Ages ago (about a year haha) when I discovered Fabrications- a cool crafts shop and workshops space in Broadway Market, I saw a Japanese Tote bag they had hanging there. It is bright green, huge, soft and dreamy. Me being me I was like 'how much'. Barley told me I could make one following the Stitchless TV tutorial on YouTube. So I went 'hunting' for fabric. I accidentally found some beautiful material in Traid charity shop in Camden. It was pretty Asian motif golden fabric with bits of brown, baby pink, blue and red. Next stop was lining, waddle and the handle. I went Sheperd's Bush and asked fabric stores around for any unsold and discounted fabric cutoffs or leftovers. With the help of a shopping assistant who knew more about fabric than I ever will, I got a beautiful blue viscose material to use as my lining. Wadding is unfortunately new and is polyester so that one is not sustainable per se, but it adds charm and sturdiness to the bag. I also got leather cutoffs for the handle. It turns out that threads sold everywhere are also polyester, and even though I found some suppliers who sell cotton much later, they do not have the colour variety.
The first mistake made was that I never created a pattern, because I assumed that a rectangle is totally fine to be cut out of the material straight away (it is not). Subsequently, I did not allow for seam allowance and did not create notches - marks that enable you to sew pieces together neatly (important when you sew 3 pieces together). All of these contributed to the bag being imbalanced in the end.
Secondly, when buying the materials, I did not know that you are supposed to cut from the selvedge edge, and I did not measure the fabric appropriately. When I started cutting the main piece of fabric, I realised that it has a print on (I know I know I didn't even think about it when I bought it, I bought it cause it was pretty); therefore the direction of cutting is important (so it is not upside down or sideways). Because of the structure of the bag the print still ended being all over the place, but I don'mind that. All of these issues limited the sizing of the bag, as I bought fabric thinking, I have enough in width, but I didn't (I still made it haha).
Once I got my pieces together, I started making the bag with the help of Fabrications drop on Thursdays. I am still new to all of this, so I wanted solid support if I got stuck. The Stitchless TV tutorial made a bag from a sleeping bag (total genius), but I had created the extra layer with wadding to re-create that. I also think it adds sturdiness to the bag. So, I sewed the pieces together, realised I missed some bits because the material is so slippery. I resewed the same bit at least twice, so there were no wholes. Once that was done, I was already pissed off. I turned the piece inside out and started putting the rectangle into a bag. I put it into a weird shape and sewed the piece is a way where lining got tangled and I sewed it onto itself. After that, I started darning my socks, cause I could not.
I bought myself a sewing machine so I could do projects at home. So it was a great opportunity to work on the bag again after some time. I sewed it together after unstitching it when I realised it does not balance (so the inside shows on the outside, which it is not supposed to happen). I took it to Fabrications again for advice and the excellent Barley observed that it wouldn't matter when one holds the bag. I still could not be a$#d to sew it together. That sad rectangle hung on a chair for some time and I was so upset with myself that I wasted material and it was too short to be used as a scarf (my retreating method).
Months later, after I've put into every to-do list that the bag needs to be finished (and nothing happened), I was watching a motivational talk (don't we all secretly do that) about going through with your intentions. It suggested that instead of stopping because of fear of failure, you could do what you intended and be ok with the outcome. After all, Barley said it would look ok, so I gave the bag another (100th?!) chance.
I sewed it, ignoring that the inside is seen when I put the bag flat. The handle took me about 2 hours. I clipped the leather cutoff piece together with my partner's crocodile clips because nothing else was strong enough or could pierce through the leather. This time I did a long stitch to ensure the leather is held and went over it with a proper stitch to secure it. The rest was easy.
When I made it, I cannot describe the excitement I felt. The thrill of actually finishing something (I find it so hard), of sticking with something, getting over the fear of failing (HUGE), because in the end, it wasn't as scary or as shit as I imagined it would be. Now, I wan to make more.
P.S. making anything makes me appreciate the tailors/ sewists. Creating a piece is not impossible, but it is hard. And to get to the level of making something fast must take a lot of hard work. I wish we would / could see it more. It is so intangible in the world we live in. But all the hard work should be more visible. Even working on a sewing machine can qualify as artisanal to me, because it involves so much technical knowledge and problem-solving and creativity along the way.