Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Vintage bag in the making - Nine stages of making a vintage hand embroidered Crinoline Lady bag

Well, I escaped briefly over Easter  to my 'sewing room' and made this bag and I am posting how to make such a creature.  Please note that I rarely measure ANYTHING (that includes flour, marg and fabric!) - I am not sure where this all stems from but I HATE measuring!!  I really don't think that it matters as all that needs to happen is that everything is even - no two bags are the same size or shape as the fabric will determine the outcome.

Stage One - fabric selection.  At this stage you spend a good hour cursing and swearing because you are looking for THE one piece of fabric that you have set your heart on.  Of course you can't find it first time round, that would be  ridiculously easy - at least one hour must pass and then you spy it, lying right in front of you.....You also have to locate the right fabric for the lining....another hour spent!

Stage Two - spend another hour fiddle faddling around trying to use the maximum use of embroidery balanced with the right proportions of the bag (trust your eye (just the one!) as we 'umans know the right proportions).  Then, with right sides together,  sew a rectangle around three sides (leaving the top!) - using another vintage fabric as backing (I try and always use the same fabric). I cheat further by using any straight lines on the fabric as my guide (none of that fancy measuring a line for me!)

Stage Three - Snip off the excess and turn right way round to check the proportions (then find out that your eyes are not quite as accurate as they used to be and adjust accordingly!). Try and not to snip on a crowded table, that way your ensure that you do not snip through the piles of fabric that are layered underneath...

Stage Four: If correct turn back again and then make folds in the bottom of the bag to get a bit of extra width to the finished article. Fold the  bottom corners across the seam - it is good to get this right so that the seams meet up when complete.  Stitch across the corner, check that the seams do indeed meet (not cockeyed, as father would say!) and snip off the excess!

Stage Five:Then snip two lengths of plain fabric for the handles (I tend to use the edges off the same cloth) - size and length are not measured as they don't need to be, so long as they look right and are both the same size - do the same with two lengths of vintage patterned fabric that you will use for handles and lining. Use the tried and trust fold and finger press method (see Flickr for how successful that has been of late!) to get a straight edge that will be your stitch line (my table has a handy straight line along it)

Stage Six: Sew the handles - this is where you wish you had cut the fabric a little wider as now there isn't quite enough to fold under the seam!  However, we sally forth using our wonderful 'finger press method' (which I will quickly go and patent!)  tuck the seams in, pin rapidly and sew all in piece (none of that stitiches right sides together, making a tube and then turning the tube and then top stitching - do it all in one go!)

Stage Seven: Making the lining - you need to create the lining, using the same method that you created the outer bag with.  Do not measure! You have now  absorbed that you do not need to measure - you simply lay the outer bag on top of the fabric you wish to use and cut out!  You do need to make the bottom corner folds, in the same way you did the outer layer.  Make sure that the lining is within a cat's whisker the same size as the outer bag (otherwise you end up with tucks and folds all over the shop!).  I admit that this is a palava if the fabric is the slightest bit stretchy - many a bag remains unfinished because of this fault in the design process!
Stage Eight - Fitting it all together.  My least favourite part and the bit where I swear like a Navvy and the children run and hide - this is where you find that HAD YOU MEASURED it would all fit together perfectly.  However, we NON MEASURERS, having been so smug for the last hour, now find an awful lot of egg on our faces and secretly just push our work under the table.... If, by some miracle, it does fit together then process as follows:  With wrong sides together fit the lining inside the bag - I pin the bottoms together so that it doesn't move about as I do the 'WORST  BIT OF ALL'.  This is folding in the tops of the bag and fitting the handles - at this point the air is blue with fury (why, oh why, didn't I measure the **!!^% thing). But the essential bit of advice is make sure you stick to the 'NO MEASURE RULE' (ironic choice of words there I think!).  I use a cotton reel to ensure a small degree of accuracy for handle distance.  Just pin like crazy  before the wretched fabric, that you chose so poorly in the first place, doesn't start shifting about like sand in the desert!

Stage Nine: Stand back and admire!


  1. That gave me such a good laugh Jenny - all too familiar! But you're supposed to be ENCOURAGING people, not putting them off!!

  2. Morning Mary - I have indeed become my mother! It made me laugh writing it! Very time consuming though! Have a lovely day, sun is shining today!

  3. I did laugh as I could identify with the 'non measuring' - love the end result though.x

  4. Thanks for the directions. You gave me encouragement to "just do it" without worrying about measuring. (That is, if I don't want to curse the results-ha!) Now I need to find some cute embroidery.

  5. Just come back to have another look at this - I have to make some of these!

  6. Hi, Just been having a look at your blog and Flickr page. Just wanted to say what an inspiration you are! I am renting at the moment with my bf and we love vintage and home made bits and bobs, love trawling the car bootys etc! We are hoping to buy our first house in the next year or so and it will definitely have to be a bargain fixer upper like yours as we haven't got much of a budget! You've made such an amazing home and I'm sure I will be bugging you for all sorts of advice! Where abouts in the country do you actually live if you don't mind me asking?

  7. Thank you for your kind comments - my poor old blog is not visited too often - by myself or anyone else for that matter.
    All the best with you home Jules - I live in Southsea (opposite the Isle of Wight). We started off in a one bedroomed flat and made do with cardboard boxes and a mattress on the floor for many years! However I still have many of the bargain buys that I bought several decades ago and, despite (or perhaps because of?) difficult financial times for the world, there are many,many bargains to be had. This week I have bought a pair of 1970 Disney curtains for 4.99 and a length of 50s barkcloth for 30p (strangely the shop thought that it was a very, very long tea towel... - both of which I did not need...
    All the best Jenny