Bag patterning and making

Before I started my PhD I did my MA in which I learned traditional leather working skills including bag making. Bag making is something I continued to do until the last couple of years.  Having gained a story that the product required a bag making I was quite glad to try to utilise the skills again.  The bag in the story is one that resembles a Mulberry Bayswater style bag and so having researched into this I found it was a flap top bag with handles.  On my first attempt I did not enjoy doing a mock-up because as I was sewing I knew it wasn’t right but I kept persevering with it, however I know that I won’t be able to line it and that where the leather joins in places won’t accomodate the lining so I need to have a re-think as to the construction.  This is not a bad thing though as I think I tried too hard to replicate something, rather than channeling the story and letting it grow and develop through that.  I will look more into this later.  I did however buy some beautiful leather from Roy at Metropolitan Leathers.  It is so nice and soft and clean…..!  Looking forward to working with it.

Inetesting again how the process has to fit the story or else the object and myself don’t feel right……




Trains are so good for reading and thinking. The last couple of days I’ve been working in Manchester and so I’ve been on the train by 7.30 each morning and spent an hour can chug up with research reading. Both texts… Richard Sennett, the Craftsman and Peter Korn, why we make things and why it matters have given me a real excitement regarding craft and making . I’ve been underlining and note making like a crazy lady! It actually made me wish I had a commute in the morning as that time is then designated to reading where I don’t seem to have that time anywhere else…. I seem to read better ‘in transit so maybe I need to start jumping on a few trains on a research day and visiting some galleries. The problem I find is that at home I get easily distracted and wander off when I’m starting to get to interesting bits because I get over excited! Also reading later for me is hard so actually the early morning read works really well. I may have to work out how to take advantage of this.


Hand stitching rolling pin ends is one of the next jobs.  This is for the harness that it will hang from and below shows the construction of the loops.  I worked out how to secure the D rings by cutting a letter box style hole and then skiving the leather on the back to fold and glue on the underside.  The stitch holes were all punched out and then using a linen thread, the same as the square leather frame I stitched the edges.  This as i mentioned before is very therapeutic and rhythmical and lets you get into the swing of it.  I enjoyed making these bits and so now the rolling pin just needs its printed sheath to be complete.  Nearly 2 objects done! 

Stories on a train

Travelling back from working in London for a couple of days, where generally you’ll walk around looking at people but not talking due to the fast paced life, it’s always good to jump on the train home. People going “back to yorkshire” always seem quite happy or ‘can’t wait to get home and get a brew on’ (sorry very stereotypical but that’s what’s just been said to me by the couple in question).

An elderly man was drawing away on a notepad. Being nosey I asked to see his sketches and he gladly showed me them. His wife chipped in that he’s always drawing! We then had a chat about art and skills and other things which was really…well just nice!

Then, as we approached their stop, they both started looking out the window and giggling and pointing. Afterward they turned back to me and the lady said thats where I used to live and where ‘he’ (husband) would throw his kitbag over the garden fence from the train when he was coming back from working in the Royal Marines. She said she would run out into the garden at 1am to retrieve it! He said it’s so he didn’t have to carry it back from the station. Her dad said she was crazy! Not crazy, just in love. The whole journey they just finished or repeated each other’s sentences. When they got off, the stop before me, they both waved when the train pulled out.

I love Yorkshire folk!

Fabric printing

Monday ended up being a case of right time right place.  I rang the digital fabric print technician to get some advise and costings on how much it would cost to print my fabric for the lining of the bag.  The bag is based around the last story I collected and the pages of hand written work book from 1941 that I photographed and created a patchwork layout from earlier (the week before).  As I was on the phone, she said, if you have the file now we can do it now and that’s exactly what we did!  It was like I mentioned in another post, one of those jobs that I would have continually put off, but actually the result was incredibly easy and took 30 minutes tops!  The patchwork pages came out better than I had hoped and had a real vintage look about them.  I was so happy with the result and this has spurred me on to get on with the actual bag.  I managed to do the pattern for this on Tuesday.  It feels like all the making has picked up again and I am looking forward to finishing some of the object.  I showed the fabric to the lady whose story I am making for and she thought it was beautiful.  I was so pleased she liked it!  That drives you further to make more.

Tasks I put off but actually enjoyed. 

I had worried about this particular job for ages. Because it was a new technique I’d not done and also because I shy away from precise detail and intricate jobs. I’m currently reading The Craftsman by Richard Sennett and he talks about how the craftsman sees “each imperfection as a failure” p46. This is how I feel so I end up leaving things until I have to do it or else!  It was on the morning of seeing the lady whose story this belongs to that I started stitching.  I prepped and moulded the leather the week before which actually, whilst listening to a podcast I just got on with.  Time felt normal (not too fast) and I just got on with making.  It made me really calm and I just went with what seemed right.  I tried to do a pattern but then it worked out better just working with the silicone directly rather than trying to be too precise.

Then marking the corners I mitred them using a stitch that crossed over at the back.  This is something I’ve never tried before but it worked well and gave the desired result.  Although I don’t know how this will end up being finished as I have changed the initial design it seems to be working the way I want it to go.