Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Patches of Happy -- My Bohemian Bag Story--It's Wearable Art!

Sometimes, when you really want something special--you find a way to make it yourself! My patch-happy bohemian bag came to be for several reasons. I do a lot of walking, and I love cross-body style bags. I prefer eclectic, imperfect bags. I love to be green and repurpose things. And, I love just about anything made with patches--especially when the fabric making up the patches holds memories and sentiment.

So there you go.

Oh, and I'm not a fan of using a pattern! I tend to free-stitch and make things up as I go along. This can be good and bad...and I'm showing all the warts here! Mistakes that I made because of the fact I didn't use a pattern. I think the next bag will be even better though!
I started by cutting up fabric scraps.
This denim was a little boring--so I quickly embroidered these patches.
I realized I wanted a lot of embroidery--and I found some my talented mother-in-law stitched, decades ago!
As I started pulling fabrics and scraps, I cut them all into 3X3 squares. This was the perfect size for my bag. Each side ended up with four rows of five squares each. So, a total of 40 patches! I was so happy to find some embroidered motifs my mother-in-law had stitched long ago and gave to me at some point. It was in my stash, and of course, I had forgotten all about it. I love this embroidery now, on my bag! So her work is now part of my wearable art--sweet!
This one is one of my faves--she looks like Snow White!
After arranging my patches, just the way I wanted them--I started stitching the rows together first.
There's a little owl I embroidered a few months ago.

This looks pretty easy right? And it is easy to stitch the patches together. But here's what happened...not all the rows seem to line up perfectly when I started to stitch rows together. I have no idea why, because I did stitch the patches pretty uniformly--and they are all measured fairly perfectly. So who knows--it's a good thing I don't care if it's perfect!
I was pretty excited when I got each side done. I had to lay them out and admire them for a day or two!
Even after ironing my pieces--with a regular iron, not this one--there was a stubborn wrinkle, so I set this extremely old, very heavy iron on it for a couple of days!
After staring at the stitched-together patches, I realized I would need a border on the bottom, so I cut two three-inch strips of ticking (nice and heavy duty) which would be the bag's bottom, and the same fabric for two strips around the top. I decided to use an old lanyard for the bag's strap. I snipped one side of the lanyard, and then embellished it with small strips of fabric, and a few buttons. At that point, I began thinking about adding eyelets.
In the meantime, as I sewed the first strip of ticking to the bottom, I had a mishap--when I turned it over, it had pinched and gathered on two of my patches! Here we go--my lovely imperfections. So...I added decorative buttons. (when stitching gives you lemons--make lemonade)
I love the butterfly patch here--it's from a pair of jeans my daughter used to wear when she was ten!
It didn't completely hide it--but good enough for me.
The other bottom strip stitched up just fine. So then, I used some iron-on paper to add some chintz fabric for the lining, and also to stiffin it up--that's when it started to feel like a real bag! Mistake number two: I was so excited about the eyelets, that I put them into the top strip (to eventually attach to the strap) before I had stitched the sides together. I had put them way too close to the edge! 
The bottom strip seemed a little boring on this side--so I appliqued a heart!
Before stitching the sides together, I had added a pocket to this side of the lining, and pinned in a part of another old lanyard, so that I could use it to clip in keys! I love this feature. Please everyone--send me your old lanyards!
I added the eyelets in the proper place after stitching the bag together.

 I added button holes for the bag's closure too. I love these flower eyelets.
I used the clip that was already part of one side of the lanyard, then added an eyelet and a ring to the other side to attach my strap.
The green satin patch is from my costume I wore in the King and I--and I stitched a crochet flower to another patch.
I love my bag and all its sentiments and imperfections! So what's next? A bag for my teenage daughter, of course. She LOVES owls, so I am embroidering 20 little owl patches to make a very cool owl bag. I might try a zipper top this time, and hopefully no bumpy patches in the stitching!



  1. That really is a little work of art! x Jo

  2. I love the story behind the creating! And I love the way you turn the 'problems' into design triumphs too :)
    Hugs x