We take sewing personal at Serial Bagmakers.
I have been sewing seriously since April 2015. But what did sewing mean to me in the year(s) before that?
I had my own Toyota (sewing machine!) since 1992 but only used it for sewing a carnival dress and hemming the rare thing. My mother had a Bernina.
In July 2014 I was so fed up with the prices professional seamers and seamstresses asked me (very reasonable prices, but reasonable prices multiplied by 7 hours is a lot of money for a dress) that I ripped an old dress and drafted a pattern from that (out of the blue). Nothing that I ever did or had seen anyone doing it. I had bought the fabric at a fabric market 2 months before because I wanted to ask the local repair shop to make a dress.
In 1 night I ripped my dress (without seam ripper, because at that point I still thought a seam ripper was for making buttonholes) drafted the pattern, cut out the fabric and started sewing.
I had almost zero experience but 100% self confidence.
The next day I went to my mom to show her what I made and her reaction was ‘wow’. I could see in her eyes how proud she was. It was far from perfect but so much better than she thought it would be. So that raised my self-confidence to 120%.
I still wear that dress although you can see a lot of mistakes, I don’t care. I’m so proud of it.
In September 2014, I went to the hospital for hip replacement surgery. When I was better by the end of the month, my mom went to the hospital and was diagnosed with cancer.
In a local big box store, an overlock machine was on sale and I bought it.
When my mom came out of the hospital, I visited her every day (she was in a service flat, so she had everything she needed as far as medical care, but I was there for the talks and groceries). By the end of December, she passed away. Her funeral was on January 9, 2015.
In February 2015, a local sewing group was formed and I joined. The first time I unpacked my overlock and threaded it.
By the next meeting, I learned what a cutting mat was, why you need a roller cutter, what a seam ripper was used for (to rip unwanted seams).
Then I cut out a dress (from that same pattern I had drafted myself) and that is still a UFO on my dress form. It’s just a dress that does not want to be made. Probably it’s the wrong fabric for that pattern.
Somewhere at the beginning of March 2015, Deby from So Sew Easy had formed a Facebook group So Sew Easy sewing chat and I learned a lot!
It was the same month I had trouble with my Toyota sewing machine and I brought it to the Sewing machine hospital (that is the actual name of that store).
Since I had not asked for expedited service (I had no idea it would take that long) it took three weeks to repair my machine. While I was in that shop, I was looking at new machines (there still was a chance they could not fix my own machine) and was shocked by the prices. 300 euro and over… wow.. a basic decent machine would be 600 euro. (This is Europe after all, prices for machines are a lot steeper than the USA)
In the meantime, I took a course to learn to use my overlock machine. That class was very helpful. While it took me 3 hours threading my machine the first time, the second time it took me only 10 minutes. I learnt a lot with the help of the teacher.
I learn a lot by watching someone do it. Thank you YouTube.
By the beginning of April 2015, I was full of ideas of what to make and in Deby’s Facebook group the Bionic gear bag was mentioned (together with the Sew Much Nicer community. Little did I know how difficult that bag was. So I ordered online the materials I needed to make that bag. (I ordered on Aliexpress so it would take more than 35 days before my stuff would arrive).
Around Easter (April 2015) I had convinced myself that I would like to sew, but that I needed a better machine. And from 300 euro – that is expensive – I went to €999 – that is only half of the price of my bike. I bought a Pfaff expression 3,5 from a brick and mortar store that has an online shop. The machine had a temporary discount of 300 euro. So that made it less than 1000 euro.
The start of a bag making adventure
Since the day before easter 2015, I’ve caught the bug of bag making and hardly have any days when I’m home, have spare time that I go without touching my sewing machine.
In that first year, I made over 130 pieces. Small pouches, keyfobs, duffle bags, handbags, backpacks, totes and wallets. Lots of wallets.
I’m convinced that if you want to master a craft you need to practice the hell out of it. And that is what I did.
In September 2015 I joined testing teams and learned what went in making a pattern. A lot of effort and time. And patience.
Somewhere in the Summer of 2016, I found some tutorials on Youtube and Pinterest without written instructions. I turned them into full instructions with drafted pattern pages and sold those in the ‘1$ collection’.
The embellishment collection, 5 + 1 pattern was born. Ruby, Carty, Chappy, Chaps and Bitty started this whole endeavour.
While I was in the hospital in September 2016 for my second hip replacement, I drafted a wallet. I had found some wallet clasps on Aliexpress but could only find one pattern to use them. It had to be a wallet that was easy to make for beginners and was feasible on a domestic machine.
I had made so many patterns from so many designers that I knew for myself what my pattern had to be.
Full written instructions that presume nothing.
I do not assume you know things. You are going to sew a wallet or bag on a sewing machine, so I do expect you to know how your sewing machine works, how to thread that machine and how to place the bobbin. Other than that, I will explain everything.
Full drafted pattern pieces, even when they are simple rectangles.
One of the first things I bought when I started bagmaking was a quilting ruler in inches. For some reason, most bag making patterns are in inches. The first 50 bag patterns I made were in inches. Feet, inches, miles are not a concept I grasp in real life outside the sewing room, but when making a bag, it’s 100% logic to me. I only tried to convert inches to centimetres one time.
But not everyone has a quilting ruler. Not everyone makes tig bags a year.
- A cutting list with all dimensions: All dimensions on 1 page. So easy when you are cutting.
- Letters and names on all pattern pieces: Some people grasp letters, other remember names.
- Make sure you learn something new in every pattern you make: The size of what you learn is less important. So teach a new technique in every new pattern.
- Make a video for every pattern: When a picture is worth a thousand words, a movie is worth so much more.
My first real pattern, the Rozy wallet, was released in September 2016.
In the fall of 2016, I designed, drafted, wrote and published
- Trudy, a small handbag with 2 external pockets.
- Makey, a make-up brush roll to hold all your brushes when on the move.
- Jody, a small handbag, commissioned by the group ‘Creative Bag Making’.
All patterns had to have a Y in the name, as a memory to my mom, whose name was Yvonne.
In 2017 these patterns saw the light of day:
- An update for the Rozy wallet and a translation into Dutch.
- Pyck-me-not, a clever small crossbody bag inspired by a vintage big brand bag. The classy version of a hip bag.
- Kaleidoscope, the tote/handbag that was a part of the Prism collection (Go have a look at Glitzy, the organizer that was designed by Gena to fit perfectly into a kaleidoscope.
- Roxy, an accordion wallet. Another all-time favourite.
- Instructions to make a mini and Maxi version of Rozy and Roxy wallets. At this time they are incorporated into the main pattern.
- Charlie, a low profile belt holster bag, allowing you to take the essentials with you and keep your hands free.
This was the first time collaborating with another designer. Tara designed the bag and wrote the first instructions. I turned it into a pdf pattern, drafted the pictorials, led the testing team, added some ideas, made a video, done the PR,… We split the profits and both of us happy with how it turned out.
- Memories-n-More, a drawstring tote to help you turn your scrap basket and/or jelly rolls into a nice big shopping tote.
2018 was a crucial year for Serial Bagmakers. I published my first paper patterns (both in English and in Dutch) and quit my day job to spend 100% of my time on this business. I’m designing patterns, curating a hardware collection and helping people making beautiful bags.
The patterns that came to you that year:
- Cottonwood boho bag, a second collaboration with a wonderful designer, GML. The moment I saw this bag I knew it would be a success. I helped her turn this into a publishable pattern, drafted pattern pieces, wrote instructions, drafted the pictorials, led the testing team, made a video, done the PR,…
- Cottonwood Pouch, a travel wallet inspired by the form of the Cottonwood bag and sized to fit perfectly into the bag.
- Clip2close, a cute pouch that uses the same wallet frames used for Roxy and Rozy.
- Many2one, the card-and-so much more pockets that will fit in any bag. Many2one is a free add-on when you buy Clip2close.
- An updated version of the Roxy wallet and another rewrite of Rozy. When printing your patterns on paper, they just have to be correct.
- The Anna, a messenger sling with an ingenious way to have a non-droopy lining. This was also the pattern where I experimented with a full-blown video classroom.