Monday, August 28, 2017

The passions and pursuits of pulchritudinous bags and purses, totes and one coat!

The passions and pursuits of what? Pulchritudinous bags? What does that mean? And yes, it is a word! I'm trying it on for size, so to speak and to befuddle my readers. And where did I get it from? The latest issue of Mary Janes Farm magazine (Aug-Sept 2017). Once in awhile I pick up an issue from the local bookstore. An article on odd words caught my eye and being a writer, wanted to wax eloquent and gain your attention.

Pulchritudinous is an adjective meaning.......pretty!.......It's akin to the words beautiful, comely, and attractive. Here is how it's pronounced:


Up your vocabulary a notch when you get the chance to complement some one or some thing, and say, "Oh, my, your flower garden is pulchritudinous! Your roses are pulchritudinous! I love how you renovated your kitchen in shabby chic style. It's!" Would you believe - I just did a spell-check on this text and it passed (except for the pronunciation spelling)!

Now that we've established pulchritudinous is real, let's get on to the pretty and beautiful stuff - the bags, totes, purses and one coat! 

You must have a need for a special custom handcrafted bag, don't you? 😀

I've rounded up my collection of hand made, hand sewn bags to establish my passion for all things lovely. This is one passion. Granted, this is a small collection. I don't collect bags like some people collect shoes (or bags). I have never had very many shoes - just enough to dress myself decently - a couple casual, two or three dressy ones, a clog and sandal or two, pair of winter boots, pair of rain boots, sneakers, garden clogs and flip flops. You get my drift. Just the bare necessities, ma'am, because the budget never dictated anything else.

Back to the bags....they are used by people all over the world every single day - in all sorts of necessary ways, shapes, and sizes. I do enjoy making them from time to time - for myself - when I want something different in terms of function and beauty - big or small - and that's why they're also in my Etsy shop (here). And I love to use pulchritudinous fabrics to make a bag that no one else has. I also have a few store-bought bags from many years ago hanging in my closet for when I get a hankering to use them. There are just some things a person can't part with!

Let's begin with my very first Victorian carpet bag. I had to think about how long ago I made it. Maybe 25 years ago? My youngest sister, Heidi, got married 18 years ago and I made one for her bridal shower and I would have made mine several years before her wedding. My Victorian carpet bags stand the test of time. They are very well made, very useful, and very pulchritudinous! 😉 I search for the perfect fabric - I have to LOVE the fabric and it has to be beautiful. Sometimes the perfect pulchritudinous fabric for my bags is hard to find. get to shop at Zimman's in Lynn, MA - my favorite store for home decor fabrics. They have 50,000 fabrics! Alas...they don't sell online and the last time I was able to get there was almost two years ago. I purchased a gorgeous piece of tapestry to make two carpet bags for my Etsy shop. I received tons of "likes" on that bag! WOW!  And I sold both - one is "residing" in France and the other in Australia! Isn't that neat? You can see photos of that bag/fabric in the Portfolio section of my blog.

Okay, back to Zimman's. The store opened in 1909 when Morris Zimman purchased the contents of a sunken ship and sold slightly soggy muslin for 15 cents per yard on the sidewalk! But this particular tapestry fabric (below) didn't come from Zimman's. Isn't it lovely, though?

Each Victorian carpet bag (available here) has an inside pocket for holding small things, like keys or candy. If I make a floral bag, I choose a plain lining. If I choose a solid color fabric, then the lining is a print or stripe. An exception to that rule is this bag here. It has a wild side!

The shoulder bag you see below is made of black microfiber suede. It's a Vogue pattern. It's been well loved but the microfiber stands up to a lot of abuse and wears well. I love making bags with this type of fabric for that reason, plus it's cheaper than real leather. I recovered my Victorian couch in the same black microfiber suede.

I love adding decorative buttons and tassels to give my bags panache! In making this shoulder bag, I added multiple pockets on the inside to hold a cell phone and credit cards. This way I don't have to use a large and bulky purse for money and cards - only a tiny coin purse is needed. It keeps the bag from getting heavy. There's plenty of space in this bag for a book or a couple magazines - and food. Very useful for traveling by plane. The lining is made of my very favorite - and pulchritudinous - fabric!
Next we have this lovely backpack purse made of my favorite fabric, as you can see. This was my own "copy/creation" from scratch. I had purchased a black vinyl backpack from JCPenny many years ago and used it until it became very worn. Because I loved its features, I wanted to make one - with my favorite fabric, of course! I measured each part of the bag and made my own pattern. I purchased zippers specifically for backpacks - they zip from both ends. 

The "difficult" part was determining how the bag would be sewn together - in the right order. As there were no directions to follow, I had to think through the process of what needed to be sewn first. I did have to back track a couple times and rip out stitches when I said "oops!"

This bag received a lot of use and the fabric is worn in a couple places, so much so, that I had to reinforce the short hanging strap and also where the magnetic snap was located on the flap and it has worn out again. A triangle patch of fabric was added where the button is sitting. I once had a black tassel hanging from the button. If I make another one, I will use a different clasp - hook-type - instead of magnetic snap. It would keep the fabric from getting worn out so much. Don't you think it's elegant even when well-loved? 😍
Here's the inside. It has two zippered compartments - front and back - with a middle section between. The back section also has a zippered pocket.
The front section has multiple pockets (below). The floral pockets hold a cell phone and pens. On the right side, in black fabric, are slots for credit cards. Another pocket is on the opposite panel - the panel that is laying down.
Here is the back of the backpack. I used black cord for straps and matching piping for the front flap. An open pocket covers most of this back side and is useful for papers and such things.

Here is another backpack purse. Same pattern as the above floral bag but slightly larger. I now have two different sized patterns for the same bag. All the details on the inside are essentially the same - backpack zippers, inside pockets for cell phone, pens, and credit cards, etc. I wanted a dark red microfiber but couldn't find one so I ended up purchasing this rusty red instead. Trimmed the front flap with piping as I did with the floral bag and added my own brooch for decoration. This particular horse brooch was purchased at the Deerfield Fair in NH when I was in high school! Yikes! That was a long time ago!  I purchased two of them - the other features a brown horse.
Here's the inside - the lining is a pin stripe and some pockets are in the rusty red microfiber.
Here's the back section.
 Here is the middle section. It's a great spot for stashing food or fodder! Horseback riding, anyone?
 Here is the front section with pockets for cell phone, pens and credit cards. This time I made a flap to cover the credit card section so when I opened my bag, my cards wouldn't be visible. The front panel (laying down in the photo) has a zippered pocket, too. Lots of places to stash essentials.
Here's the back side. I used a black microfiber fabric for the hand strap as it would get a lot of use. D-rings hold the back straps in place. And an open pocket covers the back side, just like the floral backpack. These backpack purses are great for traveling, especially by plane, as you can put this on your back and your hands are free for your other luggage. Going on a bike ride? Enough room for your lunch!
 I even made a couple small matching zippered pouches for makeup and small essentials. It keeps items tidy inside the bag.
Can you see a recurrent theme here? This bag is several years old. It is made with dark red microfiber this time and some of my fabric black floral fabric! The light floral fabric is made from leftover scraps from a window valance I made for my dining room. This is sewn from a purchased pattern. It holds A LOT OF STUFF! I've used it for traveling by plane once as it can hold food and magazines. I do have to strap it across my body to gain hands-free access for my other luggage. A regular backpack would have worked better, but this one served me well. I stashed a small envelope purse (similar to the ones in my Etsy shop here) inside for quick shopping trips, etc. so lugging this larger bag around wouldn't be a chore. I added one of my initial pendants (available here) to the front. Black fabric covered buttons create lovely detailing, as well.

 Here's the back side. Incidentally, the front and back floral panels are pockets to hold papers and paraphernalia.
 I added a zippered panel across the top opening of the bag for more security. That wasn't included in the pattern. I had to search for instructions online on how to add this feature.
 On either end of the bag I added more pockets inside - for cell phone, pens, and sunglasses.
 The lining is composed of black/white stripe and more of the famous black floral fabric.
This is a Bible or book bag that I made a number of years ago. It was a gift for my husband but for some odd reason, he didn't like the idea of carrying his Bible to church like this - even though he had talked about getting a case for his large study Bible. I though it would be a great idea to sew this carrying case. Apparently, not!! I guess it seemed more like a pocketbook to him and I ended up using it instead. 😄 (My floral fabric Bible bag was well-worn by now.) It does have an inside pocket to hold papers or notebook. If I'm not mistaken, I made a carpet bag for my sister, Cindy, with the same fabric. It's a sturdy fabric and makes a stunning carpet bag.
 Here is a more recent and simpler version of a Bible or book bag. It was less time consuming than the one above. It works very well, and OF COURSE, it's in my favorite fabric - again!

 And here we are with the all-time favorite - and basic - tote bag! It holds lots of stuff!

For an elegant accessory for church service, wedding, or other fine occasion, I have three of these totes (below) available in my Etsy shop here. One brown mink, one white mink, one pale buttery yellow mink. They are all gorgeous! My faux fur bags are VERY soft! That is a requirement. I don't care for fur that isn't caress-able. These are like hugging a soft kitten! It has to pass the kitten-test or I won't buy it. This open top tote holds quite a bit. I have a Bible and two envelope purses inside.You can see that this pulchritudinous tote of fabulous faux fur of the mink variety is both elegant and practical to use.
The inside sports a small pocket on one side with my label, and as you can see, a Bible and two envelope purses are stashed very comfortably. Not that you need to have TWO purses. Obviously, not. I'm showing how much it can hold.
Here's one envelope purse (available here) stitched in a beautiful, soft, creamy ivory velvet fabric accented with a large double-winged pendant. Both bags are so elegant!
Here's the other envelope purse (available here) that coordinates wonderfully with the faux mink tote.
These faux fur totes are an elegant and convenient way to carry a purse and a Bible and notebook to church. I will need to make one for myself sometime soon. Probably the brown mink. It's hard to decide - the white and the buttery yellow are equally gorgeous!

And now - for the final segment of this bag parade.....a travel ensemble for the well-dressed woman. A few bags and a hat, anyone? I think I need to go on a trip! Dolly is ready to go!
Perhaps a matching reversible coat? Coodination is key!
You can't have too many bags, now, can you? Isn't this fun?
Here's the backside of the coat and the backpack - all demonstrated by Dolly, my lovely mannequin.
Seen below is the inside of this patchwork coat. I have never worn the red side out. I just love the patchwork fabrics more. I made this coat 10-12 years ago. OF COURSE, I made it with the same black floral fabric that is very pulchritudinous! It took me two hours of walking the aisles of the fabric store in Woburn, MA to choose the rest of the fabrics used in this wonderful fall/spring coat. It's a Vogue pattern, in case you're wondering.
I do have a sudden need to make another backpack purse - out of the same pulchritudinous black floral fabric. I still have some left. It's a Waverly brand and combing through their website did not bring this fabric to light. Some convincing may be in order to get this company to produce and sell this fabric again. I can't live without it. What do you think? Do you have a fabric you never stop loving? 

If you are interested in a well-made backpack pocketbook, please bear in mind that all my bags are hand made with care - and lots of love - and are not mass produced in another country by cheap labor. That's why my bags are not sold for $20 or $30, like the backpacks you would see at a discount department store. I don't have any backpacks listed right now, but if you were to request one custom made, they would cost a lot more than my carpet bags (available here). Giving you a heads up on that! 😉

Combining fantastic fabrics with neat notions results in accessories that are not only original, fashionable, and exhibit old-world charm for today's gentlewoman, but are absolutely pulchritudinous!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

All decked out in white stripes and ball fringe and nowhere to go but my own backyard!

A happy weekend to all you lovely creatures!

You may be wondering what kind of outfit I've created with the items in this photo.'s a five-year project. Not that I've worked on it for five years, but I finally finished it in year five! And it's not an outfit as you will see.

It all started in the summer of 2012. On one particular Sunday in July our home would be the meeting place for a morning church service. The new church that we were instrumental in starting back in 2012 had been meeting in a room at the Stratford Town Hall. A few times during that year, the meeting room was reserved for the Town Hall Board of Directors. Consequently, the church group needed to have their morning worship service elsewhere and we opened our home for two of those times.

On one of two occasions we hosted the church service was in July, and after the morning service a pot luck lunch would be served. As it was summer, using our back deck at midday meant lots of hot sunshine and no shade other than sitting under the umbrella table which could only accommodate eight people. Our budget didn't allow for some type of overhead covering to be constructed to provide shade nor did we have the knowledge of tackling that kind of project. Here is where my brainstorm came into play.

I wanted to sew a canopy of sorts but this required some logistical measures and creativity of how to hang such canopy over part of the deck to provide a decent area of shade.

Here is what I came up with:
Here is the back wall of our deck as it looks today. See those three skinny wooden poles sticking up above the wall? I provided the ideas - husband provided the skill of attaching such poles. At the top of each skinny pole is a hook. The large pole you see in the foreground needed to be added as well and there are wires connecting that pole to the clothes line pole (to the left - out of sight in the photo) and to the house (to the right - out of sight in the photo). Later, an additional wire was secured to this pole and the skinny one on the right side of the back deck wall.

My idea - two triangle-shaped canopies would be attached to the back deck wall (via the hooks) and the pointed ends of both canopies would be hooked to the large pole you see in the foreground.

Regular outdoor fabric would be expensive and bulky to work with and I wanted something I could throw in the washing machine. I was very fortunate that the local fabric store was having a sale on double-wide tablecloth fabric - buy one meter, get two free!! Yes!

I don't have photos of the whole process - only the end result. Didn't know I would someday have a blog and post about it! Picture this - After determining how long each triangle canopy would be, plus extra fabric, I started with a long rectangle of fabric. I measured and marked where the two back corners would be (of the rectangle)  and where they'd be hooked to the skinny poles on the deck wall.

I then hemmed the end of the rectangle, inserted a grommet into each corner, then hung that end on the hooks on two of the skinny poles (on the deck wall). Next, I grabbed the other end of this long fabric rectangle and went to the large pole in the middle of the deck. Using a step stool to get up to where there were two hooks side by side on this large pole (where the top points of the triangle canopies would be hooked), I grabbed the center of this end of the rectangle fabric and marked where I would put a single grommet.

If you can follow what I'm doing - I'm still working with a very long piece of fabric still in a rectangle shape. I would cut the excess off after the canopy was hung and thus create a triangle canopy. Get it?

After marking the spot on the "triangle" end of this rectangle fabric, I put in one grommet and hung it on the large pole. I repeated this process with the other large piece of rectangle fabric for the second canopy. Here they are hanging side by side. See the photos below. I had loads of fabric hanging down each side - because you remember, one end was "square" with a grommet in each corner and the opposite end was a triangle point with one grommet - hooked to the large center pole.  (I don't have a photo of the canopies before I chopped off the sides.) Then I took my scissors and roughly chopped off the excess fabric, making a long rectangle canopy into a triangle canopy - two triangle canopies hanging side by side!
Photo taken in 2012.

In this photo, you can see the edge of our white umbrella - which we don't have anymore. We now have a red umbrella over our table. This photo was from 2012.
This photo is from 2012.
As you can see, the sides of the canopy and the triangle end still have excess fabric. But at this time, the canopy was finished enough and ready for the church potluck!

Because it is very windy here and this part of the deck gets hit hard, we've had to put rubber grommets over the hooks to keep the canopies from flying off!  Really!  And because of the high winds at times, the grommets on the rectangle end of the canopies had to be replaced and the fabric reinforced since then.

Two summers ago the grommets on one canopy had to be replaced a second time and I put that project off. I also didn't finish the sides nor did I trim the excess fabric from the pointed end which hangs down around the large pole. Last summer the canopies lay dormant in storage. But this summer - though it's almost over - I was determined to finally finish the canopies with white ball fringe! And I reinforced and replaced the grommets on one canopy.

As these canopies are made with regular fabric, I can only leave them hanging out for a few days at a time before rain and/or moisture causes mold. I pop them into the washer and they're as good as new!

And now they look even better trimmed and sewn with tiny ball fringe! I originally wanted to do red ball fringe but was afraid that washing the canopies would turn them pink and I didn't want to take the chance.

Here's my process of sewing the fringe on and installing new grommets. The red/white striped squares you see are the first reinforcement I had to do, and now I've had to add extra fabric (a triple layer of woven interfacing) for a second reinforcement to one of the canopies.

This is one canopy folded in half so I can trim the sides of excess fabric - even it out as best I can so the tiny ball fringe can be sew on two sides of the triangle canopy.
Here are the two end corners of one canopy.

Adding the tiny ball fringe.
Here's where I install the grommets - on a cement block covered with a towel on the floor of my sewing room.

I reinforced one canopy in the two corners with woven interfacing. Then installed new grommets.

Here's my cement block that I asked Bill to carry upstairs to my sewing room. It sits on a small blue towel so I can easily slide it under my sewing table and easily pull it out when I want to use it. I use the white towel on top to protect the project I'm working on from getting dirty, etc.

I use a rubber mallet when installing the grommets.
Here are the two canopies attached at the triangle ends to the large center pole in the middle of the deck. You can see that I didn't bother hemming the end! :-) But I did trim off the excess fabric that used to hang down around the pole.
Here's a view where one corner of the rectangle end is attached to a skinny pole on the deck wall.
Here's a view of the left side of the deck wall.
Here's a view of both canopies attached to the large center pole
A close up view of the ball fringe.

And a view of underneath where the two canopies hang side by side.

More views for you to enjoy!

My canopy project is finally finished! It works very well and I must say I'm quite pleased that I was able to craft this canopy creation from the crevices of my mind! Perhaps this project will get your creative juices flowing and you'll brainstorm a backyard beauty for yourself!

Until next time.....
"Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established." Proverbs 16:3