Bag Making With Yorkshire Tweed
Hi, I'm Emma & I make bags. Here's a short piece written by me for Fabworks about bag-making using the new Heart of Huddersfield range of wool tweeds.
As a maker of bags, my fabric radar is almost always set to ‘tweed’, its like I can smell it! I was once driving back from a sewing weekend in Malhamdale, stopped for coffee in the middle of nowhere and discovered a small quilting shop with a whole wall full of the stuff. Heaven! I love using wool, not only can I stitch it on my domestic sewing machine, but it is also hard-wearing and water resistant, which means that it is the perfect alternative to leather for the home sewist when bag making.
Sheep really are clever creatures and using wool is a lot more sustainable than synthetic alternatives, a quality that many of us are more sensitive about these days due to obvious environmental considerations. But aside from these very worthy reasons to use British-woven tweed, let’s be honest, it just looks and feels beautiful and has a timeless quality that sets it apart from all other cloth.
|Handmade bag using Rolling Hills - Birdseye
|Handmade bag using Marina Plaid - Twill
I have been buying wool fabrics from Fabworks for a few years now, so I was super excited when I first read about their new Heart of Huddersfield range of exclusive tweeds, released last month. I, along with many others I suspect, jumped right onto their email announcement that the new collection was live and got quite carried away adding half their stock to my online basket! After a significant rationalisation process – agonizing – I settled on just three and placed the order quickly. I immediately panicked and regretted not buying more!
There are a few things I look for when buying tweed for bag making which, if you are tempted to have a go yourself, you may want to consider. Weight; not all tweed is the same, some cloth can be quite thick and hefty, while suiting weight tweed is usually much finer and more drapey. Too woolly and your seams are going to get pretty unwieldy once you’ve added an interlining to give your bag structure. Too thin and your bag might sag and crumple. When my parcel arrived a couple of days later, I was really happy with the weight of these cloths - not too thick, probably finer than a Harris Tweed for instance, but with a very sturdy almost felted texture to it, meaning it holds its shape well. This is probably the perfect combination for making bags. The cloth is firm, presses beautifully and goes through my sewing machine without any broken needles or scary noises.
Of course, most of that last paragraph isn’t what we’re thinking about at all when we are shopping online. Most of us are just gazing at the beautiful colours and patterns. My sewing obsession totally began with a joy of combining textures, colours and prints. The bags were almost secondary to this, just a handy medium really for playing with the purely aesthetic qualities of fabric. Fabworks have organized their tweeds around different weave patterns, with a particularly cool one they call Birdseye. It’s interesting enough to give your makes texture and subtle pattern, but not scary enough to require any complicated pattern matching! I chose the Rolling Hills - Birsdeye and combined it with this amazing bird print cotton (as the lining) and a coordinating turquoise tweed I had in my stash, for the frame bag pictured. The green leather handles really pull out the greeny hues in the tweed and I also made a leather tassel decoration to incorporate as many of the colours in the bag as possible. It’s these little details that I particularly love spending time on and I think it’s something that distinguishes a handmade bag from something that is clearly shop bought.
|Lining of the Rolling Hills - Birdseye bag
|Complimentary lining + Rolling Hills - Birdseye + Turquoise tweed
|Lining for the Marina Plaid - Twill bag
If you prefer something with more pattern, there are also two plaid designs. And there’s something I find particularly appealing about them; the check is symmetrical! Such a simple thing that really will make your life much easier. The difference between a symmetrical pattern and a non-symmetrical pattern is something that we stand and scratch our heads about most at bag making workshops and believe me, choosing a tweed with the first, rather than the latter, will make your pattern matching life a whole lot easier!
Before I started to sew bags, I didn't even know I had a ‘pattern matching life’! The tote bag pictured is matched across the seams and its simple and timeless shape shows off the pattern really well. The Marina Plaid bag’s colours are perfect for autumn, but check out the Marsden Moorland too if you prefer more neutral browns.
Either of these bags can be stitched from just one metre of cloth in total; half a metre of tweed plus half a metre of lining fabric which makes it affordable for anyone to sew with wool. And not only that, but the results of your hard work are useful, easy to show off to your friends and best of all, unlike clothes, they will always fit you perfectly!
For Information and full transparency: I wasn't paid to write this, in money or in tweed! I won’t earn anything from any sales made to bag makers who have been inspired to sew after reading this. George and his team at Fabworks have been totally lovely for inviting me to share my enthusiasm for tweed with you, its been great to follow their progress as a company, particularly their brilliant HoH range. I will be placing a second order pretty soon!
Emma Redfern runs a small bag making business, Hole House, selling bags and teaching bag making workshops.