Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's in the bag!!!

For generations, "fashion" was only about "the dress." Then in the early 1950's, Christian Dior made history by being the first haute couturier to lend his very stylish name to stockings, shoes and an assortment of other chic accessories. Today, when you walk through the high fashion districts of Paris, one has the impression clothes don't count as much as.....handbags.

Admittedly, most of my focus with this blog has been placed on garments. Ok, so we did a few handbags using polymer clay (very successful posts, I might add). Up until the designer luggage post, I had really just skimmed through the handbag part, preferring to make terribly predictable, very boring simple purses. That post on Designer Luggage forced me to look more carefully at things like details and scale. It also forced me to reconcile the fact that designer bags are more than glitzy initials and quilted surfaces!

So for this post, I bit the bullet and did a little research on bags I'd like my divas to have. Inasmuch as I have two wonderful resources in Paris that sell leather scraps for a few Euros a piece, my girls get to have real luxury bags. Nothing beats the sheen or the touch! However, if you are not so lucky, vinyl, faux leather, pleather and the like are good substitutes. Should you opt for leather, choose the thinnest skin you can find for the sake of scale and manipulation. But first, let's go looking for pictures of the latest bags your dolls might want. Perhaps you may even have handbags of your own you'd like to make in miniature.
The idea is to take inspiration from these photos to arrive at an interesting interpretation. Most are based on very basic shapes. Start off by making paper models of them.
Have your doll nearby to check for scale. Figure out what you will or will not include in the detail in terms of details. Even if you are ambitious, realize that the scale will force you to simplify!
Take the paper model apart and use it for your pattern. I use a pastel pencil to trace the pattern directly onto the wrong side of the leather. Use sharp scissors. All but the first handbag (which I hand stitched) are no-sew.
I did this pretty much by trial and error until I was satisfied with the shape.
I drew this first on graph paper, then made it in paper. The straps and bag are all in one. The overall length is 4 inches (10 cm) by 2-1/4 inches wide (6.5cm) wide and 1/2' (13mm) deep. That inside strip measures 5-3/8" (13.5cm) by 1/2" (13mm).
Assembly is easy. The side gusset clipped along the seam allowanced and is stitched to the flat sides of the handbag. Turn the bag to the right side. I used an iron set on the lowest setting to press out the seams a bit.
The top of the straps are butted together and glued. I added a tassel (sold in craft and notions stores) to a 1/8 inch (2mm) of leather. The leather strip slips through an eye ring and is glued onto itself. That strap is glued to the back of the bag.
An even easier bag is my fringed "boho" hippie bag.
This is a simple rectangle of chamois cloth. The dotted lines are fold lines. On the pattern, you notice that there are two 1/4" folds. This is a soft pleat which I have glued together to add a touch of volume at the base of the bag. Though you are not obliged to do this.
I pricked a hold with a big safety pin then made rings to hold the shoulder strap. When you are making fringe, be sure to measure and mark directly on the leather before cutting so that it will be even! I added tassels (I made myself) to the side by taking a small strip of chamois, cutting it into miniscule fringe then knotting it at the end. The ornament is a bead cap, flattened and glued in place.
These next two are "classic"  bucket shaped bags with a bottom cut in the shape of a circle or square. A rectangular piece of leather wrapping around the base.
I turned both horizontal edges under and glued in place. A "cool" iron helps a bit with the glue. OR...take a hammer and pound! The seam allowance around the circular bottom is clipped first. I tried to fold and slightly press it as well to help in the process. Put glue on the seam allowance then press the side of the bag in place. Some of the clipped edges will overlap.
When you have finished, simply overlap and glue in place.
I use metal eyelets. First punch the hole. Put the eyelet in place, then crimp. My bag has 8 holes.
For the bag tie I cut a strip of leather 1/8" (2mm) then fed it through the eyelets. When you finish, make sure both ends come out of the front in separate holes. Pull the drawstring and tie. For my shoulder strap, I used a chain interlaced with another 1/8" sliver of leather, since my aim was to emulate a Chanel style bag. I thread each ends of the leather strips through opposite holes and glue it onto itself.
The next one, inspired by the blue Reed Krakoff handbag on my inspiration board, is a variation of this and begins the same way.
The bottom is a square which I have added 1/8" seam allowance then turned under and glued. The side is turned under on one horizontal side (which is the top of the bag). Manipulating this is much easier. You only need to clip the seam allowance of the bag's side at each corner of the bottom. Again, the rectangle simply wraps around the bottom base.
When you are wrapping the bag around the square, it is better that the back seam fall in the middle of the square as opposed to the corner. When you have finished, simply make a soft pleat on either side. My bag is held closed with a tiny square of Velcro discretely place inside. The strap is another 1/8" sliver of leather glued to the back. The loop in the front that holds it is simply a tiny rectangle folded inward. Thread the strap through it first, then glue it onto the bag.
Before I could conclude this project, I insisted on making something I have been searching for but could never find....a handbag with outside pockets.
Again, the pattern is super simple. It is a shorter, wider version of the tote bag we've made before with a side gusset.
The dotted lines are fold lines. This time, however, I wanted a bit more volume, hence the 1/4" section at the top of the bag. After cutting out my pieces,  I first pressed in the folds with a cool iron, then I folded the rest over the seam allowance of the side gussets.

At first I thought I needed to make cargo pockets. But the thickness of the leather is such that a simple rectangle folded into three parts and glued down provides the perfect illusion.
I cut out pieces of cardboard corresponding to the bottom of the bag as well as the top and glued those in place. Again, this adds structure to your bag. For the finishing touches, my bag closes with a button. I punched a hole on the outside of the bag. On the front I used a "brad" (Attaches Parisiennes). I attached a tiny self made fringe to the button and used pearl stickers for the pocket buttons.
One last thing....the shoulder strap. I cut slivers from my leather strap and made a braid. At each end I made a knot. It I attached to the bag at the sides with small metal rings. 
Well, believe it or week around the planet is in full swing. The girls have been on the ground for more than a week and will be back in a snap with their roundup of New York Spring 2015 trends!!!
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  1. These are fabulous! I love the detail. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. After my success with your instructions for a fitted shirt for a male doll, I can't wait to try a couple of these purses. Thanks for your generosity!

  3. Thank you. Even better---they're easy to make. Hint...the more details you put in, the better they look!

  4. You're quite welcome. Pssst...these are even easier to make than the shirt!

  5. Just a thought; this stuff scales up, and the instructions would not change. Well, the hole punch would....

    I read a lot of sewing blogs, and I get the mostest out of yours.

    1. Thank you... Yes, all of these bags can be scaled up. The hole punch would as well because they sell different sizes of eyelets!

  6. These bags are super fashionable!
    you master a lot of materials, I've been a bit bored with making bags for the girls, I'll try some new ones. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Billa, I was making such boring bags. So that's why I decided it was time to take it up a notch. Nothing is difficult and most bags are based on the same basic shapes. You just have to put in the time. The more details the better!

  7. Fabulous bags! I love the two pockets on the last one, and the eyelets closure of the brow bag.

    1. Once I realized how easy it was to put in the eyelets, my bags will never be the same. You can put them in the bag, then thread any kind of shoulder strap through. The bag with the pockets came out of the fact I kept looking for a designer coin purse in the shape of a handbag. Couldn't find what I was looking for, so decided to try and replicate it.

  8. I love how you concentrate on a single item of wardrobe and make a whole case study to put on the blog. Is it too much to ask for some addresses in Paris where you find leather scraps and other goodies?

  9. Hi Black Kitty. Thank you for your kind words. Here are my two chief sources:
    BHV 52, rue de Rivoli Paris 4. Downstairs (-1) next to the shoe repair supplied is a bin filled with leather scraps priced between 1 to about 6€ or so.
    Otherwise go north to Au Gentlemen des Cuirs 4 bis, rue d'Orsel Paris 18. Huge selection of leather & scraps!


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