My mother had this old black handbag which she carried slung over one arm like the Queen (or, more accurately, like my Grandmother – my enduring memory of her is as she wandered the garden, pruning back everything while carrying her handbag slung over her forearm. I do mean everything, she could turn a lush oasis into a tree stump and clippings in an hour flat, bless her). Mama complained about this bag for months before I actually found a pattern we both liked and I was able to make her a replacement. The pattern I used for both bags is the Rachel Bag Pattern from Crystelle Boutique, which is free. When I showed her the pattern I said “This one has a hessian bag as the front, we can find something else”, but as it turned out there was a hessian coffee bag lurking in a cupboard, so I used bits from that for both bag fronts.
A couple of things to keep in mind now, the first is that “hessian” is burlap. The second is this – you know how there’s a ton of bloggers out there who spend hours setting up their photos and messing with the light, props and backdrops? I am very much not one of them, so in the upcoming pictures I’d like you to imagine the “Sheet over a pillow” is actually a perfectly selected backdrop with super adorable props scattered around. Thanks, I appreciate it. I would have skipped the sheet if… well it’s the dog pillow most of the time so it’s a little bit doggy and even I have standards for what goes online.
Mama’s favourite colours are greens and browns. She decided she’d like hessian as the backing of the bag, the sides and the strap because she likes to hear me say swears as it starts to unravel before I can fix the edges. I followed the pattern pretty much as written, but did add a backing to the loops holding the hoops. The pattern just has the edges folded in, but I wanted to secure and protect the hessian edges so I popped some cotton in there as a backing. The pattern also calls for a two part strap, with a decorative knot in it. We’re not really decorative knot people, so I just made it a solid strap instead.
I also added a second pocket into the lining of both bags, because pockets are super handy. The inside of Mama’s bag is a bit patchy because the fabric I used was from a stack of fat quarters she won last year in an art show, and there wasn’t enough to do the lining in full pieces. She quite likes the patchwork effect, so it’s all good. Also, I hope you will enjoy our genuine 1970s floor there.
Now, my own preferred colours are reds and oranges (warms basically). The top fabric is a fat quarter I picked up at Spotlight because it was so nice but didn’t have any plans for. The middle fabric is from a pack of chopped up kimonos. A local shop sells them as patch working or small craft grab bags and I’m a shameless addict of these bags. The kangaroo is from the coffee bag. I had to lose some wordage to get the roo on, but I think it was worth it. If I’d gone with the words I’d have had a roo nose and it just wouldn’t have been as sweet. I did ponder using hessian as my backing and side fabric, but I decided on corduroy so that I could be a magnet for every piece of fluff ever. My strap is longer because I prefer to carry my bag with the strap crossing my body, which is unflattering but less annoying. Oh, also – we couldn’t find hoops we liked in the handbag bits section, so we bought curtain rings instead.
For the lining of my bag I used a sarong I’d bought in Darwin on holiday. The heat in Darwin makes you think these purchases are a good idea, but then when you get back to Melbourne you think “Why did I buy this? I will never wear it again”. I’d already chopped half of it up for something else, but I had the perfect amount left over for the lining. For the record, I did wear it in Darwin, but not in public.
The pattern is a good one. The bags are roomy without being massive and they are straightforward to sew up, if a little fiddly in places. There’s lots of other free bag patterns on the site to poke at too, I just liked the roundy shape of this one.