Sorry it's been so long since I posted, but I don't think I have any blog followers anyway! I have taken some down time to let my "tennis elbow" heal. The physical therapy is really helping and I'm feeling SEW much better! It's been a 2-year struggle with the arm pain/weakness. And that's why I'm finally getting around to making my sewing room look better. I had a bunch of art to put up -- which I did yesterday! 

I now have a bird wall! For Christmas, I got a little poster that says "Put a bird on it" (from the Portlandia skit), and it was an irregular size. I couldn't find the right size frame for it. So I made a mat out of fabric, and I love how it turned out! You could do the same thing with scrapbook paper, but for my sewing room, I needed fabric. Here's the process:
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Step 1: This shows the extra space around the poster that I wanted to fill.

I taped the poster to the cardboard, which fits inside the frame I'm using.

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Step 2: I cut 4 fabric strips to cover the edges of the poster and cardboard.

Step 3: I folded and pressed the edges of the strips and stitched a line 1/4" from the edges.

Step 4: Using double-sided tape, I attached the strips directly to the poster and cardboard. 

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Step 5: I folded the 2 longer strips at angles to form mitered corners. I used double-sided tape to hold them down.

Step 6: I cut off any fabric that hung over the edge of the cardboard. 

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Step 7: I put the newly-matted poster in its frame -- voila! The colors really make the poster "pop!"

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Here's my "bird wall!" It has brightened up my sewing room a lot. I still have more decorating and reorganizing to do, but I'm loving this!

 
 
One of my best customers ordered a messenger bag from me, in a cute owl fabric. It was the second messenger bag I've made, and it might be time to add them to my Etsy shop.
I made the long, adjustable strap out of a natural-looking upholstery fabric. It's soft, very sturdy and non-slip on your shoulder. The bag can be worn across your body (left) or over your shoulder.
My customer wanted a safe pocket for her iPad, so I made a padded, stabilized pocket with a Velcro closure. In the photo below, I put a book in that pocket. There are all sorts of other slip pockets in the bag's interior.
If you haven't had the "pleasure" of installing a twist lock (also called a turn lock), let me tell you it's a pain! It took a good hour to carefully install it. I'm so glad for the book by Lisa Lam called "The Bag Making Bible," which has lots of photos of techniques like this.
Where did I learn to make messenger bags? From an Australian bag-maker named Nicole Mallaliew (see her blog You SEW Girl)! It just so happens that this owl bag is headed to Australia!
Here are the bag's little sisters:
I'm so grateful to my customers who give me so much practice at different types of bags! - Rene
 
 
I love when a customer likes my work so much that she orders gift for others! My super customer, Lisa, ordered these two "Ellen" handbags for a sister and friend. 
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The photos above and right were taken in my basement sewing studio. The nice lighting was created by only a flourescent light on the ceiling and a fabulous BlueMax floor light. I didn't use my camera's flash.

I like having the dress form/mannequin to hold my purses! She gives good perspective for size and style. 

But I am always experimenting with my product photos, which sometimes could look more professional. Some articles I've been reading gave me the idea to try a new location today. So I headed up to my dining room, where a set of patio doors allows a lot of  light in. Today in Wisconsin, it's overcast and snowing, but the snow provided enough bright light for my photo shoot.

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Here's my super-fancy (ha!) setup. Two white posterboards served as backdrops and reflectors. 

Look at all that light coming in!

I didn't turn on any other lights, and I used my Canon Rebel XT without the flash.

The results, which I edited with Photoshop Elements (to crop, brighten, add a bit of saturation where the light washed the colors out)...
Not bad, huh? I'm not sure I like the table showing on the first two shots. Like I said, I'm experimenting. Here are the inside pics, which I truly thought wouldn't turn out. It looked so dark in there when I was shooting!
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Even with my big ol' hand holding it open, I think it's a decent shot, even sort of professional.  

I don't really mind where the light gets super-bright. It's kind of artsy.

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The front of the bag is washed out, but that's OK, because it's not the focus of this picture.

I'm amazed that the pockets and business label are in focus.

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Here's the other side of the interior, with the zippered pocket and key fob. 

Nice, natural light that shows the fabric's true colors. 

Here's the purse hanging from my chandelier with a posterboard behind it!
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If this bird purse looks familiar, it's because the original "Ellen" handbag was made of the same fabric! See the original one at left, which I photographed in my basement studio.

It looks good, but I have many problems with shadows when shooting with a single lamp.

I had two natural-light lamps for a while, but one broke.


Thanks for reading and viewing! I appreciate any comments, questions or suggestions! -- Rene
 
 
My repeat customer Laila is an owl lover...apparently a lover of birds in general! She has chosen a lot of bird fabrics for her creations. Here's her latest purse -- a custom "Ellen" handbag with concealed top zip and extra interior pockets. She requested a matching zip pouch. 
I'm too exhausted to type a lot of details! So I'll share a slide show of photos with you.  A standard "Ellen" purse is $45 (although Laila ordered it when it was on sale for $37). Additional features like a top zipper and extra pockets cost a little more. Zippered pouches like these are $21. Hope you enjoy and let me know if you have any questions!  -- Rene
 
 
I've been wanting to make a new style of cross-body purse for a while! I decided to go totally different from anything I've done. I had seen bags with the criss-crossed, angled pockets, and I liked that look. I want to call it a satchel... it's like a messenger bag without a flap. I don't know! What would you call it? Here she is, along with my new mascot, "Eyelet" the owl!: 
Yeah, I know the owl is cute! But don't let that distract you from the bag. Well, I'm distracted too -- my aunt gave it to me at Christmas time. It's from World Market. I think I'm going to use Eyelet as a prop in lots of my photos. Now back to the bag!
This bag is about 12 inches tall, 10 inches wide, and has a 2-inch gusset around the entire bag. It's a rectangular, boxy shape. The full top zipper curves a bit down each side, so the bag opens up nice and wide. You can fit a lot of stuff in here!
The three front pockets are nice and deep -- each goes to the bottom of the bag. You could carry books, e-readers, diapers, glasses or even owls in there! I really love the piping -- it matches the lining and gives the pockets a nice pop!
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One side of the lining has a deep zippered pocket that goes all the way to the bottom of the bag. You can store a lot in there! I purposely put that pocket on the opposite side of the front zigzag pockets, to even out the weight. 

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The other side of the lining has a nice phone pocket. It has darted corners, so it's got some volume to it. Eyelet the owl thinks it's a cozy spot!

Here's another shot of the phone pocket, before the lining was sewn into the bag: 

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See the pocket? It's kind of camouflaged. I really enjoy the shape. 

About the lining: It's a chocolate brown quilting fabric with a light blue floral design.

As usual, I interfaced the fabric with Pellon Shape-Flex. It's my favorite interfacing for purses and most projects. It strengthens the fabric and gives it a bit of structure, but the fabric still drapes like fabric. 

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About the exterior fabric: It's a home decorating cotton canvas from Premier Prints. The chevron design is in village blue/natural. The blue is like a cornflower blue with a touch of gray in it...not as bright as it appear in the photos. I found a photo that shows the true color at the Premier Prints site.

The strap is meant to be worn across the body. It's nice and long! If you want to wear it shorter, it is narrow enough to tie in a knot at the shoulder. 

When I custom-make these, I can change the strap length if needed for your height. This one has a 27-inch drop. It's just right for me at 5'7" -- the top of the bag sits just at my low hip.

Another feature I can customize is the interior pockets. Want more or different pockets? Just let me know. I love making bags to suit your needs!

Now, back to Eyelet the owl!

She wants to show you a nice closeup shot of the chevron fabric. It's a "slub" fabric (an unfortunate word), which  means it has lines and texture that resemble linen. I like it, and I have a lot of Premier Prints fabrics like this. If you check out my Canvas & Heavyweight Cottons photos, you'll see a lot of this fabric.

Premier Prints has a lot of different colored zigzags
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Here's my prototype of the Zigzag Bag. I used a vintage cotton canvas. It was kind of my  practice one and there were a few things I tweaked the second time around. 

A friend and customer of mine fell in love with this bag and bought it right away! I'll be making her a matching wallet in the vintage fabric. Yeah -- wallets are another new project for me! I've been wanting to try them for a while. 

I used a bright orange zipper and lined the bag in a natural cotton canvas. 

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I can't wait to make more Zigzag Bags in many different fabrics!

Want to order one?

Please don't. Not until Feb. 1st, because it's going to be my featured item for February! What a way to debut it! Instead of its regular $50, it will be $43 in the month of February! 

Check my Etsy shop tomorrow (Feb. 1) or anytime during February, and place your order for a Zigzag Bag. Here are my fabric options to get you started. Thanks! -- Rene
 
 
I have some faithful repeat customers! They make me so happy. They know they can bring a request to me and that I'll do my best to exceed their expectations. I love to match and coordinate fabrics. My customer Sue asked me to make her an Insulated Lunch Tote out of this white fabric with blue birds. I didn't want the bottom to get dirty, so I asked her if I could use a second fabric for the bottom. I chose this beautiful blue paisley fabric for the bottom (inside too) and for details like the handles and a little loop with a bird charm. 
Sue is giving this away as a gift -- to a person who already received one of my creations, this quilted Madeleine bag:
Sue wanted them to coordinate, and I think they do. Do you want to see more photos of the Madeleine bag? Check out my Facebook album. Here are some more photos of the lunch tote, which is insulated with Insul-Bright to keep food hot or cold. 
I love making these lunch totes! They are $32 in my Etsy shop -- custom-made with your choice of fabrics. Can I make you one? You have to make your own sandwich though. ;) -- Rene
 
 
I had a merchandise credit at Shutterfly, so I decided to order a customized mug. The flower/bird design came standard, but I added "Sew Much Cuteness" and this image on the other side:
Also in today's mail, a much anticipated order for some designer Japanese fabrics -- by Melody Miller for Kokka and Etsuko Furuya for Echino. I've been wanting some (badly) for quite a while.
I'm so tempted to use all the fabrics on a new purse, tote, wallet, zip case, etc.....for MYSELF! Isn't that selfish? If they are still around in a week or two, I will probably have to do that! I added them to my Flickr photostream

 
 
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As a reminder, my "Ellen" style purse is on special this month for only $37

Here's another example of this purse to hopefully spark your interest. Lisa ordered her "Ellen" in this rich, vibrant bird fabric! She also wanted a small coordinating pouch. (This style of pouch is $18). 

Check out more photos of Lisa's purse 'n pouch below!

 

    Rene Smits

    Welcome to my passion! 
    I specialize in creating high-quality custom purses and bags. Feel free to contact me with your custom requests. I also sell my ready-made pieces on Etsy: Sew Much Cuteness.

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