Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Un Sac de Mauvais Français

I am a junky. I admit it. If there is an interesting class whether it be sewing, handwork or quilting based, I am there. It's not like I do nothing with them, I buy them all for a reason. One class I bought so that I could get a professional show me how to do a flat felled seam. I was unhappy with my results last time I made a shirt. In another class I wanted to learn basic beading and jewelry making so that I could make some denim earrings. Yet another class works with knits. I want to have better results and so on an so on. Only a few classes can I say that I bought to make the project from start to finish, whatever that project may be.  The  "Design Your Own Handbag" was one of those classes that I bought expressly to make a handbag. I was tired to the quilter look to bags I see so often. I put the look up there with people who make quilted jackets and look like football players when they are done. That's fine if you are a football player and like that look, but for the rest of us there was too much something somewhere, but what?

It has taken me months to complete this handbag project. Before the class was even available I had a sketch of a bag or two I wanted to try to make. The problem was that I was always unhappy with the way the finished product looked. Home made in a bad way.  I bought the class and I started by watching the class all the way through, had a couple of "V-8" moments and while watching made a list of materials I would need to make my bag. I went to stores in France, Germany and the United States searching for the hardware that would go perfect with my project. I found the exact type of fusible interfacings I needed in Strasbourg. I found the separating zipper in Germany. I found the hardware in France and the United States.

In the basement of the house in the United States there are bags of hand-me-downs given to my nephew. In those bags I found the "fabric I would need to make my bag.
In my stash I found the other items I would need and lastly, a trip to a second hand store was required to find some "Jewelry" for my bag.

Here are my starting items. A child's jean jacket with a missing snap:
And a pair of boys cargo blue jeans:
From my stash came the galloon lace. I am not sure what this is, It looks like Bobbin lace or perhaps a type of Battenburg. What it is really is machine made so technically it is neither.
I have yards of it and have had a hard time cutting into it since it has never worked for any of my projects even though it is tried out every time.

Here is a side view so that you can see it is surprisingly really one dimensional. You can also see the Battenburgness of it in this picture. The lace tape is fake or better said part of the design not a seperate item. 

A while back I bought yardage of some hand bobbin lace of many sorts from an old Mercerie(store that sells all things sewing, knitting...) that had gone out of business. After some tryouts, this is the one that won.

From the trip to the second hand store I bought some religious metals of all sorts and some assorted beads and pearls.
In Europe many people buy one of these trinkets as a souvenirs when they visit a cathedral. the most common trinket one finds at second hand stores appear to be those from Lourdes. Lourdes is located in the Mide-Pyrénées in the south-west of France. Far away from the part of France I live. One the front of this trinket is usually Our Lady of Lourdes and on the back is a kneeling Bernadette Soubirous in the Grotto with Our Lady of Lourdes. Sometimes the back has The Basilique Notre Dame du Rosaire. Lourdes has an incredible number of faithful visiting each year, somewhere in the range of 5 million people so it is of no surprise that many buy this trinket to bring back with them as a souvenir.
I love to collect fabric with French on it when I can find it. Believe it or not, fabric with French writing or images on high quality fabrics are usually made in Japan. the Japanese have a real affinity for all things French. The title of this blog entry gets its name from the fabric I used for the lining of the bag. The fabric is made by Kokka. The fabric maker used mauvais French. On the top of each of the thread holders it should say "fil de bonne qualité". Bon, Bonne, ah yes, it is a common mistake. I make all the time so I am not surprised to see it. But, since it is improper French, the fabric goes inside the bag.

I knew it was bad French when I bought it, but I liked the fabric. Actually, truth be told, I was with some French friends and they all laughed and pointed out the error. The fabric is heavier than quilting cotton. I had a half a meter and that was just enough for the lining of the bag.

I had everything and I was ready to go and make this bag. Actual construction of the bag did not take long. What took a while was carefully ripping apart the jacket and pant so that I could use the pieces. The front of the jacket was just too good not to use so I decided to make that the front of the bag. I added some light blue linen and the galloon and I embellished it with my second hand store trinkets and pearls. I added little crochet medallions that kept me from having to finish the bottom edge of the loops for the handles.

Here is a close-up of the "necklaces":

Each bead is sewn on separately for strength otherwise it would be fragile and I did not want them to be able to move or break and fall off. The trinkets on the bottom, largest pearl necklace, are all from Lourdes.
The back of the bag uses one of the cargo pant legs. I embellished with a some mother of pearl buttons and a filet butterfly that actually came from the United States.
Inside the bag, I first added a zipper as a closure and embellished the area with the bobbin lace, the lace by the way, resembles butterflies to me. I so like butterflies.
Inside the bag has the Mauvais Français fabric as the lining and an added inside zipper and pockets on the sides.
I wanted a shoulder strap along with the two hand straps and I could not help but notice that the bottom of the jean jacket and the bottom of the sleeves of the jean jacket had something that when stabilized with interfacing would make a terrific strap.

Finally to make sure the bottom does not get dirty, I added feet.
I am extremely pleased with the results. This is a handbag I will actually use!


  1. A great project and it was fun reading about the adventures you had gathering its pieces and putting it together.

  2. I love this, Jean! Now I want to go buy that Craftsy class. ENABLER! LOL

  3. Denim and lace has always gone together. I just love it. You did a great job!

  4. What a great use of old garments! Love the look, great job!

  5. I would mke a nice box out of all those gorgeous laces you have, great for jewelry.