Since I’ve joined Etsy, I’ve begun designing my own patterns so that I can sell items that are truly my own, and the process of creating a pattern has taught me a lot. Creating a truly good pattern (which in my opinion, means both lovely and useful) is far more complicated and time-consuming than I thought it would be. I want to walk you through the development of the handbag pictured above to demonstrate:
In the past, I would sort-of create things on a whim. “This lacy yarn crochet is really cool, I like this granny square too, maybe I can make a bag.” This first example was made following that train of thought. It was also made before I had moved out on my own and had bills to pay, so I had plenty of spare time :)
I used the bag for a little while just to not let it go to waste, but the top flap curls up terribly, and the bag is so flimsy, it just doesn’t look or work well.
Next, I started thinking about it a bit more as I joined Etsy and thought I could sell some handbags. But I didn’t think it through enough. I found some cool yarn, and experimented with some stitches, and here’s the result:
This one’s not super terrible. The stitch and yarn-type gives it good strength, but with the way I shaped it at the top, It doesn’t open well; it’s hard to see inside, like a cave or something. I tried another, with a super-chunky stitch that I invented:
This one’s kinda cool, it could maybe have some potential. But it’s overly chunky, which isn’t very practical. It doesn’t have much space inside. If someone is going to pay over $50 for a handbag, it better be roomy enough to carry their stuff!
I thought the bag above was cool, and wanted to try some different shapes as well. I started to think more about shape and structure. The bag needed to have the right shape so that with stuff inside, it wouldn’t create an awkward shape like the flat flimsy bags. I experimented with the crescent moon shape:
Getting better, but inserting a zipper was going to be way too much of a pain. And without a zipper, I don’t think the shape would look right when the bag is in use. I actually want to make a semi-living off of this stuff, so it has to not only look awesome and work well, but can’t take too too much time to make.
I searched handbags on Etsy and Zappos, looking for shapes that seemed like they might work. I came upon the slouch bag, ding ding ding! I also wanted to get into tunisian crochet, and since it’s a thick dense stitch, it seemed great for handbags, and also allows for some cool color patterns. Here was one of many experiments:
After testing a few different ways, I decided to use the tunisian knit-stitch for the bottom, because it is the most dense stitch, but it sort of folded in on itself and forced the bag to flatten, which made the bottom pointless. I need a bottom of the bag to give the bag some structure, rather than a flat and floppy appearance.
Then, in a happy turn of events, I had the fabulous idea to use the knit-stitch in the opposite direction, and indeed this forces the bottom to stay open, and gives the bag a nice shape:
I added a strap and used this bag for awhile. I absolutely loved the feel of the squishy wool around my shoulder, but I realized I wasn’t happy with how the ‘slouch’ shape looked while the bag was in use. It didn’t slouch nicely as pictured above, it was too sloppy. A zipper could solve this, but I’ve decided to ditch zippers; I want soft natural wool bags, a zipper somewhat destroys that feel, and is also time-consuming and frustrating to sew into a crochet bag.
I browsed for some more ideas online. I found this bag from The Sak which served as my final inspiration:
Here is what I came up with:
This is the bag I am currently using, and I really love it! It uses the same tunisian stitches for the base and body as the failed slouch bag above, but the shape at the top has been altered. It is comfortable both for carrying in my hand or around my shoulder, is the perfect size–not too big (I hate oversized bags), not too small. The wool is so cozy, lightweight, and yet still very sturdy.
The bag is also lined with matching cotton fabric:
I learned to line the bag using these tutorials from the fabulous FutureGirl
Sewing the lining into the bag is very easy and fun, don’t let the length of the second tutorial fool you into thinking otherwise :)
I listed my bag on Etsy and got a pretty good response (meaning a good amount of views and hearts), but have since taken the bag down. I’m not happy with how the handles are attached. I will post another update once I’ve made the final change and added some handbags to my shop again. For now, I’m quite proud of the progress so far. Let me know what you think!