Thursday, 31 December 2009

Review of The Year

To say 2009 has been a busy year at From Rags To Bags is probably a bit of an understatement. Lots of items have been made, including new handbags designs, and new items have been added such as handbag charms and felt items. Better still lots of items have been sold, with sales up an incredible 70% on 2008!

I have been working hard at promoting the website over the year. As well as selling on Etsy, Dawanda and Folksy, From Rags To Bags hit Facebook with its own profile page, click here, which currently has over 500 hundred fans. More fans seem to appear each week, many of whom leave comments and feedback which is helpful. Twitter was also added to the marketing assault, click here, with more than 650 people now following From Rags To Bags tweets. Again, the numbers of people just seems to keep growing. I just need to try to remember to post comments a bit more often.

One of the most enjoyable online tools From Rags To Bags embraced in 2009 was this blog. It has been a really useful outlet for highlighting new products and generally muttering about handbags in general. I have lots more ideas for blog postings on my to do list. The numbers following the blog are steadily growing too, so I guess what I write must be of interest. Having recently added the flag counter feature, it is quite fun checking to see which countries have visited. I am in competition with a fellow blogger to see who can get the most flags. She is currently winning. That needs to be addressed in 2010. More flags please!

I am constantly mulling over new design ideas, so hopefully lots more stock will be added to the website for sale in the coming year. I have got a pile of vintage handbags awaiting repairs too which will hopefully make their way onto the site soon. The January sale is now on to clear out some stock to make way for the new, so please take a look and bag yourself a bargain.

Thanks to everyone who has bought a From Rags To Bags item in the past, everyone who is a fan of Facebook, who is following on Twitter and who follows the blog. Without customers there wouldn't be much need for me to make anything. I hope you all have a very happy and prosperous 2010.

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Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Grand Designs

I have just spent a week's holiday in Las Vegas which is not only a great place for a spot of gambling but also a great place for a spot of shopping if you get lucky on the gaming tables. The hotels, or resorts as they tend to be referred to, offer a huge range of shopping, for most pockets. Some of my favourite haunts though are the top end fashion houses.

Las Vegas offers not one but multiple Louis Vuitton stores, as well as Fendi, Prada, Dior, Chanel, Hermes, Gucci and Emilio Pucci. It is shopping heaven if designer labels are your bag. I found it the perfect place for having a good browse. It is not often that I get a chance to get my sticky fingers on designer handbags and have a good poke about in them, so I took full advantage.

On the whole, I think most shop assistants these days have watched the film "Pretty Woman". Whilst I am in no doubt they knew I wasn't going to buy a handbag, they were, on the whole, helpful, friendly and polite. They didn't overtly judge me on my jeans and walking boots (well, apart from one anyway). For all they knew, I might have just had a big win in the casinos. As it happens, it was a case of have credit card, could buy one if I wanted to, I just couldn't actually justify the price tags and didn't really want to spend the next six months paying off a handbag!

Whilst I am sure the stores can justify the price tags, I really can't. I know the bags are handmade, using the best materials and you are also paying for the name. On the whole though, the handbags are relatively mass produced and I don't necessarily want to spent over a thousand pounds on a handbag that someone else has as well. You can buy one off handmade handbags for a fraction of the cost, which are also well made.

For a lot of people, owing a designer handbag is simply a status symbol. The Louis Vuitton handbag with it's distinctive LV monogram is easy to spot. It is also probably one of the most copied designs as well, with cheap replicas cropping up in many a cheap gift or luggage store. It is ironic to think that Louis Vuitton first put his initials on his luggage to guard against fakes. The other designers are also fairly easy to spot too, with Prada's badge, Fendi's buckles, Dior's D tags etc. Personally, I don't want a handbag that screams its provenance though. I like a bag to be a bit more discreet about its price tag. If I paid hundreds, let alone over a thousand for a handbag, I would be terrified of using it in case I damaged it and got mugged for it.

If you are not going to have the pleasure of using an item that has the sole purpose of being used, there is no point buying it. For me, handbags are all about form and function. I was surprised how many designer bags, were all show and not enough form. I would at the very least expect metal feet on the bottom of larger handbags to protect the bottom from dirt.

I have to admit I was quite taken with one Fendi evening bag which was beautifully beaded all over with a chain strap. It was a good size and very pretty. It was also US$1600. It got me thinking about all of the exquisite vintage beaded handbags I have sold in the past for a fraction of the price. Why pay so much for a beaded handbag when you can buy vintage?

Of course, there are always exceptions to any rule. For me the exception has got to be Hermes. I didn't even have the courage to go in and put my sticky fingerprints on a Hermes bag. I was like the Little Match Girl in the fairytale with her nose against the shop window. I just looked in awe at the handbag on the shelf. For me, Hermes handbags are the most perfect form, offering understated elegance yet functionality. I know the price, my credit card shook with fear. I also know that they take weeks to make by master craftsmen, using the finest leather.

I would like to think, and hope, that one day, just maybe, if I get lucky in Vegas, I might, just might be able to justify buying, loving, cherishing and above all using, a Hermes Birkin or Kelly handbag. Maybe, just maybe.

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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Black Beauty!

With the party season fast approaching, I wanted to make an over the top party bag. I was browsing through a glossy magazine a couple of weeks ago and noticed that brocade fabrics were in vogue right now. Having found a black brocade shift dress in a charity shop locally, it seemed like the perfect fabric for making my lastest creation.

I kept the style simple with just a single pleat front and back which offers a roomy interior without making the handbag seem too large and used a single strap made from the same brocade fabric. The oversized bow is from a chiffon remnant I picked up which I was going to utilise as a lining in a felt handbag. The diamonte pendant stitched in the centre of the bow adds just the right amount of sparkle and bling for any party.

I love the contrast of the lining fabric. It is a chequered satin fabric which gives a really luxurious feel when you put your hand inside the handbag. The bright colours give a further fun element to the bag as well.

Overall, I am really pleased with the handbag. It is really tempting to keep this one. I have listed it for sale on my website at the moment but who knows how long it will stay there!

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Thursday, 26 November 2009

Nifty Footwork!

As you may have realised from reading my blog and visiting my website, I like to recycle where possible. I hate throwing anything away that may be of use, so I try to utilise items in other ways, such as making my handbags.

About three years ago, I went to a summer wedding and bought a new pair of pale green, fabric shoes to go with my outfit. Being England in the summer, needless to say it rained! My pale green shoes ended up caked in mud as the wedding reception was in a marquee in a field. Despite my best efforts to clean them, my shoes still had mud stains and were relegated to the back of the wardrobe for the next three years!

Whilst the shoes weren't particularly expensive, I couldn't quite bring myself to throw them out as they were perfectly wearable - just grubby. I couldn't even donate them to a charity shop for sale as they weren't in good enough condition. A few weeks ago, it suddenly struck me that I could dye them and try to cover the mud stains.

I bought a packet of black dye which was suitable for leather and fabric shoes. It could also be used to dye belts, handbags and anything other accessories you wanted to change the colour of. I was a bit cautious but thought I really had nothing to lose other than the £5 cost of the dye and a pair of shoes that were ruined anyway.

The kit came with an abrasive pad for roughing up the surface of leather before dyeing. As the shoes were fabric I didn't need to do that bit. There was also a small brush for applying the dye, so I just went for it and merrily painted it onto the shoes. It was actually much easier than I thought it would be. The dye soaked into the fabric really well and spread right up to the edges of the soles, so I didn't even need a steady hand. Even the straps were quite easy to do.

Having left the shoes to dry out over night, I was really pleased with the result. My pale green shoes were now transformed into a wearable pair of black ones. The dye is really even and, according to the instructions is completely colour fast, so it won't run in the rain! I am yet to try the shoes out but with the festive season fast approaching I am sure I will find a reason to wear them soon. The shoes certainly won't be in the back of the wardrobe anymore, that's for sure.

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Sunday, 22 November 2009

Christmas Ideas and Postal Dates

I don't think any of us need reminding that Christmas is fast approaching! If you haven't already finished your Christmas shopping why not take another look at what From Rags To Bags has in stock. There is really something for everyone ....

Why not treat someone to a new handbag, or even a vintage one for that matter.

The cotton shoppers make a really useful gift at an affordable price. New butterfly bags and cupcake bags have recently been added at only £6 each.

Teenagers love handbag charms, whilst younger children love the beanbag frogs and juggling bags. Learning to juggle can keep them quiet for hours on Christmas Day.

If you are looking for something more practical, then why not take a look at large variety of lavender, rose and lemon verbena scent bags at only £3 each or the door stops, at only £10 each, some of which are hot off the sewing machine!

Please note the last guaranteed postal dates for Inland and Airmail services ....

International Airmail - 4th December
Europe Airmail - 10th December
UK only - 21st December

Full details can be found at

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Sunday, 8 November 2009

Welsh Tapestry Handbags

I am always on the lookout for vintage handbags to add to stock. It never ceases to amaze me how many are still in circulation, there is truly something for everyone. I tend to only stock handbags I like and am probably a bit on the fussy side. One style of handbag which has intrigued me for a while is Welsh Tapestry. Last week I was lucky enough to finally come across one in my local town - absolutely nowhere near Wales!

Welsh Tapestry, as the name suggests, is a traditional woolen cloth similar in texture to tweed. It was and still is produced by Welsh wool mills using a double weaving process which entails weaving two cloths together. Unlike tapestry pictures which spring to mind, Welsh Tapestry uses geometric designs. The double weaving process means that the pattern is the same on both sides of the cloth.

It was during the 1950's that the trade in Welsh Tapestry items really took off, with the increasing tourist trade. The cloth was used for a variety of small household items which were perfect as tourist mementos. As well as handbags and purses, Welsh Tapestry was used for placemats, drinks coasters, tea cosies, bookmarks, jackets and naturally blankets. With the tourist market being the main target group, it is hardly surprising that a vintage Welsh Tapestry handbag turned up in my town. It was no doubt bought and loved following a happy holiday in Wales.

The colours and designs of the geometric patterns vary greatly, with designs no doubt being attributed to certain woolen mills and areas of Wales. A collector would possibly know at a glance which mill produced a certain pattern - a bit like Scottish Tartan belonging to certain Clans.

I have no idea where my handbag started out, the label just reads "Real Welsh Tapestry All Wool". The perfect condition of the cloth after all these years is testament to the quality of the fabric though. I would certainly consider buying some new Welsh Tapestry items in the future, as they are still being produced for sale today. This just goes to show how desirable Welsh Tapestry still is after all these years.

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New Charms in Stock!

Having completely sold out of all of my handbag charms last week, I have had to quickly make up some more for the website.

All of the charms are unique and are made using beads reclaimed from broken up jewellery as well as some new beads and handmade beads. Some of the handmade beads are ceramic and glazed with dry glazes but most are beads I have made from fimo.

Hopefully the new charms will be popular as the previous ones. More will be added to stock shortly - when I have time to make them!

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Sunday, 25 October 2009

Gingham Lavender Bags

I have to be honest, I love making lavender bags. They are such a simple thing and yet such a pleasure to make. I find the wonderful aroma of the lavender wafting around the room really therapeutic.

If you have visited my online shop, you will no doubt have seen the array of lavender bags I have made from vintage tablecloths etc. Whilst I really like those and will continue to make them, I realised it was time to explore something a bit different in style. Gingham fabrics seemed really obvious so I wasn't sure about the idea to start with. I didn't want to follow the crowd as I like my products to be a bit more quirky. I realised that there must be a market for gingham products though or else you wouldn't see them everywhere you look!

A quick jaunt to the local charity shops gave me some fabulous gingham fabrics to use. I found a really lovely deep red gingham men's shirt which soon got the sharp end of my scissors. Like a lot of crafters I have a huge tin of buttons, most of which are vintage. I also have a large bag of mother of pearl buttons that once adorned a handbag I found in a charity shop. Add to that my bag of ribbons saved from chocolate boxes and bath product gift boxes etc, I had plenty of bits and bobs to use as decoration.

I am quite pleased with the first bags I have made, the possibilities in colour, shape and decoration are endless. Add to that the variety of fancy stitching my sewing machine can do, I will have hours of fun making more lavender bags. I just need to sell some to prevent a stockpile though, they make great gifts and Christmas is coming ...... !

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Thursday, 8 October 2009

Show and Tell

As mentioned before in my blog, the Alton Art Society annual exhibition was held from 1-4 October this year, in the Assembly Rooms. This was the 78th Annual Exhibition and the variety of work this year was even more varied. Whilst the majority of exhibitors are amateurs, the standard of work is very high. Some members have even exhibited at the Royal Academy in the past.

The show consists mainly of framed worked including watercolour, oil, pastel and ink. However, there is a growing number of 3D artists as well, who work with clay, wood, textiles and glass in varying forms. The variety of work on show offers something for everyone. In the past, I have exhibited ceramics with good sales results. This year though I thought I would exhibit three textile pieces and only two ceramic pieces.

The smaller ceramic piece, was a real afterthought. When I fired it, the ash glaze looked really awful, so I had to glaze it again and refire it. Second time around I still wasn't happy with it and threw it in the bin. My husband told me it was too good to throw out, so I kept it. I only got around to putting the gold edging onto the dish the night before I had to hand it into the exhibition.

When I popped into the exhibition half way through the second day, both ceramic items had already sold, as well as my felted leaf. On the last day I returned to invigilate the exhibition and found that my felt vessel had sold too. It is such a buzz discovering you have sold your work. When I checked the sales book, I found that the local fine art gallery had bought my porcelain dish with the dripped glaze. I will have to sneak in there and see how much they are selling it for!

I can't wait for next year's show now as I have got so many new ideas for felt pieces that I want to try and create. No doubt the year will fly by and I will be panicking that I haven't got anything finished.

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Sunday, 27 September 2009

Auction Antics!

I spent quite a bit of yesterday at a local auction. They are held periodically in the local community centre and are a one day only event. You drop your lots off in the morning, viewing is from 12.30pm and the auction starts at 2.00pm. It is usually all over by about 5.00pm depending on the number of lots, which is usually around 300 or so. The best bit about it, is never quite knowing what you are going to find!

This time, I was selling as well as buying. I had a few handbags which hadn't sold, as well as a large box of linens I didn't need, so decided to try my luck with them in the auction. I dropped off my items at 10.00am and took a crafty sneak peek at some of the other lots whilst I was there.

I was quite surprised to find not only another box of linens but also a lot of three vintage bags. The bags were really interesting, one was a small beaded Art Deco purse in very good condition. The other two were more modern but one had a very unusual frame at the top which folded in on itself to open. I was quite excited to be going back later for the actual auction.

After waiting for just over an hour to get to the linen lot, bidding was quite fierce. I had had a bit of a rummage in the box during the viewing and one item had really caught my eye. I set my highest price in my head and hoped for the best! Luckily the bidding stopped with me, at my maximum bid of £20. Adding commission, the lot was going to cost me £22.

A short while later, the three bags went under the hammer. I had set a price of £10 in my mind, which would have been £11 with commission. The small Deco bag I probably would have sold for about £14 and the other two bags were a real risk. Unfortunately, the seller had place a reserve of £15, so the bags went unsold.

My lots came up about an hour later. The handbags and linens raised £16 in total, which wasn't brilliant but it got rid of them, so I was happy. Having settled up at the desk, I took my new box of linens home for a good sort out which is always the best bit!

Whilst three quarters of the box was of no interest to me whatsoever, there were some really good items amongst it. There was a large piece of net curtain, which is an essential tool when making felt with soap and water. I needed a larger piece so that was a real bonus. There were a few linens with wide lace edging which will be ideal for turning into lavender bags and there was a set of four table mats with very pretty embroidery which will also make good lavender bags.

The star of the show though was the embroidered jacket that I had spotted. You couldn't really miss it as the fabric is so striking. It is embroidered all over in the most gorgeous and elaborate pattern. The jacket is old, possibly homemade, and I would guess it dates from around the 1930's but I could be wrong.

The base fabric feels like a fine wool and judging by the moth damage on the collar, I think I am probably right. It is fully lined in a salmon pink satin and has two handmade buttons at the front.

Overall, the jacket is in very good condition, apart from the moth holes and some small yellow marks. Having said that, there is plenty of usable fabric remaining. Part of me thinks it is a shame to cut the jacket up, but to be honest, it is not wearable as it is due to the moth holes.

I am certainly not going to rush into making any decisions. I will probably take the jacket apart to start with and see which bits are usable. I will then decide what to make, whether it is a whole handbag or just use parts as features on different bags. It really is a case of watch this space!

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