Monday, October 15, 2012

September, a Month of Bags


Photo by Lisa Walker

Some of you must wonder where I've been for the past month. I've been up to my ears in handbags! After years of considering it, I've decided to design a line of bags to sell. A pipe dream? Perhaps in the long run it will be. But in the short term, it's a success. Let me explain.

This flurry of bag sewing was determined by a potential meeting with a boutique owner in Bloomington, Indiana. My husband and I drove there in late September for a family gathering of sorts. Two of my sisters live there, and my brother drove my parents there from New York, for a week long stay. It's not often my entire family can spend time together, so it was a really special week. It turned out to be an artistic vacation of sorts, which I'll write about in another post.

Back to the boutique. It's called Relish, and the vibe is urban chic. They sell home goods, including furniture, art objects, women's clothing and shoes, jewelry, etc. One of my sisters is a good customer there, and knows the owner, Sharon, well. She contacted her ahead of our visit to see if she would meet with me about my new handbag venture. Sharon agreed, and we met at the store one rainy afternoon. She was a wealth of information as far as retailing my bags is concerned, and we quickly agreed that trunk shows would be a good way to start. I wasn't totally familiar with the nuts and bolts of trunk shows, but basically, the artist shows up with the goods, while the store owner invites her best customers and creates a party atmosphere. It's a low risk situation, where the shop owner can see how well a craft person's work will sell, without making an investment in the merchandise. The shop owner takes a small percentage of the sales, so the profit for the artist is typically far more than selling at wholesale prices.

Sharon liked my bags, suggested ideas for other designs, and offered to hold a trunk show in her store! I wasn't expecting that, so I was thrilled. It was such a positive affirmation of the work I've been doing for the past three months.

My goal for the winter is to design and make at least 50 bags to show in the spring. Sharon gave me some leads for boutiques in the greater Boston area, so I'll be pursuing that as well. Normally I wouldn't travel as far as Indiana, at least, not at the start. But this is a great opening opportunity, given that many of my sister's friends shop at Relish. It could be a fantastic party! Sharon recommended a boutique in Indianapolis, so I'll pursue that in hopes that I can do two shows in one trip.

Relish's vibe is very gray and muted, so I entered our meeting with a bit of a concern because of my love of using bright colors in my bags. Sharon was able to set color aside, and see the potential my bags have. I showed her the two I made in July and August, as well as these three:

This double bag is from Vogue 8590, by Marcy Tilton. I love the versatility this bag offers. It is two bags in one, and others could be switched in and out, creating infinite possibilities. I love the shape, and the hidden pocket beneath the front flap.

I also love the combination of fabrics I found from my stash and at Sawyer Brook.



The unique feature of the bags I'll design is painting. Sometimes the elements will be large, and sometimes small, such as the flourish on this flap. I often add paint to a solid lining, and to inner pockets. I added inner pockets to each of these bags, but they're difficult to see because the top opening of the bag is small.

I love this double bag idea, and plan to stretch it out into a clutch shape, so that I can use one for my wallet items. By adding slots for credit cards and cash, and a zippered pocket for change, it can be a small bag that I carry inside a tote bag. And I can make coordinating second clutches to carry with it when going out. Fun!

Photo by Lisa Walker
This design and the next are self-drafted. I wanted a small-ish bag that would hold essentials and be fun to carry to social events. The faux suede was a cinch to paint. I couldn't believe how easy it was to work with, and how well it took the paint.
Imagine my horror when, after many hours of designing and sewing, I mis-cut the slits for the magnetic snap! There was my bag, my first prototype, with 1/4 holes where they didn't belong. They were only a quarter of an inch off, but the snap itself wasn't large enough to cover the slits. Thankfully, I had just received a silk screen of my name (ordered from Marcy Tilton), and I was able to make a long label to cover the holes. This time, I put the snap in the right place!

The next bag is a slight variation on the same design. I refined the side panels a bit, and gave it double handles.
Photo by Lisa Walker
The colors of this bag were inspired by the lining fabric, a gorgeous rayon/poly jacquard from France. I fused a light interfacing to it, to give it stability.


While I was making this bag, I kept thinking of my sister's friend, Angela. She loves orange, and has an extensive handbag collection. I showed her the bag and a gathering, and the moment she set eyes on it, she claimed it as hers. I sold it to her on the spot, for a really good price. Another success!

So, why did this take a month? Because I'm not showing you the design that is still in the works, and two others that are near completion. And because of structure. I like a bag that has stiffness to it, so it doesn't stretch and bulge and whatnot when loaded. Craftex is the perfect product for stiffening the bag, but it can't be turned inside out easily. Consequently, sewing the linings into the bags has to be done by hand. Then, there's the edge stitching, which can be difficult to do through stiff fabric and interfacing layers. Much of my time has been spent just figuring out how to put the bags together. I expect that to continue with each design I make, but I hope it will all come more easily the deeper into it I get.

There's no telling where this venture will take me, but as long as I'm having fun doing it, that's ok with me. I'll be posting bags here as I make them, as well as garments I have in mind for myself. It's going to be a busy autumn and winter in the studio!

P.S. Who is Lisa Walker, and why did she take photos of my bags? She's my talented photographer sister. I wanted photos of Angela's bag before leaving it behind, so we did a photo shoot of bags.  Her work can be found at Lisa Walker Photography and on SmugMug.

19 comments:

  1. Dixie, your bags are wonderful! You have a great talent and I wish you luck & success in your endeavour. :)

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  2. Hi, Dixie, your bags are certainly "a cut above" others I've seen -- very classy. Good work on following your inspirations and hope the selling of them goes just the way you want it to go.

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  3. Dixie,

    Nice to see the progress - and best of luck as you go forward! We're going to have to bring you into the ASDP fold soon!

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  4. Dixie, I can 'hear' the excitement in your post! How fun and exciting! Your purses are gorgeous, as is your painting. I can see talent runs in your family - your sis does beautiful work too.

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  5. Omegoddess Dixie, how exciting is this??!! :D I'm THIS thrilled for you!!! :D Actually, if I had a tail to wag I'd be a-wagging it, and I am definitely grinning! Here's to success and job in this venture - can't wait to see and hear more!

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  6. I hope you'll have an Etsy store or some such...the bags are FABULOUS!

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  7. Thanks to all of you faithful readers for your comments. It's so wonderful to have the support of fellow sewists!

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    1. What wonderful bags, Dixie! You really have an eye and a gift. I would echo Margy's comments that you might want to start an etsy shop.

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  8. I am so excited for you Dixie. I know you are going to do well. Be sure to let me know when you will have your trunk show in Bloomington as I do get there from time to time and I would love to make the trip just to support you. Congratulations!! What a wonderful new venture.

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    1. Thank you, Rhonda, for your support. How kind of you to travel to Bloomington for the trunk show. It would be great to meet you in person! I'll keep you posted.

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  9. Wow! I hope your venture goes well and your beautiful bags are appreciated as they should be!

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  10. Congratulations on this new business venture! Your bags are beautiful and look so well-constructed.

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  11. Late to the party but I just have to say that your bags are really special! Best of luck on your new artistic sewing venture.

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  12. If you hadn't already sold the orange one, you would hear me screaming all the way from CA!

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