I first made one of these for Heather, to carry her water bottle when traveling. It is insulated so keeps water cool. I then made them one Christmas, so they spread around.
I learned the art of Mesh weaving and was hooked. In 2005, I had a trip to Singapore, to watch Jamie and Meg run a marathon. They are familiar with the city, and took me to a fantastic Japanese bookshop, where I discovered books with Mesh weaving. I came away with four books on bag making. Two were completely on using mesh weaving. With no Japanese I have to follow the pictures and diagrams, which are pretty good. These books are a great resource.
l have been able to make samples and write my own directions.
The next step was to use my Mesh weaving to enhance bags. A very ordinary pattern looks great with the added Mesh weaving. I love doing this and have made bags for family and friends.
I moved to a small retirement village, where I had a neighbour who used a walker. I decided to make her a bag that could hang on the front of the walker, that she could use instead of a handbag. She often used the bus and it was easier for her getting on and off the bus if she didn’t have to juggle a handbag too. It was very successful. Then of course she was asked where she got it. I started making them seriously. They have been very popular. I am still making bags for walkers but now vary the fabrics I use.
This is a recent bag where I have used a wool blend for the main body. It adds weight but as the bag is not carried, that doesn’t matter.
Through family living in Manila, I was introduced to Berdabags. These bags are made from discarded rice sacks. The project was started by expats in Manila and gave employment to a village that had experienced a disaster. They were previously employed in shoe factories, until a cyclone swept through in 2004 and flattened them. They were never rebuilt.
This project gave full time employment to eight families and supported the schools. At the beginning of the school year, all children were given a school bag and all the school requirements for the year. Through sponsorship, this project was able to extend the school program and also supplied equipment and other benefits to the village.
The rice sacks are large bags and very colourful. All the factories discard the leftover sacks at the end of a season, then look forward to new designs for the next season. These were collected and reborn into allsorts and sizes of bags, all well designed, durable and colourful.
At this time I had a friend working in the Philippines, fly in fly out with an 8 week turnaround, so I always had a good supply. The bags were easy to sell. They were colourful, sturdy, well made, professionally sewn and best of all, cheap. My best seller was a craft caddie. This was made at my request and I am sure I sold hundreds.
My quilting friends loved these bags! I loved the shopping bags too, so large and light to carry. I must say I personally own quite a variety of Berdabags.
Sadly, there came a time when my courier was no longer able to bring bags. I think I had probably almost reached saturation point too. I had been selling berdabags for 4 years and had been able to help the village. Mareene Aitkin, from True Blue Exhibitions, gave me space to sell at the Woodturners and Craft Fair, for three years running. Time has dimmed my memory to exact results, but in the 4 years I sent money back to the village. The second year I had a stall at the Craft Fair, I was well prepared and had a good supply of assorted bags. They were also a new product at the Fair. This was my most successful sale, taking $3000 to send back to the village. I have visited this village and met the bag makers. They are indeed poor, but a happy village.
I think I started making bags when I found a gorgeous piece of fabric, and so created a bag to show off the design. Not a fancy pattern but just something out of my head. I was hooked! I made bags for anyone who admired my handy work.
The first structured bag I made was at a class with Carolyn, to make her design, a Rittzy Tote Bag. What fun that was. Needless to say I was stuck with this idea. All the girls in my family got a bag, including one for a d-I-l living in Manila. After 6months, and it hadn’t arrived, I was devistated and imagined someone walking around Manila with my work of art hanging off their arm. Imagine my joy when I got the call to say it had arrived! That was quite some time ago.
This is still one of my favourites, and it certainly has been well used.