Feb 262015

It’s that time of year again when one of my local quilt shops, Quilter’s Cupboard, holds its annual Purse Party and introduces a parade of purse, tote bag, travel-and-accessories bags, and just-for-fun sewing projects, as well as related sewing notions, hardware and fusible products. This was the fifth year that owner-designer Cindy Peters held this popular event. Today, however, one of her employees, Sandy, had to fill in for her when a medical matter in Cindy’s family took her away from the shop. Sandy spent the better part of the day alone, but a few of her co-workers happened to be shopping in the store. They simply clocked in, rolled up their sleeves, and began doing what needed to be done.

Sandy discussed and passed around various finished bags and other projects, provided sewing tips, and suggested how each item could be used. Naturally, not all of them appeal to everyone, but I’m going to highlight a few that I especially liked, and provide links to where you can find these patterns.

Let’s start with a couple of patterns that Cindy Peters designed. “You can never have enough tote bags,” said Sandy as she shared Cindy’s Purse Party Tote. She explained that the fabric shown in the photo sat on the store shelves for the longest time until it was used for the Purse Party Tote, at which point it completely sold out. You can purchase this pattern by contacting Quilter’s Cupboard, and the store will mail it out to you.

Purse Party Tote

Next is Cindy’s Box It Up Easter Basket, adapted from Box It Up by Stitchin’ Sisters. The Easter basket is made with pet screen vinyl, fabric, and a carpenter’s metal measuring tape. When my husband saw the pattern, he told me to stay away from his workbench.

Box It Up Easter Basket

Along the same line is the inspiration for the above pattern: Box It Up by Cheryl Von Ruden of Stitchin’ Sisters. The pattern includes instructions for all three sizes of these clever catch-all boxes. Because all of the seams are enclosed in fabric, you can turn the boxes inside out, and they look wonderful.

Box It Up

I fell in love with the Diva Frame Wallet, designed by Jessica VanDenBurgh of Sew Many Creations. This super-skinny wallet can be sewn with more formal fabrics or fun prints for a more casual look. It utilizes an eight-inch wallet frame, which is available from Amelia’s Garden.

Diva Frame Wallet

You’ll never find a structured tote bag with as many pockets as Pocket Parade Tote, designed by Penny Sturges of Quilts Illustrated. The sample we admired at the Purse Party featured fabric that was quilted first, then incorporated in the bag.

Pocket Parade Tote

Susan Marsh of Whistlepig Creek designed a Sweet Retreat Weekend Bag that is the largest retreat bag I have ever seen. I can imagine taking this bag to a craft show, filled with purchases if I’m a buyer, but with my own products if I’m selling and doing booth set-up. If you like sewing with charm packs or jelly roll strips, you can incorporate them real well using this pattern.

Sweet Retreat

One of the useful things that was shared at this year’s Purse Party was a list of fusible products that work well with bags, which I find quite helpful, especially because these are products that my quilt shop carries. Often patterns will recommend fusibles that you can find only on the Internet.

Popular Purse InsidesSpeaking of items you can find on the Web, a few years ago I wrote a couple of posts about bag sewing resources that you may find helpful:

Do you enjoy sewing bags? Do you collect patterns and fabrics for this purpose? I suspect I have more of both items than I can ever use personally, but I’ve convinced myself that bags always make great gifts. Ha!

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Nov 262008

Handbags were originally nothing more than sacks made of leaves and animal hide. Egyptian hieroglyphics depict men, not women, wearing them about their waist to hold flint and money. Peasants wore fairly large bags that carried seed, while gentlemen’s bags carried pomanders to mask bad environmental (or human) smells. These sacks were actually pockets attached to the girdle with a cord. The risk, of course, was that a thief, known as a “cut purse,” would slash the string and steal the bag. By the Middle Ages, both men and women began wearing bags as a sign of affluence. Fashioned of the finest silks with tasseled strings, embroidery and jewel decorations, they represent the first designer bags. These early designer bags continued to be fastened to the outside of garments, but the really wealthy hired servants to carry their bags for them.

Eventually, however, women started wearing bags beneath their dresses, and men ceased wearing them altogether because inside garment pockets were developed for their trousers. As fashions changed and women’s skirts clung more closely to their bodies (especially during the Regency period), it became impractical to wear a bulky bag beneath the fabric. In the 1800s the first real handbags–purses intended to be carried by the hand–emerged. These were practical purses, or reticules, that carried perfume, smelling salts, a fan and visiting cards.

It is interesting to note that 100 years later, men and women once more were using handbags, but men’s handbags were actually luggage bags that looked like today’s briefcases, and women’s handbags were feminine versions of the same bag, with compartments for women’s accessories. These bags were made from metal and leather until World War II, when a shortage of these materials led instead to the use of wood and plastic in handbags, and eventually to many other types of materials. Today’s handbags are made of all of these materials, but also include many types of fabric from rough burlap to the finest silks and velvets, synthetics, natural and manmade fibers, and faux animal skins. Nearly all bags are suited to specific occasions. There are designer bags that match a formal event such as a gala or a wedding, power bags for the business woman (or man), tote bags for the shopper or yarn enthusiast, book bags for the student, and so on.

In some ways, handbags have come full circle. The bags worn once exclusively around the waist have become today’s fanny packs, shoulder bags and backpacks, and are worn by men and women alike. Some bags are for show, others are used on the go, and multi-functional ones go “with the flow.” Illustrating this diversity are BBEST team members’ bags. Janine of TalkingDog, for example, has designed this Hand Painted Silk Drawstring Bag that can be carried to formal events or tied to a casual jeans pocket.

This gorgeous Tina Brown and Blue Batik Quilted and Beaded Bag by Kym of kimbuktu is both a shoulder bag and a backpack.

HomeMadeOriginals has repurposed part of a striped wool sweater to fashion this Wristlet bag, perfect for your cell phone, keys and credit cards.

This crocheted Teal Hobo Bag by Pam of bagsandmorebypam is the ideal tote for the market, the beach, school, the plane, or shopping at the mall.

Dayna of scottieacres designed her Helpful Hannah Tote in Embroidered Denim “to go anywhere but be stylish as well.” The roomy tote holds just about anything, but also features a tiny inside pocket for keys, wallet or an electronic device.

This Bling Bling Black Evening Bag by NoDuplicates is probably not too different from the reticules carried by noblemen and their ladies during the Middle Ages.

Finally, this Bag with Heart Wet-Felted Blue Purse by Chrissie of makeyourpresentsfelt is a perfect example of a casual purse for daily essentials, intended to be carried by hand.

To learn more interesting facts about the history of the handbag, you may wish to refer to the following resources:

© 2008 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogspot.com.