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Handbags

It’s never too late to learn how to sew

I was tired of looking at screens—I wanted to learn how to make something IRL.

Working in fashion, it always made me feel less than because I didn’t know how to sew or hadn’t gone to fashion school or design school. I hated that I didn’t understand how garments and accessories were really made.

I spent hours reading about bags. I watched YouTube videos about bag-making. I studied every video from inside the secretive ateliers of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Hermes to see how the pieces of a flap bag fit together; but none of that really helped me really get it.

I needed to get my hands dirty. I needed to learn how to sew.

I didn’t remember what I had learned from my mother when I was young girl in the early 90s. I remembered my mom sitting at the sewing machine regularly, making costumes, or hemming pants for herself or my sister and me, or sewing on my sisters’ Girl Scout patches, or mending something we’d torn (before ripped clothes were cool). I remembered the look of her leg slowly shifting up and down to the dull hum of the machine. I remembered the strawberry pin cushion. But I didn’t remember how to sew.

Like most people I know, I spend a majority of my life looking at screens. My career in digital marketing and blogging hobby are both on a computer. When I wasn’t working, I’m scrolling through my phone or iPad. My life’s work is in .jpegs and .docs. I was tired of looking at screens—I wanted to learn how to make something IRL.

Desperate to understand the construction and creation of the items I loved so much, I signed up for basic sewing classes at a local fabric store. To my delight, the series of 3 sewing classes were centered around sewing a drawstring pouch, a small zip bag, and a reversible tote; all accessories, something I was eager to learn how to make.

I was nervous but delighted to spend a full Saturday at Drygoods Design in Seattle, WA, a quaint fabric store with abstract prints and a wall of patterns more suited for millennials than your grandma. Looking at rolls of fabric, I was overwhelmed with a range of clay-colored apparel fabric and quirky, hand-printed designs on lightweight fabric.

Did you know there are specific weights of fabric for apparel? I didn’t. I had never thought about fabric or how it might drape over a body or how it would run through a sewing machine.

By the end of the first day, I’d learned how to sew a drawstring pouch and a tote bag. I was exhausted, but exhilarated after creating something tangible with my own two hands; something I was longing for in my life.

Staring at the needle bob up and down, I focused only on keeping fabric straight, not anxiety or money or what I was having for dinner. I was calm. Sewing actually felt relaxing. I was doing it for fun for just me, something I’d neglected for years while working on my career and becoming a wife.

The next weekend, I returned to learn how to sew in a zipper. The result of my labor created my first set of matching accessories with grey snakeskin fabric from Joann’s fabrics that I’d become smitten with. The subtle texture of snakeskin was rebellious compared to the floral totes of my classmates, but maybe this is just the kind of rebellion I need in my life: the rebellion of learning a new tangible skill.

Now I can say I made this.

The first tote I made: reversible snakeskin print (from Joann’s fabrics) and abstract grey and black fabric (from Drygoods)
The tote and matching zip pouch with boxed corners
Black and white palm print tote
Black and white palm print tote with abstract geometric print inside
Black and white palm tote in front of matching mural in Sayulita, Mexico

By Becca Risa Luna

Seattle-based fashion writer and personal essayist. Likes designer handbags, glaring openness, and subtle vulgarity.

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