In preparation for a long awaited visit to family in France, I decided to make three little bags to take as gifts. Rather than making them one at a time I decided to do the production line thing, which I've found in the past works quite well and saves a bit of time. I chose two William Morris fabrics: 'Strawberry Thief' and 'Snakeshead' (named after the fritillery not the reptile!) and a 50's reprint of a classic mid-century modern design 'Mobiles'.
I cut out two "Poppy" cross body bags and a variant of that design that allows for the cross body strap to be clipped on the side along with a partner strap the other side, to convert it into a backpack. I sewed the zipped pockets onto each front and then tacked wadding on to each piece.
Next I sewed the side and bottom seams, attached some plastic mesh to strengthen the base, and turned them right side out. Eight fiddly loop holders were sewn and attached to the top sides of each bag with two extra at the bottom of the backpack.
Just the linings to do now with their inner pockets and a zip top closure!
Update: Now back from our french holiday I can now report the bags were well received!
Remember how forlorn the little wicker bag looked a few posts back? So here we have it washed and brushed up, cleaner but still with that lovely aged patina. I found a way to attach a new leather strap (the old strap was beyond redemption) so no more turning upside down! I tacked the pretty lining with an elasticated pocket inside. Wielding a hammer in such a small space proved tricky, and I bent as many tacks as I used! It was a satisfying task, to make it lovely and useable once again. What do you think?
I've made a little boat out of cotton fabric-well that's what it looks like! It has an elasticated pocket one side and a little bit of wadding between the layers. I decided to use tacks to fix it into the bag rather than attempt to sew through the slats. It was fiddly trying to place the tacks and keep them upright and then hit them with the hammer (Not my forte!)
Just the lid to do now, plus solving the little problem of how to attach some loops for the new handle to clip on to. Please come back for Part Four!
Firstly I took it into the garden and removed as much dust as I could with a stiff clothes brush. It then had a gentle wash with an old washing up brush. I let it dry then carried out a second wash. It certainly looks brighter, but its difficult to clean between the individual canes. I decided that would do, as a certain amount of patina is expected on vintage items.
I then tackled the brittle leather strap, applying first a neutral then a brown polish. It has become more pliable, but I think would still eventually break with use, so I'll ditch that and use a shiny new adjustable cross body brown leather strap instead!
I then made some paper patterns for the lining, which will be double sided so that I can sandwich a thin layer of wadding between the two sides and it won't show from the outside. Come back later to see what's next!
I've bought a cute but old, tired, dusty, dirty little wicker handbag with a crusty, hard, inflexible leather strap that looks as though it may have once had a buckle and has been attached in a Heath Robinson way to the base so when you hold it the bag tips upside down! K. Oliver used to own it (whoever she may be) as she written her name on it three times! The bag is more or less structurally sound, but just needs some Toots Totes magic. I intend to transform it into something lovely and useful once more.
First job is to start dismantling. Luckily the lid is easily removable and I remove the decorative cane on one side, where it remains, so it matches the other side and the the strap is easier to take off without damaging it. Before cleaning I need to try and stabilise any damage with wood glue. Luckily it's mostly intact.
Come back later to follow the process and the progress!
January is often a bleak and non-productive month for makers, after the Christmas rush!
I'm happy to say my lovely clients have kept me quite busy, providing ready made and bespoke items. I've also had a sale on Etsy and MyFlair, which always drums up some interest!
The Year Ahead Now I'm looking ahead to the coming year, hoping to attend a few more fairs. I have just applied to the Braintree Textile Fair, hoping I may secure a pitch there. It's a great event and back in full force after a couple of years when events were difficult to arrange due to the unmentionable! Click on the link HERE to find out more about this year's event.
Sustainability And then there's my vow to be more sustainable. I already use eco-friendly wrapping, that can be recycled or reused, now I am looking to find some more sustainable ways of creating items. I have in the past, used preloved fabrics and woollens, so there will be a bit more of that, certainly.
Refurbishment I am also offering a free refurbishing service for Toots Totes bags you may have bought from me in the past that need a new zip or lining to make them last longer rather than you buying new. My bags are made to last with the best fabrics and threads and strong construction methods, so they'll stand up to that challenge!
Furthermore I intend to find sad and unloved wicker handbags to clean and refurbish giving them a new life. Watch this space!
I wanted to make something different so looked out the sari ribbons that I'd had waiting for a special project. These are a bi-product of sari making, the silk being torn into strips and knotted together into a continuous yarn for crafters like me to use! I found my fattest knitting needles and soon had an interesting looking rectangle to fashion into a 'Violet' bag. I decided to pull all the knots to the right side for additional texture and to use a pink dupion silk as a smooth lining. I topped it off with lovely purple leather handles, and a pink button and loop fastening, which makes a great fusion of totally boho and cute chic, I think.
Whilst I'd been routing around for sari ribbons I came across another ball of soft woolly yarn, just enough to make a little 'Nigella' pocket bag. I lined it with a vibrant cotton and added a lovely red leather cross body strap and a magnetic fastener. A vintage button in just the right colours tops it off and It has Just enough room for a phone, bank card and keys (and the necessities for a dog walk if you like!!)
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.
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!
Hello, I'm Ruth Overton. My nickname as a child was 'Ruthie Toots' which is how the name