Monday, 31 March 2014

Hillarys Blinds Country Crafts Competition

Back in February, I heard about a competition that was being run by Hillarys Blinds (the Hillarys Blinds Country Crafts Competition) where they would send you a 100x100cm fabric from their new collection for you to make something with and blog about. At the time, I thought, 'Brilliant! I'll have loads of time to do something!'. I'd forgotten about college exams, and the time-sink that is the annual work trip to Paris (work, not pleasure).

I'd asked for the Bird Parade Teal fabric. A beautiful pale fabric with lovely bright birds. The sample arrived, and I just stared in awe at the beauty of it. (Fabric much nicer in real life, photograph does not capture it very well)

(This is just a small panel that I cut out of the fabric)

I spent ages searching for inspiration on Pinterest. I'd decided that I wanted to make a bag. Or a top hat. I looked at patterns, and sudenly remembered - I have little/no clue what to do with fabric, besides the very basics. I went away and thought. I admired the fabric again, willing my brain to think of something new and unique, but also quite simple to do. My brain did not comply.

So the fabric was put to one side for a while, and life went on. Exams happened, as did trips with work. Suddenly the deadline was Monday, and it was late Saturday afternoon. I decided that I'd make a tote bag, freehand (tthe birds were too big to go onto a top hat and I refused to cut off their heads or tails). No measuring, no instructions, no pattern. All from my head. How hard could it be? Thinking about it, it seemed fairly simple... so how about a reversible tote bag? I thought about it in my mind, and decided it was do-able. Out came the sewing machine, and some more fabric. I wanted a nice inside, that didn't clash with the fabric from Hillarys.

I decided to go with the fabric on the left. I have no idea what kind of fabric it is - it was given to me by a lady who used to make curtains. I cut out some panels, and set to work.

As mentioned, I'm not a very competant sewer. I'd chosen a light fabric for the 'front' and a dark fabric for the 'inner'. What colour thread to use? Well, as I struggle to load the bobbin of my cheap sewing machine, the answer was, 'whatever thread is already there'. Which was black. Looking back, I really should have changed it to something that was better suited, like blue. Ah well, how else do we learn, if not from our mistakes?

The straps should be reversible too. Simple, right? These took me forever. I made a tube, which than had to be attached somehow - between the inner and outer fabrics. In black thread. I attached them to the blue inner fabric, which didn't show up too much. It was around this point I figured that the bag wasn't going to be reversible...

I also decided to 'bling' up the front panel a bit, using some gold pyramid studs I'd bought recently. I just wanted an excuse to use them really, and I thought they went well with the fabric. Here's the outside of the bag, no assembled, straps as well. As you can see, there's a lovely line of black thread ruining the top of the bag.

And here's the inside... Definitely not reversible!


Eagle eyed folks may have noticed something here with the straps... As mentioned earlier, I did this freehand. And my brain wasn't working particularly well. Instead of having the straps attached on the same side, as a normal tote bag would, I'd attached mine to opposite sides. This means that when worn, the bag hangs in a bizare manner, and the bird doesn't lie flat. The brief from Hillarys did say they wanted an original design, and I think that I managed it! I've decided to call it my Spring/Autumn bag as the front reminds me of spring, and the dark leafy pattern reminds me of Autumn.

Here are a couple more pics of the bag, showing off the (incorrect) handle placement.

So, what have I learnt from this? I need to think through designs a bit more, especially handles. I also need to learn to change my bobbin thread on the machine. Once again, this was a last minute kind of thing, I perhaps should have started sooner. Measuring would have helped a little bit, as would better sewing. Still, it's a unique bag that I think turned out pretty well and will be great for holding knitting supplies.

If you get chance, go and ohh and ahh over the lovely fabric at I've just seen that they do the bird parade in gold as well as teal, along with other beautiful designs.

Right, I'm off to see if I can find a reasonable course nearby that will teach me the proper way to use a sewing machine. After this project, I've realised that I'd like to be able to do more than very simple projects. Pinterest gave me lots of inspiration, now I need to acquire the skills in order to do more!

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