A bag of my very own

So I promised you a blog post about my handbag. First: some background. My gorgeous husband bought me a handbag which I LOVED. I LOVED it so much that it DIED. And I was very sad. But as soon as I could tell that it was on its way out, I started looking around for a replacement. But for some reason, nothing measured up to the bag that hubby had bought me. Nothing was as nice, as ‘me’ as that one. so the search continued. Online, offline, chinese shops, department stores – nothing had what I was looking for.

Eventually I was struck with an idea – I am a designer (jewellery, not fashion – but the principle still applies), and that might be why none of the bags I was looking at were quite cutting it. And so, an idea was born. When it first poked its head into the door of my subconscious I quickly slammed the door in terror and locked it. But eventually I gave in to its pleadings and seriously entertained the thought.

Why was it such a big deal you ask? Because sewing scares me. Nay – it terrifies me. Probably because the only times I’ve ever sewed anything I’ve either had my highly talented mother (who made my bridesmaids dresses for me) or a teacher guiding my every move. And I’m surrounded by highly talented sewers – my mother, my sister, my mother-in-law – they are all accomplished and talented sewers. But if I wanted a bag I really liked, I had a feeling that I would have to sew it myself. It was probably at this point that it struck me that if I were going to make it myself, I could make it out of leather. I’d have a decent, handmade/designer leather handbag – and it wouldn’t cost me much more than a normal/knockoff/cheapy chinese bag would cost. And less then some of those I found! And so the process began…

First step – I had to design it. That was the easy part. Within a couple of hours I had three very different designs… and I didn’t know which to choose! In the end I went with the easiest option – figuring that seeing as how this would be an experiment, I probably shouldn’t go with the most complicated design. (Though the other designs are on the backburner – they shall be made when this bag dies!) First things first – try to figure out a basic pattern.

Using the bag that I loved to work out the shapes and sizes I would need, as well as much advice from said highly-talented mother I worked out the pattern and made a mock bag. Of course, I don’t actually have a sewing machine (due to aforementioned sewing phobia I never needed one before) so first I needed to borrow one. Enter my mother-in-law, who literally has three or four random sewing machines in many cupboards – as she is also an accomplished seamstress she has different ones for different uses. And luckily for me, one of those different uses is for embroidery. So off I toddled to borrow, not one but two different sewing machines – one to make the bag and one to embellish it.

After I made the mock-up bag I went down to the local leather store (Woodheads for those of you living in Cape Town and curious!) and started looking at leather. Thankfully the people there were fabulous and helpful and know their product, as they steered me away from the big room with the great big scary cow skins and sent me to another room, where a fabulous lady suggested I use lambskin leather – and when I felt it I fell in love with it. So soft and supple – I bought a skin immediately and took it home.

That beautiful lambskin then proceeded to sit in its bag in our home for a good few weeks. I was literally afraid to start cutting out that leather. It was expensive and I was terrified that I’d mess it up. Finally one Friday afternoon (work ends early on Fridays, which is why most of my experiments end up happening on a Friday!) I plucked up my courage and started fitting all of my pattern pieces on the leather. And almost had a heart attack as I realised that they didn’t all fit! Now what? After a (smallish) hysteria fit, my hubby stepped in and amazingly enough found a way to fit it all on that skin with only a few minor changes to the original pattern. With a sharp pair of scissors in my hand, I cut out the pieces and started sewing.

At which point words that I had heard before but never had to really deal with started haunting me. Alchemical terms such as ‘tension’ and ‘stitch size’ turned out to be so important that if it wasn’t correct – it wouldn’t sew. Whoever said that sewing was easy obviously never had to use a sewing machine! Eventually after a lot of trial and error – and not a few hissy fits at ‘this stupid machine’ – I got the machine to sew my leather. Only if it had newspaper on the top and the bottom however – as the leather sticks. (noted for future reference). I never imagined I should stock up on newspaper before sewing a bag!

With only a few minor hiccups, it all finally came together. I even managed to work out how to put two zips in – one for the top and one for an inner pocket. And this was all a while ago – and I still love my new bag. If I could get the original back in pristine condition, I’d be hard-pressed to decide which I preferred.

After I’d finished it, however, I swore off ever making a bag again. This was the one and only! Too much pressure and effort and terror… Now though, I can’t help looking at the other designs and wondering if I could make one of those as well… 🙂

The total cost, everything included, came to about R200. (about US$24 for those of you who are wondering). The lining my aunt-in-law had lying around so she gave me some, the zips I bought, the cotton was my mother-in-laws. Basically all I actually bought was the leather and the zips. Score!

But here is the finished product

(old cameras and photography lessons would be greatly appreciated – 😉 )

Next up – my sister (of http://african-angle.blogspot.com/ ) convinced me to tackle another sewing project – as a teaser, here’s the finished product:

Why on earth did I make this? And is it still in my house? Ah – you’ll just have to come back for the next post to find out!



7 thoughts on “A bag of my very own

  1. lol!! love it! fhe bag is stunning! and yes… it feels great! is that next sewing project a cushion thingy? cant wait to read the story! 🙂

  2. Well, your multi-talented sister always leaves me gaping in awe at her resourcefulness, but I see she has a family member who is every bit as competent! If only there were a way to bottle and market resourcefulness… But the income from that would turn Girl-On-A-Shoestring-Budget into Girl-On-A-Shopping-Spree, and this would be a very different blog.

  3. I agree with Lara… the 10B girls do know how to be creative. Totally share your terror of sewing and thus I am SOOO proud of what you accomplished! 🙂

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