Tweed Flower Purses: Part 1…

I have spent the day, putting this lot ‘together’ and trying to get some decent photos as we have the best weather for that  – slightly cloudy, to reduce shadows, but with enough light to get clear colours.

I really do feel overly excited about these new purses as I’ve been working on them for nearly one and a half years.  That’s even worse than the acorn brooches, I’m sooooooooo slow.  In fact, their back story is long and might bore you so if you’re not interested, I suggest skipping to the end.  I’ve had to split the purses into 2 posts to try to shorten things.

So, back in Spring, 2011, when I made my first flower brooches, I had already thought that it would be an excellent idea to put them onto purses.  At the time, I was thinking more of a large bag, a bit like the a smaller version of the Amy Butler ‘Weekender’ bag (as above), but this idea tanked when I truly considered the cost of fabric, lining and zip, let alone the hours of making and creating my own design and pattern.  I realised no-one would want to pay the price it would cost to produce, so I had a re-think and decided to go for something much smaller.

In fact more on the scale of the Tweed Bunny Purses.  I really like these but it’s nice to mix things up a little and bunnies aren’t for everyone.  I wanted to take away the best bits and what I do love about them is the handle, having taken mine on many ‘outings’ I really appreciate being able to hang it from my arm, I also like the zip, but this may just be me, in fact I’ll get back to this point a little later on.

Over the summer of 2011, I played with lots of samples.  In my head the orignal purse was definitely made from tweed (of course!) and was always rounded so that’s where I started.  I wouldn’t normally work directly in the final fabric, especially wool, which can be quite expensive but in this case, part of the point of playing with samples was to see how the interlinings etc worked with the weight of the tweed, so I needed the real stuff.

There was a big stall here, as I became busy with winter products for 2011 and my grand plans to have the new purses ready for that season had to be abandoned.  It obviously stuck in my mind though, as the idea of using detachable flowers kept cropping up; for example, when I made myself a messenger bag , in February (blogged here).  This gave me the kick up the bum to get going again.  I wasn’t happy with the sample round shape, so I trawled my own vintage bag collection for inspiration and found this:

with it’s nice pleats!  Fab idea.  This led to the sample you can see in the bottom right, above.

Again, it wasn’t so easy.  There is an insane amount of ‘machine tacking’ going on to get those folds straight and even.  I managed to find a method that wasn’t awful to sew, below you can see a finished purse, before I removed the yellow tacking stitches.

Another issue is the bulk at the sides.  No matter how well I trim the interfacing away, at points the machine is expected to sew through very, very thick layers; more importantly, to go from a thin layer to a very thick one which causes some ‘pulling’ of the stitch.  The bags are triple stitched and sewn from both directions, so there is no way they are coming apart, but this imperfection annoys me.  Still, there is nothing I can do, the bonus is I notice the stitching is ‘settling’ down over time as the seams relax into their new shape.

I had fun choosing the lining fabrics.  This is where I used up all my Cloud 9 ‘Leaves’ before remembering I needed it for the recent Lavender Birds, resulting in a hasty Etsy search to track down the last bit ever – duh!  Inside, the bags each has a small pocket, I figured it’s a good idea to have somewhere to put your credit card so it doesn’t get scratched.

Next I had fun working out which flower brooches to use.  I settled on a grouping of three auriculas for the green tweed bag version.

It has a second ring of felt in the middle, which is slightly different to the other auricula Flower Brooches that I sell, in fact I like it so much, if I make any more I’ll incorporate this idea.

The leaves are also different, I needed something a bit plainer as the tweed I normally use is the same as the bag body.  I spent far too much money on wool, trying to get a shade of green I liked.  This one cost nearly £40/meter!!! and I’m not even that keen.  Still the leaves take up such a small amount it goes a very long way and I’ll make sure I use the remainder for something extra special.

Here’s the final bag

and to try and give you some idea of the size, me attempting to hold it whilst trying to photograph it with the other hand.

I also made a dark brown version, with a pink zip and pink flowers.

and a lining in ‘Dogwood Bloom Harvest’ by Joel Dewberry .

As you can see, the brooches are a good size.  They are made with the same care and attention as all my flower brooches and have similar ‘tidy’ backs.

Problems.  I’m not sure the zips will be for everyone, I did think lots about having a bag ‘flap’ instead, with a magnetic snap or similar, but I like that if it’s on it’s side, swinging from your arm, nothing can accidentally fall out (like those diamond earrings you popped into the pocket for wearing later…hey, a girl can dream!).  I also thought about all the different ways of inserting a zip.  The basic method I’ve used works the best, as it keeps the layering of heavy fabric and lining to a minimal at either end, and I deliberately didn’t top stitch it down on the sides as I don’t like how that looks in this case, but it smacks rather of a posh pencil case and I’m not sure that reflects all the work involved, especially in lining up the pleats and getting them even.

Pricing.  God I hate pricing things up.  So, after a LOT of asking around, researching on Etsy etc, totting up the fabric and the hours, these have gone on at £30.  I just can’t make them for less, in fact I lose out a bit here (in the making time part, I try to make sure I earn a reasonable wage for this bit) so these will definitely be a seasonal thing, if I do ever make them again.  I am not a great business women in this way, I quite often get drawn into the enjoyment of designing and making something and can over complicate things.  I find it hard to balance out what a ‘customer’ might want, both in the product and price versus the detail I would like to add.

You can find them here, along with the acorn version which I’ll blog about next (part 2!).

30 thoughts on “Tweed Flower Purses: Part 1…

  1. Not at all boring Beth, I do like to see how people make things and the whole design process. I agree pricing is a nightmare!!!
    Your new purses are lovely and obviously made to your very high standards.
    I have to say I do love my bunny purse. 🙂
    Vivienne x

  2. I think they’re fab! I have been venturing into bag making (just for me and the husband at the moment) and love seeing other people’s processes… Can I ask two boring techincal questions? Where do you get your tweed and what sort of interfacing did you use? I’m hoping to make my husband a tweed bag for Christmas but my tweed source has let me down and I’m stuggling to think what weight of interfacing to use! :o) M.x

    • Hello, hello!

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I buy my tweed from ebay, to be honest from lots of different sellers, so it’s worth just having a hunt and seeing what comes up. The interfacing I tend to go for on most tweed purses (and bags) is Vilene iron-on H250/305 (which is a stiff interfacing) attached to the tweed, then a layer of Vilene S13/313 sandwiched in-between the tweed and the lining. This produces quite a stiff bag, which is my preference, and I often also use an iron-on Vilene Soft interfacing on the lining fabric, if it’s cotton weight (I favour a slightly heavier linen weight fabric for the lining if possible).

      There’s a photo on this post of the interfacing:

      You have to make sure you trim back the S13 right to the stitch line to remove the bulk.

      Hope that helps! Bethx

      • Brilliant! Thank you so much for that. I found some tweed in the end (but will certainly look on e-bay if I like what I make!), but was still struggling with what sort of interfacing to get. I usually just sew with cotton weight fabrics, so wasn’t sure what would be good with a heavier weight. Thanks so much for the advice!

  3. They really are fab purses Beth and I agree I really do enjoy seeing the process. Very interesting. As you well know I love your acorns and will be pleased to see that post too,
    Jane x

  4. I’m with Vivienne, I love seeing and reading all about your design process. I really envy your sewing abilities.
    I used to grow Auriculas, Beth – they are such beautiful plants. So as you can imagine, I’m totally in love with your new Auricula bags.
    I think that £30 is a completely reasonable price to pay for something so beautifully well made and hand crafted. I know that I’ll be saving up for one.
    Jill x

    • Auriculas are lovely, I grew then on pots for a couple of years but ended up planting them out in the garden as they got a bit scratty (due to my not looking after them properly!). I’m glad you liked reading the process and thanks for such lovely words, I’m super pleased the price isn’t totally shocking!! Bethx

  5. So much work and so worth it, I think I prefer the brown bag with pink flowers and zip. I would which will sell the most? The pleats at the bottom are a great detail too.

  6. That was a great read Beth, it was lovely to read through your thought and work process. I love those bags. Like you say it is very hard to get a price that is right to sell that actually pays you for your time, I think i would prefer to sell less at a lower price and be happy with the product I am selling 🙂 I but rethink my retro ele price I think – I hardly pay myself anything – like you say fun takes over 🙂

    • It’s super important to me that I enjoy my sewing, it’s partly why I’ve never ramped up the business and focused on wholesale, appart from having to make sure I would still make a profit, I fear I’d also find the amount I would need to make would take away the fun. I agree, I’d rather sell less but feel happy with my work. Bx

  7. I think everything you make is a total bargain. So beautifully made which becomes even more apparent when you get to see the items in reality. And so beautifully packaged! What can I say other than I am addicted to your acorns. x

  8. Wow Beth, these purses are amazing! Very pretty indeed! I can imagine it must take such a long time to make each one, but I’m sure it must be enjoyable too 🙂 I like them all! Thanks your blog tonight has cheered up my rather horrid day at work, so I can’t wait for part two frankly! Keep going with all your sewing, it’s brilliant and looks wondeful, I especially love the pleats and beautiful brooches, they speak real quality, safxxx

  9. They are beautiful Beth, I noticed them on twitter earlier! I love the green tweed. And such a lovely post can’t to read the next one.
    And £30 seems extremely reasonable, they ooze style and the ‘linen cat’ attention to detail is very clear to see. Jx

  10. When you realise all the work that has gone into making them £30 seems like a bit of a bargain. Tweedy gloriousness – hope they fly off the shelves!

  11. Beth, they are just beautiful! I think £30 is a good price. People who may think is expensive is the people who do not have a clue how much work this project has. Lola xx

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