Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring Handiwork Bag

I have always admired the achingly beautiful "handiwork" and presentation bags from the Tudor and Stuart periods of English embroidery. They both have the same basic square design with draw strings and tassels.

The handiwork bags were meant to hold embroidery implements, supplies and unfinished projects. The bags themselves were embroidered by their owners. The presentation bags were the same format but they were much more elaborate. They were intended to contain an equally valuable gift, for example, a pair of exquisitely stitched and embellished gauntlet style gloves, which were a popular and symbolic present in 17th century England.

So I set out to make a 21st century version of these stunning bags. I began with a simple square of the Coleus fabric surrounded by strips of the Sprigs fabric, both from the Sunshine & Shadow line for FreeSpirit. I made two of these, one for each side. Then after adding batting and a white backing, I quilted two rows of heavy white stitching with 12 weight threads to add a little glow of light.

Then I quilted wavy lines with the feather stitch, also using 12 weight threads. I think these rows help to blend the fabrics together. Then  I hand stitched random flat sequins, a relaxing evening activity. This is another idea borrowed from the embroidery of the 1600's. I just sequined one side for show and left the other side unadorned so it could rest comfortably next to the body.

Although this bag is too substantial for draw strings to be very effective, I added them as a decorative element. They are strung through loops of gross grain ribbon. This was also a wonderful excuse to add more tassels! The tassels were made with DMC pearl cotton and my favorite felt beads from the Art Girlz.

A zipper was added for security and finished with more felt beads. The ribbon loops are continued inside the bag and turned out to be perfect for storing your knitting needles, which also help to stablize the bag.

I chose a light Sprigs fabric for the lining, so it will be easy to find what you are looking for inside. There is a wide shoulder strap for portability. I think this bag looks nice enough to hang on the wall! It would make a handsome throw pillow, as well!

Also note that Craftcast with Alison Lee has just posted our podcast interview. I am a fan of several craft podcasts, which I listen to at the gym... makes working out easier to bear! I especially like Craftcast because her guests are accomplished fine craftsmen and women. You can download the shows or simply listen on demand. I know you will find lots to explore on her site.


Melissa P said...


Birdblocks said...

wonderful. Love, love, love the bag. Those colors really speak to me. I have a question tho. What thread size do you use in the bobbin when you work with size 12 threads in the machine?

Jane Sassaman said...

I use a matching color of 50 weight thread in the bobbin when using 12 weight on top.

Sew Pretty Dresses said...

Wow this does look nice enough to hang on the wall! You had me at the quilting! Pretty pretty!

Diane J. Evans said...

Gorgeous, Jane! Where did you find square sequins??? I've been looking all over for them! Do tell!