Sunday, November 13, 2011

Swimming in a Sea of Fabrics

Oh friends, I have been for FABRIC. Yummy yummy fabric. You see, I've come to a realization: when you're making bags (or sewing anything, I suppose), it really is all about the fabric. Seeing how it behaves (is it thick and unruly when folded or does it glide right under the presser foot like a dream?), and picking a lining that "sings" with the outer fabric.

And then, once I've picked my fabric, I must decide on the right look and shape for each particular bag. I swear to you, some of the bags I have been making lately speak to me (and, unbelievably, it's not because I've been making so many bags that I'm losing my mind.) What I mean is that I look at each one as I'm making it, hold it up to the side of my body (you know, like it's a bag), and if I pay attention, it tells me if I'm on the right track...if the bag is showing the fabric in its best possible light. If it's wrong, I simply turn it inside out and start trimming away to create a new shape, almost like I'm whittling away at it, and then sew it up into a new configuration. In this process, I've learned that I prefer to eyeball things rather than measure. And I've also learned that I don't like to make the same bag twice.
In some instances, like with this hot pink checkered bag, it would be nearly impossible to make the same bag twice since I used an old wool skirt as the bag body. It was a sweet little skirt, but it had some holes near the hem, so its days as clothing were over. But now it lives again in a new form! And since it was made from an old vintage skirt, there is literally no other skirt out there just like it. So this is it folks!
I've also committed to a checkered lining theme. Don't even ask me how this happened. Sometimes you're just in the fabric shop and all of a sudden something seems so RIGHT. Before I knew it, I had ten yards of a thin cotton checkered fabric in five different shades. Including orange! (When I got home, I literally could not remember why in the world I needed orange, but c'est la vie...I'm sure I'll find a use for it.)
In my opinion, the checkers work equally well with neutral modern fabrics, vintage 80s style fabrics, and even with this Indian fabric above! In this case, the crimson checkered lining has a keffiyeh-like effect, which I'm way into.
A word about this Indian fabric: it is so amazing! My mom bought it for me on Etsy last year, and they are actually fat quarters cut from old saris that a woman in India then mails to people all over the world. I've been trying to figure out all year what to do with these, and I love love love seeing them put to use in bags. I decided to go a little girlier with the orange sari fabric above and picked a floral lining. (Yes, the orange check fabric with the orange sari fabric was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much.)

So yes, so far I have found fabrics from vintage skirts in thrift stores, from discount fabric shops, and from Indian saris. But last week, I couldn't resist also buying some new pretty upholstery-weight fabrics from Fabricworm. They're just so luxurious! And vibrant! Oh, I had such a hard time choosing, and yes, I wound up going with just about every color of the rainbow. And so, going in rainbow spectrum, here's a pic of each fabric, all of which are destined to become HeyAllday Handmade bags. 

From what I can tell, I have no discernible palette, which might well be a problem when you look at all of the bags together. But for me, as foggy as it may be, I see a through-line: The fabric must have a sense of humor. Whether it has a lively design or features an elephant or a whale, there must be something that is just slightly over the top. I love the gold of the sari fabric because it's just so gutsy and glitzy, not trying to hide from anything. And sometimes the size of the bags I make is comically large, the straps generously long, and yeah, I find that kind of funny too. Though it's also practical!

But what's interesting--and what I've only just recently come to understand--is that once I've made one bag one way with a particular fabric, I'm not interested in making it that way ever again. Why pretend that I'm a factory? Each piece is meant to enchant me while I make it, and hopefully, enchant others too when they see it. And for me, there is nothing quite as enchanting as transforming a yard of glorious fabric.


  1. Those fabrics are all so pretty! You make me want alllllllll the bags. Good think Christmas is coming up.

    (You remember that the sock monkeys started speaking to me, right? Be careful of those bags you're making. Especially if they start telling you to do things.)

  2. Erin, know what? For Christmas I was planning to give you ALL the bags!

    And of course I remember when the sock monkeys started talking to you. That was a very important lesson (and one that all crafters should heed): when your crafts start talking to you, it's time to take a little break-y-poo.

  3. I really want to find my crafts boxes...I do remember Erin talking to her sock monkeys. Erin, time for making more sock monkeys - this time they could be from around the world- just like grandma Neva's dolls. Asian monkey, American Indian monkey, France monkey, Persian monkey. and Liana has some fabrics you could borrow.