Blue boxy bag

Once upon a time, around 20 years ago, I bought a bag off a street vendor in Athens. I ended up using it so much, that the loop for the handle broke off! That’s what happens when you put page-a-day Moleskines in there, and carry them around all the time.

A few years ago, I was at my parents, wanting to do something, but they couldn’t leave the house. It must’ve been either too cold or too hot.

So I decided to make a pattern of that old bag. I’d loved it so much that I’d kept it, despite it being old and broken.

Yes, I did it on baking paper. That’s what the parents had at home…

Then I cut the pieces out of leather, and glued two on either side of bag-cardboard, to make a hard bottom. No photos of that.

Next I started sewing the sides to the base, to make sure they’d be in the right spot.

The bag is only made of 3 pieces: bottom and 2 sides. It of course also has a strap and 2 strap-holders, but the main pieces are only 3.

After attaching the sides to the bottom, I added the zip on top. I really wanted to avoid the bag being somehow horizontally distorted.

I may have worked on the side seams while trying to focus at work. You’d be surprised what some manual work does for your listening focus sometimes 🙂 It really helps anchor a wandering mind!

In case nobody’s noticed, the bag was being sewn with inner seams (inside out), like a garment. After the three main pieces were all sewn together, I had to flip it.

Piercing the strap-holders was a bit stressful. Would they line up right on the end bits of the bag?
One saddle-stitch at a time!
Done!! Also stitched the bag strap.
It works!!
The boxy blue bag

It is very soft and very light. If those two metal rings weren’t on it, it might fly away!

I haven’t filled it yet. But I did try to get one of those fat A5 moleskine annual diaries in, like I used to 20 or so years ago. It fits!!

Beach bag with 50x150cm and 60min

Last week i went on holiday. I’m Greek, and love the greek islands (best sea in the world!), so it’s where i always go for my summer sea & sun fix. This year, it was Crete.

The night before my sparrow-fart flight, at about midnight, i realised i could not find my beach bag. Maybe it’s at my parents’ in Athens. Maybe it’s under my bed. Go figure. I needed to get to bed pronto, because my alarm would go off at 4:30am. So. What to do?

I could not wager on finding a beach bag on holiday. I know the gift shops down there. You can get olive oil soap and wooden salad stirrers easier than a fabric bag. I looked at my collection of generic fabric bags (many thanks to London Fashion Week, IKEA, SPSS, Mathworks, and many others) and thought “no. And where will the towel go?”

My options:
– go on a beach holiday without a beach bag.
– make a beach bag. Quickly.

I had fabric. Cath Kidston’s London landmarks print. Barely 50cm of it, but full width (150cm).

I knew i wanted thick handles, so my sunburnt shoulders wouldn’t be cut into, so i cut out two strips of about 20cm width each (of the 50cm height). I folded them, stitched them into tubes, and flipped them to make handles. I did not stitch them down again, i did not want them flat.

Then i cut a strip of about another 15cm (again 50cm high), and split it in half. This yielded 2 pieces of 15x25cm which i proceeded to turn the edges on so they could become patch pockets. Ah. Yes. A feature of my favourite beach bag of all time were two outer pockets, one of which carried a bottle of water, and the other sun lotion.

The rest of the fabric was my bag. I had about 95cm left (by 50cm height).

Here is a rough sketch of what the “pattern” for slicing up the fabric looked like.


First, i folded in the top edge and stitched it down.

Second, i applied the patch pockets and also stitched them onto the bag.

Third, i stitched the side seam of the bag, to make it into a nice tube. I did a french seam on that (sew wrong way together, then right way together, to get a tidy and stronger seam).

Fourth, i stitched the bottom. I also made a modification. Instead of sewing a single line bottom, i made a T-seam, so the bottom would be wider. Think of the Longchamp bags. That seam. This was a bit tricky to do on the fly without measuring, but i was aiming for speed, not precision.

Fifth, longest, and last step, was to put on the handles. I wanted a narrower top, so i stitched them folded into the body rather than flat against it. Imagine having the bag pinched around the handle rather than the handle flat against the side of the bag.

This is the bag finished! (I am gutted that i was too rushed, tired and stressed to think of taking more photos of the work in progress!)


And here it is in use, on the amazing beach of Elafonisi in Crete.



laptop in a sporran? Going hands-free and backpain-free while carrying tech

(written in February 2014, published in March 2014)

Since portable technology appeared on the market, I have carried it. These days, I carry my own laptop to work every day as well. The joys of contracting… you’ve got to bring your own hammer to most workplaces, as it were. I’ve been doing this every day since September and my back is starting to be seriously damaged by it. Every day, standing on a crammed carriage, swerving around on the tracks, getting bumped, while carrying a laptop and everything else.

Last night, I had enough. TFL has announced two sets of 48-hour strikes, the first to hit from tonight. Transport mayhem! It would make carrying my tech even more painful. So I decided to take action.

I have always hated backpacks. You cannot keep them on your shoulders in public transport. If you put them down, and it has been raining, they get all wet and muddy, so your coat gets dirty when you strap the bag on again. I have a very good coat. Mud is not happening. So I’m constantly lifting the entire weight of my tech.

Messenger bags are ok, but you end up wearing them cross-body, tilting yourself one way or the other, and the whole weight of laptop plus accessories being carried by a single 1-inch (a bit more if you’re lucky) strap. That would often cut into my shoulder very painfully, despite the padded part of the strap and my thick coat.

Holding the laptop in a shopper causes the same problems (thin straps, one-sided lift on spine and lower back muscles).

The last option, the satchel / attache case, would rely on arm strength and would still be pulling at my spine and shoulders.

I needed to find something that could carry my laptop but which would not rely on shoulder and lower back muscles. What else have we got? Gun holsters! Sporrans! Controversial fanny packs! Belts! You might be getting the picture already…


So far, it works incredibly well. I need to make a better buckle for easier removal, and of course give it better finishings. Some bias tape will take care of that. Taking over the world, one crazy bag idea at a time!

handbag design course: six bags, six scenarios – first sketches

So I’m doing a handbag design course.

Our second task, from week two, was to design six handbags for our client. Like a good User Experience Architect, I started with six usage scenarios…

I’ve also listed each bag with the largest most likely items it needs to contain.

  1. day bag for the office: laptop, A4 pages, iPad, kindle, …
  2. day bag for running around the city: camera, kindle, A5 notebook, …
  3. date night clutch: oyster, keys, credit card, phone, lipstick, …
  4. weekender / overnighter / carry-on bag: shoes, 2 clothes changes, book, magazine, tickets, …
  5. popping out to the corner shop clutch: phone, oyster & credit card, keys. (just the holy trinity, minimised)
  6. emergency carrier bag: the ubiquitous shopper, in parachute silk. For your jacket if the day gets too warm, for the milk on your way home, for that amazon delivery that arrived at work.

And here are the sketches I came up with. I need to spend more time exploring alternatives for each, but our time on the course is very limited, and given my full time job has yet to be replaced with full time blogging and photography (I wish), I am constrained in what I can achieve.








handbag design course: persona, mood board and trends

I’m doing a new handbag design course at the London College of Fashion. This is a little cousin of Central Saint Martins, and is part of the family of London University for the Arts.

My teacher is Ann Saunders, and she has been designing handbags for decades. Soon, her own brand of bags will be stocked at Harrod’s, and I cannot wait to go see them as she has confessed she has a pocket / compartment fetish to rival my own.

Our first task from week one was to define a persona, research the shops she goes to, and create a mood board and a trends board. I created both boards electronically, and can share them here. I used pinterest to collect bags for the trend board . and my iPad / iPhone / instagram collection of photos for inspiration. The things I see inspire me, and I tend to photograph everything that gets a reaction out of me. So I decided to use them for this project. The collages were made using the awesome iDraw app.

My client is Emmanuelle.

Emmanuelle is in her late twenties working in the big City. She works in a male-dominated environment, in a rather corporate setting, and while she doesn’t always need to wear a suit, she works with people who often do. She would like to move on in her career soon, but isn’t entirely sure which way to go yet. Often, she will think a lot about what to wear, or what bag to hold, depending on who she is meeting that day and how much she needs to carry. In her spare time she enjoys meeting her friends for brunch, but rarely goes out otherwise as she’s always broke from needing to save up for yet another big holiday.

She shops infrequently and only buys things she can also wear to work. Not quite investment pieces, but not high street trendy things either. Her handbag collection is quite kimited by her budget and she favours bags which can hold a lot of stuff. She goes to the gym often, but typically uses an old backpack for that.

Her favourite shops are Selfridge’s, Liberty, and the odd designer boutique off the beaten track. Uniqueness is something she values in her wardrobe. Some handbag brands she has owned or would love to own: Vivienne Westwood, DKNY, Radley, Hermès (Birkin), TopShop and River Island.



Replacing handbag lining

After my misadventure with the TopShop flimsy lining, I decided to re-line my handbag. Why? Because it’s cute, and looks small, but fits an amazing quantity of things, including an A5-sized page-a-day yearly moleskine diary. Yes, the big fat black one. And a massive wallet. And all my other clutter necessities. So. Here’s how I did it.

  1. Remove old lining. I left a 1.5cm “fringe” of the old one, as I wasn’t sure my machine can stitch through leather. I sewed most of the new lining onto that “fringe”, and am considering cross-stitching on top of it to a) make a prettier edging and b) ensure the new lining stays on by securing it to the leather.
  2. Cut piece of new lining wall (with possible 2nd piece for reinforcement)
  3. Cut pieces for pockets
  4. Put pockets together (gives a better finish)
  5. Affix pockets to the bag.
  6. Add zippered pocket if you wish (the best tutorial for that is from u-hanblog)
  7. Sew new lining to the bag, going all around the edge
  8. At this time I also stitched the “TopShop real leather” tag onto the lining. Thought it’d be a cute touch and memento of where the bad lining came from.
  9. Sew down the side to form a tube and close the lining up
  10. Cut the bottom piece(s). I used a second piece to reinforce this too, even if it won’t be under much strain.
  11. Sew the bottom piece as far as you can (from the back, to get a clean finish) using the machine.
  12. Finish sewing the bottom piece by hand (good side of fabric to you). I was rushed (wanted to go out in 10 min and use it) and did it very quickly and it’s not pretty, but you know what? It’s at the bottom of the bag, in the darkest recesses of my daily clutter-carrier, and I don’t really care 🙂

I also chose to take this opportunity to add a magnetic closure at the top of the bag, as none had been provided and the bag was infuriatingly left gaping at all times. In a city like London, this is an open invitation for peeking, and less desireably, pick-pocketing too. Adding such closures is the easiest thing in the world, and I recommend it to anyone who has trouble closing their bags. Mind you, you do need access to the space behind the lining in order to secure it in place, but a small opening should suffice.

What do Marilyn, Liberty, Selfridges, Laduree, Westwood and TopShop have in common?

… they all were part of my (lovely) weekend 🙂

Saturday involved homemade english breakfast, a short (first ever) visit to the National Portrait Gallery (wow!), tea at Laduree, shopping at Liberty (!!) and a lovely movie with George Clooney. That, and changing a handbag lining. But more on that below.

Marilyn dress finds owner

Finally, after many tribulations involving flights, post offices, mailmen and snow, The Marilyn Dress has found its rightful owner!

This is my friend, N., modeling the dress. The feedback I got was that it’s going to be tough to find the right bra for it (indeed I have no idea how Marilyn herself pulled it off – or kept it in, as it were…), and that the skirt’s fullness (720 degrees of material sewn into 360 degrees of waist) is wonderful and very glamorous.

Now all we need is a Hollywood-style evening to wear it to. Us girls should get our diaries out and coordinate some massive charity ball or something, because we’re not rich enough to afford such an event on our own money. However, we are definitely good at getting things done and having fun (and 3 of us have already coordinated large events). So maybe later this year we’ll have some interesting news, born from a random comment while walking around Knightsbridge, dreaming of when we’d get to wear our lovely evening dresses…

Shopping at Liberty: Vivienne Westwood rocks!

As for Liberty… Well… I came across this stunning Vivienne Westwood dress… And I couldn’t resist. The pictures are from net-a-porter (where it was overpriced AND sold out), that’s not me!! It’s my first designer dress, and I’m very very excited to have added it to my wardrobe. I’ll be peeking at it for construction tips in the future, me thinks 🙂

Selfridge’s inspiring window

On my saturday-shopping-in-London day, I came across this window at Selfridge’s on oxford street that truly inspired me, and I had to share it.

I’ve said this before, but I’ve just finished losing weight (reached my target weight last week!!!) and as a result I have a bit of a messy wardrobe. There’s various shapes and sizes, and I need to go through it and toss things. Most acquisitions having occurred since I started working full time 5 years ago (which is when I started piling on the pounds) are often of a hide-my-shape nature. Despite always being fond of body-con, once you reach a well-padded size 14, you want to hide, even in body-con clothes.

So a lot of the stuff I have is darker, boring, drab… And I want to rejuvenate it. Because I’m in the best shape I’ll ever be (30 years old, with a body tighter and smaller than when I was 16!!) and I want to enjoy it while it lasts (aka before children and serious old age happen). And this quote on the Selfridge’s window about sorting through your clothes and making sure you love each and every one of them hit a chord. Because when you love your clothes, getting dressed in the morning becomes joyful, and you spend the rest of the day in the afterglow of knowing you are wearing lovely things and looking your best. I would like my clothes to mirror my new self: to be the best, and happiest, they can be.

TopShop handbag lining

In more practical news, a handbag I have been using for maaaaybe 2 months (tops) has already fallen to shreds. Well, the lining has.

TopShop’s leather handbags are usually very well made and quite solid, but this one seems to have been the exception that (hopefully) confirms the rule. Within 3 weeks the lining had already started to tear. You see, whoever created the handbag thought that it would be smart to line it in the flimsiest, most shreddable light little cotton… For the record, sir (women know that lining needs to be _solid_), you are a twit. And please don’t do it again.

So now I have a choice. Go hunting for my next handbag and spend another £50-100, or change the lining. Naturally, being offered to customise a handbag interior, I pounced. You see, I LOVE pockets. And I love special linings. So I’m replacing the awful TopShop material with a reinforced colourful silk one. Plus London Fashion Weekend is coming up next month, so I should hold off shopping around until then (there’s some great things there!)

I had scraps from the Marilyn dress and from my Medieval gown, and I used them to make me a new reinforced lining. I’ve put on 2 small internal pockets and one larger zippered one, and I plan on making a small makeup/whatnot pouch to match the lining for carrying some bigger clutter necessities I always have with me (swiss army knife, permanent marker, hand sanitizer, lip balm…)

Here is the lining with the pockets attached. Tonight I will sew it into the bag, and add a bottom, so I can use it tomorrow. Yey!! Not only do I end up with a more functional bag, but I save money, have fun, and improve the bag a hundredfold! A peek of beautiful lining makes the difference between quality designs and high street junk. Have I mentioned that Sewing Rocks!!?! 🙂