Red Tweed Flower Purses…

This story begins well over a year ago, when I planned my original flower purses.

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Along with the acorn, auricula and pink rose versions, I had intended a red rose one.  Quite simply, I cut the parts for the red rose brooches, but hadn’t anticipated how long the actual bags would take and quite frankly, as per my last post, I ran out of steam and never made up the red ones.  I had also bought some clip frames to have a play around with, thinking these might be an alternative to the zips, so I decided to save the roses for these.

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I found this photo on February of last year.  By now I am sewing up the roses….and here they stayed until last week.  As I have mentioned, I am supposed to be finishing open projects, I have many on the go, but when sitting at my desk (for the first time in months) I just felt like doing something new and I remembered the clip frames.

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As with most projects, pulling fabrics out and laying them together was the first part of the process.  I take photos as a reminder (not just for the blog) and so I can easily reference how fabrics looked together in the future (sometimes I revisit colour and texture combinations at another time of year, as they simply don’t fit my mood when first put together).  I already had an image on my head of how I’d like to make these bags, and I knew this involved two tweeds (to mimic the acorn purses above, as it’s a detail I really liked).  The red tweed and even the lining fabric (Flea Market Fancy – Posie by Denise Schmidt) had been bought with this project in mind, again, last year; and the lovely dog-tooth tweed was bought for my 1940’s suit, only it’s too thick, but no bother, it’s the perfect weight for purses.

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Next, I read loads of tutorials on the best way to draft a pattern for a clip frame – I found this one to be the most helpful – and I made a toile to see if it fit as I’d imagined.

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I took time to decide where I wanted the join in the fabric to be, I was conscious it would affect the fold at the side of the purse if in the wrong position, and whilst doing so changed my mind about which fabric should be on top! (the dog-tooth check won).

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At this point, I was confident enough to make up a final version, with all the correct interlinings etc.  I always worry at this stage that the linings make the purse feel quite heavy, as I use lots of layers, including iron-on and a heavy sew-in Vilene, but I should trust my instinct as the final purse is prefect and holds it shape really well.

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I then had a looooooong head debate about whether an inside pocket was necessary or not.  The first clip-frame version doesn’t have one (I checked and hardly any do on Etsy), BUT, I have a thing about having somewhere to keep my credit card, where is wont get knocked against keys etc.  The thing is, I’m not mad keen on the sewn in square kind of pocket I used in the first purses I made, it’s actually quite difficult to do it super neatly and lined up, so I did a nifty folded kind of thing (the pattern above is supposed to match up exactly and look really tidy, which I nearly managed) the down side of this means, depending on the pattern repeat, this could use up lots of extra fabric; then it’s stitched behind on either side to form a neat, little credit card space.

After then layering the bags together and stitching (and LOTS of ironing), comes to messy bit.  Glue.  Glue on my fingers, glue on the table, glue on my embroidery scissors (used to push the fabric into the groove).  I am quite a tidy worker, but I think I just felt I needed to use a lot, as I panic when relaying on glue, I distrust it.  I have this horrid image of the purse falling apart, so I really went for it, to make sure there was no chance of disintegration down the line.  Again, I read lots of advice and opted for Gutterman HT2, and putting glue on both the inside of the frame and a bit along the purse edge.  My top tip, is to stay stitch both long edges along the top (one you do naturally, to close where you have turned the purse and lining through) as this stops the fabric rolling, when you’re pushing it into the frame. I manage to keep glue off the fabric, only getting the odd bit on the frame, which I rubbed off with some acetate I once bought for removing gel nail polish (which I’d picked off by the time it arrived in the post, annoyingly), I knew it’d come in handy one day 😉

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I love them.  I really do.  I think it’s the slightly oversized bobbles on the frame itself and, obviously, the tweed.  I’ve put one aside for myself as I’d already nabbed a rose brooch to wear for a wedding last year.

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So, now the really, really horrid bit, pricing.

There is no question that there is less work involved in these than the zip, pleat, handle versions from last year, but I did still put a lot of time into each one, and most importantly the frames are expensive, the little pile in the above photos cost £48!! When I totted up the materials, this is how it was starting to look: frame £7.50, tweed, lining & interlining £6, then there’s the glue (quite expensive and one tube did about 4 purses for me) and thread, so about £15 per purse for the materials alone.  Then the rose, which I would sell at a minimum £13 (as it’s a large cluster). So we are at £28 already and this includes nothing for my time or skills.

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Having looked about a lot on Etsy, the range in pricing for this kind of thing is huge, from the art end, to the ones from people sewing for fun (and I’m not complaining here, just saying it how it is) who only cover the frame cost plus a bit.  I feel bad if I price my work high, but I have to make a profit or it’s all a bit pointless, sometimes I think it would be easier to sew one-of-a kind, high-end, art designs and pitch them much higher, but I actually enjoy the mini factory line and have already put myself into the market space where I am, too late to change now, unless I took on a second shop, under a new name with a completely different style (it’s an idea, actually).

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Anyhow, I’ve gone for £35.  Hardly any profit, but you win some and all that, and it shows how important it is to write down every bit of the materials, for instance, I wouldn’t have realised the glue cost so much.  I wonder how much I made on the original purses?  I wasn’t so careful with my sums then and just opted for £30 (which the remaining ones, just listed today, are still on at), I imagine there might even have been a loss.

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It raises some questions though.  Would you prefer to be able to buy the purse alone, and then you could buy a flower brooch separately, if you wanted to?  (which would bring the price right down).  In my mind these larger purses are not complete without the brooch, it’s part of the design, but perhaps I’m wrong?; there are many being sold in single coloured tweed (ie not even with the two-tone) on Etsy for a lot more money and clearly they sell.  I do plan some smaller coin versions, just to fulfill my clip fame love.

If you’re still with me, thanks, that was a long one with much rambling 🙂 hope the photos partly made up for it.  Next time – a giveaway – hurrah!

FYI, they are listed here and the original version with no pocket is at a reduced price.

19 thoughts on “Red Tweed Flower Purses…

  1. You are definitely using too much glue! I made 9 frame purses with a tube of that glue and I’ve still got more than half of it left!

    Also, you can buy the frames a LOT cheaper than £7.50 – that would all help to bring your costs down. I paid just over a pound each.

  2. Oh wow Beth I love you new bags too. These are soooo classy with the frame and I agree with all the decisions you pondered over and decided on, especially having the inside pocket. I would love you to see you make an “evening” version of this..I’m not great with designs for bags but perhaps 2 textures of different black materials with perhaps a rose…..they would make fab evening clutches. Your price is very fair but I agree it hardly gives you anything for making it…….it is a dilemma for all us “handmades” isn’t it. We cannot compete with mass made products despite being so unique. Enjoy your time now the boys have returned to school..I can hear the peace and see the coffee in hand from here…;0) Jane x

  3. Beth do NOT doubt yourself, they are gorgeous and deserve to be £35 or higher. They are beautiful and I am always in wonder at your designs, I love them! 🙂 Keep making your beautiful things. You know your questions bit in your post is interesting, I can imagine a part of your shop as an exclusive range of unique one off items. It might be an idea to consider as you could make a few items that are one off here and there that you could price at a price you want and see what happens 🙂 Part of the attraction to your work for me is the feeling that a lot of your work (especially the woodland animals) feel exclusive and collectable so I can imagine a line where it is more so if you know what I mean. Whatever you plan to do in the future, I think your work is lovely and inspiring, keep going can’t wait to see the Xmas plans in your shop 🙂 Safxxx

  4. They are beautifully made Beth and if people query the price you could offer without the brooch, but I think it makes it. I use gutterman glue too and like you, only got about 5 bags out of a tube because I worry it will fall apart when it has been bought! I get my clip frames from Hong Kong and they look very much like yours with the larger bobbles and they are a similar price. Julie x

  5. So beautiful, as with all your work. I wonder if you could buy the frames with a shoulder strap? My thought is that, with a shoulder strap and making the bag slightly taller, it may not be so much more work and expense, but you could sell them for more… The flowers are lovely!

  6. These new purses are beautiful Beth. You can see the quality of the materials and the workmanship involved in making them. Don’t think about the buyers who want everything for a tenner or less, think about the folk who love quality, handmade items – these are the people who want to own something made by The Linen Cat, and will be prepared to pay for it. xxx

  7. I love your things because they are beautifully made from beautiful materials, I would rather save my pennies and wait to have a lovely purse that you have made with huge care and attention to detail.
    Considering the materials used and your amazing workmanship your prices are very good.
    I think we should all partner up and price each others work because I’m so useless at pricing my husband does it for me and I end up knocking him down!

  8. They are very beautiful Beth, one of my favourites especially with that lining. I think they are undoubtedly worth the price, but that still isn’t leaving you a lot. So tricky isn’t it. Perhaps it might be worth trying the option without the brooch? Could you have a bespoke side to your shop for one-off items (can’t decide whether it would be easier to be entirely separate or still associated with Linen Cat). Good luck with all those decisions. Juliex

  9. These are just gorgeous and as always they ooze style and you can see the quality even in the photo which means that when handling one you wouldn’t be disappointed. I think £35 seems too low, I know you say there are not a one off but you only make in small batches so they are still very unique.
    Its difficult when looking on Etsy to help price, sometimes I think you need to go with your gut feeling other times your head, I’m sure if you asked people who could hold them and feel them, and you told them what went into making them they all would have put them £40 and higher..
    I think the idea of doing one off’s where you could really indulge would really suit your work, maybe an idea for 2014!

  10. They are really lovely purses, such great fabric selections as always. I bought some stunning frames from Italy but the shipping costs were terrible so anything I make with them will have to be priced so high in order for me to cover off all of my costs! Have you looked at RedRubyRose on Etsy? She prices hers at around £55 and has sold lots lots lots!

  11. Hello dear Beth,

    I have said this many times earlier, but your work (and I say this as happy owner own several of your things!) is so immaculate and fabric&other choices are always perfect, and you could sell these with much higher price. I know you want handmade to be reasonably priced but still – there’s handmade and then there’s your handmade. I rest my case 🙂

    Have a wonderful weekend, sunshine from here!

    Yours,
    Mia

    P.S. These bags are simply fantastic.

  12. Very nice indeed, and I think £35 is a very reasonable price. I’d love to see a version in plain tweed with no brooch, too – just more my style, plain with a pop from the lining fabric.

  13. The thing is that they are not factory made, so shouldn’t be competing yet often they do. It may be that there is no market for them and certainly there are many people who don’t get what goes into a handmade item. Certainly not the time and how very expensive the materials are. I often use recycled but it works out no cheaper than much new quality fabric – charity shops don’t come cheap these days. People think it is cheap to sew or make items and they never bother to factor in your time, somehow they think that should be free, yet that is how they are paid at their own jobs! I am sure people admire handmade but many cannot justify the price. I couldn’t myself which is why I make my own. I do buy from time to time. However, can you really be realistic pricewise and expect to sell? I knit socks for myself, if I sold them then the price would have to be over a hundred pounds for the time they take. Do any socks have that worth for anyone? You can buy them much cheaper at say £35, yet the yarn alone will cost about £12 and then they take about 20 hours or so to make, so the seller is not being paid for their time or skill.

    We have to be realistic about if we want to either make money or sell – not necessarily the same thing. I have a shop and I hand embroidered over the fabric of a small zipper pouch, the work took hours and hours over 4 days. I’m really not sure that people would understand that. It is selling for £12. It’s actually a lesson to me as well, in use of my time as it isn’t even my nicest item. It’s sad because I want to do things that are very slow in the making. I don’t want even to use a machine. But it’s a choice and a hard one. Simply put, we are often just priced out of the market – even the handmade one, as people have a tendency to charge the same as for factory made items. People don’t realise how lucky they are and what a bargain they are often getting! It was ever thus – man versus the machine and automation. One of the few crafts that can be cost effective is jewellery as often it is quite time effective and the mark up is very good as it has a high perceived value. The down side is that it is a saturated market.

    People have little money these days. However, if we really want something it is surprising how we can afford things then! The trick is to make them so ‘must have’ that people are compelled to buy them. I also judge things against the price of things we throw away – not literally but that are disposable or transitory in their pleasure like a café lattes and muffins. Not cheap and gone in moments. Your items will be around for years, so cheap at the price really!

    My daughter who doesn’t craft herself can tell the difference between handmade and shop bought. They are both nice but one is just nicer.

    • Hi Jenny,

      Thank you so much for dropping by and for taking the time to write such a great comment, it’s very interesting to read and raises lots of questions.

      I agree to the idea that you need to separate out selling things or making money, I kind of do a bit of both, some things I make because I just really enjoy them, even though the final price doesn’t add up, but I have learnt to mostly keep this side to making gifts for family and friends, where my time is part of the gift so I don’t mind so much. I try to keep my ‘shop’ sewing profitable, where possible, but not to the point that it becomes a grind and I lose the enjoyment factor.

      I don’t think people always understand the ‘skill’ involved either, I imagine they might think that sewing is easy, but even using a machine it’s often not and I’ve been practicing for over 25 years!

      Here’s to all those lovely people making beautiful, handmade items, long may they continue and I’ll continue to buy from them 🙂

      Beth

      PS, I have sock knitting envy, my lovely German in-laws used to knit me socks but sadly they appear to have stopped, I wish I’d listened more when my own Gran tried to teach me to knit many years ago.

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