Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Calendar Hobo Handbag & Handmade Gifts

My favorite thing. Gift giving. There's no feeling like watching someone open a gift with so much thought behind it. Even when I was a small child, I'd wait to open my gifts until everyone opened what I'd gotten them. To me, it's more rewarding than receiving a gift. Plus, it's even better when it's a homemade gift. When that gift giving time comes around, I've always done my best to make it special. Whether it's a handmade gift made by myself or a local artist, purchased on Etsy, or even a thoughtful repurposed find, it's always so much more thoughtful to make it count. Well, yesterday was my sister's birthday, and I've been planning this one for a while.

I bought this calendar tea towel, above and below, on Etsy from Dead Old Lady (seriously, best Etsy shop name ever, right?) a few months ago, with the intent of making this purse for Rachael. The secret's out, she was born in 1986. She's getting old! (Totally dating myself since I'm older than her)… Any who…  Since she's a full-time college student on the GI Bill, she's on a tight fixed income, and she doesn't buy herself much these days. What better gift for a sister that loves handbags, than making one for her!
Before sitting down at my machine, I gathered the materials to make the purse: a vintage yellow zipper, purchased at a local antique store, a piece of vinyl from a garment bag I bought during my last trip to Michigan, and a pillowcase Rachael gave me, upholstery scraps donated from a friend, and of course, the tea towel. Time to sew!
Now here's the kicker, the interior pocket. Inspired by my mom, who when I was a kid, was the queen of embroidery using just a plain ol' sewing machine. She'd monogram towels, our little handmade purses and totes, free hand sew (with a machine) our name on everything, it was awesome. She'd also make the most intricate wall hangings using scrap fabric, stitching everything from buildings to little people, much of it was designed using just her machine and appliqué. I wonder if I could get my hands on some photos of her work to show you all (making a mental note now!). There's one in particular I want so bad, of a woman getting out of the bath tub. Just her backside is showing, one leg out of the tub. Each bathroom tile was a separate piece of fabric, with respect to a 3 dimensional view, and stitched down with zig zag, the small details simply stitched free hand. I thought of her when I was making this pocket and decided to improvise and try something I'd never done.

I stitched "HBD RMK!", Happy Birthday, Rachael Mae Keiser!" A nice little message she'll see every time she puts something in the pocket and looks in her bag, a permanent gift tag so to speak. While admittedly, I should have used interfacing to prevent the little bit of gathering on the pocket (I'm not perfect after all), it was a great little added feature. And she loved it. 

This little bit of stitching is simple if your machine is older, simply release the presser foot tension. It's a button at the top of the machine, in line with the main shaft and needle. It releases the pressure from the presser foot while still holding the fabric in place. It's great for darning and free hand embroidery. Old machine are so much better than the new ones, because the new ones don't have this feature. First, I used a fabric pen to write out the letters, then stitched it with my machine and make the pocket, and attached it to one side of the lining. Bam! Simple as that. It's all in the little details, huh?
Whatcha think? Rachael loved it. And it's perfectly sized for books and notepads, so hopefully it will make her classes a little more enjoyable, and give her a little added pep in her step when she walks through campus. I'd like to think some little college girl will stop her someday soon and say, "Oh my! Where did you get that fabulous handbag?!" To which she responds, "My sister designed it for me." :)
Happy birthday, Rachael! Matt and I took her to dinner last night, where she opened it over a cocktail and appetizer, while waiting for her New York Strip, me waiting for my seared tofu and finger potatoes. It was a great evening. 

So next time you're pondering what to do for a loved one, expand your possibilities and go for something handmade, make something, or do something out of the ordinary. It will be so much more special! I promise.

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