Thursday, 5 December 2013

Fabulous Fabric : Handmade bags (1)

I have always been inspired by the amazing designs and textures of fabric. As a matter of fact, when I was a teenager I made my own clothes on an old sewing machine I got from my mum. It took about 25 years but one day earlier this year it just happened; my love for sewing came back and I was eager to pick it up again! The old sewing machine was taken down from the attic where it was stored for such a long time. After reading the manual, I started to remember again how the machine worked (it really is like driving a car) and tested some stitching on some cloth. But suddenly, smoke came out of the motor!!! I thought that was the end, but couldn't give up yet. I thoroughly cleaned and oiled the mechanical parts worked!!!

Vintage sewing machine

My first project was making a purse. I bought an instruction book about making handbags "Sew Serendipity Bags" by Kay Whitt, funky fabric from an American supplier via Other haberdasheries like closures and interfacing I purchased online too.

Instruction book I used to make my bags

Although the machine was able to sew fine through thin layers of fabric, it was unfortunately not coping well with multiple layers of fabric and interfacing together (e.g. handles). I finished some parts off by hand and this is the result!


Realising I wanted to sew more and that my birthday was coming up soon, I asked for a new sewing machine: Janome Excell 5024. Oh, what a difference with my old one. It was just a breeze to sew through many layers now!

My new sewing machine

My second project was born quickly; another handbag but this time bigger and a special one for my mum who is a musical talent (oratorium and piano). I had already found some gorgeous fabric of music on Ebay and with some scrap fabric I found at Aberdeen Forward, golden coloured fabric at my local craft shop Meg's Attic and grommets from donated curtains at the local Red Cross shop, I just had to assemble it with the clear instructions in the book.

I'm really pleased with the result and had raving reviews on my personal Facebook page. The biggest compliment however was when I gave it to my mum; she was very emotional and touched when she saw it! She didn't expect something like this at all and could hardly believe I made it myself.

Shoulder handbag

Curtain grommtes have been used for the handles

Interior of scrap upholstery fabric

Magnetic closure inside

Side view of bag

The bag has been enforced with interfacing on the side and bottom

Stitched handles with golden thread

Quilted stitches on top of wadded fabric

I have already started two new projects again; aprons (for myself and as Christmas present) and my evening dress. As soon as I have finished these (bare with me because the evening dress has already proved to be a challenge!) I will post it here again.


  1. Lovely bags! I have made one that fits my walker as a hand free bag, and makes a cute purse. I am working on a pattern for others to make their own, I just have to actually figure out how I did it! For my first bag I just started cutting and sewing. The measuring and planning part is a challenge.

  2. Thanks so much, Nicole! I'm very interested to see how you get on with your pattern. Keep in touch.

  3. Your bags are both beautiful Fen, and I particularly like your mother's music-inspired one. My embroidery course requires me to make a fashion accessory and you have given me inspiration.

  4. Oh, how wonderful to hear this Catherine, thank you! I'm looking forward to see your creation in due course.