Friday, 4 September 2009

Volare, cantare

Craft-love has given me wings...

...not literally of course, but in an 'appliquéing white cotton feather shapes onto things like there's not tomorrow' sort of way. This idea for a bag has been in my head for some time now, even before the feathery cushion design and the clutch. I spent oh so much time figuring out the perfect layout for the shapes...then adding an extra 'layer' after my original pattern was fused down...then learning how to put a zip-up pocket into a bag...

...and finally, while Spotify played my favourite 60s tunes, it all became this tote bag. I'm tempted to keep this one for myself.

Unfortunately this was my first attempt at making a tote using a new (to me) method...and as is often the case with new things, it didn't quite go perfectly. The bag has some small flaws, like a slightly askew base, tiny pin-holes at the side where I have had to unpick stitching, the slightest mark where I foolishly tried to iron just above where the magnetic fastener lies inside the bag...and a wobble in the stitching around the top, where I underestimated how thick the layers of fabric were and my poor Janome did the sewing machine equivalent of a hiccup or two.

This is the downside to completely creating your patterns yourself. (I never use shop-bought patterns to make anything, it is all from my head!) If I do find it in me to surrender this bag for someone else to buy, I think I'll offer it at a special price, since it does have those small flaws, even though they are probably only very apparent to me...

What do you think, folks? Should I part with the tote?

Despite the flaws, I love this bag. Partly because I think the 'wing' design will look so sweet if you twist the bag around to rest across your back...partly because aside from the essential interfacing, the zip and metal closure, it is all organic, fair trade cotton and upcycled material (linen viscose blend salvaged from a pair of trousers). The upcycled fabric isn't fused down like the cotton, but left to flutter at the sides, which I have left untreated so they will fray a little and look ever-so feathery.

About upcycling...

As you may know, my 'day job' is working in a charity shop. It happens all the time that someone will donate an item that, due to a small flaw, sadly can't be sold. A broken zip, a bolognese sauce stain, a torn hem...that kind of thing that makes an item unappealing enough to customers that it just can't go out on sale. Charity shops generally have a 'rag bin' where these unsellable items end up, bagged and stored for collection from a recycling company. We get paid by weight of fabric and then the bags are taken away to either be sent on to poorer countries, or cut up and made into new fabric.

Sometimes, I can't bear to let an item 'go to rag' though. Sometimes I know just what I can do with the item. So I pay a donation to the charity (more than they would have got for that one item from the recycling company) and take it home, wash it and then make it into something new. Crafters call this 'upcycling' as opposed to 'recycling', because it is being transformed into something new, not made into another version of what it was before - for example a glass bottle could be melted down and made into another glass bottle, or it could be transformed into a spoon rest.

This here is the latest item I have rescued - a turquoise camisole in pure silk and lace that has sadly got a streak of permanent marker on the front. I'm thinking of making this into a new 'shoal' necklace or two. :-)

Already up in the shop is a large money purse / mini clutch bag with a similar design to the tote bag (this one doesn't feature the upcycled linen, it is completely made with the organic cotton). I'm looking forward to making more totes and matching purses to go with them, now I do have the ultimate (hiccup-free) tote-making method in my head. It's just a matter of getting more fabric and supplies now, so I'll have to see how much of my budget I can spend this month.


  1. It may be a prototype bag, but I still said "ooooo" out loud to myself. Keep it, sell it, it's up to you! I always find though, that when I make duplicates or just evolve in my design, I discount the prototypes or give them to a relative instead. As an artist, others might not notices the flaws, but you always will!