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!
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!
I've never been happy with how my bags are named-I tried to start them all with 'B', Belle, Boxy, Big (!), but that didn't really work for all of them. So some have funky titles like 'Beaujangle' and others just a descriptive phrase like 'silk framed purse'. I wondered whether if I gave them all a floraI related name it might make a perceptual difference?
A straw poll on Instagram and Facebook seemed a good idea, to see what my friends and followers thought. Instagram showed 69% in favour of a floral themed change and FB was 66% in favour. Lots of folk on Insta didn't vote and who knows who didn't like to say no on either platform..!
A very respected fellow maker, Pauline Greuell, based in the Netherlands (click on her name in this paragraph to check out her unusual and beautiful products on Etsy) messaged me to say that she thought it would make the bags more difficult to find with an online search and of course she's totally right! It makes sense to use both the new name and the old to cover both the prettying effect and the practical side.
Please meet 'Posy' Silk Frame Purse, 'Poppy' Cross Body Bag, 'Fleur' handbag with leather handles and 'Clover' clutch bag. After all, as Juliet declared: 'a rose with any other name would smell as sweet'!
A new Mum and Dad approached me for their first purchase in preparation for their expected addition to the family! Isn't that lovely? The fabric needed to be leafy and the bag roomy and able to be carried on your back to leave hands free!
I sent them lots of leafy pictures and they chose this vibrant jungle print.
I already had a lovely green cotton for the lining and a colourful ladybird waterproof fabric for the changing mat.
I included zipped pockets back and front, with small ribbon zip pulls, rather than my usual beads (health & safety!). The back pocket is lined with waterproof fabric, which is bound to be useful at some point!
It has a zipped top for extra security under the flap and four elastic topped pockets inside.
Adjustable shoulder straps to fit both Mum and Dad and a handy grab loop on top!
(Smug note: I managed to match the pattern on the flap with the body of the bag! Yay!)
The changing mat fits neatly in the centre, so all ready now to stuff full of baby things for a day out in the jungle!
03/05/18 Update: I also made a matching zipped purse and drawstring bag, which was a gift from me at the baby shower!
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet... 'Bum-bags'. Remember them? But I ask you: 'bum-bag'? Not a name that conjures up a pleasant sight... and the American version 'Fanny Pack' is even more dreadful! I've been looking at the Spring-Summer catwalk trends and whatever they're called, it seems like they're making a come-back, so I thought I'd have a go at making one. I want it to be versatile, so it can be used as a clutch, a cross body or shoulder bag too, so strap attachment will be a challenge. Colours are ice cream shades, and pink is a definite. I've a lovely piece of Liberty stylised flowers fabric and a matching dupion silk that will do the job nicely! I'll have to purchase some coordinating webbing for the strap.
A little bit of beading and embroidery to enhance the front. Then to master the rivet tool to make a belt! The tricky part is finding the right fittings to make the hole and then fix the rivet in place. I'm quite pleased with the result! Not so sure that's the right buckle tho': I might source another!
I've made some loops for the back to thread the belt through. I think for this first attempt I'm not going to puzzle over making it transferable to a cross body bag-that's a challenge for next time. It can be removed from the belt to be used as clutch bag, so has some versatility.
Well here it is complete. It's essentially a messenger bag in miniature, which made the construction far too fiddly. I'll try a different way of doing it next time without the gusset.
And the name? Well 'hip-purse' is my choice, and 'belt-bag' is equally descriptive! Take your pick.
Offering a bespoke service to the Henry Moore Foundation means a visit to the Henry Moore Studios and Gardens at Perry Green, every so often for an exciting 'design by committee' session. I spend hours sourcing the fabrics and haberdashery, then take them along for the team to mix and match the options until they reach a consensus on what works well.
Contributors to the process come from all over the organisation: from marketing, the archive, finance, the CEO' spares his PA, and the Events Co-ordinator and Wedding and Events Manager among others. It seems that whoever has an interest and is free that morning is welcome to contribute their opinion. And it works very well! Fabric is folded and unfolded, wrapped and draped to ensure the Henry Moore designs are enhanced, handle colour is matched or contrasted and buttons added and subtracted, until everyone is satisfied!
A friend at work requested a CK copy (Ooh unthinkable) and I had to make a prototype, just to check it worked in fabric, as the original was in raffia. Out came one of my favourites: Corncockle in golden hues. She loved the prototype so much she had that instead of her original choice of dark grey!
She's keeping it as her weekend posh bag as its too good for work she says!
Next - everyone's favourite - Strawberry Thief. I coupled it with a dark denim and green leather handles and vintage button. It's currently on Etsy waiting for someone who also has a thing about Mr Morris to snap it up.
I met Jacqueline online when I spotted a David Whitehead fabric design in red and black she was selling. We began to correspond and I discovered that she has an amazing textile collection. She took the trouble to view my website, found the HMF project most interesting and offered to look through her collection to help me find some vintage abstract designs to marry up with the Henry Moore fabrics. Several emails later and I am now the excited owner of these lovely 1950s /1960s pieces. Not sure if any will be acceptable to the Team at the Henry Moore Foundation, it's going to be one of those Marmite moments, but it will make for an interesting design session and some unusual vintage style bags will definitely result either way! Looking back at my initial very safe fabric choices I'm amazed at how far I've come...
Hello, I'm Ruth Overton. My nickname as a child was 'Ruthie Toots' which is how the name