Today, we're excited to be a part of Sara Lawson's blog tour for her new book, Big-City Bags, which was released yesterday by Martingale. We thought it would be fun to go behind the scenes and ask Sara about her design process for sewing handbags as well as meeting her many deadlines for the book.
Sara's also sharing an exclusive giveaway of her book to Craftsy blog readers!
One lucky reader will win a FREE Big-City Bags e-book! To enter, just head here by Tuesday, November 12, 2013. Then, comment on this blog post and let us know what you love most about sewing handmade bags. We'll randomly select a winner on November 13, 2013.
Photos via Big-City Bags by Sara Lawson, Martingale, 2012; used by permission. Photos by Brent Cake. All rights reserved.
Sara, congrats on the release of your book, Big-City Bags! Can you tell us a little bit about the process of writing the book and creating the 12 patterns?
Thank you so much for having me, Lindsay and the lovely folks at Craftsy! I turned in my book proposal to my publisher, Martingale, in late February 2012, and the proposal was accepted and a contract was sent in early May. For my proposal, I had already turned in two fully-written patterns, so I had 10 more to complete. I started work on the rest of the patterns in June, and my deadline was November 5, 2012. It was a very crazy time!
What is your process for designing a new bag pattern?
For my proposal, I turned in sketches of the other bags that would be in the book, along with fabric swatches that I thought might work well for each bag. I turned in 18 sketches, and so I pared that down and chose my favorite. Some of my fabric choices changed along the way, too.
First, I get an idea for a bag and I'll draw an initial sketch. I'm kind of terrible at sketching things, but my little drawing is good enough for me, for I know what I had envisioned in my head, and the sketch is just a little way to remind me of the main points of the bag. After I sketch out the idea, I calculate the yardage of the supplies needed based on the size of the bag. This is done by naming all the pattern pieces that are needed to make the bag (i.e. Lining Main Panel, Strap, Pocket, etc.), and I'll also note which pieces are from the exterior or lining fabric, as well as what kind of interfacing I will attach to each one. Some pattern pieces will actually be physical pattern pieces, and others are just rectangular measurements (i.e. 4" by 30" for a strap).
After I get my initial layout of the pattern doodled on paper, I draft my pattern pieces. Now I know how to do the pieces in CAD software on my computer, but at the time I was writing my book, I drew and cut out my pattern pieces from Pellon Tru-Grid. I would later send those pieces in to my publisher to be drafted into digitized pattern pieces for the book.
Once I printed the pattern instructions out, then I began cutting fabric. For my book, I made two bags for each sewing pattern.
While I was sewing the bag together, I also took step-by-step photographs that were transferred into illustrations by a graphic artist at my publisher for the book. Due to space restraints, my editors thought illustrations would be the best way to go about showing the steps.
You got to play an integral part in the photography for Big-City Bags, and we actually get to see you as a model in the book's pages. Can you tell us about your trip to Martingale to participate in the photo shoot?
Martingale produces an inspirational array of quilting, knitting and crochet books. Their staff is really amazing, and I found out that the company is employee-owned, which is even more wonderful. I got to fly out to Martingale, which is located in Seattle, back in April for the photo shoot of my book. I had never done anything like this before, but it was a great experience! I went out with my mom, and everyone there made sure we felt comfortable and had a great time. We had a wonderful dinner, saw some quilt shops and finished the shoots of me with my bags all within a 24-hour time period!
In the book, you mention that you haven't used a store-bought purse in ages. What do you love most about designing bag patterns?
I love the challenge that designing sewing patterns gives my brain. I see store-bought purses on the street all the time, and it's always fun for me to wonder how those purses were assembled; it looks like I'm staring, but really I'm just formulating the steps in my mind, and it's quite amusing for me.
I also love seeing someone complete one of my patterns and I can tell that they are excited about their new bag. I opened up my sewing pattern shop in February of 2013, and I've been busily adding new patterns to the shop ever since! To date, I have 17 bag patterns listed, and always more on the way! My sewing patterns features step-by-step photos for a majority of the steps, which is a feature that has been well received by sewists.
In August 2013, I sent six of my best-selling patterns to print, and so my patterns are available in quilt shops, which is a huge accomplishment for me! I hope to print six more titles in February and six more in May, and have a booth at Quilt Market in May of 2014. I really love what I do.
Sara, what's next for you?
I've been thinking about starting on my second book after the holidays. More bags of course. I am so thankful to everyone that has supported me and my blog over the years. I have established many firm friendships with my blog readers and pattern testers, and that is really important to me.
Click here to enter the giveaway and answer the question below in the comments for a chance to win!
What do you love most about sewing handmade bags?
Learn how to design and sew custom bags in the Craftsy classes Design Your Own Handbag with Brett Bara, Making Leather Bags with Don Morin and Quilt-As-You-Go Patchwork Bags with Tara Rebman. You might also enjoy our roundup of quilted and patchwork bag patterns.