Rose Tattoo Purses

I have been up since seven but amazingly have only managed 930 steps so far today (it’s mid-afternoon, as I type) which is hilarious. To be fair, I didn’t put my counter on until after showering but considering I’ve done two loads of laundry, baked bread, tidied and cleaned the kitchen I am amazed at the minimal step count. The problem is that I’ve spent the rest of the time attached to my laptop editing photos, updating websites and now writing blog posts. It just shows how blooming long all this stuff takes and how horribly inactive I am whilst doing it.

Let’s get on with the post.IMG_20160427_130829Forever ago (running theme here!) I was a bit obsessed with traditional vintage style Sailor Jerry tattoos, at the time I was researching tattoo swallows for aprons (still to come, when I finally photograph them) but the style, in general, is one I really like. If you don’t know who Sailor Jerry was just google him and you’ll recognise his work straight away.

IMG_20170627_095348I figured an oversized rose, outlined in black would look really good on a purse. The block colouring style of tattoos translates really well to applique and this vision was my starting point. I spent forever coming up with my own design, which is really difficult as there are so many copies (Sailor Jerry is iconic and therefore frequently imitated, especially the roses and swallows). I used a real rose photo and based the shaping on that, repeatedly simplified it down and then blocked the colours in. I often work on tracing paper then I use a printer to enlarge and decrease the size until I’m happy with it.

Originally I stitched black edging (top photo, LHS) but didn’t actually like that and ended up opting for using different colours for each part of the topstitching. It kind of defeated the point of my original idea, which was for it to clearly resemble a tattoo, but things do often change as they develop.DSC_0003

After much debate, I cut the rose as a single block of fabric and not as individual petals. I’m really glad I did, it saved me a mountain of work and it makes absolutely no difference to the final design.IMG_20170912_135942Most of the fabrics are simply what I had in stock and the main body of the purse is a deep claret cotton velvet. It’s quite difficult to capture on camera, especially as I often have to lighten photos but the above image is quite accurate.IMG_20170913_082304For the lining I used some stunning fuchsia shot silk, it adds a real pop to the purses and complements the wine velvet really well.DSC_0067Gluing the frames on nearly sucked all the life out of me, as it always does, but the plus is I’m getting really good at it without getting sticky fingers. I was a good girl and just got on with it and then rewarded myself with cake (which on less than 1000 steps in half a day I should NOT be doing!).DSC_0063And they are done. And listed.HandHeldRoseTatooPurseAnd would make a wonderful Valentines gift, I think; certainly, I’d be thrilled to get something similar!

Right, I now need to go and run about for a bit and earn my wine this evening.

Job done. Next?

Victorian Mourning Purses…or Vampire Purses!

So how did I really get along with all those plans to ‘get ahead’ this year?

DSC_0093Pretty well in all honesty, the above photo being taken all the way back in June, how about that for thinking ahead!  The problem wasn’t so much the making as the photographing everything, which I had planned to do in the summer holidays but due to various life dramas, didn’t manage to pull off; the issue here being that you need the right light to get good photos of ‘black’ but lucky me, we’ve held onto some really lovely weather recently, resulting in days with nicely naturally diffused light which has been just perfect.

DSC_0050First up (I have kind of given the game away with the top photo of what’s coming this week) is my favourite purse yet and I guess I should start with the inspiration.  When I was teenager I started to collect antique clothing, something my Mum encouraged (she gave me many of the things in my collection, along with my Gran), I particularly loved anything Victorian and black, and ideally beaded.  Back in those days, especially when I was at art college, I often wore the clothing too, as I was lucky enough to be quite thin and managed to fit into it all.  Then there was a fire in one of the student houses I lived in and much of my collection when up in smoke, I was so upset and I sifted through, attempting to salvaged any bits of the lace and beadwork as it was too beautiful to throw away; my original thinking was that I would love to use some of these pieces on purses, with (ideally!) vintage silk and velvet as a backdrop.


Well it didn’t pull off, as I couldn’t find my bag of smokey lace and bead bits and when I attempted to source some, along with vintage fabric remnants, the price was frightening.  Instead, I opted for buying some lovely modern bead, sequin and appliqued panels and some cotton velvet.  I did use some silk fabric that I’ve had in a box for years and years, it was intended for use as decoration on a period hat I made in night classes but it has such a perfect, slightly dense weight that I decided to cut into it.

DSC_0188The beaded applique cost a pretty penny, but I think it really works.  I went a little overboard when stitching it on, and even re-stitched each bead and sequin into place so they don’t ever drop off.  I added machine pleats to the silk, which really reminds of one of the coats that went up in smoke all those years ago, it was covered in pleats and beads, a really beautiful thing *sob*.


The lining is in russet silk.  I have vampires on the brain at the moment, my next book in line to read is Dracula and I made my brother drive us to Whitby when I spent a couple of days with him over summer, it was a lot, A LOT busier than I remembered it from my teenage years, which is probably when I last went and I was so determined to buy some Victorian Whitby Jet but it was all out of my price range 😦  Still, I digress, the thing is I also kind of think of this as a ‘Vampire’ purse, hence the timing of listing it before Halloween and the contrast of black with red silk; incidentally, I’d have loved to use a vivid scarlet red, but I’ve been making a point of using up my fabric stash and so russet it is.

DSC_0193I’ve stuck with my favourite 8 inch (20cm) antiqued bobble clip frame.  I love these, I do have other frames waiting to be used but for this purse, this frame is just perfect.


This is a makes where I’m tempted to keep one back for myself, I really, really like it, but I have to stop sneaking one aside as I will end up with more purses than I can use and never make any money!  I did list one on Folksy, but it sold the same day (thank you C!!) so there are just the ones on my shop site now.

I hope to crack on with the rest of my Halloween listings this coming week, I still have photos to take so it depends on whether the weather plays ball, but I’m secretly ready for a chillier tone now and some tweed and wool to come out…just not until after I’ve finished photographing black!

Green Tweed Messenger Bag…

Recently, I have had a flurry of making things for myself and the house, or, not even sewing at all (gasp, shock, horror).  I find that this happens at certain times of the year, and as there is so much to do in the garden at the moment and it’s also the slowest time for the shop I am finding it quite liberating to remember that the world won’t collapse if I let my shop making slow down.  I’ve read a lot of blog posts recently about balancing the whole work/family/creating thing and also asking the ‘is it all worth it?’ question.  Like many out there, I sometimes question the profit I make in relation to the hours I work.  I imagine how clean and tidy our house and garden might be, if I weren’t always in my studio, but the reality is I would also be quite miserable.  I really need this bit of life that is ‘just for me’, it makes me a nicer person to be around and so a better parent and wife and I really can’t imagine not doing it.  I’m also quite aware with both boys in school now that I need to think about moving The Linen Cat up to the next level, I’ve built a good foundation and just need to decide in which direction to go.  But for now, I’m enjoying taking a few weeks out 🙂

Right, enough.  Time to show some goodies.

Last winter after making the boys these messenger bags from the ‘Little Things to Sew‘ book by Liesl Gibson, I knew I wanted to make one for myself.  It had to be in tweed, so after a little ebay searching I found some in green with a lovely blue fleck (which you can’t see very well on the photos, sadly).

While on the hunt for some linen for the lining, I managed to bag some Thumbelina fabric from the Far Far Away, Part 2 collection by Heather Ross in green (I struggled to take photos today as it’s very bright in the studio and I had to close the curtain, the actual background colour is more off a lighter pea green).  I love this fabric and wish I hadn’t been so late to the party, there was only a purple version left in the UK as her latest collection (Far Far Away, III) was out at this point so it was an  Etsy US seller  job hunting for the green.

I wanted something sturdier for the edging than the cotton bias binding I’d used for the boys’ bags, to match the weight of the fabrics, so I bought some green cotton herringbone webbing from Ray-Stitch.  It works quite well, I washed it first to soften it a bit and then ironed it in half before using it to edge the bag.  The only difficulty is there was quite a lot of movement so I did have to tack it into place before sewing it with the machine.  As always I use a very small zig-zag to hold the binding into place, catching both the front and back at the same time.

As with the original bags I used some heavy cotton webbing bought on Ebay for the strap (the book gives instructions for making the strap from fabric, which I’m sure would work very well) and I omitted the pocket flaps (as I did with the boys’ versions), I had intended to put them in but I honestly find the way they ‘fit’ a bit odd in that they are attached quite a bit higher than the top of the pockets and only overlap by a small amount, I’ve pinned them on here so you can see how they might have looked.

When putting the bag together, I used an iron-on Vilene Heavy interfacing fixed onto the tweed (Vilene H250/305), which stops the tweed from fraying as well as making it a little stiffer, I then sandwiched a heavy stitch-in interfacing between the tweed and linen layer on the front and back pieces (Vilene S13/313).  The sides only have the tweed, ironed on interfacing and linen, there is no stitch-in interfacing used here.

All these layers do make it heavy going on the machine, but I felt the bag needed this structure and it works really well.  I can imagine if you made it with canvas, as suggested in the book, it would be nicer left a little ‘floppy’ but this wasn’t the look I was going for.  My only advice here is make sure you use the correct needle (I use a 14 or even 16, both are for stitching heavier fabrics) and I trimmed the stitch-in interfacing back off the seams before stitching on the binding to remove some bulk.  Actually, whilst I’m mentioning needles, one of my top tips generally for sewing is to change your need regularly, I change mine for each new project, it makes a real difference.

Finally, I knew I wanted to add some removable flower brooches to the front, as I had done with the tweed bag I made for my sister-in-law for Christmas.  I had thought about a contrasting colour but as it has taken me sooooooo long to actually complete the bag (remember, I started this late last year when my working colour palette was all berry purples,reds and pinks) that I’ve been looking at a lot of images of Ariculas and have fallen in love with the many green versions so I opted for these.  I know they don’t stand out so well but I really liked the idea of a more subtle green on green, plus as they are brooches I can always remove them and add winter flower versions as the seasons change.

I’m really pleased with the finished bag and know already that it’s going to get a lot of use.  I am quite genuinely thinking of making it a little waterproof cover (in see-through plastic that can be kept in the back inside pocket (oops, forgot to mention it has a pocket inside) for hurriedly putting over it when it rains, as wet wool tweed is not always the nicest smell and I would hate it to get ruined.  Sad aren’t I?!  It reminds me of my Amy Butler Weekender Travel Bag that I use a lot and I realise, looking back at this post I nearly always opt for green tweed when making things for myself.  Creature of habit, or simply that I know what I like?

Right, the sun is shining, the garden is calling and we have some minor building work going on this week so I’d better get back to work, lots to do today 🙂

Bags, bags, bags…

I’m writing this post knowing that I can’t publish it until after Christmas as the intended recipients might well be reading, but I am really pleased with myself finishing up a few of my present sewing list today so I’m writing whilst I’m all enthusiastic.

It seems the thing for me this year is bags, I can’t get enough of them.

I knew I wanted to make a simple tweed bag that I could decorate with some of my flower brooches for my sister-in-law, it’s basically a larger version of a project I was working on back in late summer and that should have been completed for the shop for listing before Christmas, but due to illness, never was (more on that in another post).  In the end, I remembered there were some bag patterns in Ellen Luckett Baker’s book 1-2-3 Sew and I settled on the Tiered Bag pattern.  I think I’ve said before that I’m not very good at using patterns, I have a tendancey to mess with them and certainly with the making instructions (which I often don’t read, silly really as the writers I’m sure have spent many hours testing them), but this was super easy to make and I whipped it up in no time and I’m so glad I just went with Ellen’s pattern and didn’t spend hours working one out myself.  I did use different linings and interfacing, but that’s simply my personal preference and experience of using the weight of the fabrics I chose.

Because the bag was so quick and easy (this is such a great book, I really do recommend it) it left me plenty of time to play with the decoration, which was really the point.  I stitched up a couple of removable flower brooches in matching golds and creams, in real life the colours are a little more subtle and the tweed is plain-ish herringbone in pale gold so it sits nicely as a backdrop for the flowers.  I’m really pleased with the finished bag, so much so I fancy one for myself!

It has a nice matching lining with a pocket, in Acorn Chain by Joel Dewberry and I figured that one or both of the brooches can be removed and maybe worn on a coat collar etc making this quite versatile and great for a special occasions.

So, as I was on a roll I also made a couple more of the Market Totes that led me to Ellen’s book in the first place.  Those that have been reading may remember that I made some as teachers gifts at the end of last year, the pattern at the time was released as promotion for the book on the blog Chronicle Books and it’s what made me go buy the book.  These are one of my favourite gifts to give and are so quick and easy to make.

Oddly, I used my original pattern which I cut from intuition and some measurements given in the post (my printer doesn’t do enlarging….it probably does but I haven’t the faintest idea how to work it), even though I could have traced the pattern from the book, gosh I’m lazy.  I meant to compare my version to the actual so see how far out I am.

Inside is a little message for Gran and Auntie T 🙂

Hope you had a lovely Christmas, we will no doubt as usual do nothing what so ever for New Year’s Eve, I’m normally in bed quite early to be honest as the kids don’t allow for a lie-in but whatever your plans I hope it’s a good one 🙂

Boys Messenger Bags…

This is to be a quick post as in half an hour I shall be wrapped up warm and singing carols in the school playground.

Thanks for all your lovely comments and get wells from the last post (I will reply to comments when I have a mo), I am feeling much better and today for the first time in weeks I have been busy in the studio sewing.  This is partly, I admit that I have zero time left to finish up any secret gifts for the boys so I have favoured sewing over housework….which let’s face it, I’d probably do anyway.

A while ago now I read this fantastic post by Zoe of Scented Sweetpeas with the most adorable linen nature satchel she had made for her daughter and I instantly felt inspired to make the boys a bag each for Christmas, like many mums I often end up as the family mule and I think encouraging the boys to sometimes carry their own things on outings is a great idea.  Zoe’s bag is lovely, I especially like her idea to use a laminated lining as both my boys are a bit messy and being able to wipe the inside is a great idea.

After coming up with some designs of my own based on past bag making, a hunt around the internet and a good think about what the boys requirements are I settled on using a pattern for a messenger bag from the book ‘little things to sew’ by Oliver +S.  I figured the boys need pockets and ideally an adjustable shoulder strap as they seem to grow inches practically every day and this fitted the bill perfectly.  It’s rare for me to sew from patterns but this seemed so right it was an obvious choice to use it.  After a little tweet about what materials to use, I dyed some of my linen union that has been sitting around in a box for ages and borrowing Zoe’s fantastic idea ordered some oil cloth for the linings.

For the straps I bought some heavy cotton webbing, in the pattern you stitch your own but I figured the boys are going to be rough on them so I wanted something strong and durable and I liked the idea of the contrast of textures and colours.  The bag in the book uses contrasting binding which I think would work quite well but as I was unsure of the ‘decoration’ I might add to the front, I decided to use a similar colour from my ready made cotton bias-binding stash.

I also didn’t bother with the front pocket flaps, I plan to make a version for myself in tweed (of course!) and then I will put them in but for the boys I preferred the idea of leaving them off and the pockets very accessible.  Luckily I had the entire bags stitched up except for the front main flap which I’d left unstitched to I could add some personalisation, before we all got ill.  I simply couldn’t decide what to do there, I had originally planned monster faces with gnashing teeth, but the boys are growing up fast and I wanted to make something they wont tire of too easily and with a more grown-up feel.

In the end I decided on stripes and their names.  I have rushed this morning to finish and hide them and in doing so they are not as ‘perfect’ as I would like.  The appliqued names were difficult to do, as I had the bags already made up I had to maneuver the entire bag under the machine which was quite difficult and the final binding around the outside could have been neater but on the whole I am very pleased.  I also forgot to add some D-rings and snaps for attaching ‘things’ which is a shame.

Right, must dash as I don’t want to miss seeing the kids sing, I actually prefer it to the nativity play, it’s nice to have all the school together and the parents joining in, who knows, if I carry on feeling so well I may even go for it tonight and have my first glass of (mulled) wine for some weeks 🙂

Easter Bunnies…

I mentioned a while ago about buying some tweed that arrived smelling rather musty, it was no use for the intended project  but I knew straight away I would like to use it for making tweed bunny purses

All the tweed has been washed, which has slightly thickened it (a bonus in this case) and I’ve made up a batch of four to see how they go in the shop (not yet listed but due on Folksy soon) and maybe I’ll tweak the design a little.  I haven’t made a purse before but I have made bags so have a pretty good idea of interlinings etc and it was great fun trying out the different processes.

I made a little extra work for myself by using concealed zips but I think they look really nice and tidy

and I lined up the fabric on either side which looks pretty neat

the insides are lined in ‘Snow Flower’ fabric by Westminster which I was saving for next Christmas but it was so perfect for the job.  What do you mean, they look a lot like a certain golden wrapped confectionary available in every store at this time of year?  I have no idea what you’re talking about.  Oh, OK, it’s not mere chance, I was eating a mini one when the tweed arrived and I thought, “now there’s an idea for Easter”, which no doubt you will have noticed I am too late for, serves me right for taking so long to put a thought into action.  Still, next year I can pretty much guarantee a golden linen or tweed version complete with bell.

I wasn’t sure about the face and how much to do so opted for some understated whiskers and bead eyes, I always notice that the glass bead eyes make the Bright Birds come ‘alive’ so I figured it might work here.  I also added a detachable wrist strap, this was in the plan from the beginning, either in case bought for children (less lightly to lose) or if used by a grown up for, say, a Wedding as I hate trying to hold a purse and glass of champagne at the same time 😉  I write this because I am desperately waiting for someone to have an Autumn or Winter Wedding so I can wear either of these,

both of which I made on Millinery courses at the London College of Fashion, many years ago when I wanted to brush up and improve on skills learnt on my Degree, I rather liked the idea of setting myself up as a Milliner, something I might still do down the line.

Right, enough, time to go and look after the boys and think about their tea.  Was that Spring by the way?  has it been and gone and we are now in Autumn?  Oh, so British, always moaning about the weather!

Getting there, slowly…

I am getting a bit frustrated by the state of the house and my motivation, generally, is rather low so I decided to focus this week on finishing sewing projects.  I made my first Amy Butler Weekender Bag last February (see this post for all the details) and both my Mother and Sister (who never read my blog so I am safe to write about this) keep asking if they can have one.  I thought they would make great Christmas presents, they are not cheap to make and if I am honest I find elements rather frustrating, such as sewing in the lining and watching my poor machine huff and puff trying to stitch through all the layers, but I think it’s worth it.  They take about 2 days each, whilst also on Mummy duty but I spread these two over a longer period so as to not get frustrated and make silly mistakes.


I used the first bag I made so much I fancied a tweed version so the green bag at the back is another for me, the blue is for my sister.  When my machine has recovered from these two, I have another to make for my Mother, but there is plenty of time so I am taking a bag break.

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The linings are in Amy Butler’s ‘Lotus Morning Glory’ in slate and mustard, both fabrics were bought from Saints and Pinners and work really well with the colours in the tweed (bought on ebay).  The lining is supposed to be in a heavier weight fabric but the tweed, especially the blue is super thick so I used dress weight lining to give my machine a chance.  It’s times like these when I long for a nice industrial machine.  I also tweak the pattern and making instructions to suit, the cord piping is supposed to be in the lining fabric as a contrast but I prefer it also in the tweed.

My reward for finally getting the lining stitched in was to make a tweed bird to use in the wrapping of my sister’s bag.  I have a love of brown paper with pretty ribbon and ‘things’ attached.


I am rather miffed that the bird works better in these colours than the new batches I made for the shop! Oh well.

Time to go and fetch F from school, best be off.