I met a lovely lady at the Textile Fair in Braintree who fell in love with this Sanderson Tree Poppy fabric and asked if I could make her a bag. So here it is: a Toots Totes “Rosa” (and matching hairband) commissioned to be large enough to hold papers for a conference and to include a pocket for a water bottle. That was certainly a first! She was very pleased with it and asked if I made dresses too as she needed a new one for the conference! Sadly not, my dress making days stopped when fabric became more expensive than ready-made clothing, and I am seriously out of practice. Unless she wanted a zip top dress with leather handles she was out of luck!
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!
I am making pretty little sunflower purses, measuring 9x6 inches, with a contrast cotton lining, zip and beaded zip pull. These are £9.50, £5 of which will go to the Ukraine Crisis Appeal. (The rest just covers costs and my labour is free!) Please contact me HERE to order yours. Together we can make a small contribution towards helping the people of Ukraine in their hour of need. Thank you.
PLEASE NOTE: Lining and zip and bead colours may differ but the outer will always be in the sunflower fabric.
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 make no excuses for not having visited this page for so long, but I thought it about time I gave a quick update and show you what I've made since the beginning of the year.
Two lovely ladies sadly left the team that I used to work with, however I was delighted and honoured to be asked to make a part of their leaving gifts.
Both were made to the same pattern - my 'Rosa' design, but look what a difference the choice of fabric makes! This design has become a favourite to make and receive it seems! Let me know if you'd like one in your own choice of fabric.
Having ordered more fabric from my favourite designer Heather Moore at Skinny laminx, it arrived within 4 days all the way from South Africa, and I set about turning it into yet another 'Rosa'. It makes a lovely summery bag, don't you think? Still available at £80 (inc p+p within UK) Contact me if you're interested in purchasing.
Hello, I'm Ruth Overton. My nickname as a child was 'Ruthie Toots' which is how the name