Sunday, 21 March 2010

Purple Felt Shoulder Bag

Last weekend I finally got around to making another felt handbag. I have been saying I will make a new one since before Christmas but never seem to have enough time.

Wet felting is nothing like sewing a handbag, where you can pick it up and put it down to finish later. With felting, once you start you really have to carry on until the job is done. The whole process is quite labour intensive and I know I have to set aside the best part of a day to make a handbag. That allows me time to stop and start for cups of tea and general time wasting, which I am pretty good at!

I already had a template for the handbag, as I had one made from a previous felt bag I have already sold. Having taken a look in my wool basket, I was really drawn to the purple shades this time, so selected complimentary Merino wool tops. I also used some blue Shetland for the bottom of the bag. As it is a coarser wool fibre, it is more durable than the soft Merino wool.

Having laid out the first layer of fibre, I thought it was probably a good idea to start taking photos, not just for the blog but also for my own sake. Having made up four layers on one side of the bag, I would have completely forgotten what I had done by the time I got to the other side! It's not a problem when working with one or two colours of wool but when you are using a whole range, there is no way I would be able to get both sides looking similar.

I have to admit, I do quite like making felt handbags with lots of wool shades. I have absolutely no idea how the end product will look until it is pretty well finished. After hours spent laying out fibres, applying soapy water and then vigorously rubbing and rolling, the final reveal is really exciting. As the handbags are made inside out, turning the bag the right way out is pretty much the last stage. By then, if you don't like the look of the handbag, it really is tough!

This time I decided to try and incorporate a piece of silk scarf I had lying around. It was the right shade of purple, so I cut out a square and laid it centrally on one side under the first layer of fibres. I was fairly confident it would felt onto the handbag, as I have felted linings into previous handbags. I just hoped it would stay fairly central. Luckily, it stayed just about in the right place.

I decided to sew in a cotton lining this time too. This gave me the option to include a pocket on the inside of the bag and the cotton lining also gives another element of durability to the whole bag. I think it makes the handbag look a bit more finished too. Overall, I am pretty pleased with how the bag has turned out. Good job too, as it probably took me about 5 hours to make!

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Monday, 15 March 2010

Never Work With Small Children ....

..... or animals. Or more to the point cats! Particularly mine.

I had just finished making a new style of lavender bag and popped to my photographic studio (ok, my garden) to photograph it for sale. What happens? Dylan my far from camera shy cat decided to get in on the action.

Just as I am about to take the photo, this hairy creature appears from nowhere and proceeds to sniff absolutely nothing and then have a wriggle and roll all over the ground. He narrowly missed the new lavender bag. Don't think potential customers would be too pleased if they received cat hair all over it, even if it was free of charge!

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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Patchwork Purse

The first time I did any patchwork, I was at junior school. We had to make a patchwork cushion completely by hand, using squares of fabric. I can still remember making it and spending hours sewing each square together, trying to make the stitches as small and as neat as possible. I still have the cushion, over 30 years later and miraculously it is still just about in one piece!

My next attempt, about 15 years later, was patchworking my sofa. When I bought my first house, I bought a large, green and very comfy sofa secondhand. It was very green, so I came up with the idea of patchworking all over it to make a completely unique sofa. I set about sewing on pieces of fabric by hand when watching TV in the evenings but eventually realised the task was too big and gave up.

I've always been quite partial to patchwork though, I just don't have the time or patience to make anything too big, such as a quilt. I wish I did! Anyway, I decided a patchwork handbag might work quite well, so rifled through my fabric collection found some materials that worked well together.

Having drawn up a paper template to fit the handbag frame I was planning on using, I cut out a random piece and sewed it onto the backing fabric. This was followed by another and then a third. I have to admit, it didn't take me long to realise that my usual method of handbag making, with very little planning, wasn't conducive to patchwork. Having sewn the first three pieces in place, it struck me that you really do need to plan ahead with patchwork or you become completely unstuck. You end up trying to shoehorn odd shapes into place and trying to figure out the best way to sew them on. You really have to be methodical and work in one direction. I started randomly in the middle and promptly struggled!

I eventually managed to get all the pieces into place, having chopped the odd bit off here and there. I was quite pleased with the end result but then was reminded why I hate working with handbag frames. Never, ever again! I find them a nightmare. Trying to glue the fabric into the frame is virtually impossible. Glue seeps out when you push the fabric in, you push in one bit and another pulls out and then you find the whole lot is slightly off centre!

I have to say, I did my best. It's not perfect, but it's not bad. I will definitely try patchwork again some day. Maybe on another bag. Definitely not using a handbag frame though. Maybe I'll go back to my roots and make another cushion.

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