Saturday, February 19, 2011

The pea pod linen purse

It was my mother in law's birthday recently and I made her a bag. I am feeling very virtuous about this, and I have a little fantasy that she may say proudly to her friends, "oh you like it? my daughter in law made it for me, so sweet. Does your daughter make anything for you? No? Never mind, I'm sure she's a lovely person anyway" (my own mother at this point may be saying, 'hey then where's MY bag).

Like most fantasies it is probably far removed from reality, probably about as far from reality as the deep darkest depths of the wardrobe where this little bag will end up.

At least it was fun to make. I used this free pattern from Ottobre and lined it with fabric given to me by my mother in law (which was the inspiration for this piece.)

And would you believe it, but I actually purchased the proper interfacing and bought proper linen for the outer. For once I didn't swap out for something cheaper, so the whole thing came in around $40 (US $30).

There are 2 myths about homemade bags that I immediately wish to dispel: that they are cheap to make (see above) and that they are quick to whip up. This bag, with its 4 pockets and padding and bias tape finish took as long to make as a pair of jeans. What's more it was even harder as the base is very hard to manipulate through the machine.

Surprising isn't it? Homemade bags just look like they should be cheap'n'easy.

This blog post wouldn't be complete without the compulsory scowl shot, but actually I want to show you the proportions against a human body because although it's called a purse, it must be one designed for Imelda Marcos and several pairs of shoes.

Let me now talk a little about fabric graffiti as several of you expressed interest in this idea. It is not my idea at all, I got it from a book I am reading called "Alchemy arts" - here on the front cover you can see her taking to her petticoat with a felt tip. (She's putting BIRDS on it pa ha ha aaaaaahhh).

I had to google around to find the setting instructions. The general consensus is to heat treat the pen first (good dry press on the hottest temperature your fabric will tolerate) then soak in a solution 1 litre of water to 1/2 cup salt. Some recipes also include 1 cup of white vinegar.

After the first wash, it looks pretty good. There is some bleeding in some places, minor only, so my guess is that the heat setting part of the process is crucial to the overall 'take' of the pen.

And now I am going to confess something to you, this skirt is going to the deepest darkest depths of my wardrobe, because I don't like it.

Strange isn't it? Things that should work, don't, things that shouldn't work, do. A pencil skirt should work, sausage dogs having fun are my favourite motif. It should all work, but it doesn't. I don't regret for a second giving it a go though, that's the only way to know for sure. What's more you never know where this experiment might lead.


  1. Nice job on the bag and thanks for the graffiti info. I liked your wiener dog skirt, but sometimes it's more about the process and subsequent path, than the actual garment. We'll be watching!

  2. Ooh, I love that bag!! Mine is in the sad state that a bag gets after over a year of being abused by childish paraphernalia. Hmm, make a new bag or a new pair of jeans... Must consider.

  3. Bag is so pretty! I made one for my MIL a while ago that I'm positive lives in the back of her wardrobe. We can but try, right? You're right, home-made bags are neither cheap nor easy. Unless you cheap out. Then it's not much more than a waste of time.

  4. Well that's a mighty lucky MIL that gets a handmade gift from her DIL. Impeccable, as always!

    I'm cutting out my "pumpkin" dress tonight...will let you know how it goes!

  5. You are a VERY good daughter in law. You did a lovely job on the bag. You have got me thinking I really am remiss in never having made anything for my mother-in-common-law. You have every right to feel virtuous!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I will give you the noble daughter-in-law award, just in case you don't get it from the recipient of the beautiful gift, which would be a great shame. I am particularly impressed that you used fabric given to you by your mother in law in the process, very thoughtful, and the outer linen co-ordinates perfectly.
    My MIL has some hand knitted socks that I strongly suspect live in the bottom of her wardrobe. Presents are often a toss up!

  8. Great bag!

    I suppose it's a "purse" because Americans call handbags purses. I have no idea what word they use for purses though.

  9. The bag is pretty and fresh. I would be proud to give it to my mother in law too. I hope she likes it.

    You aren't kidding, bags are hard to make! So stiff and fiddly. Lots of straight lines, but the corners all have to be perfect. All those pockets, fasteners, and linings! And all those notions just add to the cost to make one. I just made a soft tote bag. Maybe I will get the gumption up to make a proper, more structured bag soon.

  10. Aaaw.. If you don't like it, say giving it a month and a couple extra wearings, don't stick it in the wardrobe, toss it out. Or give it to your mom. You already have pictures after all..
    As to bags, I'm afraid you're totally right about the amount of work they take. And the stress on the sewing machine, sheesh..

  11. I've watched too much playschool. Now I can't stop humming the tune for "bags, bags, bags, they're very useful things, if you didn't have bags, what would you use to put a lot of things in?"

    Homemade bags are a dilemna for me. I don't really like looking handmade, but I do like making bags, so I make bags and then don't use them and then see a lot of other people wearing shop bought bags that look homemade. I think it would be a different story if I could access beautiful leather and all those hardware bits that go on a bag.

    I do like your bag though. It looks so neatly constructed. I especially love the zippered pocket. I like zippered pockets for phones much better than those phone pockets that vogue pattern come with.

    You say you used the proper interfacing. What is the proper interfacing for bags? I mostly use heavyweight woven sew-in interfacing, but if there's a better one for tha job that I can get my hands on, I'd love to know about it.

    Now you just need to whip up another of those for yourself!

  12. You have a very lucky mother-in-law! Nice work!

  13. That my purse is just my size. It would hold my lunch, samples of my latest fabric purchase, my massive ring of keys, work badge, etc. It is lovely and you can send it my way if it is not well received. I agree with you on sewn purses. My one and only attempt resulted in a huge expenditure on Amy Butler fabric and a purse pattern with instructions written by someone, who I swear, had never sewn.

  14. That purse is a magnificent work of art. I love the shape of it, the colour everything. If she doesnt want it recycle it for my birthday.
    HOw is kindy going this year?

  15. For a second I thought you wrote that she was talking to her petticoat rather than taking to it. I was off in Amyland imagining the conversation. Perhaps the skirt was sceaming as the birds do have a touch of Hitchcock. I think I also saw the hint of a library spine sticker there. I'm going to have to look that book up.

    Well done on the bag. It's just like a bought one, only more exclusive.

  16. That bag is lovely and I'd like to think she will use it. What Mother doesn't appreciate a homemade gift? Glad you included the scowl shot because it looked a lot smaller hanging on the door. You realise the bag potential in your life is only going to get bigger. School bags, swimming bags, day trip bags. Little B will supply endless opportunities.

  17. Great bag. I'm glad you included a photo of yourself with the bag because I had imagined something much smaller. I agree handmade bags are a struggle. Once I make up a bag, I'm always pondering whether I would have paid that much for it in a shop - usually the answer is no. Bummer! Oh well, they do say the journey is worth so much more than the destination.

  18. Would using an industrial leather or upholstery sewing machine help?Or, is it just the ackwardness of getting the fabric to pass through a small space? The bag is lovely and your MIL should be tickled!

  19. This is one cute bag! She is lucky to get it... it's beautifully made!
    I've always founds bags quite challenging and fiddly. And the proportions have to be just right or the bag looks "homemade" (you know what I mean). I really like the pattern you've used here. Would look amazing in suede.

  20. That's a great bag, and surely your MIL will LOVE it! Anyone would. Nice sewing!

  21. That is such a cute purse - I really should make one.

    Hope all your family is safe...