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Saturday, 7 February 2015

What Purse Do You Carry? [Pt 1]

KVZ Bag in Morning Glory
My first Kathy Van Zeeland purse...
Let me be up front right from the start. I am not someone who would ever spend a couple hundred dollars — never mind more — on a designer purse. To each her own obviously, but to be honest, I think that anyone who spends upwards of thousands of dollars on a (typically unattractive) purse with a designer logo splashed all over it is trying too hard.

Seriously, ladies... some of those so-called top brands are drop dead butt ugly.

For most of the past thirty years, I've carried a utilitarian black leather organizer style purse. For a long time, I also hauled around a large messenger bag style "briefcase" in which I kept my work stuff, so my purse actually had to be small enough to fit into its main compartment. Let's just say that it was not a period of my life when carrying a stylish purse or bag was a priority.

Six years ago, having exited the rat race for a while — at least on a temporary basis — I started looking at purses that no longer needed to fit inside a briefcase. Or that were basic black. Or that were made out of leather. (Yes, leather lasts "forever", but who wants to carry the same bag "forever"?) I discovered a line of bags made by Kathy Van Zeeland and found myself drawn to them for their designs and functionality. I love her use of bold colours and prints. (Some of them can be somewhat gaudy, but what the hey.) I've always been quite fussy about what the inside of a purse offers for storage, so it's quite a big deal when I find something that looks good (to me) and is functional, to boot. But the biggest plus for me was when I found out that her bags can be found at reasonable price points.

This is my summer time Kathy bag...
I have three KVZ purses that I switch out depending on season. Each was purchased for $50 (which included shipping, since they were purchased online; one from QVC, two on eBay) and even the newest one has been in my collection for over three years now. The one pictured up top was my first purchase and is the one that I am currently using. A few months ago — while at a bank teller window — a woman waiting in line rushed up to me to say, "I love your purse! Where did you get that?" I had to tell her it's actually quite old and she likely wouldn't be able to find one. (At Jysk a few weeks ago, the person who helped me with my waxcloth purchase also said she liked it... and just last week, a cashier admired it too!)

I also get a lot of comments about the Kathy bag that I carry in the summer months, shown here at right.

[Let me take a moment to clarify: I usually buy purses that are in the $10 to $20 range. It was not really in my comfort zone to buy one that was $35 plus shipping, never mind three of them over the course of a few years. It was actually my (similarly thrifty) mother who advised me to go for it and treat myself. I think it was part of a conversation that involved me no longer needing to maintain a work wardrobe, so why not spend a little on a nice bag? Or two? Or three?]

Check out Craftsy's latest promos...

When I first started making my own bags, I carried each of them for awhile. And I tend to take one with me on vacation. But over the past year, I found myself gravitating back to my KVZs for daily use and recently wondered why. Is it because I still haven't come up with my own ultimate "dream purse"?? The one that this blog was supposed to document the design process for? Hmm... that's a thought for another day.

In the meantime, I have a growing collection of handmade bags hanging in my sewing room that I'm not sure what to do with...

I want to survey some bag designers and pattern testers to find out what they do with all of the purses that they create. Do they use them, give them away, sell them? And if they don't use them, what actual purses do they use in everyday life? I'm curious to know, so I'm going to ask.

Sewing Patterns by Mrs. H's Companion Carpet Bag made by ChrisW Designs
Christine's current purse...
To start us off, designer Christine of ChrisW Designs says that she carries a prototype of what she is currently designing. "That is how I test its functionality and work out whether there are areas that need improving or tweaking." However, there does seem to be a common thread arising about what to do with all of those test bags. In Christine's case, "Any finished projects which I don’t actually use myself usually end up in storage tubs. I am currently wondering just what to do with this growing stash!"

As to what's on her arm right now? "Sometimes when I am between designs, I like to use a “commercial” purse... I find this a great way to learn what not to do in my own designs! LOL... the design I am working on hasn’t quite reached the stage where I have a prototype suitable for carrying, so I am currently carrying my version of the Companion Carpet bag, January’s Bag of the Month Club design by Samantha of Sewing Patterns by Mrs. H. It’s a great design and I love the nice wide opening created by the use of an internal frame."

ChrisW Designs' Evelyn by Patchouli Moon Studio
Daryl's beautiful Evelyn bag...
Talented crafter Daryl Perry of Patchouli Moon Studio says that when she tests bags for other designers, she does use them if they suit her needs and tastes. She tends to use several different bags and lists a few from ChrisW Designs as her favourites, including the Evelyn shown here. "I love the side pockets on the outside for keeping my keys at hand. I like the shape of this bag and the back zip pocket and inside pockets."

Probably like many of you, Daryl has tried to sell the test bags that don't suit her personal tastes, without much luck. "I will give it another shot and lower my prices to (hopefully) cover my costs of making the bag(s). I make bags because I enjoy making them and I am always looking for bags that I will enjoy using myself or for my daughter. Those bags that we won't use are still great bags for someone." In terms of potentially giving them away as gifts, she says it's "really hard to know if [a bag] will be loved and used. If I knew someone who loved one of the bags I made that I didn't want, I would gladly give it to her."

As for the "designer purse" question, Daryl says, "I have never carried a designer purse. I couldn't afford them and the store bought bags I have purchased in the past came from discount type stores. I started making bags for myself because I could choose the fabric and the other features to add or subtract from a bag I make. Most store bought bags do not have enough pockets or the right size pockets. Most tend to have black flimsy lining and you can't see what's inside a bag with black lining. I bought a bag once with a black lining that came with a little flashlight that was attached inside the bag. That tells you something right there!"

That's it for now! If you want to take part in this "study" — LOL — leave a comment if you just want to add your input here, or send me an email via the contact form at left to have your answers featured in a subsequent post. (Look for a follow-up in another couple of weeks or so.)


  1. I hope you get some comments about this post Rochelle. I would love to hear what others say about their bags/purses.

    1. Well, there will be at least a part 2 coming, but I'm hoping for yet another installment after that. We'll see!

  2. Well, I'm not a bag tester, but I've been bit by the bag bug! And how ironic that I am on a Vhris W Designs bag binge right now! Sugar n Spice, Olivia, Evelyn, Lombard, City Slicker,Savannah...oh for the love of her designs....anyway, on to the question..I'm starting to amass quite a collection myself. I'm not a business minded person at all. I am just not good at selling stuff...perhaps because I am so cheap I don't expect others to pay top dollar for things either. I'm going to be donating mine to some local animall rescues for silent auction and raffle prizes. I do this with my quilts as well. I enjoy making them, even enjoy making bags I don't personally care for, like hipster style! But there are a bunch of folks that LOvE them. I've never carried a designer purse...and really, only started to carry a purse about four years ago (up until then, all I carried was a small 5x7 organizer style thingie with Credit cards and cash and a check book. But...four years ago, I started having to carry stuff I never had to carry before. I experimented with several purses from thrift stores at a dollar or two a piece for about a year before finding something I LOvEd! And, it wasn't even a purse really...it is an AWP canvass tool bar from Lowes...BERY VERY VERY much like the design of Samantha's Companion Carpet Bag that Chris is currently carrying as mentioned I your blogpost. And I LOvE it. Got it brand new for $12'. It's black and yellow canvass, built tough, has a 12" frame opening like the carpet bag, but the handles are VERY short, which I just love. It has slip pockets everywhere...I mean everywhere....and it just so happens that everything I need to carry fits in that carpet bags (toolbox) pockets just right...and having been a mechanical engineer most of my life, it really does suit me better than a typical purse.
    I'll def be checking In to see what others have to say about their purses! I plan to make the Carpet bag, and I plan to make one in fabrics I love to see if I like carrying something I make, but I really would like to know what people are doing with the bags they make!

    1. First of all, good luck with the Carpet bag: may it be the first purse of your own making that you carry! I wanted to respond specifically to your point about donating your creations. I have plans to do the same. My other half and I volunteer for a local agency that can always use different items for door prizes and draws at events. It seems like a win-win solution.

  3. Looking forward to the update post for this.

    1. I do believe - if all goes as planned - that Pt 2 will be up this weekend. (Hope I don't make a liar out of myself!)


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