I love selecting just the right bits and pieces that go to make up a bag! With this little knitted "Nigella", I had four choices for the handles. Which one would you have chosen? The verdict from Facebook and Instagram was for the coffee leather handles. I finally went for the bright red leather handles to pick out the red fleck in the wool.
The last pic shows the bag yet to have its lining added, but with handles sewn in place. These have a piece of fabric stitched behind each fob for extra strength.
A subtle layer of wadding adds to the already oh-so-soft woolly loveliness and a vibrant lining with two open and one zipped pocket completes the interior, and helps to shape the exterior. It fastens with a magnetic snap.
I made hay while the sun shone during the warmer months. Once again I’m cosied up in the sewing room and can fill you in on what I‘ve been up to.
Here’s a fascinating cotton barkcloth that I was really pleased to acquire from an extensive vintage collection. The selvedge states that it is a ‘Sunlover ‘ fabric, but no other name apart from that and the seller’s label reports it to be from the fifties. The iconic design is typical of that decade with its sleek pottery lines and stylised plantlife reminiscent of Terence Conran’s design for Midwinter Potteries. It might be a Mary White textile design, but I don’t really know.
I’ve seen the same design against a bottle green and also with a black background with red and yellow, both of which work well. I love this design so much I have even framed a piece for the wall of my guest bedroom!
The remaining piece was to become a Bouquet (bucket) bag with an adjustable cross-body or shoulder strap. When I laid the fabric out on the cutting table, I found that there was some degree of foxing (little brown marks usually caused by moisture during storage) on some of the pattern. Mind you, it was 60+ years old, and had survived remarkably well! However, I couldn’t avoid it as I didn’t have enough fabric to play with. I had just enough for one side of the bag.
I contacted the seller on the slim off chance she had some more and she said she’d have to search through her stash. She finally came back to me offering a small piece that was just the right length for the other side of the bag, but a little narrow. I snapped it up, knowing I would be able to adjust the bag proportions a bit to compensate.
I already had a golden yellow and white fabric to accent and frame the design and some jolly gridded yellow cotton for the lining. Adding a yellow beaded zip pull and a navy leather strap completed the picture. Talking of the picture-you can just see my reflection in the window! Doh!
A bit of vintage chic with a name to conjure up warmer days, don’t you think?
And a real one-off!
It measures approximately 13 inches across the top and 12 inches tall, so a good sized bag for days out or as a work bag.
The leather strap can be adjusted from about 24 inches to 48 inches.
Available for £60 with free postage in UK.
I can send anywhere tho’, so please contact me here for a postal quote to where you live!
Towards the end of May, I had contact via my Instagram account from Val, who lives in Canada. She was going to be coming to the UK for the month of June for a creative writing course and to enjoy the Suffolk and Norfolk countryside. She wondered if I could make a little purse as a wedding gift for a young friend she would be meeting up with during her time here. She specified that it should be made with a forget-me-not fabric as a reminder of the young lady's grandmother who loved these little blue flowers.
I was delighted at the prospect of creating such a poignant, thoughtful gift and agreed straight away!
She chose the Clover Clutch shape from my website and I started sourcing some suitable fabrics, as time was at a premium.
I found three fabrics: two Liberty cottons, from the "Cottage Garden" range, which were readily available and another beautiful fabric with oversized flowers, that I would need to have printed specially by Spoonflower, a US supplier of custom printed fabrics. Guess which one she chose? Yep! that one! I then had a couple of nail-biting weeks waiting for the fabric to arrive from Spoonflower's German distributor, hoping against hope that it would arrive in time for me to make the bag and post it off in time for the day towards the end of June that Val was meeting her friend. Time ticked by...
Fortunately it did and I did! And I posted it to her AirBnB address in Norfolk the week before it was needed! I sent an extra piece of fabric to attach to a horseshoe for the wedding day and a couple of little badges as a memento for Val. Phew! She was very pleased with it and reported that her friend really liked it. Another satisfied customer. Job done.
How cute is this little wicker bag? I'd never seen anything like it before, so snapped it up with a bigger wicker shopper at a vintage fair for £29 for the two, which seemed very reasonable! It's so expertly made with the flap fitting over the top perfectly.
I fully intend to use it myself but first I'll need to renew the lining as the original brown offering is in tatters!
I've very carefully unpicked the lining from the bag and found there is a cardboard inner to the flap and base which I may re-use to keep some of it's history intact. I've given it a good scrub with soapy water after removing the clasp which will be simple to reinstate, but needs a bit of reinforcement where it attached to the bag.
I already have this pretty retro floral cotton (I think it's a Liberty print), which will be perfect as the new lining.
I've used the old lining as a pattern- a little difficult as it's so delicate - to cut the new pieces out. Not widely accurate but I can adjust as I go!
I machined a long straight piece around the oval piece and then sewed the old cardboard back on (having brushed 50 years or so of dust off!) Then placing this into the flap I pinned in place. Next avoiding skewering myself on the pins, I hand-sewed the lining into place trying not to make the stitches too obvious on the right side.
I treated the rest of the bag in a similar way but had to make a few little tucks to ease the fit as it tapered towards the top more than I'd anticipated. Very pleased with the result-I just need a vintage frock to go with it now!
Before and after!
A very special day calls for a very special little purse. A wedding in Hawaii for which the Groom's mum had the most beautiful dress, in a minty, jade-y sort of green ombre effect with stunning magnolia flowers running from the hem upwards. She's not a handbag, fancy purse sort of person usually, so I was honoured that she wanted one of my creations to complete her outfit!
I set to, to finding a suitable silk - I tried both Vanners and Stephen Walters Silks of Sudbury and I scoured the internet (as you do!). I came up with four choices of fabric and a lovely magnolia applique.
I sent four little fabric samples to Cornwall and the consensus from the family was for the green dupion silk. (I was very happy with this choice as it would have been my choice too!)
I had a limited time to make it and was in the middle of trying to complete my other commissions, but I was happy to give this priority, as it was for a special occasion and needed to be ready before Easter when they were flying out to Hawaii.
I carefully hand sewed the applique, matching my thread colours as best as I could to make the stitching less obvious. i sewed a few beads onto the centre, in the shape of a heart to give it a bit of bling, but it didn't need any more as the applique said it all really!
I decided on using the pink dupion silk as the lining. Once the purse was constructed it was then time to tackle the fiddliest bit: sewing it to the metal frame. I chose a perfect pink embroidery silk to do this, rather than trying to conceal the stitching-it was to be a design feature!
Here is the completed "Posy" wedding purse that was parcelled up and sent all the way to Cornwall. I can't wait to see how it looks with the dress...
And here is the lovely lady, Caroline, in her beautiful outfit on the day! (It's ok -she gave me permission to share this with you!) And what a back-drop!
Spot the bag!
It's been a busy couple of months. I've had five commissions to fulfill, two of which were for two matching bags, totalling seven bags. Coupled with a 'March Meet the Maker' challenge on Instagram, where I managed to post 31 pictures and compose 31 captions to tell a bit more about me and Toots Totes during March, I've not had much time to blog here!
One of the requests was for a work bag. Its primary purpose was to safely house a laptop with space for a notebook, in two separate compartments. It needed to provide easily accessible pockets for a work phone and a personal phone. There was to be a matching smaller clutch bag for personal effects that would clip onto the main bag but could go off to lunch with its owner and leave the bigger bag at the desk!
Rather than revamp one of my existing designs I decided to work up a new one and as I prefer to create my own designs rather than buy pre-made patterns, I started by sketching it out. I began with the laptop dimensions, added a couple of cms and as It was to be made in a lovely William Morris floral and I wanted it to look feminine, I gave it some curves! I decided the central divider could double up as a zip topped pocket and two open pockets one side would take the phones.
As it would be a substantial size I thought some piping would define the shape and smarten the look. I chose a larger sturdier zip than usual for the bag top to take daily wear and tear. Topping it off would be some gorgeous leather handles.
As this was a completely new design I made a prototype in another William Morris fabric to try it out and show the client before I went ahead with her bag. To cut a long story short I did have a few problems to solve! That's what I love about designing my own bags: it's so satisfying to find and apply the solutions to end up with something that works well!
And I've named this shape: "Lupin" laptop bag! It was unanimous on Instagram (one person replied agreeing with my suggestion!) Another flower added to the bunch!
When we produce so much waste per household, it's very satisfying to re-purpose clothes that you've loved and worn to death! I currently have a pile of T shirts collected over the last couple of years that I intend to turn into a rag rug.
A while back, I carefully unpicked the pocket section from a pair of jeans and have finally got round to making myself a little denim bag. As I usually get the cast-offs from failed bag attempts, making one especially for me feels like a luxury!
I made it to the same sort of shape, but narrower than, my little "Clover" clutch, with magnetic fasteners either side so the bag opens up to find stuff and looks neat when closed. I already had a Liberty print that made a vibrant lining and I attached an adjustable blue leather strap to a ring each side so that I can wear it as a cross body bag.
It was Lulu's first modelling job for me and she received a few compliments on Instagram! She's very modest and said it was just the bag that caught everyone's attention! I'd like to think so!
Now that Christmas has been and gone, I can show you the last thing I made. For only the second time since I started making bags (in 2011), I actually used a bought paper pattern rather than making it up as I went along! I added some of my own ideas, as you do. I must confess it was a challenge to decipher the instructions and diagrams but I got there! The dear little four year old who received it declared: 'This is the perfect bag for me', so I felt it was a job well done! :)
Some cute little purses (or pouches depending on your part of the world!)
Kitsch poodles and limos -what's not to like?
Or trad William Morris Corncockle fabric-which do you prefer?
Don't forget I also make bespoke items to order if you have something particular in mind.
Go to the Bespoke Contact page and let me know...
A lovely vintage french cotton fabric I picked up from Etsy has made a super little clutch bag. I love those vintage shades of green and the abstract design. Another for the Secret Vintage Fair of course!
Hello, I'm Ruth Overton. My nickname as a child was 'Ruthie Toots' which is how the name