For as long as I can remember I have dreamed of travelling to New York. After my brother moved there in 2014 and got an apartment with his (now) wife, the realisation of this lifelong dream was within my reach. Affording accommodation in the big apple was/is not a realistic prospect for me at this stage of my life, so having somewhere to stay and being able to cook some of my own meals meant that, if I stuck to a tight budget, I could semi afford to visit him.
As it would have it fate was on my side (from a financial perspective, not really from a social one), as I found myself pregnant with twins a few weeks after booking my flight.
Being unable to consume alcohol and endless cups of coffee certainly assisted me in sticking to my extremely tight budget, although i do still dream of returning and drinking bubbly on the roof of The Standard Hotel….but that’s a whole other post.
Being 20 weeks pregnant with twins also made it impossible for me to try on clothing and/or try to imagine if anything I purchased would fit me in 20 weeks time after I had the twins, so I pretty much couldn’t buy any of the beautiful garments which, if I was honest with myself, I wasn’t able to afford anyway.
My absolute favourite, most inspirational store in New York (and the world) to date in my, admittedly limited, experience is Madewell . Having long been a huge fan of their website and online store (despite being unable to purchase anything), and having derived so much inspiration for garments that I’ve made from looks of theirs that I have “pinned” over the years, visiting an actual brick and mortar Madewell store was high on my New York City to do list. I was not disappointed.
Not only was the clothing as beautiful as I had always imagined, but the stores themselves were impeccable in their design and merchandising. The music was great, they even smelled good.
I love Madewell….sigh.
I just had to have some memento of my experience, I couldn’t visit Madewell in New York and not get anything! (Well that’s how I justified it in my mind anyways). I had to be smart though, I had to buy something that was timeless, that wasn’t affected by my ever increasing girth, and that I could use in my daunting future role as mother of two. I did actually need a handbag, and their handbags are incredible. There were so many that I loved, but I had to find a middle ground somewhere between what I coveted and what I could afford, and I decided upon this one:
It was pretty pricey in Rands when I converted it, but not heinously so in comparison with other leather handbags that were available in South Africa, so I figured it was a good investment; something that I could use then and after the twins were born. Ha! Little did I know that the size of your handbag (even when carrying an additional “baby bag”) needs to at least double in size when you become a parent of one, never mind two!
I used my beloved Madewell bag throughout my pregnancy, and have such a strong sentimental attachment to it. It evokes such memories of the excitement of being in New York, spending time with my brother and his wife, falling in love with my unborn babies, and the intense emotions that accompany the anticipation of having your first child/children. Alas, shortly after the twins were born I realised the impracticability of having such a small handbag, and I was back to the weathered canvas bag that I was using before my beautiful leather investment piece.
When I saw this bag in the Burda Easy Autumn/Winter 5/2015 last year the “plenty big” and the simplicity of the bags construction caught my attention, and I mentally bookmarked this as a project to attempt as soon as I had any time to myself.
They were around 13 months old when I was successfully able to start syncing their naps most days of the week. I slowly began to crawl out of the fog of the preceding months and to realise incrementally, that I may be able to actually use this time to “make” or “do” something that in no way related to babies nor the care thereof.
This considered, venturing into the narrow, congested aisles of a fabric store with a twin stroller (complete with two energetic toddlers), was slightly beyond the realm of current possibility for me, as was finding the patience to draft or trace out a pattern. Somewhere in what remained of my brain function (seriously “mom brain” is no joke) I recalled this Burda pattern and that I had a considerable meterage of grey upholstery fabric that I had purchased from a factory shop a few years ago and had used to reupholster a second hand chair. Having the occasional flaw, it cost next to nothing, and was reminiscent to me of the understated Scandinavian interior aesthetic that I so love.
I didn’t make the bag in exactly the same way as the Burda example. I was never going to do the leather appliques, but I had intended on making it drawstring like the one featured. I followed the dimensions and instructions, and found it pretty quick an easy. I learned some nifty new things, like how to box corners, and I would definitely recommend this as a quick project for those who are creatively congested but have little free time.
From an aesthetic and durability perspective I would have loved to have given this bag a leather base. I only had some scraps of leather not a whole skin, so I wasn’t able to fit one out unfortunately. I lined it with some remnants of checked fabric that I had made a dress with a while ago and added some pockets for my cellphone, sunglasses and other paraphernalia.
As the bag evolved it took on a nice soft bucket-like shape, and I decided against the drawstring. I then made two leather straps so that it can be carried in one’s hand as well as worn over the shoulder.
It is imperfect without a doubt (and I’m not sure if sewing leather with a domestic machine will ever yield a perfect result), but I love the way it came out and have learned a lot about making handbags. This knowledge I will implement into future projects based upon this one as I will definitely be making more of these bags!