Have you ever had a vision of something that you wanted to make, but just knew at the time that you didn’t have the skills to make it? That happened to me about 7 years ago when I was shopping in the West End of Glasgow (an occurrence that I’m pretty sure I can count the frequency of on one hand) and I happened to find myself in a card and gift shop. You know the type, a wee shop with an odd assortment of non-stationery items that were a little bit different, and really quite nice, but that you wouldn’t necessarily think of as a place to buy those items in the first place. This one happened to have quite the collection of bags, from hand bags to man bags and a number of things in between, and a good number of them were from a company that I later discovered to be Disaster Designs. I really liked their travel collection, but none of them were of a size or shape to suit any of my bag needs, so I had the maker’s immortal thought of ‘I could make that’ with a side order of ‘and get something that fits exactly what I need’. Which really, at the time, was a bit ambitious.
Back 7 years ago, my own attempts at bag design had been, up to that point, somewhat on the clunky side (she says, generously) . It was a time before the likes of By Annie’s Soft And Stable or Bosal In R Form had hit the market, when bags tended to be made by home users out of quilting cotton, and when people just didn’t decorate their bags like a scrapbook page (actually they still don’t do the latter, it has occurred to me several times that I should make an effort to remedy this in some way, and have failed to get off my posterior to do so) The concept of hardware, beyond a basic slider and D ring, was unheard of in your average local haberdashery, and the pattern world wasn’t really hitting up non-quilt shops for materials such as tweed, faux leather or even real leather. This presented a bit of a problem because I wanted a padded bag for my laptop, I wanted it to be made out of different fabrics which were more durable than quilting cotton, I didn’t want to paint/print onto PVC for my decoration as the original inspiration was, I wanted to make it more 3D, and I wanted hardware to attach my decorative elements and also to close the bag. Oh, and I had never seen/made anything like a pattern for what I wanted to create, even though I knew that there were similar types of bag for sale in shops in terms of size/shape and base materials (mostly as briefcases for the modern man).
In the intervening years the idea has lurked in the back of my mind, flitting in and out occasionally as I’ve had to travel with my laptop, or I’ve changed my laptop for a newer model and I’ve even collected bits and pieces that I thought might make up some of it, but it was only this year that I finally thought I had all tools, materials and skills at my disposal to be able to make the bag that had lurked for so long. Unfortunately, while I knew intellectually that I had everything at my disposal, I still had a few mental blockers which held me up ridiculously, so I thought I would take you down my anxiety path in case it helps and/or reassures you that we’re all human, and that even if you’ve written hundreds of patterns it doesn’t mean you can automatically do all the things!
So what exactly was making me anxious?
- Decorating that flap – what if it didn’t turn out like what was in my mind? What if I wasted irreplaceable elements by putting them on wrongly and then, maybe, having holes punched where I didn’t want so I’d have to start again and… It was ridiculous. I could tell it was ridiculous, and yet there I was.
- Using this fabulous hessian like home decor fabric that I could never get any more of – what if I screwed something up, measured it wrongly, cut it wrongly and I could never replace it? In the end I cut it out fine, everything fit perfectly, and I had loads leftover in case something awful happened along the way.
- The buckles – I’ve only ever used pre-made buckle sets before where there was a bit of strapping already attached to either side of the hardware, but in order to make it match the rest of the bag I’d have to make my own. Confession – I didn’t do this bit perfectly, I forgot to add the wee tab to tuck the strap side in after it had gone through the buckle until I’d sewn it on, so they’re glued in place at the back. Messily. I also made the part that’s actually holding the hardware in place a bit long.
- I wanted to pad it, but how to pad the home dec/faux leather outer combo? Full marks if you’ve already guessed, ‘Pad the lining you idiot!’
- Layers of closures. I have flaps on the pockets you can just see peeking out on the front there and I needed to be able to keep them shut, but I didn’t want more buckles, how on earth would I deal with that? It turned out the answer leapt out at me when I was digging the buckles out of my hardware storage in the form of invisible magnetic snaps, but then I’d never used them before, despite having them for years and what if I got it wrong?! And yes, if you’re sitting there thinking ‘But you use the visible ones that need you to punch actual holes in the fabric no bother at all, these only sew in’ then you’d be right. At no point did I ever say my anxiety was rational.
- I wanted to use this faux leather bias tape I’d picked up from my wholesaler, because it would mean not having to turn my flap through an opening and potentially ruining some of the decor, but i’d never used it before, what if I got it wrong?! Um, yes, this stuff is absolutely amazing, I will be using it again and again.
- I had inner pocket angst – I wanted to put the laptop in a padded slip pocket type thing on the back of the lining with more pockets on the front of that rather than letting it go free range like in the last laptop bag I made, but what if it didn’t all fit? What if I made this amazing bag and the laptop was now too big because there was too much padding taking up the space it was meant to occupy? Spoiler alert, it fits just fine, and my tablet and kindle fit in front of that, and a notepad and pencil fit in front of that, and it leaves plenty of room for chargers, mice etc.
So how exactly did I put myself in a frame of mind to get past all these issues?
- Firstly I told myself I didn’t have to write a pattern for it. This felt strange because pretty much everything I’ve made for the last 3-4 years has been because I was writing a pattern. That’s not to say there won’t be a pattern in the future, but when you make something that you’re writing a pattern for it takes about 3 times as long to make because you have to keep stopping to take notes and photos at every step and I didn’t need the added time stress.
- After a couple of months of avoiding the project because after adding the leather border the flap was giving me the fear, I told myself that it was okay to make every other bit first and then come back to the flap
- I told myself it was okay not to share all the making of it so I wouldn’t get people asking all the time how things were coming along or if there was a pattern for it. This also handily gave me the out that if I messed it all up then no-one would be any the wiser.
- I took each new technique/bit of hardware one at a time and didn’t think about the next potentially scary bit, eating the elephant in small bites as it were.
- When I finally got to the flap I laid everything out for the background without cutting anything so I could shift things around and re-layer them as required. I took all the wee elements I’d cut from faux and scrap leather on my sizzix machine, ones I’d made my own ‘pattern’ for, and the wee charms I’d picked up from Etsy and added just one thing at a time, and stepped away and breathed a lot.
- I’d like to say I told myself that it was okay because it was just a bag for me and who cares, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist when I come to making things and things that are obviously wrong set my teeth on edge. I’m trying not to look at those buckle tab thingies too closely.
So how about you, have you ever had a project put the fear of god into you? Every stressed and fretted and faffed to try and put something off in case you messed it up?