Pandemic pastimes: creating bags of enthusiasm

May 28, 2020

Homemade handbags, created by Ruby

Ruby Ardizzone finds purpose and passion in making handbags from odds and ends and shares her techniques

Now that my art foundation course has officially ended, I have had to find ways of keeping myself occupied under lockdown.

I was starting to get a bit restless and worried about what I would do, with this uncertain swathe of time ahead of me. I have gradually been discovering that designing and making bags has given me a great sense of purpose.

In fact I have become quite passionate about finding odds and ends, which I have a lot of; old toys, clothes and fabric, so much so that I have now made eight bags.

It’s very satisfying to wear something unique that you have made yourself, even when you haven’t got so many people to show it off to, in the flesh!

I have however documented the process of my bag making and shared it on social media and the videos I have made gained over 400,000 views.

Pink and purple spray paint bag

I was shocked and so pleased to see that other people liked my creations. A couple of people even wanted to buy them. Selling my bags looks like something I could definitely pursue.

The most rewarding part of this has been when a girl from America recreated one of my bag designs and credited me. It was so inspiring to see someone else’s take on my ideas.

The first bags I made were the teddy bear ones, which were fairly simple. I cut the head and limbs off of the soft toys, gently 😉 and sewed them by hand in the centre of some old tote bags.

To make the goose bag I unpicked the top seam, emptied most of the stuffing out, just leaving some in the head and feet to keep its shape. I lined the inside, with old vest fabric, then attached some buttons on the inside body of the goose. Then I fastened some ribbon to it, which worked as a strap.

Teddy bear bags

My old stuffed animals were good for starting out, because I didn’t have to use a sewing machine or construct the bag from scratch. However, when my mum dusted off her old sewing machine, and taught me how to use it, it opened up more possibilities for bag making. We practiced on some scraps of material, until eventually I was confident to use the machine on my own.

My advice to anyone making a handbag from scratch is to use a pattern. You can find some great ones for free online and you can also make your own.

If you want to line your bag then these shapes will need to be cut out of a second piece of material. Essentially you make two bags and sew the right sides together at the very end, leaving a gap to turn it inside out.

Goose bag

I especially enjoyed making the IKEA handbag, as I have been able to repurpose an old shopping bag into something I would wear.

When I made the handbag I used my own pattern, which was made up of two rectangles, for the front and back, measuring 20cm x 13cm, then a long strip to make up the sides and bottom, measuring 3.5cm x 60cm. Remember to add a seam allowance of approximately 1.5 cm around all of your shapes. The plastic material can be difficult to work with so I would suggest using your thickest sewing machine needle.

One day in early May I decided to learn how to crochet, so I found some great Youtube videos for beginners like myself. My favourite videos were by a channel called Bella Coco.

IKEA bag

First I learnt how to make a traditional granny square, then moved on to daisy granny squares with the help of another video. I figured that these crochet pieces would look cool on handbags.

The crochet bags were the most complex of all the bags I’ve created. I made ten granny squares and sewed these together in a box shape, then cut some squares from the sturdy plastic on an old school folder. I punched holes around the edges, and then made a box shape by threading thick string through the holes.

I made another box shape from some light material, to create a lining for the bag. Then I was ready to attach the granny square cover to the outside.

I crocheted the strap, sewed this on, and it was done! After I had made the first one, I made another cube bag for my friend’s birthday, using the same method. She loved it!

Have a go if you fancy; it really does make you feel calm and fulfilled, which is well needed during this pandemic.

Crochet bag

Ruby is 19 years old and studying Fine Art at Leeds Arts University. She enjoys using collage and painting as media to express herself. She loves listening to music which inspires her artwork. 

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