interfacing and can't help browsing the rolls of fabric. I end up muttering aloud over the rolls, checking the fabric for weight and feel, assessing the pattern and thinking what I can make from it. I really don't stand a chance, I can't help but buy a new fabric or five.

Rococco HandbagBlack Floral HandbagSix new handbags have been added to my online stores. I like them all (I only make stuff I like!) but a few I really, really like. I am keeping them out of my sight to save the temptation of keeping them.







Batumi HandbagGeometric HandbagRed Leafy HandbagBlue Spotty Handbag









As well as the new handbags, there are some new home ware items too, including a new peg bag fabric and five new door stop fabrics. Door stops are also now available in the pyramid style or a more upright style with a top handle. Hopefully the new style will prove to be just as popular as the pyramid ones.

Spotty Door StopGeometric Door StopKitchen Door StopFloral Door Stop

New Lease of Life For Old Machines

Like a lot of people, I learnt to sew on an old Singer sewing machine.  The first one I used was a treadle machine that my mother was given for her 21st birthday.   It was beautifully decorated with painted flowers across the machine and I used to have a lot of fun seeing how fast I could make the machine go whilst frantically rocking the large foot plate backwards and forwards.

Even at school all of my sewing classes were on old Singer sewing machines.  The majority were electric versions but I think there were still a few that had the handle on the side for manually turning the wheel.  After school I bought a second hand electric Singer which looked almost modern in shape but only sewed in a straight line or zigzag.  It didn't even reverse!  A few years ago I invested in a computerised Brother machine which offers 39 stitches, most of which I never actually use.

The majority of old Singer machines have long since been abandoned and nobody seems to want them or know what to do with them, which is a bit sad really.  I still think they are far more attractive to look at than modern machines but I guess most of us don't even want one for decorative purposes around the house.  You see them for sale quite often for literally only a few pounds.


Vintage Sewing MachinesOn a trip to Las Vegas last month, I was quite surprised to find hundreds of old sewing machines being used in the ultra modern Crystals, City Centre.  One of the resident stores is the clothing shop All Saints.  Their plate glass window  was filled with row upon row of old sewing machines.  It was utterly fabulous, very eye-catching.  Lots of people were taking photos, so it obviously struck a chord with them too.  For me, it was a fantastic use of unwanted sewing machines as well as a nod back to the rag trade of the past from a very modern present.
Vintage Sewing MachinesVintage Sewing Machines

News from The Sale Room

Whether its an auction, a charity shop, a car boot or jumble sale, I can't resist a poke about for anything that takes my interest. Needless to say, I am always hopeful I might find some long lost treasure that no one else has noticed but for me treasure comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. With a few auction houses locally, most weeks I am either viewing, bidding or collecting something or other.

This week I have had mixed fortunes in the sale rooms. I left a number of bids at one general sale, mainly on textiles and managed to have the highest bid on one box of textiles. I was quite pleased as it included an old patchwork quilt which I thought would be good for cutting up and using for some bags. When I went to collect the lot, the auction house were slightly embarrassed to admit that the lot had gone missing. Someone had obviously taken it with lots they had purchased and who knew who that had been. Very annoying to say the least!

Vintage Bead PurseThankfully at a local fine art and antiques auction, I viewed and left 8 bids and managed to win 3 of them. And what an eclectic mix of items I have ended up with! The first lot was an Art Nouveau beaded handbag with a faux tortoiseshell Bakelite frame. The frame is marked made in France and the bag probably dates from around 1900-1910. It is in remarkable good condition for its age with only a small amount of bead loss for the fringe. The other item with it is also beaded and was described as an offertory pouch, presumably from a church.

Vintage HandbagThe next lot I liked because it also included a vintage petit point handbag as well as a small petit point coin purse with an expanding metal top. The lot also included a petit point card case, petit point powder compact, a powder compact in a leather case and about 10 pairs of vintage gloves, mainly leather. Slightly more oddly, the lot also came with various old envelopes containing foreign stamps. Not quite sure how stamps fit in with handbags, gloves and powder compacts but that's auctions for you.

The third lot I was actually after a large box of vintage buttons. I have an absolute weakness for an old button tin. The sound the buttons make as you run your hands through them reminds me of the sea rushing over pebbles on a beach. Fabulous! I can spend hours sorting through a button tin I have just purchased finding all the ones I like and cleaning them up for use on sewing projects such as my peg bags.

Vintage GamesAs well as the hundreds of buttons in a box, the lot also came with some old jigsaw puzzles, dominoes, chess pieces, a building block set, some of which was in an old chocolate box and the most random item of all. The final item was described in the catalogue as an old electrical item. A bit of googling revealed that it is a Victorian electric shock treatment machine! Just the sort of thing you would expect to find with lots of old toys really. And that is precisely why I love auctions, until you walk through the door of the sale room, you never know what you are going to find. No two auctions are ever the same, something will always catch your eye and surprise you. Who can resist taking a look?

Vintage Buttons

Magazine Bliss

A couple of years ago if you perused the shelves for craft magazines, all you could find were magazines on knitting, crochet, cross stitch, card making or beading. They all seemed to stick rigidly to their particular corner of the craft market and every other area was ignored. It was to be honest quite frustrating.

I was quite surprised recently to find a whole of craft magazines brimming from the shelves in the newsagent. Before you could blink, I have bought three I had never heard of before.

The first, Craft MagazinesCraftseller was only on issue 7, so is obviously a relative newcomer. The tag line is "Make and sell your handmade crafts". Perfect for the likes of me then. As well as being packet with four pages of readers letters it has sewing, knitting, chocolate making, crochet, cross stitch, beading and much more. There really is just about something for everyone in it for the beginner to the more experienced crafter. It is also a good source of information for suppliers.

Mollie Makes was also only on issue 10, so must be another recent comer to the magazine market. The overall vibe of this one is definitely more vintage, shabby chic. The matt cover rather than glossy and softly coloured photos inside give it a more upmarket feel and vintage feel.

The final choice was Making - beautiful crafts for you home. The cover offered 25 original projects for stylish living and included paper roses, a crochet throw, classic bean bag, pillow mat for sleepovers and doll's house bookcase. What more could you honestly ask for in a magazine? The whole of the content is well laid out and easy to follow with good illustrations.

Needless to say, since buying them all I really haven't had much time to read them but they are magazines you can just dip in and out of. They are all definitely worth keeping for future reference. I will also buy them all again in the future, though probably not at the same time. At about £5 each, to buy all three every month would soon stack up. I guess you have to skim them and make a choice every month. I'm not sure I could choose between them though as they all have so much to offer. Maybe I will have to take out some subscriptions offers instead.

A Gift From A Gift

My 11 year old niece was given a sewing kit for Christmas, consisting of threads, precut fabric squares, buttons, needles and other bits and bobs. Apparently she was absolutely thrilled with it all and quite excited about sewing some bits together.


Sewing
When I saw her at New Year, she very proudly gave me two squares sewn together with a button in the middle. The items had come from her kit and she told me that it was the first piece of sewing by hand she had ever done. I was quite touched that she wanted to give it to me - well, I hope she meant me to keep it, as I didn't give it back! The sewing now sits in my study on a shelf with photos of her and her siblings.

I was slightly surprised that she had not been taught to sew before. I remember learning decorative stitches at school when I was about six and sewed a cushion, soft toys and a sun dress by hand at school when I was nine and ten. I guess it is a sign of the times, school curriculums have changed and old fashioned home making skills have taken a back seat.

I hope my niece continues to sew, being able to sew to such a useful life skill. I heard at the weekend that she hasn't done any more since but hopefully, with some encouragement she will soon.

"Fifty Bags That Changed the World"

Handbag BookWhilst I was out trawling the shops for Christmas presents a few weeks ago, I stumbled by chance across a book that completely intrigued me. "Fifty Bags That Changed the World" is published by the Design Museum and charts the history of bags from 1860 through to 2010. It catalogues 50 bags which it obviously believes have had the most impact on our lives during that time. Some of their choices I would definitely agree with, others have completely passed me by and I am sure most people who aren't fashionistas.

The book starts with the famous budget box that is used each year by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK when the annual budget is announced. I had no idea this iconic briefcase was first used by the politician William Gladstone around 1860. Apparently the case is in such poor condition that it was withdrawn from service following the budget in 2010.

The book moves on covering iconic bags such as carpet bags, saddlebags, doctor's bags, bicycle panniers and gas mask bags, all of which certainly deserve their places in the book. Also mentioned is the introduction of Louis Vuitton's steamer bags which inspired the whole range still available today and the metal mesh handbags of the 1920's. Other noteworthy bags covered are the TWA airline bag, the Hermes Kelly bag and Birkin, as well as the Fendi baguette.

Handbag BookOne bag which really captured my interest was the Ferragamo handbag favoured by UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Who knew that a woman well known for her safe, blue suits carried a designer handbag? I too young at the time to pay any attention to the Iron Lady's fashion choices but looking at the photo of her crocodile skin handbag now, I definitely see her in a whole new light.

Out of the 50 bags mentioned in the book, if I had to choose the one that I feel has had the most impact, positive and negative, on the world it would have to be the plastic shopping bag. The concept was the brainchild of Sten Gustaf Thulin, a Swedish engineer, in the early 1960's. Reigning triumphant in the world of bags for well over 40 years, nobody ever really considered the environmental impact of the countless plastic bags all over the planet. Whilst it is now the villain, there is no getting away from the fact that the humble plastic bag definitely changed the world.

Sunday Serendipity

Don't you love it when you make a mental note to buy something and then prompty stumble across it when you aren't looking? Only one word can sum it up - serendipity.

Having ploughed through a pile of sewing yesterday, I had run out of cream thread and was virtually out of white too, so made a mental note to buy some more in the week. I could have popped out to the supermarket today, which needless to say is open Sundays, but it really wasn't worth it. There were far more pressing things to do, such as take our old mattress to the dump.

Vintage Sewing ItemsMy husband and I just about managed to fold our king size mattress in half and shoe horn it into the back of my car and popped down to the dump with it. As I have mentioned before in blog posts, the local dump has a "shop" on site where they sell items on to reduce the waste going to landfill. It is always worth a browse, you just never know what you will find.

Guess what? I found a clear plastic bagged full of cotton thread, a needle threader, safety pins, some elastic and some really strong carpet thread (no idea what that's for though, carpets?). Even better, there was a reel of cream and a reel of white cotton. Not to mention the "silver sand" thread which is always useful! And the cost of my find? A very reasonable 50 pence.

So there we are. Some would call it coincidence. Some would argue I cosmically ordered it. I just call it serendipity.

Haberdashery Heaven

It was such a lovely day today, I decided to pop along for a rummage around the local car boot sale. There are a couple near me every Sunday and the larger one is usually 500 plus cars. I love the fact that 90% is absolute rubbish, 9.9999% is reasonable but not what I actually want or need and then if I am really lucky there is the 0.0001% that I will be really pleased I found.

Retro FabricI was over half way around today before I made my first purchase. I spotted just a little bit of some really fabulous 1970's fabric on a stall, completely covered over with over items for sale. Having carefully pulled it out, the fabric turned out to be a floor length curtain, so quite a bit of fabric. All she wanted was £1.00. (For the benefit of my friend Michelle in the US that is about $1.55!). An absolute bargain!

ZipsNext, just as I reached her stall, a lady reached into her car and pulled out a bag of 43 assorted zips and another bag of bias binding. All she wanted was £1.00 for each bag. Another bargain.

Bias BindingMy final purchase was 3 metres of white curtain lining fabric which is always useful for using behind thinner fabrics fore strength. Cost? Well in comparison to my other finds I was positively ripped off, it was £3.00 but that's still a lot cheaper than the shops where it would be at least 3 or 4 times the price.

From Small Acorns ....

I have to admit, I really like oak trees. I love their size and majesty, the shape of the leaves and even the acorns. I don't know why, it's just one of those things. Thinking back, I guess it started in junior school. The school was split into four "houses" for school games competitions, with each house named after a tree; oak, larch, beech and fir. Needless to say, I was in oak.

Oak LeavesIn recent years, the oak leaf in particular seems to have crept into my arts and crafts. A few years ago I collected some fallen oak leaves from a tree near my house and scanned them into my computer. I used them as templates for pottery oak leaves which I sponge glazed and gilded. They were sold at a local craft exhibition a couple of years ago.

Oak LeavesLast year, I used the same scanned templates to make felt leaves which I wired together with felt acorns that I needle felted. The felt oak twig was exhibited at the local art society exhibition last year and promptly sold. Have to admit I slightly wish I had kept it now.

Oak Peg BagA few weeks ago, I came across an old pair of curtains in a local charity shop which were made from the most fabulous oak leaf and acorn fabric. I'm not sure I would actually want curtains in the fabric but they were soon dismantled and washed. I have just finished sewing a peg bag in the fabric and a door stop will be following shortly. Have to say, I really like the peg bag. Hopefully it will be a good seller.

If I was to use from small acorns do mighty oak trees grow for From Rags To Bags, it certainly started as a small acorn and definitely isn't a mighty oak yet. I think at the moment, From Rags To Bags is still at the sapling stage but it has definitely put down strong roots, so who knows how it will grow in the future.

Fête Finds!

It never ceases to amaze me where I stumble across really good fabric, not to mention haberdashery items. I sometimes think I must be subconsciously drawn to material, I just can't stop myself buying it.

Yesterday, I went to the vicarage fête in my sister's village, as I was over there visiting and it was something to do for the afternoon. My nephew and neices somehow managed to empty my purse of money on the variety of tombolas and games!

FabricQuite surprisingly though, amongst the obligatory fête cake and plant stalls, various tombolas and raffle, there was a stall selling fabric remnants, old buttons, bits of ribbon, cross stitch kits and other odd bits of haberdashery. A quick rummage revealed a fabulous length of gold furnishing fabric about 2 metres long by 70cm wide which only cost me £2.00.

After another look a bit later, I ended up with a packet of large sewing needles which are always useful for wool projects, two skeins of embroidery silk which I had been meaning to buy to repair a vintage handbag and finally a hook for rag rugging. Whilst I will probably never actually get around to making a rag rug, it's a project I always seem to have in the back of my mind. The total cost for that little lot was 20 pence. What a complete bargain!

Whitchurch Silk Mill

Like most people, if you asked me where fabrics come from, I would be able to tell you that wool comes from sheep, cotton and linen from plants, synthetic fibres from chemical processes and silk from silkworms. Beyond that I don't really give fabrics much more thought. Last weekend, I decided to take a trip to a historic silk mill in Whitchurch, Hampshire, to find out more.

Whitchurch Silk MillThe mill was built around 1800 and began to produce silk fabrics in the 1830's. The mill continued its production until it closed in 1985. Following refurbishment by the Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust, the mill became operational again in the early 1990's and is still a working mill today producing silk for stately homes as well as film and television costumes.

Built beside the River Test, a large wooden water wheel was originally used to drive the mill machinery. The wheel is still in working order and can be seen driving a large belt which fed the silk skeins onto bobbins, which would in turn be used on the weaving looms.


Whitchurch Silk MillSo where does the silk actually come from? Well, despite the name silkworm, silk comes from the cocoon produced by the silk moth caterpillar. The thread the caterpillar produces for its cocoon measures 1000-2000 metres in length. Once the caterpillar has metamorphosed in the cocoon, the moth will make a whole through which it escapes. Obviously, this would ruin the continuous length of thread, so for the silk manufacturing process, the cocoons are baked to kill the caterpillar/moth inside. The thread is then carefully unwound from the cocoon.

A single thread whilst long, is far too fine to be used on its own, so eight or so threads are twisted together to produce a silk thread that is suitable for weaving. Most of the silk used at the mill today is purchased ready dyed and on bobbins rather than in skeins. As silkworms need a warm climate to survive, they can't be bred in the UK, so all of the silk is imported from the far east.

Silk is undoubtedly a beautiful fabric which has been held in high regard for centuries. It is light, strong and able to insulate against heat and cold. I do have slight issue with production though. Is it really ethical for bake the poor moths so that we can use their cocoons? I know they are only insects but that isn't really the point is it? With so many other fabrics available to us, do we really need to use silk?

Whitchurch Silk MillWhitchurch Silk Mill











http://www.whitchurchsilkmill.org.uk/index.html
http://www.vegansociety.com/resources/animals/silk.aspx

All Wrapped Up

Last week I finally managed to finish the custom wedding order I was working on. I had to make 40 lavender bags as wedding favours for a wedding this weekend. If you read the last blog post, you will remember that I made them in an ivory silk with a purple tulle top and matching ribbon bow. The tulle had been sent by the bride to be and she was quite keen for me to try and use it.

Whilst I was making the favours I was asked if I would also be able to make a wrap for the bride to wear around her shoulders during the photos. There was certainly enough fabric, so I was happy to design something.

As tulle is very lightweight, I knew the ends of the wrap would need to be weighted so that it fell properly when worn. The obvious solution was beading, so I decided to buy a length of beaded trim. Easy .... or so I thought! How wrong could I be?

Whilst getting hold of beaded trim is easy enough, finding the right colour proved to be a bit of a nightmare. The tulle was a deep aubergine purple colour. The first fabric shop I tried didn't have any purple, the second didn't either but assured me that they did in their other store and had it sent over on a van that night.

Wedding ShawlThe next day, I went back to the store with my tulle sample for colour matching. Yes, the beading was purple but it was a bright bluey purple. Completely wrong. The shop was very helpful and together we pored over their supplier's catalogue trying to find the right colour and ordered a couple of samples.

To be on the safe side, I tried another fabric shop in another town. They had purple but it was pale purple, so again no good. I found some possibilities on a website and also on eBay. I politely requested samples, even offering to pay for them plus postage. Neither bothered to reply!

True to their word, the fabric shop phoned to tell me the samples were in for me to look at and thankfully one of them was a good enough colour match to work, so I ordered the beading. A week later, I still hadn't heard, so phoned the shop. They phoned their supplier and rang me back. The beading had been sent but was now missing with the courier!

Wedding ShawlThankfully, two days later, I got a phone call to say the beading had finally arrived. I had two weeks until the wedding, so I have to admit I was quite relieved. After all of that hassle, making the wrap was not too much trouble. Tulle is a bit of a nightmare as it is so light to work with and it slithers around all over the place.

I decided to make a double thickness wrap for extra warmth, so folded the tulle in half and used an embroidery stitch along the edge to hide the seam within. The two ends were then simply turned in on themselves and used to sandwich the bead trim in place. It was a bit fiddly but it worked well.

As I said before in the previous blog post, I think it is lovely that the favours and bridal wrap are made from the same piece of fabric, as it ties the wedding together. Having sent off the wrap and favours last week, an email from the bride's mother said that the bride is delighted which is always good to hear.

Just when I was thinking job done .... another bride contacted me yesterday and asked if I could make 25 lace lavender bags as favours for her wedding in 4 weeks time. Thankfully, I don't need bead trim for those.

Wedding Favours

A few weeks ago a regular customer asked me if I would be able to make some favours for her daughter's wedding at the end of March. Needless to say, I was delighted to be asked and more than happy to make them.

I was sent a sample of some dark purple chiffon fabric which the bride to be had apparently bought years ago and was quite keen to use. There was also a rough sketch of a lavender bag design which I felt wasn't really suitable for the fabric and that was all I had to go on. It is worth pointing out that I have never actually met the bride to be or her mother. We have never even spoken on the phone, as we always correspond by email. It is actually quite strange designing something so personal for someone you know nothing about and for a wedding it has to be right.

As the favours were for a wedding, white or ivory was obviously a good starting point and I felt that you needed a good quality fabric as well, so opted for an ivory silk slub and a slightly satiny fabric with holes punched through it in a flower shape. I wanted to try and incorporate the purple chiffon somehow too and bought coordinating ribbon. I also found some purple flowers in the fabric shop which were a more blue purple but I thought they were worth thinking about.

In the end, I came up with four designs, two in each fabric, in two sizes, with different combinations of ribbon, chiffon and flowers ....

Lavender Wedding FavourLavender Wedding FavourLavender Wedding FavourLavender Wedding Favour









I sent them off for approval and had no idea if any of them would be suitable or not. Thankfully, the bride to be and her mother liked my ideas and the final decision was 40 favours made up of the silk, in the larger size, with the chiffon at the top and the coordinating ribbon tied around them. So a cross between all of the designs in the end!

Lavender Wedding FavourI have to admit, seeing them on mass, I am really pleased with them and think they will look fabulous on each place setting at the wedding breakfast.

The bride has now also asked if I can make her a shawl with the remainder of the chiffon which I hope to make shortly. I think it will be lovely that the wedding guests will be taking away a lavender bag made from the same piece of fabric as the bride's shawl. It will be a lovely, lasting memento of the day.

More Fabulous Fabric

I'm a believer in the universal law that if you clear something out of your life, it creates a void for new things to come into your life. So, it stands to reason that having cleared out a whole heap of fabric recently, it wasn't going to be long before more arrived in my life!

Vintage FabricAt the weekend, I went on a very satisfying shopping jaunt with a friend of mine. I did actually need to go to the fabric shop to hunt for suitable fabrics for some wedding favours I have been asked to make but fabulous fabric finds weren't actually there. I love hunting through antique shops and there is a great antiques centre where we were shopping with lots of dealers.

One of them is a vintage clothing dealer and it was on her stall that I found a really bright piece of 1960's fabric. It was 2.8m long, although not as wide as most fabrics these days, and very reasonably priced at £12. For some reason I toyed with buying the fabric as I thought it was quite a lot to pay but then I realised it was only around £4 a metre which is far cheaper than decent fabrics in the shops. In the end I offered the dealer £10 which she happily accepted, so I was really pleased.

Retro FabricAs well as rummaging in antique shops, I also love to sift through the local charity shops. In one I found a really striking skirt in a retro black and white print. Although quite a short skirt, there should be enough to make a shoulder bag out of it. At £3.49 the skirt was another bargain.

Vintage TableclothIn a second charity shop I found a basket of table linens hidden on a low shelf. Amongst the items I found a vintage embroidered tablecloth. It has a mark which hopefully will wash out and also has an old repair but at only £1.50 it was well worth buying. It will be perfect for a peg bag or two. Hopefully I will get some new items made soon rather than relegating my finds to the fabric pile - again!

Fabric Spring Cleaning

I have always had a love of fabrics and have bought remnants for years, always thinking it will come in useful one day. When I started From Rags To Bags, I thought I had quite a substantial fabric pile. In truth it was a very large cardboard box in a cupboard. It was nothing compared to the amount I have now!

FabricWith fabric piles mounting up around my work room, the other day I decided I really needed to have a sort out. In 3 years I had gone from a cardboard box in a cupboard to a large storage box of fake fur, suede, leather and other oddments, another of velvets, another of patterned fabrics, another of cotton shirts and other lining fabrics, a large basket of woolen jumpers and felt, a large box of ribbons and had recently added a three drawer cabinet full of vintage linens, men's ties and interlining and zips. Let's not forget my "work in progress" pile too. Just a bit of a fabric explosion!

The "work in progress" pile was what really prompted me to have a sort out. The pile had grown into an unruly heap and I couldn't really see the wood for the trees any more. There's nothing quite like indecision to stifle your creativity. With so much choice on offer you end up not knowing what to do next and so do nothing at all.

FabricI ended up, getting all my fabric out and going through every single piece assessing the colour, weight of fabric and size to decide if I really liked it and had a use for it. Some pieces I have had for years and are remnants of past projects. There is tartan from a skirt I made when I was 17 and studying for a needlework qualification. Bright blue taffeta was used on a ball gown I made when I was 19 and going to my college ball. I have actually still got the skirt and the dress in the wardrobe!

Having sorted through it all, it is amazing how much I decided not to keep for various reasons. Some has been sent off to a fellow crafter who was on the look out for some more fabric, a large bag full has gone to a local charity shop for sale and other bits have gone in the rag bag which will also go to a local charity for sale to the rag dealer. Nothing has actually been wasted and it will all be recycled when way or another.

FabricMy fabric collection has reduced but will no doubt grow again in the near future. I actually came home with some more embroidered linens today from the charity shop, having just handed over the large bag of remnants to them! My "work in progress" is now more manageable, which is the main thing, with one pile for door stops and peg bags and the other for handbags. Now that I can actually see what's there, new products should be flying off the machine soon.
 

Perfect Presents

If you want to buy me a present, whether it be for my birthday, Christmas or any other reason for that matter, then I am easily pleased .... my favourite perfume, a little something from Tiffany or failing that, a good book.

Now I have to admit I have been truly blessed with my husband and his family. Whenever a present buying occasion looms, they ask me for a list of gifts I would like. I duly supply them with a list of CDs, books, DVDs, perfume etc that I would like and they buy me something from my list. Fabulous! You may argue that there is no element of surprise in that but at least you end up with gifts you want and need, rather than a pile to sell on eBay at a later date!

Crochet BookThis Christmas, I put down a couple of craft books that looked interesting. I am always on the hunt for new crafts to try and different ideas to incorporate into my handbags. My lovely in-laws bought both of the books I had on my list and I have to say, they are well worth buying or borrowing from your local library.

Firstly, is "Freeform Crochet and Beyond" by Renate Kirkpatrick. Whilst I can knit, I have never tried crochet. I bought a needle years ago which is as far as I have ever got. Recently, I saw crochet mentioned on a television programme and it sparked my interest again. However, I knew I didn't just want to make squares for a throw, I needed more than that. I find a good place for book hunting is Amazon, so I did a search on crochet to see what came up. With Amazon's look inside feature you can view the contents and a few pages of books to get a feel for them. In the past I have also borrowed them from the library to see if they are worth buying. I have bought books in the past and ended up disappointed with the contents.

"Freeform Crochet and Beyond" is well worth a look though if you are a novice or a crochet guru. The book begins with the basics and gives very clear illustrations on the different stitches and techniques required. It then progresses to the obligatory squares and then into flowers, scarves, hats, handbags, jewellery, cushions and shawls. It also gives information on incorporating your crochet into felt work, another area that really interests me. The book is packed with brightly coloured photographs which just make me even more enthusiastic to get started.

Sewing BookThe second book I received was "The Art of Manipulating Fabric" by Colette Wolff. I have to say, this book left me slightly speechless. I never even imagined in my wildest dreams that fabric could be smocked, quilted, pleated, ruffled, not to mention tucked and stuffed, in so many ways! I may have tried simple smocking years ago whilst as school and I always admired my Aunt's smocked cushions as a child but that was as far as it went. Having stumbled across this book on Amazon, the front cover alone sold the book to me.

Every page offers clear diagrams and photographs alongside the text to guide you through sewing techniques I have never seen or heard of. I think the technique for my Aunt's cushions is shirring. They looked like the top photo on the front cover anyway as far as I can remember. Looking in the book there are so many different patterns you can achieve though. My only slight criticism of the book is that all of the photos are in black and white. Colour would have definitely made it a bit more appealing. Don't let that put you off though, this book is still an absolute gem.

Working 5-9

For years small business owners have been working hard in their spare time to create, promote and run their fledgling business. Most can't afford to take the risk of quitting their day jobs and so are left with no option but to work evenings and weekends. I'm certainly one of them.

I dreamt up From Rags to Bags four years ago (time certainly flies!) when I was off work following an operation and had nothing better to do. I suddenly realised I could turn a lifetime of collecting fabric and a love of sewing into a small business. Whilst the business has grown year on year, I am still not in a position to give up the day job.

Whilst I do get the odd morning or few hours off in the afternoon, most of my free time is in the evenings and weekends. Having said that, by the time I can cleaned the house, done the laundry, gone food shopping, done the garden (you get the picture) even most of the weekend is taken up with everyday living.

I try to sew for a couple of hours every evening. Often I come home, have a cup of tea and then hit the sewing machine. With a break to cook and eat dinner, I can be sewing through the evening. I do try to have a cut off at 9pm but sometimes it ends up 10pm or later.

There is so much more to running a small business though than just manufacturing the product. It is amazing how long it takes to photograph new stock, list it on the website and other websites such as Etsy and Folksy, as well as promoting the business on Facebook and Twitter. Then there is writing articles for the blog. Even packing orders and going to the post office takes time. I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong. Sometimes though, I spend so much time promoting, I don't actually have any time left to make the stock I am supposed to be promoting!

Running a small business is certainly a tough juggling act.

Support for the 5-9'er is growing though with articles appearing in magazines, books being written offering advice and websites offering support. One website well worth bookmarking is http://www.working5to9.co.uk.

I have a head full of ideas for new stock. I am constantly plotting new handbags as well as new items to stock. The list is truly endless and the fabric stash is ever growing. All I need is a few more hours in the day. But then who doesn't?

Woolie Winter Warmers

I was recently asked if I would be interested in making some hot water bottle covers. It is something that has been knocking around in my head for a while anyway, so I was more than happy to give it a go. In the past I have seen knitted hot water bottle covers and decided that was the route I would like to explore.

As I quite enjoy knitting, I could have found a pattern and knitted some covers. The whole ethos of From Rags To Bags though is recycling, so it made much more sense to use secondhand woolies. I ended up trawling through the jumper racks of six charity shops in my hunt for the perfect garment. It is amazing how many are acrylic or only part wool. I needed pure wool for the idea to work. I finally managed to find two jumpers that were labelled wool, two cashmere and one which was machine washable wool.

Hot Water BottleThe first step was to felt them all, so I popped them all into the washing machine on a hot wash. It was really interesting to see the results when they all came out. The wool ones were perfect, one cashmere was felted but the other wasn't at all - go figure! The machine washable wool jumper did what it said, it machine washed and didn't felt at all. You live and learn.

The jumper I liked the best became my first experiment. It had shrunk really well, almost too well but the body was still just long enough to fit a full sized hot water bottle. I used my own hot water bottle as a pattern and cut the shape I was after. The high neck of the jumper became the perfect access point for filling the hot water bottle, with a ribbon to tie the top closed when in use. I cut the back of the hot water bottle cover in half and bound the edges with a complimentary fabric. This means the cover can be easily removed and washed as required.

I have to say, I am really pleased with the design. I love the pattern and colour of the jumper too. I am really tempted to keep this one! The next two covers with be slightly different, one will be the softest, pale pink cashmere and the other will be a navy with a flower pattern across it. I shall definitely be on the hunt for more woolies to use in the future as well.


Hot Water BottleHot Water Bottle










 

Slouchy Corduroy Handbag

Corduroy HandbagFinally, I have managed to scrape together some time to make a new handbag. I have sold quite a few of late and was getting really low on stock - and still am! I have got a couple more new ones planned which will hopefully follow soon. I seem to spend all my sewing time making piles of lavender bags and door stops at the moment, not that I am complaining.

I have wanted to make my latest handbag for a while, ever since I found the corduroy at a car boot sale back in the summer. Before my scissors got the better of it, the corduroy was actually a really gorgeous, long, Italian pencil skirt. I loved the fabric as soon as I saw it and managed to buy the skirt for £1.00. The corduroy is a wonderful soft cotton with alternating thick and thin furrows. It makes the bag really tactile.

Corduroy HandbagAs I have put a zip in the top, I decided to give the bag a single strap secured at each side. For added interest, I have added a couple of metal rings into the sides of the strap. The rings are actually curtain rings I found in the local DIY store. They are absolutely perfect as they are very sturdy. The bag will give way before they do!

The fabric flower and the lining came from a man's shirt I picked up at a charity jumble sale recently. The fabric was the perfect colour for the corduroy and I love spotty fabric, so it was a definite winner. The centre of the flower has a wooden button that I think came from a cardigan I had years ago. Again, the colour of the wood was a perfect match.

I have to admit, I am pretty pleased with the bag overall. Hopefully it will find a new home very soon ....

Show and Tell 2010

I can't believe it is a year since I blogged about the last Alton Art Society exhibition, "Show and Tell". Where does time go? This year's exhibition kicked off last night with the private view and runs until Sunday.

Since joining the Art Society about 7 years ago, I have always exhibited ceramic pieces that I have made, usually selling two or three pieces. Last year, I decided to take a break from ceramics after many years, to pursue my love of textiles. Last year's entries into the exhibition were half ceramic and half felt. This year, I have entered four felt pieces, two handbags, a felt bowl and a set of felt oak leaves with acorns.

Despite having a whole year to prepare some pieces to enter, I left it somewhat to the last minute as usual. I sent off my entry form a month ago with only a vague idea on what I was actually going to enter. Well, one bag was made, one bag needed altering and the other two pieces were figments of my imagination!

Felt BowlA few weeks ago, I felted a dish from Shetland wool. I wanted to make a piece that gave a nod to my ceramics past and so designed a shallow dish in cream wool with some dark brown streaking to echo previous glazing techniques I have used, as well as Japanese raku. I have to say, I was really pleased with the result.

In the past I have also made ceramic leaves in various forms, so decided to felt some oak leaves. Last year, I entered a large felt sycamore leaf which sold, so I thought I would make something similar. Having made three felt oak leaves, I realised that they just didn't work on their own. They needed more to make sense.

Felt Oak LeavesThe night before I had to drop my exhibition pieces off, I had a mad plan to felt a couple of acorns. Having thought about it, I realised that three loose leaves and a couple of acorns wouldn't really work either, so decided to try to wire the whole lot together into a more naturalistic form. Amazingly, the whole lot came together and worked really well, so well in fact that the piece sold at the private view last night!

Hopefully I will get some interest in the other three pieces before the exhibition ends. I will definitely make some more leaves, I have a couple of cunning plans knocking around in my head. I really must try to get them made in the next year though and not wait until the night before next year's exhibition to finish them.

Treasure Not Trash

Last weekend I had some garden waste and a few other items to take to the local dump, or the Household Waste Recovery Centre as it is now termed!

I have to admit, if you say dump it conjours up images of piles of rotting waste with sea gulls scavenging on it. In reality, our local dump is clean, tidy and very well managed. There are marked recycling skips for metal, wood, cardboard, garden waste (which is composted), household batteries, aluminium foil, mobile phones, car batteries, gas bottles, glass, textiles and even a charity bra bank! There is also a general skip for everything else but even that gets sifted through by the staff for anything worth saving.

To one side is the "shop" which is very popular. You can buy all sorts of salvaged items from books, DVDs and CDs to china, furniture, garden tools and bicycles. I have to admit, I do quite like a poke about when I am there to see what I can find. I've found jewellery which I have broken up for the beads, a brand new lampshade still in its wrapping and various other odds and ends which have found their way onto ebay.

Vintage FabricWhenever I go anywhere, I have my fabric radar on full alert and last weekend was no exception. I spotted a corner of some very interesting fabric sticking out of a large bin full of old curtains in the dump shop, so started to pull it out for a quick look. I found that it was a curtain pelmet which, judging by the length, was for patio doors. There was no sign of the curtains to match, so someone had obviously beaten me to them. The pelmet was in really good condition with no fading, so I decided to buy it for the princely sum of £2.50. A bargain!

Pyramid Door StopOnce at home, I very quickly ripped off the header tape and lining and broke up the pelmet in fabric widths. Once it was flat, I found I had 5 sections measuring 120cm (46") wide and 40cm (16") long. Best of all, one piece had a name and date stamped on the selvedge. It was a 1989 Laura Ashley print. So even better than I thought. After a quick wash to freshen it up and iron, the fabric has already been put to good use on the latest edition to my door stops. It just goes to show that you can find useful treasure pretty much anywhere if you keep an your mind and eyes open.

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Zip?

To be completely honest, I hate sewing in zips, to the point that they have become my complete nemesis. When designing handbags, I find myself coming up with all sorts of cunning ways to avoid putting a zip in, even though I know most people prefer handbags with zips - even I do!

In the past I have left the tops of bags completely open, I've designed them with flaps held secure with a magnetic clasp, or I've just used a magnetic clasp at the top. Even internal pockets have just been the slip variety or had yet another magnetic clasp.

Black Evening BagIt's ridiculous really, I am completely happy sewing a zip into the bottom of my door stops so that they can be posted empty and filled by the purchaser, so why not handbags? In my teens when I made lots of my own clothes, I happily made skirts and trousers with zips in. Somehow over the years though, zips have just slipped off my skills list to the point where I can't quite figure out the best way to deal with them.

Last weekend though, I designed a fabulous new clutch bag, my "La Belle Epoque" clutch. It's black velvet with bead tassels and feathering and it was crying out for a zip along the top. There was really no other way to design it, so I had to bite the bullet. I decided to google sewing in zips and see what I could find and came up with two really great tutorials ....

http://u-handbag.typepad.com/uhandblog/2007/02/zippered_inner_.html

http://twelve22.org/2006/07/zipper_tutorial.html

Black Evening BagIt was actually the second one that I ended up following but I will certainly refer to the first one in the future too. In the end, putting the zip in was so easy, I don't know why I got in such a muddle in the first place! Zips definitely aren't a nightmare anymore.

Books and Bags

If you go down to the library today, you're in for a big surprise! Well, Alton library anyway.

Generally, libraries used to be musty smelling places full of dusty, well read books and librarians telling you to shh! Well, no more. If you go to a library now, you can not only borrow the latest best seller, you can also borrow CDs across the musical spectrum (Alton has got Bryan Adams to Metallica), DVDs of the latest films, computer games and surf the internet.

Alton library also goes a step further than that. They are selling local, handmade crafts. When I was in the library a week or so ago to borrow a book on felting, I noticed a large, glass display cabinet with handmade jewellery and turned wood items for sale. A quick chat with the manager revealed that they are happy to provide selling space free of charge to local craft folk and taking a 25% cut of any sales.

I left my card and got an email a few days ago offering me some space in the display cabinet. From Saturday, a selection of my handbags, handbag charms, door stops, lavender bags and peg bags will be available to the visitors of Alton library.

It is such a great idea. I get some free advertising and shelf space in the town and the library gets some much needed funds when they sell an item. The staff in the library were so friendly and enthusiastic about my products too which made me feel very welcome. Hopefully I will get some sales. They have offered me the space on a 3-4 month trial period and with the run up to Christmas around the corner, hopefully it will be successful.

Funky Fabric

I seem to spend hours trawling the internet in search of fabric and textiles to use in my handbags and home wares. I much prefer to use vintage and secondhand textiles in my creations and particularly enjoy repurposing items.

Vintage FabricOf late, I have been trying to buy vintage curtains as you get a lot of fabric for your money. Using clothing can limit what you are able to make as the pieces of fabric can be quite small. Curtains are great as you usually have a large expanse of flat fabric leading to endless possibilities. I have a huge pile of vintage velvet curtains in various colours but I have been trying to find some patterned fabrics to add to the pile.

I have a penchant for the funky fabrics of the 1950's to 1970's. I love the geometric designs, with the bold colours. Curtain fabrics are usually quite thick and with the strong designs, the fabrics are perfect for doorstops. I am constantly watching and bidding on curtains on eBay but they seem to go for more than I am willing to pay.

This morning I trotted off to the local car boot sale with my usual open mind, looking for anything that might be useful, fabric, buttons, beads, vintage handbags. I was quite taken aback to spot a pair of funky green and white curtains on one stall. My first thought was that they were modern from somewhere like Ikea. On closer inspection at the label though, I realised they were in fact genuine, 1970's curtains from Marks & Spencer.

Vintage FabricThe curtains are both 64 inches wide and 52 inches long, so a really good size. More importantly they are in fabulous condition with no marks or fading. Just think how many doorstops I could make out of them?!

The only problem is, they are so fabulous, I don't think I can bring myself to cut them up. I wouldn't hang them in my house but as a pair of vintage 1970's curtains, I love them. I think I am going to list them on eBay and see what happens. If they sell I can buy other vintage fabric with the proceeds. If nobody else buys them, then maybe they will get the chop after all.

Funky Fabric

I seem to spend hours trawling the internet in search of fabric and textiles to use in my handbags and home wares. I much prefer to use vintage and secondhand textiles in my creations and particularly enjoy repurposing items.

Vintage FabricOf late, I have been trying to buy vintage curtains as you get a lot of fabric for your money. Using clothing can limit what you are able to make as the pieces of fabric can be quite small. Curtains are great as you usually have a large expanse of flat fabric leading to endless possibilities. I have a huge pile of vintage velvet curtains in various colours but I have been trying to find some patterned fabrics to add to the pile.

I have a penchant for the funky fabrics of the 1950's to 1970's. I love the geometric designs, with the bold colours. Curtain fabrics are usually quite thick and with the strong designs, the fabrics are perfect for doorstops. I am constantly watching and bidding on curtains on eBay but they seem to go for more than I am willing to pay.

Sunday morning I trotted off to the local car boot sale with my usual open mind, looking for anything that might be useful, fabric, buttons, beads, vintage handbags. I was quite taken aback to spot a pair of funky green and white curtains on one stall. My first thought was that they were modern from somewhere like Ikea. On closer inspection at the label though, I realised they were in fact genuine, 1970's curtains from Marks & Spencer.  The seller only wanted £1.50 for the pair, so I could hardly barter, let alone not buy them.

Vintage FabricThe curtains are both 64 inches wide and 52 inches long, so a really good size. More importantly they are in fabulous condition with no marks or fading. Just think how many doorstops I could make out of them?!

The only problem is, they are so fabulous, I don't think I can bring myself to cut them up. I wouldn't hang them in my house but as a pair of vintage 1970's curtains, I love them. I think I am going to list them on eBay and see what happens. If they sell I can buy other vintage fabric with the proceeds. If nobody else buys them, then maybe they will get the chop after all.

Madness at the Races!

I went to a horse racing and concert event being held at Epsom Downs Racecourse, in Surrey last week. It was the part of the Epsom Live 2010 event which hosted a number of pop acts over the last week or so, playing concerts after an afternoon of horse racing, with Madness playing last night.

So why am I blogging about horse racing and pop concerts on a handbag blog?

Well, I like to have an annual flutter on the Grand National and decided to throw caution to the wind last night and place a bet on the final race of the day, the 8:40pm at Epsom. There were six horses running, so you would think the odds would be pretty good.

Not being a follower of horse racing and form, I always pick a horse based purely on its name. I don't study the form, the ground conditions, the trainer or the jockey. I just pick a name that has relevence to me. Trust me, I never win! Well, having said that, I did actually win on the Grand National this year with Don't Push It sprinting home at 24-1. Shame I only put £2.50 on it but I was more than pleased with my £60.00 win.

Last night, horse number 1 in the 8:40 race was called Pin Cushion. To me, that was a good omen. With my love of sewing, how could I possibly go wrong with a horse called Pin Cushion? Not only that, he was actually the favourite. I can't even remember the other horses names, apart from Starwatch, who I considered for a split second ....

The race began .... Pin Cushion got boxed in on the rail .... I did my Eliza Doolittle from "My Fair Lady" impression, urging Pin Cushion on .... who romped in 4th. Out of 6 runners. Needless to say, Starwatch won at 20-1 odds.

Pin Cushion! What a stupid name for a horse anyway!

Bead Bonanza!

Anyone who uses lots of beads in craft projects will know just how expensive they are too buy. Glass beads can be ridiculously expensive and can really push up the cost of making items. Too keep costs down, I try to utilise second hand beads by breaking up jewellery.

BeadsThis weekend I managed to accumulate quite a good stock of beads. Yesterday I bought two beaded hair ties and three bead necklaces in a wildlife charity shop. The whole lot cost just £3.50. All the beads are plastic but they are useful colours, shapes and sizes and I quite like the turquoise and white striped beads.

BeadsToday, I had another good haul at a car boot sale. I bought four bracelets and two necklaces. The bracelets are all glass beads, so I was really pleased with those. The white bead necklace is crystal, so really sparkly in the light and the black necklace is plastic but has a good tassel which I can see being used on an evening bag perhaps. All of the items were being sold to raise funds for a donkey sanctuary. The sellers only wanted £1.00 but that seemed far too cheap, so I gave them £2.00 instead.

All in all, I am really pleased with the beads and a couple of charities got some money. The jewellery will be broken up shortly and the beads will probably be used to make some new handbag charms.

From Rag To Bags!

Vintage TableclothA couple of months ago, a friend of mine gave me a tablecloth that had been hand embroidered by her grandmother. It was in pretty bad shape with torn and frayed corners but lovely floral embroidery in the corners. She knew I used old table linens to make some of my items, so thought it might be of some use to me.

The cloth looked like it had been very well loved over the years, so it did seem a shame to throw it away. Also a lot of time had obviously been spent embroidering the cloth all those years ago, so I putting my thinking cap on and came up with a couple of solutions.

Embroidered Lavender BagThe first idea that sprang to mind was fairly obvious - lavender bags. As the embroidered area was quite large, the two lavender bags I made were larger than usual but that didn't really matter much. My friend was delighted with the lavender bag I gave to her and I kept the other.

Embroidered Peg BagThankfully I didn't rush into making four lavender bags. I got waylaid by other projects and by the time I got back to the remainder of the cloth, I had had another idea. This time I made a peg bag for my friend with the rest of the cloth, which worked equally well. My friend was delighted and the cloth has been successfully repurposed into some useful items once again.

Bag of the Month!

I have decided to introduce "Bag of the Month" on my website, putting a different handbag in the spotlight each month, as a reduced price. I realise that whilst people may really like a particular handbag, they don't always have the budget to be able to buy it. Hopefully, with "Bag of the Month", different handbags may become more affordable for a few weeks at a time.

Black Handbag, Black Handbag, Black Handbag, Black HandbagFor June, I have decided to put the Black Brocade Evening Bag in the spotlight. It is a fun, over the top, evening bag made from a black brocade dress with an oversized chiffon bow and a vintage, diamonte pendant pinned to middle. A single strap handle runs from side to side and the central pleat front and back makes the handbag very roomy inside.

The interior of the handbag is lined with a multi coloured, sateen, check fabric. A silver magnetic clasp holds the top of the handbag securely closed. The handbag measures approximately 20cm long, 32cm along the bottom edge, 22cm along the top edge and 9cm deep at the base.

Sunshine & Sewing

SewingIn the depths of winter, when it is freezing cold and pouring with rain, I am quite happy tucked up in my study at the top of the house. I can while away countless hours sewing, writing and generally plotting From Rags To Bags world domination. When the thermometer rockets and the sun shines though, I don't really want to be sat at my desk looking at a wall.

This week has been glorious, especially for the time of year. I decided to up sticks and move camp to the kitchen table. Having thrown open the patio doors, I am now sat looking out over the garden, listening to the birds chirping and enjoying the slight breeze flowing in over my toes.

Bliss!

Trouble is, it is so relaxing I actually can't be bothered to do very much now.

Button It!

As it was a glorious sunny Sunday morning today, I couldn't resist popping out to my local car boot sale. It has just reopened after the winter and with such good weather, it was pretty packed with sellers and buyers. I'm never one to roll out of bed early on a weekend, particularly a Sunday, so I didn't actually get there until about 10.45am and it opens at 7.30am!

I can never decide with car boot sales if you should get there first thing to snap up antique and collectible gems or wait until the end when people are so fed up they sell everything off at rock bottom prices. As I hit the ground running midway through, I didn't really have very high hopes.

Vintage Biscuit TinAbout half way around the stalls, I spotted a pile of fabric remnants which looked interesting. I bought a couple of useful pieces for making door stops, which were only 10 pence each, so I was quite chuffed. A bit further on though I thought I was hallucinating when I spotted a biscuit tin full to the brim with buttons. Not to put too fine a point on it, I love, love, love buttons, particularly vintage ones.

After a quick stir of the buttons with my finger, I asked the seller the price. She hesitated for a moment and the said £5 the lot. I couldn't pay her quick enough! I didn't even bother to haggle over the price. It was only when the seller popped the lid on I realised that even the biscuit tin was a vintage treasure too. It looks to be about 1950's or 1960's. It needs a bit of a clean but other than that is in good, collectible condition.

Vintage ButtonsHaving got home, I spent a happy half hour with a cup of tea sifting through all the buttons picking out the ones I want. The reject pile was probably two thirds of the tin, which I will sell on eBay, as well as the tin. I reckon the tin and buttons will sell for at least £5, making my button pile free with a bit of luck!

There are some fabulous buttons in my keep pile, lots of them are old, dating back to the 1930's or 1940's. I am always drawn to interesting shapes, sizes and colours. Anything that looks interesting really. I use buttons on all sorts of projects from lavender bags to handbags. I often change the buttons on my clothes too if I don't like the buttons they are sold with. I've certainly got lots of lovely buttons to choose from now anyway!


Vintage Buttons

Custom Made iPad Stand

I had an interesting question a week or so ago from a chap in the USA. He was looking for a stand for his new Apple iPad to use when he was watching films. He had found me on Etsy and was interested to know if I could custom make him a stand, based on my door stops.

My first response was"Yes!". Then I had to google iPad as I didn't actually have a clue what they looked like! Having found them, I noticed that the iPad's do come with their own case which can be folded so that the iPad is stood on its side for viewing films. I contacted the man in the USA to check if he knew this or not, as it seemd fair. As it turned out he had seen them but wanted a simple bean bag design which could be used anywhere.

Tablet StandHaving already said that I could make a stand, I then had to think about the best way forward. As I was basing the stand on my existing door stop designs, I felt the easiest option was to sew a strip of elastic along the bottom to form a lip which would stop the iPad slipping downwards. When I looked at my door stops, I realised that if I orientated the seams into the correct position, the zipper which is usually underneath would end up on the side. At first I thought that would be unacceptable as you wouldn't want the zipper on show. Then I realised that if it was underneath, you would run the risk of scratching surfaces with it - not the best idea if you placed the stand on your polished dining room table!

I didn't think the zipper should be on the side either though, so I relocated it to the back seam of the stand instead. I chose a wide strip of black elastic and a navy furnishing fabric to make the stand in. The furnishing fabric would be durable for constant use and the dark colours would hide grubby fingermarks. The overall size of the door stop design had to be increased to accomodate the iPad but otherwise it was quite straightforward.

The finished product really seems to do the trick. I don't have an iPad, so I had to experiment with a book which was about the same size. As you can see from the photos, the stand holds the book at a good angle, as well as quite securely at the base. The chap in the USA was happy with the photos, so the stand is somewhere mid Atlantic as we speak. Hopefully I will get some positive feedback shortly.

Tablet StandTablet StandTablet Stand

Purple Felt Shoulder Bag

I have finally got around to making another felt handbag. I have been saying I will make a new one since before Christmas but never seem to have enough time.

Wool TopsWet felting is nothing like sewing a handbag, where you can pick it up and put it down to finish later. With felting, once you start you really have to carry on until the job is done. The whole process is quite labour intensive and I know I have to set aside the best part of a day to make a handbag. That allows me time to stop and start for cups of tea and general time wasting, which I am pretty good at!

I already had a template for the handbag, as I had one made from a previous felt bag I have already sold. Having taken a look in my wool basket, I was really drawn to the purple shades this time, so selected complimentary Merino wool tops. I also used some blue Shetland for the bottom of the bag. As it is a coarser wool fibre, it is more durable than the soft Merino wool.

Wool TopsHaving laid out the first layer of fibre, I thought it was probably a good idea to start taking photos, not just for the blog but also for my own sake. Having made up four layers on one side of the bag, I would have completely forgotten what I had done by the time I got to the other side! It's not a problem when working with one or two colours of wool but when you are using a whole range, there is no way I would be able to get both sides looking similar.

FeltingI have to admit, I do quite like making felt handbags with lots of wool shades. I have absolutely no idea how the end product will look until it is pretty well finished. After hours spent laying out fibres, applying soapy water and then vigorously rubbing and rolling, the final reveal is really exciting. As the handbags are made inside out, turning the bag the right way out is pretty much the last stage. By then, if you don't like the look of the handbag, it really is tough!

This time I decided to try and incorporate a piece of silk scarf I had lying around. It was the right shade of purple, so I cut out a square and laid it centrally on one side under the first layer of fibres. I was fairly confident it would felt onto the handbag, as I have felted linings into previous handbags. I just hoped it would stay fairly central. Luckily, it stayed just about in the right place.

Felt HandbagI decided to sew in a cotton lining this time too. This gave me the option to include a pocket on the inside of the bag and the cotton lining also gives another element of durability to the whole bag. I think it makes the handbag look a bit more finished too. Overall, I am pretty pleased with how the bag has turned out. Good job too, as it probably took me about 5 hours to make!


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Patchwork Purse

Patchwork CushionThe first time I did any patchwork, I was at junior school. We had to make a patchwork cushion completely by hand, using squares of fabric. I can still remember making it and spending hours sewing each square together, trying to make the stitches as small and as neat as possible. I still have the cushion, over 30 years later and miraculously it is still just about in one piece!

Patchwork My next attempt, about 15 years later, was patchworking my sofa. When I bought my first house, I bought a large, green and very comfy sofa secondhand. It was very green, so I came up with the idea of patchworking all over it to make a completely unique sofa. I set about sewing on pieces of fabric by hand when watching TV in the evenings but eventually realised the task was too big and gave up.

I've always been quite partial to patchwork though, I just don't have the time or patience to make anything too big, such as a quilt. I wish I did! Anyway, I decided a patchwork handbag might work quite well, so rifled through my fabric collection found some materials that worked well together.

Patchwork HandbagHaving drawn up a paper template to fit the handbag frame I was planning on using, I cut out a random piece and sewed it onto the backing fabric. This was followed by another and then a third. I have to admit, it didn't take me long to realise that my usual method of handbag making, with very little planning, wasn't conducive to patchwork. Having sewn the first three pieces in place, it struck me that you really do need to plan ahead with patchwork or you become completely unstuck. You end up trying to shoehorn odd shapes into place and trying to figure out the best way to sew them on. You really have to be methodical and work in one direction. I started randomly in the middle and promptly struggled!

Felt HandbagI eventually managed to get all the pieces into place, having chopped the odd bit off here and there. I was quite pleased with the end result but then was reminded why I hate working with handbag frames. Never, ever again! I find them a nightmare. Trying to glue the fabric into the frame is virtually impossible. Glue seeps out when you push the fabric in, you push in one bit and another pulls out and then you find the whole lot is slightly off centre!

I have to say, I did my best. It's not perfect, but it's not bad. I will definitely try patchwork again some day. Maybe on another bag. Definitely not using a handbag frame though. Maybe I'll go back to my roots and make another cushion.

Purple Sari Clutch Bag

Sari Clutch BagI made my first frameless clutch bag yesterday. I have no idea why I haven't made any before as they are so much simpler than handbags. You don't have to fiddle about making handbags and trying to get them in the same place as each other.

The clutch is made up from a purple corduroy skirt, a pale purple cotton shirt and the edge of a purple sari. I bought the corduroy skirt a few weeks ago in a charity shop for £1.00. I was on the hunt for some purple fabric to make a custom order beanbag frog and the vibrant purple skirt was perfect. The frog still isn't made yet as I have yet to find the right fabric for the under side of the frog, so the skirt was relegated to my velvet and corduroy stock pile.

A couple of evenings ago, I was having a rummage in my fabric, looking for something else when I stumbled across the purple sari which I had completely forgotton about. The main fabric of the sari was quite see through and, whilst the most fabulous colour, not really suitable for handbag making. I really liked the heavily embroidered edging though, so decided to chop the edging off and throw the rest of the fabric out.

Sari Clutch BagAs I was cutting, it suddenly struck me that the purple of the sari was the right colour to compliment the purple corduroy skirt. As soon as I put the two together I was excited. I could instantly see in my mind how the handbag would look and had to make it. I didn't have any fabric that was right for the lining, so had a quick trawl through the local charity shops. I was hoping to find a purple satin, possibly from a skirt lining but couldn't find anything in the right colour. I did find a lovely pale purple cotton shirt though which would have a multitude of uses, so decided to use that instead.

Sari Clutch BagOn the whole, I don't use patterns to make my handbags, I just making the styles up as I go along. I wasn't quite sure how the shape would work out or the best way to attach the front flap of the clutch. Luckily, it was really simple to construct and worked perfectly - which makes a change for me! The shirt pocket was taken off and sewn back onto to the lining to create an internal side pocket.

I am really pleased with the final handbag. I think it looks really stunning, mainly thanks to the vibrant purple and the gorgeous embroidery from the sari. In fact, it has very little to do with me!

Suits You! Tote Bag Custom Order

Recycled Tie HandbagA week or so ago I received an enquiry about custom making a Suits You! Tote Bag. I am always happy to try and make custom items, so discussions began between myself and a very sweet customer called Charlotte.

Having seen the Suits You! Tote Bag I had already made, Charlotte was happy with the style and background fabric. The only changes she wanted to make were a zip along the top instead of a magnetic clasp and an inside pocket.

Having established the basic remit, I emailed Charlotte photos of possible neck ties and also shirt fabrics for the lining. I knew she wanted brightly coloured ties but you also need to consider what colours and patterns will look right together. Charlotte chose the ties and lining I would have suggested, so we were obviously on the same wavelength.

TiesFabricTies







I needed to purchase a brown zip for the handbag and remembered that the local hospice shop in town sold haberdashery items. I managed to find a new brown zip in there which was the right weight for the wear and tear of a handbag. It was a bit too long but that didn't matter as I just cut it to length when sewing it in.

Having assembled all of the materials, I spent an afternoon making the handbag. I was actually snowed in all day and couldn't get to work, so it worked out quite well time wise. I don't always use a pattern when making handbags, I just make them up as I go along, adding bits, cutting bits off. That is how I made the original Suits You! Tote Bag, so trying to make another the same shape and size was an interesting task. I did a lot of measuring, a bit of guessing, a bit of cutting and a fair bit of hoping!

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                                                            In the end, the handbag turned out almost the same size as the original. I deliberately made the handles slightly longer so that Charlotte could carry her bag on her shoulder if she wished. I think the combination of ties she chose worked really well too. Thankfully Charlotte agreed ....

"My lovely bag just arrived and it's amazing! Thank you so much! Charlotte"

Things That Make Me Say @£$%&#£!!!!

When I am sewing, there are quite a few things that seem to make me say @£$%&#£!!!!

In the past couple of weeks, I have said it for all of these reasons:

  • Not having the right coloured cotton/ribbon/buttons
  • Not having quite enough ribbon
  • Making a lavender bag inside out
  • Sewing up a lavender bag without any lavender in it
  • Not sewing in a straight line
  • Trying to sew really good heart shapes
  • Leaving an opening so small that I can't turn an item the right way out
  • Running out of cotton part way along a seem
  • Using a different coloured thread on the top and bottom in my machine by mistake
  • Trying to sew in a zip without the zip foot on my machine
  • Forgetting to put the fabric feeder back in place after lowering it for a button
  • Forgetting to change the machine stitch back to straight from zigzag
  • Snapping my sewing machine needle by hitting a pin too hard
  • Loading far too much of a coloured cotton onto the spool
  • Not matching up a pattern very well
  • Losing my ruler
  • Jabbing myself with a needle/pin
  • Sewing a pin into a hidden seam
  • My cat insisting on sitting on my lap whilst I am sewing and then digging claws into my stomach
  • Knocking over my cup of tea whilst sewing
  • Finding out that my pinking shears are really blunt
To be honest, having read through that lot I am amazed I manage to make anything! I'm sure quite of few fellow crafters will know exactly where I am coming from though.

Keeping It In The Family

Vintage HandbagA few weeks ago, my mother asked me if I would sell an old handbag of hers, either on ebay or in the vintage section of my website. Needless, to say, I was more than happy to do that, so my mother brought the handbag over to my house in a plastic carrier bag with some other vintage items she wanted to get rid of.

Apparently, my mother had bought the bag in 1974 in a second hand clothes shop in Southampton, called Pennywise. She thinks she paid around £7 for it, which is about £20-£25 at today's prices. Soon after my mother bought the handbag, a friend offered her £12 for it. As it was the first leather handbag she had ever owned, she declined the offer and kept the bag for the next 35 years.

Vintage HandbagThe handbag is made by Middx, England and the label reads "Genuine leather". The outside of the handbag is a patchwork of rectangles in mock snakeskin, held in place with zig zag stitching. Measuring 25cm wide, 19cm long and 7cm deep at the base, the handbag is a really useful size. Inside there is a slip pocket on either side with a zipped pocket on one side as well.

Vintage HandbagIt wasn't until she had left that I actually looked in the bag and got a big surprise. The handbag is gorgeous! I love it! It has to be said, there is no way I am going to sell it to anyone. I have told my mother that I will give her money for it and keep the handbag for my own use. As you can see from the photo, it matches a pair of my suede boots. I have had the boots for about 12 years, so it is a real coincidence that they are the perfect match. It was obviously meant to be.

I do wonder what other handbag treasures are hiding in my mother's cupboards. I might just have to go and have a rummage!

Topsy Turvy Teapots

When is a teapot not a teapot? When it is a handbag.

When is a handbag not a handbag? When it is a teapot of course!

Confused? Then read on ....

Teapots

















   

          I've blogged before about my mother's teapot collection, see "Fancy A Cuppa?" in April 2009, but thought I would mention it again. As I was over at my parents' house for Christmas, I took the opportunity to take a few more photos.

TeapotsIf you read the previous blog entry you will recall that my mother has a collection of well over 400 teapots which she has been collecting for as long as I can remember. When I come across an interesting teapot I know she doesn't have I can't resist buying it. The teapot which was the subject of "Fancy A Cuppa" was one of a number of handbag shaped teapots by a designer called Annie Rowe.

As well as the turquoise "Hollywood Gold" design, I have also bought my mother three others in the range for presents in the past few years. I know there are 3 or 4 more in the range, so I will have to hunt those out to try and complete the set. I think they look quite fun altogether.

Teapot HandbagA couple of years ago, I turned the whole handbag shaped teapot idea on its head when I found yet another superb teapot for my mother. This time it was a handbag in the shape of a teapot! Made by Pylones, the handbag is completely mad, totally impractical and yet utterly fabulous.

Teapot HandbagThe lid of the teapot opens to reveal the inside of the handbag, complete with a makeup mirror. The lid also features a zip running down it, so that the lid can also be used as a coin purse. A long strap allows you to carry the bag on your shoulder. The teapot body is quite large, making the handbag quite roomy inside. Whilst my mother's handbag is bright red, I know the handbag was also available in green, black, pink and gold.

I don't think my mother has actually used the handbag but I know it is a cherished part of her teapot collection. What teapot lover wouldn't want one?

Review of 2009

To say 2009 has been a busy year at From Rags To Bags is probably a bit of an understatement. Lots of items have been made, including new handbags designs, and new items have been added such as handbag charms and felt items. Better still lots of items have been sold, with sales up an incredible 70% on 2008!

I have been working hard at promoting the website over the year. As well as selling on Etsy, Dawanda and Folksy, From Rags To Bags hit Facebook with its own profile page, click here, which currently has over 500 hundred fans. More fans seem to appear each week, many of whom leave comments and feedback which is helpful. Twitter was also added to the marketing assault, click here, with more than 650 people now following From Rags To Bags tweets. Again, the numbers of people just seems to keep growing. I just need to try to remember to post comments a bit more often.

One of the most enjoyable online tools From Rags To Bags embraced in 2009 was this blog. It has been a really useful outlet for highlighting new products and generally muttering about handbags in general. I have lots more ideas for blog postings on my to do list. The numbers following the blog are steadily growing too, so I guess what I write must be of interest. Having recently added the flag counter feature, it is quite fun checking to see which countries have visited. I am in competition with a fellow blogger to see who can get the most flags. She is currently winning. That needs to be addressed in 2010. More flags please!  You can follow the blog at http://fromragstobags.blogspot.com.

I am constantly mulling over new design ideas, so hopefully lots more stock will be added to the website for sale in the coming year. I have got a pile of vintage handbags awaiting repairs too which will hopefully make their way onto the site soon. The January sale is now on to clear out some stock to make way for the new, so please take a look and bag yourself a bargain.

Thanks to everyone who has bought a From Rags To Bags item in the past, everyone who is a fan of Facebook, who is following on Twitter and who follows the blog. Without customers there wouldn't be much need for me to make anything. I hope you all have a very happy and prosperous 2010.

Grand Designs

I have just spent a week's holiday in Las Vegas which is not only a great place for a spot of gambling but also a great place for a spot of shopping if you get lucky on the gaming tables. The hotels, or resorts as they tend to be referred to, offer a huge range of shopping, for most pockets. Some of my favourite haunts though are the top end fashion houses.

Prada StoreLas Vegas offers not one but multiple Louis Vuitton stores, as well as Fendi, Prada, Dior, Chanel, Hermes, Gucci and Emilio Pucci. It is shopping heaven if designer labels are your bag. I found it the perfect place for having a good browse. It is not often that I get a chance to get my sticky fingers on designer handbags and have a good poke about in them, so I took full advantage.

On the whole, I think most shop assistants these days have watched the film "Pretty Woman". Whilst I am in no doubt they knew I wasn't going to buy a handbag, they were, on the whole, helpful, friendly and polite. They didn't overtly judge me on my jeans and walking boots (well, apart from one anyway). For all they knew, I might have just had a big win in the casinos. As it happens, it was a case of have credit card, could buy one if I wanted to, I just couldn't actually justify the price tags and didn't really want to spend the next six months paying off a handbag!

Whilst I am sure the stores can justify the price tags, I really can't. I know the bags are handmade, using the best materials and you are also paying for the name. On the whole though, the handbags are relatively mass produced and I don't necessarily want to spent over a thousand pounds on a handbag that someone else has as well. You can buy one off handmade handbags for a fraction of the cost, which are also well made.

For a lot of people, owing a designer handbag is simply a status symbol. The Louis Vuitton handbag with it's distinctive LV monogram is easy to spot. It is also probably one of the most copied designs as well, with cheap replicas cropping up in many a cheap gift or luggage store. It is ironic to think that Louis Vuitton first put his initials on his luggage to guard against fakes. The other designers are also fairly easy to spot too, with Prada's badge, Fendi's buckles, Dior's D tags etc. Personally, I don't want a handbag that screams its provenance though. I like a bag to be a bit more discreet about its price tag. If I paid hundreds, let alone over a thousand for a handbag, I would be terrified of using it in case I damaged it and got mugged for it.

If you are not going to have the pleasure of using an item that has the sole purpose of being used, there is no point buying it. For me, handbags are all about form and function. I was surprised how many designer bags, were all show and not enough form. I would at the very least expect metal feet on the bottom of larger handbags to protect the bottom from dirt.

I have to admit I was quite taken with one Fendi evening bag which was beautifully beaded all over with a chain strap. It was a good size and very pretty. It was also US$1600. It got me thinking about all of the exquisite vintage beaded handbags I have sold in the past for a fraction of the price. Why pay so much for a beaded handbag when you can buy vintage?

Of course, there are always exceptions to any rule. For me the exception has got to be Hermes. I didn't even have the courage to go in and put my sticky fingerprints on a Hermes bag. I was like the Little Match Girl in the fairytale with her nose against the shop window. I just looked in awe at the handbag on the shelf. For me, Hermes handbags are the most perfect form, offering understated elegance yet functionality. I know the price, my credit card shook with fear. I also know that they take weeks to make by master craftsmen, using the finest leather.

I would like to think, and hope, that one day, just maybe, if I get lucky in Vegas, I might, just might be able to justify buying, loving, cherishing and above all using, a Hermes Birkin or Kelly handbag. Maybe, just maybe.

Black Beauty!

Black Handbag, Black Handbag, Black Handbag, Black HandbagWith the party season fast approaching, I wanted to make an over the top party bag. I was browsing through a glossy magazine a couple of weeks ago and noticed that brocade fabrics were in vogue right now. Having found a black brocade shift dress in a charity shop locally, it seemed like the perfect fabric for making my lastest creation.

I kept the style simple with just a single pleat front and back which offers a roomy interior without making the handbag seem too large and used a single strap made from the same brocade fabric. The oversized bow is from a chiffon remnant I picked up which I was going to utilise as a lining in a felt handbag. The diamonte pendant stitched in the centre of the bow adds just the right amount of sparkle and bling for any party.

I love the contrast of the lining fabric. It is a chequered satin fabric which gives a really luxurious feel when you put your hand inside the handbag. The bright colours give a further fun element to the bag as well.

Black HandbagBlack Handbag

Nifty Footwork!

As you may have realised from reading my blog and visiting my website, I like to recycle where possible. I hate throwing anything away that may be of use, so I try to utilise items in other ways, such as making my handbags.

ShoeAbout three years ago, I went to a summer wedding and bought a new pair of pale green, fabric shoes to go with my outfit. Being England in the summer, needless to say it rained! My pale green shoes ended up caked in mud as the wedding reception was in a marquee in a field. Despite my best efforts to clean them, my shoes still had mud stains and were relegated to the back of the wardrobe for the next three years!

ShoeWhilst the shoes weren't particularly expensive, I couldn't quite bring myself to throw them out as they were perfectly wearable - just grubby. I couldn't even donate them to a charity shop for sale as they weren't in good enough condition. A few weeks ago, it suddenly struck me that I could dye them and try to cover the mud stains.

I bought a packet of black dye which was suitable for leather and fabric shoes. It could also be used to dye belts, handbags and anything other accessories you wanted to change the colour of. I was a bit cautious but thought I really had nothing to lose other than the £5 cost of the dye and a pair of shoes that were ruined anyway.

The kit came with an abrasive pad for roughing up the surface of leather before dyeing. As the shoes were fabric I didn't need to do that bit. There was also a small brush for applying the dye, so I just went for it and merrily painted it onto the shoes. It was actually much easier than I thought it would be. The dye soaked into the fabric really well and spread right up to the edges of the soles, so I didn't even need a steady hand. Even the straps were quite easy to do.

ShoesHaving left the shoes to dry out over night, I was really pleased with the result. My pale green shoes were now transformed into a wearable pair of black ones. The dye is really even and, according to the instructions is completely colour fast, so it won't run in the rain! I am yet to try the shoes out but with the festive season fast approaching I am sure I will find a reason to wear them soon. The shoes certainly won't be in the back of the wardrobe anymore, that's for sure.

Welsh Tapestry Handbags

Welsh Tapestry HandbagI am always on the lookout for vintage handbags to add to stock. It never ceases to amaze me how many are still in circulation, there is truly something for everyone. I tend to only stock handbags I like and am probably a bit on the fussy side. One style of handbag which has intrigued me for a while is Welsh Tapestry. Last week I was lucky enough to finally come across one in my local town - absolutely nowhere near Wales!

Welsh Tapestry, as the name suggests, is a traditional woolen cloth similar in texture to tweed. It was and still is produced by Welsh wool mills using a double weaving process which entails weaving two cloths together. Unlike tapestry pictures which spring to mind, Welsh Tapestry uses geometric designs. The double weaving process means that the pattern is the same on both sides of the cloth.

Welsh Tapestry HandbagIt was during the 1950's that the trade in Welsh Tapestry items really took off, with the increasing tourist trade. The cloth was used for a variety of small household items which were perfect as tourist mementos. As well as handbags and purses, Welsh Tapestry was used for placemats, drinks coasters, tea cosies, bookmarks, jackets and naturally blankets. With the tourist market being the main target group, it is hardly surprising that a vintage Welsh Tapestry handbag turned up in my town. It was no doubt bought and loved following a happy holiday in Wales.

The colours and designs of the geometric patterns vary greatly, with designs no doubt being attributed to certain woolen mills and areas of Wales. A collector would possibly know at a glance which mill produced a certain pattern - a bit like Scottish Tartan belonging to certain Clans.

Welsh Tapestry HandbagI have no idea where my handbag started out, the label just reads "Real Welsh Tapestry All Wool". The perfect condition of the cloth after all these years is testament to the quality of the fabric though. I would certainly consider buying some new Welsh Tapestry items in the future, as they are still being produced for sale today. This just goes to show how desirable Welsh Tapestry still is after all these years.

Gingham Lavender Bags

I have to be honest, I love making lavender bags. They are such a simple thing and yet such a pleasure to make. I find the wonderful aroma of the lavender wafting around the room really therapeutic.

Lavender HeartIf you have visited my online shop, you will no doubt have seen the array of lavender bags I have made from vintage tablecloths etc. Whilst I really like those and will continue to make them, I realised it was time to explore something a bit different in style. Gingham fabrics seemed really obvious so I wasn't sure about the idea to start with. I didn't want to follow the crowd as I like my products to be a bit more quirky. I realised that there must be a market for gingham products though or else you wouldn't see them everywhere you look!

A quick jaunt to the local charity shops gave me some fabulous gingham fabrics to use. I found a really lovely deep red gingham men's shirt which soon got the sharp end of my scissors. Like a lot of crafters I have a huge tin of buttons, most of which are vintage. I also have a large bag of mother of pearl buttons that once adorned a handbag I found in a charity shop. Add to that my bag of ribbons saved from chocolate boxes and bath product gift boxes etc, I had plenty of bits and bobs to use as decoration.

I am quite pleased with the first bags I have made, the possibilities in colour, shape and decoration are endless. Add to that the variety of fancy stitching my sewing machine can do, I will have hours of fun making more lavender bags. I just need to sell some to prevent a stockpile though, they make great gifts and Christmas is coming ...... !


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Show and Tell

Alton Art ExhibitonAs mentioned before in my blog, the Alton Art Society annual exhibition was held from 1-4 October this year, in the Assembly Rooms. This was the 78th Annual Exhibition and the variety of work this year was even more varied. Whilst the majority of exhibitors are amateurs, the standard of work is very high. Some members have even exhibited at the Royal Academy in the past.

The show consists mainly of framed worked including watercolour, oil, pastel and ink. However, there is a growing number of 3D artists as well, who work with clay, wood, textiles and glass in varying forms. The variety of work on show offers something for everyone. In the past, I have exhibited ceramics with good sales results. This year though I thought I would exhibit three textile pieces and only two ceramic pieces.

Pottery DishThe smaller ceramic piece, was a real afterthought. When I fired it, the ash glaze looked really awful, so I had to glaze it again and refire it. Second time around I still wasn't happy with it and threw it in the bin. My husband told me it was too good to throw out, so I kept it. I only got around to putting the gold edging onto the dish the night before I had to hand it into the exhibition.

When I popped into the exhibition half way through the second day, both ceramic items had already sold, as well as my felted leaf. On the last day I returned to invigilate the exhibition and found that my felt vessel had sold too. It is such a buzz discovering you have sold your work. When I checked the sales book, I found that the local fine art gallery had bought my porcelain dish with the dripped glaze. I will have to sneak in there and see how much they are selling it for!

I can't wait for next year's show now as I have got so many new ideas for felt pieces that I want to try and create. No doubt the year will fly by and I will be panicking that I haven't got anything finished.

Felt VesselPottery Dish, Ceramic Dish, Pottery Dish, Ceramic DishFelt Leaf, Felt Leaf, Felt Leaf, Felt Leaf




Auction Antics!

I spent quite a bit of yesterday at a local auction. They are held periodically in the local community centre and are a one day only event. You drop your lots off in the morning, viewing is from 12.30pm and the auction starts at 2.00pm. It is usually all over by about 5.00pm depending on the number of lots, which is usually around 300 or so. The best bit about it, is never quite knowing what you are going to find!

Vintage LinensThis time, I was selling as well as buying. I had a few handbags which hadn't sold, as well as a large box of linens I didn't need, so decided to try my luck with them in the auction. I dropped off my items at 10.00am and took a crafty sneak peek at some of the other lots whilst I was there.

I was quite surprised to find not only another box of linens but also a lot of three vintage bags. The bags were really interesting, one was a small beaded Art Deco purse in very good condition. The other two were more modern but one had a very unusual frame at the top which folded in on itself to open. I was quite excited to be going back later for the actual auction.

Vintage LinensAfter waiting for just over an hour to get to the linen lot, bidding was quite fierce. I had had a bit of a rummage in the box during the viewing and one item had really caught my eye. I set my highest price in my head and hoped for the best! Luckily the bidding stopped with me, at my maximum bid of £20. Adding commission, the lot was going to cost me £22.

A short while later, the three bags went under the hammer. I had set a price of £10 in my mind, which would have been £11 with commission. The small Deco bag I probably would have sold for about £14 and the other two bags were a real risk. Unfortunately, the seller had place a reserve of £15, so the bags went unsold.

Vintage LinensMy lots came up about an hour later. The handbags and linens raised £16 in total, which wasn't brilliant but it got rid of them, so I was happy. Having settled up at the desk, I took my new box of linens home for a good sort out which is always the best bit!

Whilst three quarters of the box was of no interest to me whatsoever, there were some really good items amongst it. There was a large piece of net curtain, which is an essential tool when making felt with soap and water. I needed a larger piece so that was a real bonus. There were a few linens with wide lace edging which will be ideal for turning into lavender bags and there was a set of four table mats with very pretty embroidery which will also make good lavender bags.

Embroidered CoatThe star of the show though was the embroidered jacket that I had spotted. You couldn't really miss it as the fabric is so striking. It is embroidered all over in the most gorgeous and elaborate pattern. The jacket is old, possibly homemade, and I would guess it dates from around the 1930's but I could be wrong.

The base fabric feels like a fine wool and judging by the moth damage on the collar, I think I am probably right. It is fully lined in a salmon pink satin and has two handmade buttons at the front.

Embroidered CoatOverall, the jacket is in very good condition, apart from the moth holes and some small yellow marks. Having said that, there is plenty of usable fabric remaining. Part of me thinks it is a shame to cut the jacket up, but to be honest, it is not wearable as it is due to the moth holes.

I am certainly not going to rush into making any decisions. I will probably take the jacket apart to start with and see which bits are usable. I will then decide what to make, whether it is a whole handbag or just use parts as features on different bags. It really is a case of watch this space!

Tray Cloth Clutch Bag

Vintage TableclothI bought a vintage, hand embroidered tray cloth recently with a view to making a batch of lavender bags from it. It measured 58cm x 43cm which did limit the possibilities slightly but I got it at a good price, so it was worth taking a chance.

However, when the tray cloth arrived, there wasn't really enough plain fabric for the backs of the lavender bags. Not only that, the large areas on embroidery at the corners were also too big for a lavender bag. I didn't really want to cut in to the gorgeous embroidery either as it seemed a bit of a waste.

After quite a bit of thought, it suddenly struck me that the tray cloth would make a really good handbag. As I had a spare frame, a clutch bag seemed to be the perfect solution.

Upcycled Clutch BagAs I was using a curved handbag frame, the best shape to cut out was a triangular shape with a curved top. This perfectly incorporated one large piece of corner embroidery, as well as two smaller pieces either side. I could then use the same pieces from the diagonal corner for the other side of the handbag. Having cut both sides of the handbag out, I had just enough of the tray cloth left over to make a couple of rose petal scent bags as well.

Upcycled Clutch BagThe bag is lined in a pale lilac cotton which came from a gentleman's shirt. The colour of the lining perfectly compliments the embroidery and makes a good contrast to the cream of the linen. I think it also adds a good element of surprise when you open the handbag. The soft gold of the frame also works really well with the cream linen.

Lavender BagsI was a bit concerned glueing the handbag into the frame, as I always find it really fiddly to do. Having taken my time, it seemed to work out quite well for once! The two rose petal scent bags also make a good bonus to the whole project.

Less Is Definitely More!

Vintage HandbagAt the dawn of handbags, a few hundred years ago, bags were used mainly by workers to carry their tools, food and other essentials. The noble classes didn't use bags, preferring to keep their personal belongings in pockets tied around the waist. It was these pockets that gradually morphed into the handbag and became acceptable across all the social classes.

However, the size of your handbag still gave a clue as to your status in society. Larger bags were still considered to be for the working class. The upper classes tended to prefer elaborately decorated handbags, the smaller the better! This held true, certainly for evening bags, for a very long time. A lady of status didn't need to carry much with her for an evening out. Besides, anything that couldn't fit into their evening bags could be carried by a gentleman companion.

These days, handbags come in all shapes, sizes, colours and designs. Even handbags used in the evening are often the size of a day bag and contain huge amounts of "essential" clutter. Anyone who has read my post "Everything Except The Kitchen Sink!" will know I am certainly no exception.

Why do we insist on carrying so much about though?

Vintage HandbagWhen I was in my late teens and early twenties, I really travelled light. On an evening out, I wouldn't even bother with a handbag. I would take my lighter and packet of cigarettes in my hand, have my money and door key in my pocket and that would be that. I never felt the need for anything else. If I didn't have any pockets, my key would be in my shoe and my money would be in a small purse.

These days, I don't smoke, so that should mean I have even less need for a handbag. But no. I take my keys, money, comb, mobile phone, lipstick, eyeliner, tissues, spare contact lenses, hand cream .... need I go on? These items have become a security blanket for some reason, I feel as if my right arm is missing if I don't take them.

It seems to me that as we go through our lives we carry more and more in our handbags. Ask anyone with small children and you will find even more odd items in their bags. Maybe the amount of clutter we insist of carrying around with us directly reflects the amount of emotional baggage we pick up as we go through our lives. Who knows.

Why don't men feel the need to carry so much around with them though?

Brown Felt Button Bag

Felt HandbagI have just finished my latest felt handbag, so thought I would share it with you. I wet felted it a couple of weeks ago but had to hold off finishing it until I had found the right items. When I make any item I usually have a picture in my head of how I would like it to look and then have to try and find the right materials.

With this bag, I knew I wanted it to be in shades of brown with buttons appliqued along the top edge and also saw in my mind leather handles instead of felt ones. Belts are really useful for handles, so it was a case of trying to source a belt that was the right colour and also width. It needed to be quite a thin belt as a wider one wouldn't be comfortable to hold in your hand.

Felt HandbagHaving trawled a number of local charity shops, I finally found a synthetic leather belt which was a chocolate brown. The belt was made up of three interwoven thin lengths which were the perfect width. All I need to do was cut the belt with a pair of scissors to create each handle. I made small cuts in the body of the bag to thread the handles through which were knotted on the end.

The vintage buttons came from my button tin which is full of all sorts of buttons. I tend to look out for job lots of buttons in charity shops and car boot sales. A large number of them I bought at an antiques sale in Leipzig, Germany, when I was on holiday there a few years ago. Despite having a large tin of buttons, I often find I still don't have the right colour, size or shape!

Felt HandbagThe bag lining was a small fabric sample which a friend gave to me a few months ago. It is a chiffon type fabric embroidered with flowers and leaves. As the felt bag is seemless, it does not necessarily need to be lined. However, adding a lining does add strength to the overall bag and I think it finishes the bag off. A brown ribbon was sewn to the top edge of the fabric to hide the raw edge and then the lining was machine sewn into the bag to keep it secure.

The finished bag is approximately 22cm wide and 19cm long. A magnetic clasp holds the top of the bag closed. I am pleased with the overall result, as it has turned out pretty much the same as the idea I had in my head. I have already got the next two bags made in my mind, so just need to try and get them made now!

Charmed!

The first I ever heard of bag charms was a few years ago when my sister gave me one as a gift. My favourite handbag at the time was an appliqued fabric bag which worked really well with the charm she gave me.

Handbag CharmBag charms are such a simple idea, it seems surprising that nobody ever thought of making them before. Now bag charms have become really popular. If you have a plain bag, a charm can be a really great way of giving it an individual look. Different coloured charms can be used to tie a handbag into an outfit's colour scheme too, without the need for buying a new bag. Skip that last sentence, buying a new handbag is always a really good idea!

I quite enjoy making bag charms and spend ages deciding which beads to use and where to place them. Charms take me so long to make they certainly aren't cost effective but I don't worry about that. They are quite therapeutic to make and make a change from sewing.

You can use any type of beads, glass, wooden, metal, plastic. I tend to break up pieces of jewellery I no longer wear or buy cheap pieces in charity shops. Earrings can be really useful for making charms. Using unwanted and vintage jewellery can also offer unusual materials which can make charms even more individual.

Some of my handbag charms, past and present are below .....


Handbag CharmHandbag CharmHandbag CharmHandbag Charm















Alton Art Society Exhibition

Pottery Dish, Ceramic Dish, Pottery Dish, Ceramic DishI've been a member of the Alton Art Society for just over 5 years and like to participate every year in their Autumn Exhibition. This year will be the 78th exhibition for the Society.

For the past 5 years, I have exhibited my ceramic pieces quite successfully and have achieved a number of sales. Each year I try to enter six pieces, which is the maximum allowed for 3D, and usually sell 2 or 3 items. Last year, 3 of my ceramic pieces made front page of the local newspaper which was really pleasing.

Felt Leaf, Felt Leaf, Felt Leaf, Felt LeafThis year, I am only going to enter a couple of ceramic pieces which I have ready. I was going to enter some ceramic leaves I made but I sold them earlier in the year at another local exhibition. As I am taking a break from ceramics to concentrate on textiles, I thought I would enter some textile pieces instead. I have decided to enter a felt bowl, felted vessel and I have also just finished a felt leaf. As the ceramic leaves proved popular, I thought a felt leaf might do well too.

Hopefully I shall have some success again this year and sell a couple of pieces. The exhibition is 1st - 4th October, at the Assembly Rooms in Alton, Hampshire. Everyone is welcome and entry is free.

Scented Linens

If you have read my blog entries "From Table to Drawer" or "Rose Petal Scent Bags", you will know that I like to use vintage linens to make lavender and rose scent sachets. I have made a number of different designs using embroidered tablecloths and place  mats.

Lavender BagsWhilst tablecloths and place ments are extremely abundant, finding the ones that are right for use is harder than it sounds. Firstly, I look for a natural fibre, as I don't really see the point putting a natural product such as lavender into a synthetic fabric. I therefore only use cotton or linen to make each sachet.

The other vital part for me is the decoration. I prefer not to use a patterned fabric which is why I use embroidered tablecloths and place mats. The decoration tends to be localised rather than all over the fabric. Finding just the right embroidery is also really tricky. Some tablecloths feature ladies in crinoline skirts which are far to big to be practical and some floral designs are meandering or flower garlands which again are just too big to be used.

Lavender BagsThe ideal embroidery is small areas of flowers which have quite a large blank area of fabric surrounding them. I like the embroidery to end up central on each scent sachet. If it is slightly to one edge though I will make allowances. However, if the embroidery is too close to an edge, then you don't have enough fabric left to sew the scallop edge around the scent sachet.

Two other factors to take into account are firstly you need to be left with enough plain fabric to create the back of the scent sachet. Secondly, you need to ensure that there is a fair amount of useable embroidery on the tablecloth or placemat to make it economical. If you spend a lot of money on a tablecloth with two pieces of useable embroidery, you will only end up with two scent sachets to sell. Taking into account the cost of the lavender, cotton, electric and not to mention your time, it wouldn't be worth making them.

Lavender BagsFinally, having found a cotton or linen tablecloth or set of place mats, with small areas of floral embroidery in good condition, the final point to check for is stains. Most vintage linens will have been used in their time and may have small stains on them. If they have come from a large house, they may even have a number dyed onto an edge for identification purposes when sent off to laundry. The best way to check for stains is to hold the linens up to the light. Stains that don't necessarily notice when you first look, soon show when held up to the light.

There is a certain satisfaction in finding just the right linens for use, at a reasonable price. Definitely the best part for me though is filling them all with fragrant lavender or rose petals. The wonderful scent wafting up makes them a pleasure to sew.

And The Winner Is ....

Drum roll please!

The winner of the Edward Bear Giveaway has been drawn.

Teddy BearI was going to get my nieces and nephew to do the honours but realised it wasn't really fair to ask a 2, 5 and 9 year old to draw the winner of a Teddy Bear competition, as they would probably want him. Can you imagine the ensuing pandemonium?!

Anyway, my unbiased husband draw the winning name from the hat, overseen by independent judge Daisy the cat and Edward Bear himself. They can all verify all entrants names were in the hat and it was drawn with eyes shut (husband's, not cat or bears, obviously!).

So, the winner and hopefully proud new owner is .........

Kerensa Jones!

Hopefully Edward will arrive safely at his new home and will be loved for a long time to come.

Thanks to all of you for entering the competition. It was fun and definitely something I will do again at some point in the future.

Teddy Bear Give Away!

Teddy BearI spend some of my time as a fundraiser for a local wildlife rescue charity. This involves overseeing the management of two charity shops which play a vital role in the fundraising.

A couple of weeks ago, I was working in one branch and came across a sad looking Teddy bear which was heading for the rag bag. He had obviously been well loved, as he was a bit bald in places and the felt on his paws had worn very thin. Despite his sorry state, he had such a lovely face, I couldn't face him going in with the rags.

I decided all the Teddy needed was a bit of TLC, so took him home for some refurbishment. Having been subjected to the washing machine, the felt on one of his paws gave way and all of the stuffing in his leg came out all over my load of washing! It took some patience picking off hundreds of bits of foam to stuff back into his leg.

Teddy BearOnce dried, I gave him a good brush and replaced all of the felt pads on his paws. A new red ribbon was the finishing touch to bring him back to his former glory - well almost, he still has a few small bald patches. I was going to call him rags but I think he looks far too distingished for that now, so I have called him Edward.

All Edwards needs now is a loving home ....

And that's where you all come in. I am offering Edward, completely free of charge to anyone who would like to offer him a new home. All you have to do is email me or leave a blog comment and I will put your name into a hat and draw out the lucky winner.

The closing date for the draw is 31st July 2009. The winner will be announced on my blog and will be notified in person, so don't forget to leave me your email address.

Good luck!


Trying To Get A Handle On It!

When it comes to making handbags my absolute nemesis has got to be handles! Unless I make clutch bags all the time, there is no escaping putting a handle onto a handbag. They just seem to give me no end of grief though.

Take today, for a prime example. I made a lovely little satin bridal bag, with a single strap handle but it took me three attempts to make the handle. The first one, I tried to do some decorative stitching along it which ended up crooked. Second time, I tried a different decorative stitch and I ran out of cotton three quarters of the way along the handle. Trying to match up the stitching again was virtually impossible. The third handle I ended up leaving plain.

Having made the handle, I had to attach it. Simple you may think. I sewed it on when sewing in the lining. Having turned the bag the right way out, I found the handle was twisted. Having unpicked the stitching and trying again, the handle wasn't on straight. Third time was just about acceptable.

If you want to put on double handles, it throws up yet another problem. Trying to get the handles exactly the same length can be tricky. If they are uneven though the bag will be lopsided when you carry it. Making handles can also be troublesome. If you are using a thin fabric, like satin, you can sew them lengthwise inside out, turn them the right way and iron them flat. However, with thicker fabrics it is impossible to make them that way as you can't turn the fabric the right way out again. You have to fold the edges in and stitch all the way along. Maybe it's just me but I seem to have problems sewing in a straight line on a thin strip of fabric.

Finding cheats are a real help. Chain straps, single straps and bamboo or cane handles are really useful. I have also used a leather belt recently which worked really well. I would like to say practice makes perfect but I am not so sure. I just never seem to be able to have stress free handles!

Multi Coloured Pleated Handbag

Handmade HandbagA couple of years ago, I bought some gorgeous furnishing fabric swatches from a charity sale. The charity rescued greyhounds, so I very happily bought quite a few pieces of fabric. I have used some of it for making doorstops and beanbag frogs but have been meaning to make a handbag for months.

A few weeks ago, I was in a charity shop and found a thin leather belt that not only had complimentary colours in it but also had a similar design to the fabric. I realised it would perfect for a bag handle.

Handmade Handbag I finally sat down today and made the handbag. I knew I wanted a single handle and a puffy style but other than that had no real plans. I didn't even have a size worked out, the fabric really dictated how the bag was designed. As the fabric was a colour swatch, the large piece of fabric was made up of squares in a huge array of colours which gradually blend into the next square.

Handmade HandbagEach side has two pleats to give the bag a puffy shape and the belt has been used as a single handle, as planned. I have kept the belt buckle so that the handle length can be adjusted to three different length settings. This will allow the bag to be carried in your hand or on your shoulder. The inside is lined in pink and has a magnetic clasp to hold the top edges closed.

I am really pleased with the final result. It is always a bit of a gamble when you don't follow a pattern or have any firm idea in mind. Having said that it is quite exciting to see how it will turn out. I was worried I was going to ruin a really great piece of fabric, but I think I have managed to do it justice.

Black Is The New Gold!

Vintage HandbagJust as I had blogged about gold vintage handbags being the latest must have item, I sold three black vintage handbags. Just goes to show, I know absolutely nothing about current market trends! If anyone can predict next week's trend, I would be grateful so that I can stock up.

The three bags, were sold to two different people, one in the USA and the other in France. The French lady bought a lovely 1950's handbag with a rose design and a fushia pink lining. I have had the handbag in stock for a while and had recently reduced the price. That obviously did the trick!Vintage Handbag

The other two handbags were older, one was a beaded Art Nouveau handbag and the other a small round beaded purse, probably 1930's-1940's. Both were quite recently acquired and both needed a small amount of work on them to bring them up to saleable condition. I had never actually attempted any beadwork before, so I was quite keen to see what I could do.

The Art Nouveau bag had a patch of beading missing in the middle of one side. The beads really needed replacing to stabilise the remaining beads surrounding the area. By sheer chance, I had come beads that were a near enough match to be used to fill in. Just repairing a small area made me really appreciate the work that originally went into making beaded handbags. No wonder they were expensive in their day!

Vintage HandbagThe small round purse had some beads missing, a long tubular bead was snapped in the middle and the main structure of the beadwork on one side had come loose. Again the beadwork really needed repairing to protect the rest of the beading. Trying to recreaate the symmetrical arrangement of the bead network really got me thinking. It was not as easy as it first appeared. I was quite pleased with the final result though and the repairs I carried out to both handbags has certainly given me the confidence to take on more vintage handbags in need of some TLC.


It's A Small World

I upgraded my website a few months ago and I can now get more detailed statistics on visitors to my website. Before I just got a graph of the number of visitors. Now I can see which countries people are based in, which I find endlessly fascinating.

It never ceases to amaze me how global a marketplace we now live in. Despite being a small UK based website, I get visitors from all over the world dropping by to see what I am selling. Most of my sales have been to the UK and USA but there have been some to other countries too.

Visitors to my website, in no particular order, have come from the UK (obviously!), Russian Federation, France, Slovakia, Antigua & Barbuda, Canada, USA, Italy, Belgium, Egypt, Finland, Mongolia, Croatia, New Zealand, Israel, Germany, Poland, Netherlands, China, Singapore, Brazil, Switzerland, Australia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Chile, Argentina, Denmark, Philippines, Spain, India, Malaysia, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. It's like a meeting of the United Nations! I quite like the live feed map on my Blogspot page as well as that gives an instant map of where blog visitors have come from.

It is quite odd to think that the internet can so easily connect us with complete strangers all over the world. People we will most probably never meet or ever talk to. The internet has certainly helped small business the world over reach a far greater customer base and become more successful. I know I owe a lot to it!

Two Bowls, Two Designs

I spent some of yesterday and today wet felting a couple of bowls. I haven't done any felt work for a while and really felt in the mood. The trouble with wet felting is that you can't really start and stop it, you have to pretty much finish the whole felting process in one go. That means you need to have a spare few hours to make anything, which is sometimes easier said than done.

FeltingThis weekend, I knew I would have some spare time, so made a note in my head to definitely do some felting. I had been wanting to try out a couple of bowls for a while, so that is what I decided to make. They are really easy to make as you simply use a ball, in this case a football, as a mould to apply the wool to. I used some knitting wool to start with, in two colours, just for interest and then used a variety of complimentary colours in merino wool. Once you get started, keeping the wool on the ball is actually quite easy.

FeltingI gradually built up layers using the colours I had chosen, applying soap and water as I went to help the felting process. Once I was happy with the thickness, I finished with a final layer of dark blue merino which I spent quite a long time rubbing with soap to ensure a good felt. When I was happy with the stability of the felting, I put the ball into the washing machine on a 60 degress cycle. This ensured that the felt got a good pounding to mesh the fibres together and also rinsed out all of the soap I had used. I didn't add any detergent to the cycle as a lot of fabric detergents have any felting chemicals in them to protect your clothes.

Having been spun at the end of the wash cycle, the ball was fairly dry when I took it out. I gave it a quick iron to flatten the fibres as it was looking a bit fluffy and then came the exciting bit, cutting it open. As you work from the inside to the outside, you are never quite sure how it will turn out. I have to say I was really pleased with the resulting bowls.

Felt BowlOne bowl I decided to simply sew on a felt flower made from matching merino wool. The other bowl, I thought I would be a bit more ambitious and apply some beadwork to the outside. I threaded pink, green and blue seed beads onto beading wire and then sewed the length of beading onto the felt bowl. I think both options have worked well and I really don't have a favourite between them.Felt Bowel

The vibrancy of the colours of the wool always really appeal to me, which is why I think I love felting so much. Also the softness of the merino makes objects really tactile. I guess felt bowls aren't very practical though, a bit like a chocolate teapot! They are definitely more decorative than anything else.

Tea at the Palace

Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. There is quite a strict dress code involved with ladies requested to wear tea dresses and hats. As I am usually superglued to my jeans, I was thrown into a bit of a quandry. I didn't actually own a dress!

As the dress was the main requirement, that is the first item I bought. I purchased a pretty silk tea dress in shades of pink on a white background. I was perfect. Unfortunately, I hadn't actually considered accessorising a pink dress. Easier said than done, believe me. I spent a long time deliberating on colour and whether or not your shoes, hat and handbag need to match each other or not. In the end the lack of pink accessories for sale solved that dilemma!

Ivory HandbagBy some complete miracle I managed to find a pair of dark pink suede shoes which matched the dark pink in my dress perfectly. That just left the hat and handbag. The hat came next as I managed to find a large white gauze hat which was ideal. With a white hat, I opted for white handbag as I decided trying to find the right shade of pink handbag was going to be impossible.

Having already spent a small fortune on the dress, shoes and hat, I really didn't feel like spending very much on a white handbag. To be honest, I didn't think I would use a white handbag again in a hurry either. I headed to the bridal section of a local department store and found the perfect bag there. Even better, it was in the sale and cost just £3.99!

On the day, the outfit looked perfect and I felt like a million dollars rubbing shoulders with Royalty at the Palace. Not sure what they would have thought of my bargain basement handbag, but it just goes to show you don't have to spend a fortune on designer labels. You just need a bit of luck when shopping.

Doorstop Delight!

Pyramid Door StopOne of my favourite homewares to make, although I do enjoy making all of my items, is doorstops. I think I like making them because they are quite straightforward and don't require much planning.

Cube Door StopI tend to make triangular ones, although I have made a couple of cube ones as a special order in the past. The cubes were definitely more tricky as there are more seams to line up with each other.

Pyramid Door StopAll of the doorstops I have sold in the past have been filled and sewn up but as they weigh up to a kilo, they would be too costly to post. I have now redesigned them with a short zip in the base so that I can post them empty and allow customers to fill them up themselves. The doorstops can be simply filled with rice, lentils, barley and the like and zipped up securely.

Having solved the postage problem, I am happily making doorstops to add to my website. Spotty ones are definitely one of my favourite designs.

Auction Anticipation

If you are a lover of vintage bags and linens, a really good place to pick them up is at local auctions. There are a few that take place around my area every month, so there is often a good chance of finding a few gems.

In the past I have been quite lucky, managing to pick up large mixed lots of linens and textiles, as well as mixed boxes of handbags. One of my best auction buys, a few years ago, was a huge box of vintage handbags. There was so many there I didn't really know how many, so just made an estimate and left a bid on that basis. My winning bid was £80 which came to £94 with fees. When I got home and sorted the bags out, there was 54 in all, so quite a bargain. Obviously, age and condition varied enormously but there was some great bags amongst them.

Having already checked one of the auction catalogues online, I know there is a lot of vintage bags for sale, together with some boxes of linens. I am quite excited to go and view the lots tomorrow morning and will hopefully leave some bids. The other auction is an auction in a day, where the lots of dropped off in the morning and sold in the afternoon. You never know what will be there until you go and look. But that is half the fun of it.

Hopefully, I will be lucky. I shall let you know!

Dyed & Applied!

A week or so ago, I was dying some clothing chocolate brown and decided to throw in a couple of my unbleached cotton tote bags which I use for making my photo totes. I thought I could just applique a few fabric flowers on the bags for a quick and simple makeover.

Applique Shopping BagThe resulting bags came out a pleasing shade of brown but unfortunately all of the stitching remained cream. I assume the thread used was polyester and not cotton or else it would have taken the dye as well. I really couldn't put up with the cream stitching showing around the top of bag and along the handles, so I decided to unpick it all and redo it in brown thread. For some additional decoration, I used a decorative leaf embroidery stitch in a gold thread.

The flowers are made from suede, corderoy, wool and a faux suede, all taken from old clothing and remnants. The flower centres are vintage all buttons. The buttons were definitely the best bit, I was dreading sewing them on, particularly pushing the needle through leather. I suddenly remembered that my new machine could sew on buttons so I decided to try it out.

It was fantastic! So easy! There was a small amount of setting up beforehand but the actual sewing of the button took about 10 seconds. It would have taken me at least half an hour of fiddling to sew them on by hand.

Overall the bag was more involved than I had originally intended, mainly due to changing the cream stitching but I think it was worth it in the end and I am quite pleased with the finished result. Hopefully you will agree!

A Brief History of Metal Mesh Bags

Vintage HandbagWhilst I love fabrics and fabric handbags, I do also find metal mesh handbags alluring. The way they move and catch the light can be very appealing. Having stood the test of time over the decades, if not centuries, I can't be the only one who is drawn to them.

Chain mail and mesh have been used for centuries, just think about the knights of old in their chain mail armour for instance. The sheer durability of the materials being used made fine metal mesh an obvious choice for bags. Skilled craftsmen began crafting mesh handbags from gold and silver, with their popularity rising through the 1800's. Each bag was made by hand with each individual metal link meticulously crafted. Needless to say, these bags were very expensive and only affordable by the very wealthy. Today, solid silver mesh bags are still highly collectable.

Pyramid Door StopOne of the best known makers of mesh handbags is the American company Whiting & Davis. They began as jewellery makers but started to produce mesh bags in the 1890's. Once A C Pratt had designed and patented the first mechanised mesh making machine, Whiting & Davis became the only maker of machine made mesh bags. The mechanisation of the manufacturing process made the bags more affordable to the masses and their popularity exploded.

Designs became more elaborate with the onset of new technology and base metals were used to improve affordability. Enamelling also became popular on the metal, to provide distinct patterns. Throughout the 1920's and 1930's mesh bags were particularly popular with the Flappers and many of the bags still around today show Art Deco detailing in their shape and decoration.

Modern bags can still be found which utilise metal mesh. Personally, I don't think you can beat a vintage version that has so much history linked through it. I sometimes have mesh bags for sale on my website, so if you are interested, stop by occasionally and see if one is in stock!

In The Frame!

I have decided to expand my horizons and try my hand at using metal frames in some of my bags. They come in a huge range of shapes, sizes and colours, so the possibilities are endless. I did have a few problems locating supplies, so if anyone knows where I can buy frames from, please let me know!

Anyway, I finally tracked down a few frames at a reasonable price so set about transforming a piece of fabric taken from an old sari which I purchased recently from Louise, at Catwalk Creative. Designing the bag was the easy bit, trust me! Constructing the actual bag was no different to any other lined bag and I used the frame as a template to sketch out a paper pattern for it.

Sari Clutch BagThe tricky bit was attaching the bag to the frame. You can get frames that you either glue to the bag or sew to the bag. I opted for the gluing version as I thought that would be easier. Hmm! I'm not so sure now. The problems started when I took the lid off the tube of textile glue. It is really runny and I had obviously been applying pressure to the closed tube, as it promptly erupted like a volcano all over my fingers. I had real problems just getting the tube of glue under control before I even approached the bag frame.

The idea is to place an even trail of glue along the channel on each side of the frame. Sounds easy enough. Wrong! Trying to apply even pressure all the way along seemed beyond me for some reason, so some areas were a bit sparse and others had too much glue. As I was using a curved frame, the glue at the ends insisted on running towards the middle. It is worth pointing out that you should only tackle one side at a time.

Timing is everything when gluing. If the glue is too wet it oozes out all over the fabric, if it is too dry the fabric won't stick anyway. I left the glue to dry for about 5 minutes and then tried to insert the edge of the bag. Getting the fabric in was a bit fiddly to say the least. I also realised that having pools of glue in places really wasn't helpful as some seeped out onto the fabric. Thankfully, once dry, I was able to pick most of the glue off again.

I am quite pleased with the finished bag even though it isn't perfect. I won't be putting this one up for sale and will keep it for myself to use instead. It has been an interesting project and I will definitely have another go with other frames I have bought. Hopefully, practice will make perfect and the future framed bags will be as pretty as a picture!

To Clean or Not To Clean Vintage Bags

When I buy vintage bags for my website, I try to buy bags that are in really good condition with little damage and no stains. However, there is often a small amount of where and tear due to the age of the bag and the fact that someone has used it and loved it in the past.

Occasionally, I will buy a bead bag with a small amount of bead loss, just because I really like the bag. In that case, I will do my best to repair the bag sympathetically and have a couple I am working on at the moment. Sometimes I will get a bag in a job lot which has got some staining and I do my best to spruce it up a bit for sale. Buying handbags over the internet or even at outdoor sales can catch me out, as you don't always realise a bag smells of cigarette smoke. The odour is really hard to remove.

When I think it will be possible, I tend to gently handwash handbags in warm water with a mild handwash detergent. It is amazing how many light stains can be removed and how sparkly beads can become afterwards. Needless to say, completely washing a bag is not always possible and really depends on the structure of the bag and materials used. Sometimes I can get away with just spot cleaning a particular area.

Most of the time, the results are quite successful. However, one vintage clutch bag does spring to mind. It came with a couple of other bags and was a white clutch bag, probably 1960's, with small beads dotted over it. It was very dirty and badly stained, so it was either try and clean it or throw it away. I decided to soak it for a while before rubbing at some of the stains to try and loosen them. What I didn't realise was that the bag was not as solid as I had first thought. The internal structure was made of cardboard and soaking it wasn't really the best idea. As I worked on the stains, the seams came apart and the bag disintegrated into a soggy mess in my hands! The only place left for the poor bag was the bin.

It was quite funny at the time and I didn't really have much to lose as the bag was in such a poor state to start with. I am definitely a bit more careful with others now though!

Rose Petal Scent Sachets

Lavender BagsI have just finished the rose petal scent bags I started a little while ago. The fabric was a set of six embroidered place mats with the flowers embroidered on one edge only. As they were embroidered with roses it seemed obvious to turn them into scent bags filled with rose petals. It is a shame there was only six as it has limited the number of bags I could make.

I think they are really pretty and smell gorgeous. I did have a slight issue with the rose petals I bought as they did not smell that strong. I added a generous amount of Rose Absolute essential oil to the petals to enhance the scent which has worked really well.

If you want to find out for yourself, you will have to buy one!

Decorative Stitches

Sewing Machine StitchesIf you read my "Electric Dream Machine" posting you will know that I have bought a new sewing machine. Part of my reasoning for buying it was to have a greater variety of stitches to utilise in my bags. I have been so busy sewing in straight lines with the odd scallop, I haven't actually had time to try out some of my new options. Until just now.

It is actually really exciting trying a new stitch. I was supposed to be making some more rose petal scent sachets but I have snapped the needle I need for the scallop stitch. It suddenly dawned on me it was the perfect time to have a play instead.

Sewing Machine StitchesI tried out the my 5 favourite stitches from the ones that needed a single needle, which thankfully was the ones I wanted to try anyway. From the top, they stitches are numbers 32, 33, 34, 23 and 39. As you can see from the photos, they aren't exactly like the diagram but they are quite effective in their own right. I will certainly utilise them all in some way in the near future. I have a few plans up my sleeve!

One thing I did find quite disconcerting was the motion of the machine whilst creating them all. I am so used to sewing in one direction only, it is really odd when the machine starts going forwards, backwards and sideways on its own accord and you don't quite know which way it is going to go next. It is quite therapeutic once you get into the rhythm of the stitch though, I felt I could go on for hours. You'd need an awful lot of cotton though!

Fancy A Cuppa?

TeapotMy mother is an avid teapot collector with well over 400 different novelty and antique pots spread all over the house. When I first saw the fabulously quirky range of ceramic handbag teapots designed by Annie Rowe, I had to buy her one and then another!

I was delighted to find a third one to add to her collection the other day at a car boot sale. It cost me just £3 which I have to say is a complete bargain. I would have paid £10! Each pot comes in a black cardboard box with gold braid handles, thus resembling a handbag itself. The pots range in colour and style as any good handbag range.

TeapotThe pot I have just bought is called "Hollywood Gold" and measures approximately 17cm across from spout to handle and is 18cm tall, so quite a practical size for a working teapot. The bright turquoise glaze and gilded handle and spout making it very eyecatching. If the pot were a real handbag it wouldn't look out of place swinging on your arm in Monte Carlo!

I haven't given the bag to my mother yet, but I know she will be thrilled with it when I do.

When Is A Book Not A Book?

When it is an autographed cycling shirt! Confused? So was I!

A week or so ago, I decided to indulge my love of handbags a little bit more and buy another book on them. All in the interests of research obviously! I knew which book I wanted, so happily placed my order online through a certain well known website. However, I opted to buy the book from a private seller as it was cheaper.

AutographsA few days later, a parcel arrived that seemed somewhat squidgy to be a book. Upon opening it, I found not my book on handbags but a cycling shirt autographed by singers Beverly Knight, Shaggy, James Blunt, Gabriel and KT Tunstall, as well as actors James Nesbitt and David Schwimmer! A slightly odd mix but nonetheless, a great item if that's what you wanted. Obviously, I didn't.

Slightly bemused, I checked the parcel and found a delivery note for my book, so at least I knew where the shirt had actually come from. There was also a letter from a London radio station dated September 2007, offering congratulations on winning the shirt in a competition, together with a mountain bike. Not a bad win all in all.

AutographsI waited a few days expecting a frantic seller to contact me but heard nothing. I emailed her a couple of days ago to point out the mistake and she seemed very surprised as she had not heard from the intended recipient of the autographed shirt. Maybe they just preferred my handbag book. Who knows?

Needless to say, I have agreed to send the shirt to its rightful owner, who will then send my book on to me.  That's the theory anyway!

Blue Applique Tie Bag

Upcycled Tie HandbagI spent this afternoon finishing another tie bag.  I cut it out over a week ago and haven't had time to make it up until now.  I have to say, not having enough time to make things can be really frustrating.  I obviously need to see where I can make more time.

Anyway, this bag is made from a pale blue wool fabric I bought about 20 years ago to make a skirt.  I never made the skirt, so the fabric has been sat in my pile for years.  The three ties came from a lady at my ceramics class.  She had been into patchwork but had decided to change direction.  Knowing I made bags, she kindly gave me about 20 mens ties to use.  I love using them on bags as I think they look really effective.

I have used both ends of the ties, on each side, and two of the ties have also been used for the handles.  The inside of the bag has been lined in a pale mauve cotton, taken from a man's shirt.  The front of the bag also features a vintage diamonte brooch to give it a bit of added sparkle and bling.



Bag Theft

I have had two handbags stolen in the past and as anyone who has experienced this can tell you, it is really annoying!

The first time, about 20 years ago, I was out with my mother having a midweek picnic. It was a fairly secluded beauty spot and we were out of sight of my parked car. I really stupidly left my handbag on the back seat, although did think to cover it over with a blanket. On returning to the car, I found my back passenger window smashed and my very lovely tan leather 1980's saddlebag gone.

Leather HandbagNow, I did learn my lesson from that incident. Well almost. About 8 years ago, I was going to see a live band with a friend. I hated taking a bag into gigs back then, so when I picked up my friend from her house, I locked my bag and coat into the boot of my car. I then drove about 1o miles to the venue and parked for the evening. Having taken the precaution of locking my belongings into the car away from the venue, I assumed they would be safe as noone had seen me do it.

Wrong again! When I returned to my car a few hours later, I found it unlocked, which concerned me. Upon further investigation, I found my bag and coat gone, alone with a few coins I kept in the ashtray for parking. Thankfully, the thief had shown some consideration, he had picked the lock with a bent pair of scissors (it was an old car!) which I found on the back seat.

Whilst the inconvenience of reporting the incidents to police, making insurance claims and cancelling bank cards etc is really annoying, the worst bit was losing two really great bags! The second bag was a really soft suede rucksack my sister had bought me in Poland. It was impossible to replace.

Now, I've well and truly learnt my lesson. I never, ever leave my bag in my car, or anyone else's for that matter!

From Table to Drawer

lavender,bags,scent I picked up a very pretty vintage tablecloth recently in a  mixed lot of linens from an auction that was hand embroidered with posies of flowers. The cloth dated from around the 1940's and whilst very pretty, it wasn't something that I would really use. If I had resold it, the cloth would have only made a few pounds, if that.

Having looked at it for a while, pondering what to do, I suddenly realised that I could cut out squares of fabric with the embroidered flowers and turn them into lavender bags. I cut out matching plain squares for the backs of the bags and used a scallop stitch on the edges, trimming the fabric to accent the stitching afterwards.

I have to admit, that I really enjoy making lavender bags. They are really simple to make, so don't require a great deal of thought and you get to enjoy the wonderful aroma of French lavender at the same time. The only problem was that I was so relaxed I completely forgot to put the lavender in one of them!

The finished bags are perfect for placing in drawers and airing cupboards to make your clothing smell lovely. You can also pop one into your pillowcase to help you drift off to sleep.

The Jumble Sale Find

As I have said before, I have over 30 bags.  Needless to say, I love bags.  Whilst I have some that are mass produced High Street finds, some of the ones I really love are a bit more individual.  One of my favourite summer handbags I found at a jumble sale a few years ago and it cost me just 10 pence!


As you can see from the photo the bag is made from butter soft tooled leather and threaded through with strips of dyed leather.  As the leather is so soft, it is a joy to hold in your hands.  The design is very simple with the body folding over at the top to hold the contents secure.  The back of the bag has a deep slip pocket which is useful for stowing away non valuables like a packet of tissues.

Whilst the bag is fairly modern, it has some age and wear to it which just add to its character.  It was no doubt a holiday purchase by someone, possibly from Greece, Turkey or even Morocco.  When I purchased it one of the handles had come away from the body of the bag but was easily fixed.   Otherwise it was in good, useable order.  I have certainly used it plenty of times and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

Thinking Outside of the Box

I am a huge fan of mixed media and try to utilise different items in many of the pieces I create, whether in my textiles or ceramics.  I can't help looking at objects and wondering if they might be useful in some future piece or other.  Often some strange item can inspire a whole creative train of thought.

Obviously, I look at clothing for fabric and am often found with my scissors in hand chopping a shirt apart.  Skirts are great as you usually have quite a large area of useable fabric without too many seams.  Old curtains are even better, with velvet ones being a particular favourite of mine.  Wool jumpers are also very useful for machine felting.  Obviously old buttons can be easily salvaged and put to good use, together with oddments of ribbon and lace.  Recently I was given a whole bundle full of men's ties, some of which have already found themselves appliqued onto a bag, with another in the making.
Upcycled Tie Handbag

Thinking outside of the box is really important when using mixed media.  The principle doesn't just apply the textiles and ceramics I enjoy.  All manner of items can be incorporated into jewellery, sculpture, paper crafts and paintings too.  You really just have to keep an open mind at all times.

An excellent hunting ground is the local hardware store.  I just can't help myself when it comes to metal and wooden curtain rings, different types of wire, copper tubing and metal nuts.  Whilst in the hardware store the other day, I discovered they sold various thicknesses and colours of cording.  I had been searching craft stores for it to no avail, so you can imagine my delight!  Alongside that, I found different types of chain being sold by the metre, presumably for sink plugs and the like.  I did get a few odd looks as I was muttering aloud about the fantastic chains that were available and imagining the uses.

Mixed Media Bag

A few months back, I was in my local kitchenware shop looking for a spatula.  Amongst the cleaning items I came across the run of the mill silver metal scouring pads.  However, they also stocked copper ones too.  For some reason the copper ones had a beauty and almost organic quality all of their own.  I had to buy one!  I haven't quite found a use for it yet, but I will.

All manner of natutal items can be useful, shells, pine cones, stones, wood.  I have used leaves as templates before for ceramic projects and have just discovered skeleton leaves.  They look so fragile but are actually remarkably robust. Obviously they are great for card making projects but I thought I would try and utilise them in a felt piece.  I think the resulting vessel was quite successful.
Mixed Media Bag

I am not alone in using every day materials, with more  and more emphasis being placed on recycling, people are finding new ways to reuse products all the time.  Plastic bottles are becoming fleece clothing, tyre rubber becomes shoes, clothing is shredded and used to insulate cars.  All around us artisans are using glass  found on the beach, broken china and even plastic bags to create new and beautiful pieces.  Hopefully, you will    be inspired to experiment a little too.

Electric Dream Machine

I've had my current electric sewing machine, a Singer Stylist 367, for well over twenty years and I bought it second hand.  The manual is copyrighted 1974, so that gives an indication of its age.  I have to say, it has served me well and never let me down.  It was serviced for the first time a year or so ago and passed with flying colours. 

I have used the machine over the years to make all sorts of items from jackets, trousers and blouses to handbags, soft toys and curtains.  Despite only having five stitch options, one straight and four sizes of zigzag, the machine has met my needs.  Just lately though, I've had a niggling feeling that I would like a machine that could maybe do a few embroidery stitches as well.  The niggle grew the other day and I found myself googling sewing machines. 

The range of machines now available is quite overwhelming.  The price spread is from £50 to the high hundreds, they are electrical, some are computerised, they do stitches I've never dreamed of, stitch in reverse and do a whole host of buttonholes.  With so much choice, it was hard to know where to begin in choosing my perfect machine.  The most logical starting point was therefore price.

I set my budget at £100 which was an amount I felt would buy an electric machine with a dozen or so stitch options.  I didn't really need anything more than that.  The trouble is, once you start looking, it is really easy to get carried away.  I never knew stitch options could be quite so exciting!  Trust me, they are!  The fact that some machines have a monogramming option opened up all sorts of design ideas in my head.

Somehow, I ended up looking at Brother machines.  Lured by the stitches on offer, I found a machine that I really liked, it met my needs not to mention a whole load of needs I didn't even know I had!  The only problem was that the machine's recommended price was more than three times my budget.  Always one with an eye for a bargain, another internet search threw the same machine up at half the recommended price.  Finally a quick search on ebay found it bang on budget but in an auction with only a day to go.  I put in my top bid and crossed my fingers. 

A day later, I was the proud owner of a new Brother, all singing, all dancing and hopefully all sewing computerised sewing machine.  Talk about exciting!  I got it at 40% over budger but it was worth it.  The machine is fantastic.  Some of the features include forty stitches, five types of one step buttonhole (who knew there was so many?), forward and reverse stitching, monogramming, a free arm facility (I had to look up what that meant!), seemingly more feet than a centipede and my favourite feature - a picture frame.  Yes, you did read that correctly, it has a picture frame on the side of the machine.  Now, I have no desire to sound ungrateful, but why on earth would you want a picture frame on your sewing machine??! 

Somewhat reassuringly, the machine also comes with an instructional DVD. 
All I need now is for it to be delivered - can't wait!  Watch my website for some hopefully new and exciting products with decorative stitching.  With so many new features, including dual needles for some of the embroidery stitching, I hope I can figure out how to thread the machine, let alone sew anything together with it. 

How Many Bags Is Enough?

The last time I bought a handbag, not very long ago, his nibs said, "Not another bag!  You don't need any more!".

Whilst I definitely don't agree with that comment, how many is enough?  I would like to think you can never have enough handbags, there will always be a new bag that catches your eye.  But at some point it surely falls into the realms of obsession.

I have to be honest, I didn't even know how many handbags I actually had until just now when I went and counted them all.  I have 27, not including the stock for the website.  27 lovely handbags that I class as mine, which I use, to varying degrees.

They fall into 4 main categories, every day, evening, travel and slightly out of favour at the moment. 
Some I bought, one I made and others were gifts.  They are all shapes, sizes, fabrics and colours.  There are leather, suede, various fabrics and even wool bags.  Some of fringed, some of patchwork, some are plain, some are sparkly.  And therein lies the root of the matter, you've got to have a bag for every occasion and outfit. 

I like a large handbag with lots of pockets and compartments when travelling.  A durable leather throw it all in bag for work.  When on holiday I prefer a bag that is worn across the body and for an evening out something small and sparkly.  I like my bags to compliment my outfit in colour and style whether day or evening and you will always need a plain black leather one.

And so the handbag collection grows, the hook on the back of the bedroom door can't accomodate them any more, so the migrate to the door handle, a hanger in the wardrobe and then another cupboard as well.  The trouble is though, you put on an outfit, you look for the right bag and you discover, you just don't have the right one.

It's time to go shopping again!

History In Your Hands

So many vintage bags still exist because their original owners loved and cherished them enough to look after them.   In today's throw away society, we could all certainly learn from that.   Buying a vintage bag not only offers the opportunity to have a 'one off' handbag but also gives you the chance to connect with social history.

If only those bags could talk.  What stories could they tell?  It's quite a romantic daydream.    

Vintage HandbagThink of all those wonderful evening bags from the 1920's and 30's, handmade and painstakingly beaded into intricate patterns with glass seed beads.  They wouldn't have been cheap to buy, so only a well heeled lady would have owned one.   Imagine the parties that bag attended, the theatre, the opera.   It might have witnessed a few clandestine dalliances in its time!

The make do and mend era of the war years of the 1940's had an influence too.  Materials were in limited supply, so bags were repaired and embellished to change their look.   If your handbag was a city dweller, it could have spent hours in air raid shelters.  Think of the important documents and belonging that could have been stashed into it for safekeeping.  It may have been a gift from a serviceman to his sweetheart for a night out dancing the Jitterbug.

A 1950's handbag may have listened to conversations of more conflict, including the Korean War and the Suez Crisis.  Conversely, it may have witnessed its owner swooning at an early Elvis Presley or Buddy Holly concert.  The bag would have also witnessed the increasing popularity of television sets in the home.

Was your bag being swung in the Sixties?  Or was it more in tune with Flower Power?  It would have seen the space race for the moon and a whole host of music icons starting their now long and successful careers.

To be honest, unless the handbag is a family heirloom, passed down through the generations, we really won't know the history of our vintage bag.  We can only guess and daydream.  That is half the fun though of owning such a great piece of social history and fashion statement of its time.  Just make sure that you love it as much as someone else once did.

Catwalk Threads Interview

The interview I gave to Louise at Catwalk Creative has now been published on her website Catwalk Threads.  Louise has done a fantastic job with the answers and photos I gave her and I am delighted that she gave me the opportunity.  If you would like to read the interview and find out more about me and my work, then please click on the link below:

Everything Except The Kitchen Sink!

There are lots of jokes made about the contents of women's handbags.  I think that most of us are guilty of carrying around too much.  Delve into any woman's bag and you can probably deduce quite a bit about them from the contents.  But a handbag is a private place.  A place where even long term partners fear to tread, even with prior permission.

Having thought about it, I'm not completely sure what's hiding in my bag.  So I have decided to take a peek.  In no particular order, the contents of my handbag today are:

Pair of black woolly gloves
Letter to be posted
Packet of tissues
Pink personal organiser and pen
Pink plastic comb
Shopping trolley token
Pot of rose geranium lip balm
Mobile phone
Folded up shopping bag
Elastic band - didn't know that was in there!
USB stick attached to a Mr Funny key-ring
Umbrella cover but no umbrella
Painkillers
Purse with a few coins in plus family photos and library card
Torch
Blueberry Bliss herbal tea bag - unused obviously!
Vet receipt
Another packet of tissues
Lavender hand cream
10% discount voucher for a local store
Pink hairbrush
Pink pen - OK so I like pink!
Contact lens comfort drops
Yet another packet of tissues
A bent paperclip
Plasters
Various keys
Mirror
Another paperclip in good working order
17 used stamps - they get sold to a dealer by a local charity
Part of a chocolate bar wrapper - now in bin

If I was assessing the person who owned that lot, I would guess practical, organised and someone who likes to be prepared and can lend a helping hand in a minor crisis.  Especially if it requires a tissue.  Definitely not someone with creative tenancies though! 

So that's the contents of my handbag.  What have you got in yours and what does it say about you?

My First Interview

I have been asked to do an interview by Catwalk Creative which is quite exciting.  I am currently working my way through their questions, which is a lot of fun and really making me think.  The article will be featured in the Catwalk Creative blog in the near future with a bit of luck.

For more information on them, visit
http://www.catwalkcreative.co.uk

Felt Making

Having spent quite a few hours wet felting a new bag, my hands are now really chapped and sore.  The combination of lots of soap and water required for the felting process aren't great for the skin.  Unfortunately, even an olive oil based soap doesn't really help.  Wearing rubber gloves may help in the future but I'm not sure if that is practical.  Any suggestions greatly appreciated!

Here Today ..... Gone Today!

Just as I had I posted a great vintage bag to the website, it sold! Just like that!

I was actually toying with keeping the bag as it was a really lovely 1910-1920's beaded drawstring evening bag. The quality, and maybe the price, obviously spoke to itself and a lucky US buyer is soon to be the happy owner.

That is definitely the quickest sale to date, so I can't complain.

vintage,beaded,bags

First Birthday

The site has been up an running for a year now and has proved popular.  Lots of products of new ideas for products have been developed throughout the year, which have proved successful.  These have included photo tote bags, doorstops, scent sachets and more recently bag charms.

Lots of gorgeous vintage bags have also been added and sold through the year.  The early beaded bags are definitely a favourite with people.  Some of the bags sold can be viewed in the gallery section.

Hopefully 2009 will see the site going from strength to strength.  Thanks to all the customers, old and new, for your support.

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