Sew hard, sew fast!

As summer rapidly descended into fall, my motivation to sew pretty summer clothes descended with it.

I am left with several metres of gorgeous fabric, but the inability to wear projects soon after completion has sapped me entirely of the desire to create them. Despite what my patient hand sewing over several days or weeks might say about me, I need INSTANT gratification. Waiting for the endless Canadian winter to go by with pretty summer clothes mocking me as they wait in my closet to be worn would make my usually mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder a full blown case of Seasonal Affective Dementia.

I exaggerate, of course. But only mildly.

Nevertheless, the urgent need to sew pretty skirts and dresses left me come September, but the urgency to create something else and write about it did not. I knew I would turn to other sewing or embroidery during the winter but cushion covers and the like didn’t seem exciting enough to actually get started on. I needed something I could…WEAR.
The idea for the project I share now has been with me for some time, and given the weather and my mood recently, two days ago seemed the perfect time to do it. It is not an original idea, but a modification of something I saw at a Harbourfront street stall and thought the price tag was too exorbitant, even though it was made by artisans in Peru and buying it would be supporting them and what not. After the initial disappointment of the price tag, my mind instantly went into “I CAN MAKE IT AT HOME FOR FREE” mode. Since then I have been working and reworking it abstractly in my head and have been on a hunt for materials, which I finally found in my good old fabric store.

Without further yap, follow along if you will, as I put together a unique alternative to the little black evening purse…

I started with very thick, almost upholstery grade felt.

From Sew What

I wanted a prettier colour, but apparently they don’t usually make industrial felt in canary yellow, so I settled for chocolate brown.

I knew I wanted it to be circular, not too big, but not so teensy as to fit nothing bigger than my pinky finger. I finally settled on a regular dinner plate size. Literally.

From Sew What

I marked and cut out two identical circles to make the main body of the purse and then went around my kitchen searching for something that would be the ideal measurement for the handles. I settled on one of my smaller juice glasses and marked and cut out perfect circle shaped holes towards the top of the main circles.

From Sew What

Along with wanting it to be pretty, I wanted this purse to be practical and most importantly durable. With that in mind, I set about reinforcing the handles. Once again I hunted about the kitchen and found a soup cup with a circumference slightly larger than that of the juice glass. Compasses and actual tools are for sissies! I cut out a soup cup sized circle and then within it, cut out a juice glass sized circle and arranged the resulting strip around the handle on what would be the inside of the purse, like so:

From Sew What

I must mention here that I bought my very first hot glue gun for the express purpose of bonding felt to felt and it worked very well. Not only did it get the two layers of fabric to adhere, upon drying it sort of hardened a bit, adding a touch of stiffness that was not necessary, but welcome nonetheless.

Once I reinforced both handles, I began debating whether I wanted to simply sew the two main circles together or attach a strip of felt between the two circles, to give it more depth and dimension. Sewing the two pieces together would be a) less hassle b) less pain and c) satisfy my impatience and get me to the finish line faster. However, as I mentioned earlier, I wanted this to be practical and usable as well as pretty. Simply sewing the pieces together would result in a flat, impractical sack that bulged everytime something was put in it. Not attractive. I went with option 2, attaching a strip of fabric between the two circles, so that the purse could hold some basics and look like something more than a flattened pie crust, or worse, poop splat!

Initially, I was sure hand sewing extra thick felt would be an uphill struggle and I’d at best be in pain, at worst be a cripple at the end of it. I even bought special needles for the job. It turns out though, that the slightly longer, thicker needles among my regular sewing needles did just fine and the whole process was MUCH easier than first anticipated. The only difficult part was bending the straight strip against the curve of the circle, holding it together, and pushing the needle through all at the same time. I managed by alternately pinching it together as hard as I could and actually pushing the pieces against my whole torso to make them bend right.

From Sew What

Due to the nature of the material, I sewed on the outside or right side because sewing on the inside and turning it out just wouldn’t work. I just did a quick, tight tacking stitch as I planned on neatening and decorating after the basic body was complete.
The strip of felt goes a little past halfway up the circle and as shown above forms the beginnings of the bottom or base of the purse; though since its a circle, it really just forms the body or third dimension if you will.
Once the first piece was tacked on, the second piece was easier and turned out neater too. I just sat it on top of the now upright standing strip, pinched together and ploughed through it!

From Sew What

Once that was done, it was pretty much a free standing structure.

From Sew What

Now all that was left was some obsessing over minute details and finishing touches.

As I mentioned earlier, the tacking was rough, almost frenzied as it was a fight to keep the curved and straight surfaces together and once they were held together, I had to move fast to keep them that way. Instead of trying to cover up the tacks completely, which might have looked a bit hackneyed, I chose to do a thick blanket stitch detail around the edges.

From Sew What

The embroidery too, was surprisingly pain free and for all practical purposes, merged with the tacking and looked quite acceptable.

Hereafter I cut out a few simple circles and some leaf shapes from cream, green and a gorgeous purple shade of felt – a much much lighter felt, though not quite craft class felt. I felt this felt to be the appropriate felt for accents and such like. I didn’t particularly try to make them perfect – I like the irregular, hand made feel. Really.
I placed and glued the eggplant circles on top of the cream ones and arranged them in a simple pleasing pattern, marked the exact spots on the main body and hot glued them on.

From Sew What

At this point I thought I was pretty much done and was clicking away happily, when the manly man pointed out that the contents of this purse might be a little too accessible if I left it open, without any fasteners or a zipper. I didn’t want to do too much more work and I was really enjoying the simplicity of my now unfinished piece so I came up with a simple, elegant solution.
I covered a small bead with a scrap bit of cream felt to make a button and used a small strip of green felt for a loop. I attached them on opposite sides with some simple stitching and an unobtrusive, functional fastener emerged. I’m not sure how much of a difference it made or how much of a deterrent it might be to a determined lip gloss thief, but appearances are everything right? Right!

From Sew What

And that was that. Within less than 5 hours I was done. Basically, from the second I got home from work, to about midnight. Its been so long that this project felt so urgent and so NECESSARY to my sanity. I could not let it sit and finish it the next day. I feel like a weight has been lifted thanks to creative release. AAAHHH!

From Sew What

This bag is now on display and up for sale at the PopUp Art Shop. Check my latest post for details 😀

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8 responses to “Sew hard, sew fast!

  1. Excellent chaddi! Good call on reinforcing the handles. I would not have thought of that. You should make a few more and put them on Etsy.

    • Many thanks!

      Sacchi? Shall I put some on Etsy? I wish I had more time. Will spend one whole weekend working on stuff and then get an Etsy account maybe..

  2. WOOOOOWWWW
    you are such a genious!!
    And I love it!
    It is so cute and it looks so easy for you when you are doing picture by picture, but I am sure it is very hard work!!
    Love it and nicely done! Creative and stylish!!

  3. I say go for it. That’s how Modcloth and Gilt got started. You just never know – it may well be your “out”.

    Also, you need to put a meta widget on this page.

  4. MOVE OVER, LOUIS VUITTON! This little lady is on her way to making very big things! hahaha

  5. Hehehehhehe… this has GOT to be one of my all time favourites! Yaay!

  6. wooooooooooooooooooooooooooow—i stumbled on this site and i am speechless. you are very talented.

  7. Thanks Angela!

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