Wednesday, 31 January 2007


There are projects and then there are projects.

Sometimes I look back on something I've made and wonder why - why I ever thought it was a good idea to go down that road. Why I didn't tust all those instincts that were putting up road blocks along the way, why I tried so hard to push through the procrastination and ignore the warning signs. Everything was telling me not to procede, why didn't I listen? Is it bull headedness that makes me persist just because I once thought up the idea, or is there something deeper at work?

I can tell you where this project started. About four years ago, whilst shopping in a shoe factory outlet near my house I was drawn to a bin of leather remnants. At the time I was contemplating making some little shoes for Amy, who was still crawling I think. She had a fabulous pair of soft leather boottees that did up across the back seam with velcro. They were so practical AND good looking and I had managed to convince myself that they would be simple simple simple to make.

So the leather bin. In it I found a whole hide of very nice purple leather, it had a good weight and was well tanned and finished and if it was a little too shiny it didn't worry me at the time. Purple was the central colour of Amy's wardrobe, so I figured it was perfect and it was only $5 or something completely rediculous. How could I not?

Of course I didn't make the boottees. I can't remember exactly why, but any number of things could have come between me and that project. For a start an almost complete lack of skills and experience in working with leather. So the rolled up hide lay on the shelf for the next few years.
The next part of the story was when I spied a box of magnetic metal handbag fasteners at one of my favourite fabric stores in Thailand. I know there's nothing special about these fasteners, they are a dime a dozen in any self-respecting craft shop here in Oz, but at the time they swept me away. I love magnetic handbag fasteners for some inexplicable reason and I'd never noticed them for sale before. I began imagining all kinds of gorgeous handbags.

It didn't take long for the leather to meet the fasteners and for me to start getting ideas above my station (as they say). Somehow I convinced myself I could make a really good handbag. A perfect purple handbag. A handbag for my new mother life, funky and practical, handmade but still quality, that would go on the pusher handles or over my shoulder or sash style across my chest, that would be light but roomy, with pockets for my gadgets.

But you know what? It takes a lot of skill to sew leather, and while my dinky little domestic machine had no trouble getting through the hide, it was a complete bitch to make. The feed dogs just gripped the leather like glue, and the upper layer stretched with gay abandon while the lower layer did its own thing. No pins?! My perfectly drawn pattern pieces wouldn't fit and I had to unpick and re sew and patch (patch!) and change strategies and try to cover stitch holes after the fact. The sewing is sloppy and the stitch lengths vary from microscopic to gargantuan. The curves are not smooth, the strap is wonky and clunky. And it seems very very purple. And shiny.

Perhaps it will grow on me. Perhaps it will wear-in well and the wrinkles I see in it's construction will smooth with age. Perhaps I will even grow fond of it.

And that's the funny thing about those projects that have you swearing and throwing bits about the room and sulking and saying (loudly), it's fucked.

Sometimes, when you are lucky, they stop being reminders of failure and dashed expectations and start being symbols of what you really value about this crafting caper. They start saying I had an idea and I made it happen. It didn't matter that I wasn't an expert or that the sewing is a bit wonky or that it doesn't measure up to Birkin Bag standards. I persisted and I problem solved and even if I never sew leather again, I learned some interesting and valuable things.

Here's hoping.

And some gratuitous Art by Amy on the offcuts of the bathroom shelves D has been making.

Yes, that would be an open box cutter next to her bare feet. Hmmm.

And some gorgeous chunky earrings made by my cousin, whose day job (or is it night job?) is singing opera. What talent! Thanks so much Dimity, they are lovely. There will be some sock monkeys coming your way real soon! And sorry for the dim photo.
Only 12 sleeps till Thumper!


Janet said...

The stitching looks pretty good to me. Sewing leather is full of expletives, in my experience... But handmade is handmade and I still love my greenie, with all the wonkiness. Twelve days? Yikes. At least the weather is being a bit more friendly.

Stacy said...

best wishes on your baby journey! I think your bright! purple! shiny! bag actually looks quite, quite lovely in your photos. I do hope it grows on you - as it looks like it could be toted as a stylish diaper bag soon! Good luck!

rfg said...

That bag is very impressive. I hope you grow to love it; it looks fantastic!

shula said...

Poor Sooz, you needed a walking foot, a must for grief-free sewing. It stops the dog feeders from pulling. Without one, it's a nightmare.

Beautiful job, though.

justine said...

it looks great!

sueeeus said...

I think you did a great job, and twelve days! Oh my! Are you having a c-section, having labor induced, or is it 12 days until your due date?

ms. pea said...

okay, now i think that's one helluva bag, myself.

Di said...

I've heard there are definite tricks to sewing leather on domestic machines- type of needle, presser foot and dealing with tension too- your post confirms it!
I want to learn, and I need to do something with the leather we have lying around here, and the japanese books I have... (baby shoes and handbag are top of the list) All I need now is time, including time to experiment and (from what you've said) practice swearing ;)

samantha said...

the bag looks pretty good to me! and you'll be the owner of a one off, unique, very funky nappy bag. not many mummy's can say that without paying out a small fortune.

Rachael said...

I love the shiny purple bag! You may have inspired me to try my hand at leather..? My hubby has been hinting at me making some bike bags for him, but I'm afraid, so afraid of leather...
But I did find that when I was using fake leather to make some nifty little tags that putting tissue paper over them helped keep them from getting stuck. Then I just pulled the paper off. It helped when I used bigger stitches.
Anyway, be proud of your bag, I would be!

Sara said...

beautiful bag! Just wanting to ask where you can get those magnetic fasteners here in Oz? I'm from Sydney and have looked in Lincraft and Spotlight to no success.