Handbag Woes: Lessons I Learned From Making a Purse

While I can admire and envy crafty genius such as my sewing aunts, I am not sure I necessarily have what it takes to be one. I tend to get a bit impatient which leads to rushing the process and the project.  I also have a very hard time coming to terms with the fact that often what I have created is no where near the vision in my head.  It’s always been a mystery how my aunts can create amazing scarves, quilts and even baby blankets with such ease.

About a decade ago, I spent my free time creating very cute patchwork hobo bags for friends and family.  I used spare fabric from old purses, t-shirts and sheets I found at Goodwill.  I would experiment with the size, shape and closures (like zippers version buttons). It was one pattern and one method that overtime I was able to reproduce with ease.

As with most things, changes in my lifestyle, career or even recreation drastically decreased my time behind the sewing machine.  I can honestly say that the majority of my stitching up until recently had been to sew on buttons or hem a pair of too long pants.  The creative sewing projects became farther and fewer between.

Measuring Template and Fabric for DIY PurseWell, that was until last weekend.

Saturday morning I woke up inspired to design a handbag from the fabric runners leftover from our April wedding to hold my 8 inch tablet, a small wallet and my sunglasses case.   I’m also not a huge fan of big purses, which I lovingly call “carry-ons.”  I wanted it to be small for dodging out to the grocery store or meeting Mike at the local pub on date night but with a long strap to wear diagonally across the body.

I drafted a few images on my tablet and then roughed out a template on grid paper, double-checking each step to ensure that it would hold my precious cargo.  I carefully cut out each piece necessary for the tall rectangular design, including the extra-long strap and two pockets.  I ironed each piece, pinned the fabric together, and ironed again.

DIY Handbag - TroubleshootingIt wasn’t until I started working on the seams that I realized I may have not taken seam allowance into considerations. It was also around this time that the old habit of rushing the project kicked in. I managed to attach the long strap to both sides of the handbag without actually sewing the strap. Once that was pulled seam ripped, the strap sewn and sewn back into the bag, that’s when I realized that the bag was about half as big as I intended. It would barely hold my sunglasses.

I admit that I spiraled into a Negative Nellie. I was thinking that maybe I should leave the crafts to my talented aunts. A break was in order, so I boxed up the project.  I was completely going to write off the project and other sewing ideas.

Final Imperfect HandbagThe next morning, during a bike ride, I watched a teenager in the middle of the street working on just a simple flip of the board in which he lands back on the device. As I was approaching him, he attempted the flip but failed to make the landing. I saw his shoulders slump and his chest rise as he took a deep breath.  He popped the board up and started the process over again.

For the rest of the way home I thought about the skateboarder and my aunts. While some people may have a natural talent in a certain field, one must practice and practice to achieve impressive results. They have to take a deep breath and get back on the board.

I pulled the project out of the box, determined to learn all of the mistakes and lessons with the current attempt before starting a whole new one.  I decided that I wasn’t going to focus on what was wrong with the current one but treat it as a learning lesson. A prototype if you will.  The truth of it is, Dyson had about 5,000 prototypes before he released his first vacuum.

I took a deep breath, jumped back on the board and trying to image what my aunts would do when faced with an inside out and backwards sewn bag.

PurseWoes2With my seam ripper and trusty sewing machine, I managed to finish the handbag project.  My shift from seeking perfection to seeking a learning experience enabled the project to be a fun Sunday afternoon craft.  I wasn’t trying to compete with the idea in my head, but rather trying to troubleshoot the process.

In the end, although not perfect, I did finish the purse.  It’s a bit small for my intentions, but I think a young girl would enjoy the bag.

Next weekend, I plan to start a new one. i have high-hopes since I have pretty much cleared the road blocks with the last one.  However, I also realize that it’s only the second prototype and eventually they will get easier.