Casting Call: Auditioning Fabrics

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With the completion of my latest bag, Ruby Rose (Valentine’s Day is near), I thought I would share a glimpse of what happens in the beginning stages of the bag-making process.  My absolute favorite part is that first step when I pull a few fabrics together that work well.  That is, I need complementary colors and textures for both lining and exterior, and also need to consider the season.  In the winter I get to use my “sumptuous fabrics” like velvety chenilles, tapestries, textured leather, even corduroy.  My summer fabrics include a lot of the laminated cottons and silky cottons.  Now as you can see below, I have a lot of help at this stage.  Buddy has obviously worn himself out sorting through the winter fabrics!  And Kate, well you all know Kate savors sleep like a good steak!  So she’s testing out the texture of the doggie quilt I made her.  Must have felt good. 🙂

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Next I decide which of my various patterns would put the fabric in its best light–large, small, shoulder sling, clutch, etc.  (Sometimes this step occurs first.  I may have just purchased a new pattern or sketched one, either on paper or in my imagination and I’m eager to try it.)  After I’ve matched fabric and pattern, I love searching for any trims that would enhance the look–colorful beads, fringe, piping, buttons, and a selection of closures all serve to make every bag unique.

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During this step, I often use my cell phone to snap a picture to preview a combination (or to take pet pics.)   Taking a picture lets you figuratively step back and decide whether you’ve selected, for example,  too much trim or too little.  (If you’re a quilter you’re probably familiar with a device called a view finder which allows you to focus on specific parts of your project, sample frame it in different ways, and detect color values.)  This is the same principle.  In the views above, I noticed that the texture of this fabric was so rich that adding beading to the pocket would detract.  Sometimes a fabric like this seems to “speak for itself”–a deep red, thick, soft chenille. The fabric was already richly textured and the pocket alone would add dimension.

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Speaking of texture, I should mention that when a fabric is this thick (and I chose a similar lining which you see here) I use a “walking foot” to feed the fabric evenly.  This attachment was expensive but served me well through the years when I made quilts.  Also comes in handy with slippery fabrics.

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Now what you’re seeing above is a picture I took in one of the last technical stages where the lining is sewn to the exterior–a very satisfying stage, but with a bag like the sling above, I just wanted to give you an idea of how much it takes to hold these layers evenly  while they are all sewn together.  As you can see, I used three different kinds of clips–not because they were uniquely special in any way or served a different purpose–but because I didn’t have enough of any one of them!  I used those awesome Clover Wonder Clips, mini clothespins, and small binder clips.  Well…it got the job done!

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And finally, TA DA!   RUBY ROSE!  She  features a large external pocket, and one large and two smaller interior pockets and a magnetic snap.  Since the two straps are simply tied at the top, they are completely adjustable.  A thick red and gold braided piping was the only trim necessary.  And I’m already thinking of my next bag.  Man, I love that first step!!

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