I’ve been so excited to try Don Morin’s clutch pattern ever since I read his article in Threads Magazine and the related blog post. As soon as I read it, my imagination took off.
I started looking for the perfect materials. I have a stash of fabric for just such an occasion. The black exterior fabric is a little hard to describe. It has a subtle crackle texture. It looks a bit like leather from a distance, but it’s fairly thin. I decided to give it a little extra body with some fusible fleece. For the interior, I found a great leopard print remnant that was the perfect size.
The hardware was a little more challenging. All of the D-Rings I found were so large, they would be overwhelming to the bag. That was one of the things that caused me to delay starting on this little adventure. Yes, it was totally an experiment, but I wasn’t satisfied to settle for just anything. It’s funny how when I know exactly what I want, I can never find it. In this case, it was D-Rings smaller than 1”. That frustration gave way to inspiration in the aisles of Hobby Lobby. I was checking the jewelry section – just in case there was a hidden stash of D-Rings – and I happened to look down and see a chain. Not just any ordinary chain. This was a giant version of the ball chains that you use for keys or dog tags. Wow! Who needs D-Rings. I’m headed straight for the grommet section now!
This design also calls for an exposed zipper. This is a great opportunity for a fun, expressive zipper. I found several that I thought we possibilities. My favorite has rhinestones on the zipper teeth. I grabbed a few others as well – just in case.
Assembly was a bit challenging. I don’t always make choices that make life easy. I had decided to make the divider from a single layer of clear vinyl. That added some extra challenge. Also, turns out, adding the fusible fleece to the exterior made a nice sturdy bag, but it made for challenging sewing. Four layers of fabric, plus two layers of fleece plus one layer of vinyl equals something just shy of the maximum my sewing machine can handle. I ended up having to make some compromises but, over all, I’m happy with the result.
Oh yeah, the rhinestone zipper didn’t make the cut. The assembly process just wasn’t favorable for a zipper with fussy alignment issues. I got it installed, but it wouldn’t zip properly. I ripped it out and replaced it with a satiny water resistant zipper with much better results. I’ll save the sparkles for another project. I don’t really miss them on this one.
Tell me what you think!
Every perfectionist knows the self-talk that comes with the territory. It is often said that “I am my own worst critic.” Why is that? Where does that inner critic come from?
As a young child, we know nothing of limits. We imagine without boundaries. We create with abandon. We try without fear. When we fall, we get up. When the door doesn’t open, we try again. Then, one day, something happens. A critique makes us question. A look makes us cringe. An exclamation make us fear.
A new voice joins to the Critics’ Chorus.
Over the year, our chorus grows. Every negative comment that stings us to our soul reverberates in our failures. “What were you thinking?” they say. “Why did you think you could do that?” they mock. Even when we have practiced until our craft becomes second nature, we are not immune to the whispers that cause us to doubt.
So how do I silence the critics that resides in my mind? Too many times, I have taken the course of avoidance. Play it safe and stay firmly inside the ole’ comfort zone. If I only try things when I know I can succeed the first time, surely those guys won’t have any ammunition. It’s a strategy, but it’s not a life.
Lately, I have tried a different tactic. I look at the freedom of young children and dream of having that back. Why not? What is different with them. I believe it’s because they know that not succeeding isn’t the end of the world. Notice I said “not succeeding” instead of “failing.” That’s not an accident. If I see every unsuccessful attempt as “failure” I open the door to those doubts and turn up the volume.
If, instead, I see those same attempts as steps toward mastery, then those doubts fall away. “What was I thinking?” I’m thinking that this attempt was closer than last time. Maybe next time, I’ll get it! Get up and try again. Rip it out and start again (for my crocheting friends). It will be okay because this is a work in progress. I take a deep breath and remember that this is a journey, not a one-time event.
A voice in the chorus goes silent. There is freedom in that silence.
I hope, one day, to completely replace my critics’ chorus with a noisy cheering section. “There you go!” “Nice job!” “That’s what I’m talking about!” One day…
I believe the biggest challenge I face as I try new things is not stalling out. It seems like I start a project and, as long as I feel like I’m making progress, I can move forward. However, the first time I hit a snag that take more than a day to overcome, I get a visit from my old friend, Inertia. It is hard to find the motivation to pick up keep going. It doesn’t help that I have a bit of a wandering eye when it comes to projects. Actually, I think it is more akin to Attention Deficit Project Disorder. Any project that takes more than a few days is in danger of getting bumped by the next thing that catches my eye.
I have made it a goal for this next year to not give in to my ADPD. In fact, I actually want to go back and revisit some stalled projects. I have made peace with the fact that I have taken my alligator purse as far as I can with the tools that I now own.
Perhaps one day, I will get a sewing machine that can do the top-stitching through the layers. When that time comes, I will bring it back out and finish triumphantly! For now, I am content and consider it complete.
With that decided, I took a look around for UFOs (unfinished objects) hiding in corners and closets. Guess what I found lurking!
This is a bag that I started months ago during my “felting” phase. I crocheted it from wool in eight squares: four for the front and four for the back joined with a gray band. Once assembled, I threw it in the washer for several cycles until satisfied with the degree of felting. I shaped it around a box and allowed it to dry. The handle is one long crocheted strip – also felted. That’s how far I got before I stalled.
I couldn’t decide how I wanted to line the bag. At this point, I hadn’t taken any of the classes on Craftsy. In fact, this is before I even know about Craftsy at all. I knew that I didn’t know what I needed to know. I did manage to find a couple of options that I thought would be nice for lining fabrics.
Now was the time. After taking the two classes that demonstrated techniques for making linings, I was finally ready to move ahead. I decided to use the same burgundy satin that I used as the pocket lining on my leather bag. I measured and calculated and put it together.
Because the strap hardware was already attached to the bag exterior making the top edge three layers thick, I decided to simply slip the lining into the exterior and top-stitch it into place instead of using the normal assembly technique. There were a couple of places that the machine balked at the thickness, but it was simple enough to slip stitch those areas. So there you go. One less UFO in my house. I have replaced it with a great comfy bag and found my motivation in the process!
I have to admit that finding out my old sewing machine could successfully sew my leather made me a little giddy – probably because I had been so discouraged with my earlier results. I was anxious to get moving. I knew I was limited in the types of seams I could do, so I decided to simplify my bag design. I chose a smaller bag that would only have seams at the sides and bottom. The lining would have leather facing at the top and the rest would be charcoal-colored satin. The pattern was a variation of one that I saw in a different class on designing handbags. The lining was different, though, and I struggled in calculating the measurements.
I made my adjustments to my pattern pieces and cut out my exterior pieces. I made the commitment! No turning back now. Next I cut the leather for the facings and the satin for the lining. I cut pieces for a patch pocket and a zippered pocket. Then I applied the interfacing to all the satin pieces to give them a little more body. I was on a roll!
I was so curious about how the exterior was going to look, that I completely forgot my list of steps.
Yes, I jumped straight from 1 to 4. Then, to make matters worse, I went from 4 to 5. That might not have been that big a deal with fabric. I could have ripped it out and gone back a step. With leather, however, once you sew, you don’t rip out – the holes are made. I sat at the table with a beautiful exterior and no way to attach handles. Adding the tabs was going to be harder, but not terrible. I could do that.
The lining, however, was another matter. Ever since I had started planning this purse, I had dreams of everything it could be. It would be the perfect bag. It would have exactly the pockets I wanted. They would be perfect, and well-behaved, and just the right size. Unfortunately, in about five minutes time, I had put that dream in serious jeopardy. My lining was assembled. Leather to satin, front to back. No going back. And absolutely no pockets of any kind. Yikes.
In my enthusiasm to see results, I had made things so much harder than they should have been. If I had only stopped to take a breath and review the plan. I looked at the lining and I looked at the pocket pieces and knew I had just created a puzzle for myself. How to retrofit pockets into places my sewing machine wasn’t going to want to go. I was able to twist things around and hold my mouth just right and get the patch pocket installed. That was interesting. Probably a little funny to watch, too.
The zipper pocket was a whole different matter. No amount of twisting or turning was going to allow me to sew that in the normal way. I had to give up on the idea, or come up with a totally different solution. After several tries and a bunch of angry words, I ended up with a zipper pocket that I could add into my lining. The leather surrounding the zipper was really only sewn right next to the zipper teeth. That way, it could act like a flange. I cut a whole in the lining and slipped the leather through the hole. It looked like it had been there all along.
Securing it into place was my next challenge. I couldn’t sew it. I ended up using some glue for fabric and leather to hold the leather in place.
Reading this, it sounds so logical and simple. It took me hours and hours to get this figured out. It seems like every step I took, I would do something bone-headed that would force me to change my plan. Eventually, I got it, though. Never give up. Never surrender.
Pockets and hardware now in place, I assembled the lining and the exterior. It was magical. All of the hard work was worth it. It wasn’t complete, but it was so close. A few more finishing touches and I could call it done.
I think this may be the inspiration I have been seeking! I am going to try one in fabric first, then maybe I will make one with my leftover leather. Tell me what you think!
“High Octane Clutch”
Check out my latest quick-to-make project for Threads magazine and create a clutch with clean lines and a contrast zipper like a racing stripe across the body. Available options include detachable wrist or shoulder straps, and an interior divider. You can take this streamlined concept and make it travel with interesting zippers, hardware, and eye-catching textured fabrics or faux leathers. It’s a great stash-buster project, because you can use fusible interfacing to change the fabric’s hand and weight and make a wide variety of textiles work for this accessory.
The construction is speedy for a few reasons. The bag exterior and lining are each single, folded pieces. The layers are sewn as one unit and finished later, to halve the number of bag elements you make and handle. The finished bags have folds at top and bottom, curved side seams, and 1/2-inch wide seam…
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I will freely admit that my last post was a bit of a cliffhanger. That’s how it was, though. I went to bed that night thinking that I was a failure.
However, I knew two things:
That’s the part of me that went into overdrive as I drifted off to sleep.
I could hand-sew a bag. I hate to admit it, but I’m not sure I could see that through. I am a person of unfinished projects and I live among a people of unfinished projects. Heck, I live in a house full of unfinished projects. Nope. I want to DO this.
Somewhere, in the haze of half-sleep, a thought drifted into mind. My previous sewing machine had been languishing on a shelf in my closet. I had intended to sell it in my next yard sale. It’s a bit of a joke, after all.
I bought it back in 2001 or 2002. I was too broke to buy a computerized machine, but I still wanted lots of stitches. I found the Singer IZEK. My kids thought it was the coolest sewing machine ever – not because they knew anything about sewing machines. It was because it was attached to a Game Boy Color!!! Yes, that’s right. This machine used a Game Boy as it’s computer. It came with a game cartridge that stored all of the stitches. The boys (then somewhere around ages 6 and 8) told me if I didn’t get it for me, I should at least get it for Dad. HA! Yeah, right. But, hey, the price was right and it would get the job done. Eventually, I got frustrated with it and put it away along with my sewing aspirations. Now, it was sitting with my garage sale stash. I decided that if I was going to break a machine, it may as well be one that was worth about ten bucks.
The next morning, I got reacquainted with Izek. I set it up according to directions and gathered my leather scraps. Big deep breath. Here goes everything!
SUCCESS!!! This goofy, out-dated, Game-Boy-for-brains sewing machine was sewing leather!! It wasn’t perfect, but it was progress. I could tell that the tension wasn’t quite right, so I made a test strip. I set the tension starting at 0 and progressing up to 9, sewing a line for each. None of them were quite perfect, but I picked the one that I thought would do the best. Unfortunately, I could find no way to adjust the bobbin tension. That might have actually helped. But for now, I had a tension setting that I was happy with for sewing seams where the stitching wouldn’t be seen.
One big shout out to my Craftsy instructor, Don Morin. When I was trying to solve these tension issues, I posted a question on the class platform. He was great. He gave me several things to try. That is one thing that I can say about this class. I have asked questions on several occasions and every time he has been great about responding with great information and encouragement.
The next step: time to cut those pattern pieces. The game is back on!