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Mother taught me to knit as a young child.  In college (Temple University: BS Accounting) I knit a navy blue suit for myself.  Eventually patterns were not sufficient to satisfy my creative bent, and I began knitting “freehand”.  After many sweaters, jackets, hats, mittens, children’s snowsuits and other clothing, I tried felting my knitting.  I learned the process from books and experimentation.  The first handbag was for my own use.  It was unlined and wore like iron.  As people asked about it and requested similar bags, I began to line and pocket the interiors.  My style has always included unusual colors for handbags, added “fur” (eyelash yarn) or stones, and ceramic, wood, metal or stone button closures.  I believe that a brightly colored handbag complements an outfit as well as black or brown.  It just says that the person carrying it is having more fun.

Nearly all of my handbags are knit in one piece from the bottom up.  After knitting the base I pick up stitches around the edges and begin to shape the sides.  The wool usually lets me know if the bag wants “hips” or “wings” or a “tummy”, as well as how big it should be.  Of course, if it is a commissioned bag I will work within those parameters.   

Many of my bags are finished with handles that allow the bag to be used as an over-the-arm bag or a shoulder bag depending on whether the handles are doubled or single.  These handles are knit in one piece, eliminating the need to sew the ends together.  After the knitting is finished, I felt the bag in my washing machine, removing and stretching to shape every half hour or so.  It takes about two to three hours to felt sufficiently, as I like a sturdy fabric that will hold up and not stretch with the weight of purse contents.  Each bag is lined and has pockets.  A pattern must be made for the lining before it can be cut.  Then a bottom is cut to lie between the wool and the lining and give the bag form when it is full.  If I am accenting the outside of the bag with natural stones or art glass beads, they are sewn in place with fishing line, and the knots are glued.   The closure is sewn on, and the lining is hand-stitched into the bag.

All of the work on each of my handbags is done by myself, alone.  Most of my knitting is done in an arm chair in my living room or in the car on out-of-state visits to my daughters.  All composition and sewing is done in my sewing room, where there are many bins of interesting fabric suitable for linings and a wall of shelves holding colorful wool yarns.  I use two sewing machines and a serger for the linings.   My cutting table is ergonomically raised to just below my elbows, and my Keeshond, Sasha, and my Ipod keep me company.

 

Copyright ©Sandra Schmitz Lansdale, PA