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A Day in the Life of a Bag Maker

When I began designing bags, I loved thinking of the unknown places my creations would travel.  From my unremarkable dining room table, the bag I sewed would become part of someone’s daily routine, commuting in far-flung cities, seeing sights I never would, in towns and countries I may never set foot in.  It made me happy to think of all the places my bags would go!

Now, designing sewing patterns for bags, I work with a team of talented pattern testers from all over the world.  This sense of far away brought near continues.  While our time zones vary widely, our passion for making bags unites us.  Each pattern test, bag makers in far off lands are sewing in rooms filled with sunlight while the moon hangs over my sleeping household.  While I begin cooking dinner for my family, testers across the ocean call it a night.  Sometimes I stop and calculate what time it must be for my testers and try to imagine what their day might be like.

While an actual visit may not be possible, I thought a series of interviews could give a glimpse into the days of people like me, dotted all over the globe, who love making bags.

Today, I am delighted to visit with Michelle,  the creative force behind Barabooboo.  Michelle lives in Huntsville, Ontario Canada, a very touristy area of Canada with her husband, three daughters and West Highland White terrier.

delmar wristlet pattern black trim with grey and neon pattern

Before your bag making business, what did you do?  I was a floral designer and did some social media management.  I have done flowers for some pretty famous people that I am not able to name.

Outside of sewing, what are some of your other interests?  The outdoors, hiking, painting, drawing, gardening, sewing, I’m also a Girl Guide Leader to a Sparks group (5-6 yr olds)

What led you to become a bagmaker? I used to make quilts but they became too much hassle regarding testing and insurance so I switched to bags.  That was a long time ago! At least 10 years ago.

What do you enjoy most about making bags? Each one is unique.  I never do production bag making because I would get too bored. I love being able to make things nobody else has.

Michelle - Top zipper open with contents peeking out
Michelle is a very talented photographer, too!

What are some things you find frustrating about it? We pay a LOT more in Canada for supplies and our shipping costs are ridiculous.

How did you learn to sew? My mom taught me on her machine at six years old.  I have never stopped.

Is there a story behind your business name, Barabooboo? Long story actually.  My husband used it as his ebay user name, and when I signed up for Etsy I just tossed that name in the Shop name field to fill out the form quickly…. Then later when I tried changing it to a better name,  it was very I decided to keep it and live with it…  (I still think it’s a really weird word!)

How would you describe your style? Fun and Fussy Cut

Michelle - view of bottom with iPhone for size reference

Tell us a little about your sewing space.   It’s 8x 10 and holds everything I need.  I love it!

Michelle’s Sewing Shed…how cool is that?!

What keeps you inspired?  Other people’s work, always.

Do you have a must-have bag making tool? A Sewing Machine… I don’t care much for fancy tools. I find them unnecessary and actually (IMO) prevent a lot of the actual “hand work” involved in handmade items. I set rivets manually, I set grommets manually, I iron without a press.  I enjoy those processes.

shed - interior - view of sewing machine
Where the magic happens

Are there any fabrics or textiles you love/hate working with, and why? I hate sewing leather.. I love the look but I don’t enjoy the process.  I’m a fabric lover/collector so cottons will always be my main meat!  My favourite prints are large scale graphics I can fussy cut.  I also LOVE Linen Canvas by Rifle Paper Co.

shed - interior - textile stash2
Future amazing bags

What does you bag making process look like?  I cut bags on Mondays, (usually 2-3) fuse on Tuesdays, and the rest of the week I assemble them.  I watch/listen to movies on Netflix, while I sew.

shed - interior - cutting table
At the cutting table inside Michelle’s Sewing Shed

Describe your most unique, favorite, challenging, or memorable custom bag order ever.  I have had many memorable ones, but I think the one that really stands out is my customer that sent me loads of retired Tula Pink (Parisville, BATB, Prince Charming etc..) and had me make her six custom bags with it. I am a huge Tula fanatic so I was in heaven doing her order, plus she was very open to what I used where.

What’s your advice to new bagmakers?   Keep on going.  If you don’t fail a dozen times, you won’t learn anything.  Unfortunately, In the this current world of immediate gratification we live in, people expect to buy a machine, buy patterns and fabrics, and then just pop out a bag!  It doesn’t work like that, this is a skill that is learned by trial and error.  Instead of looking for a You tube video on how to do something, TRY it, if it doesn’t work, try again, experiment, examine your bag, re-read the pattern, think about it.  This is my mantra of late.

Every test, Michelle teaches me some trick to bag making I never heard of, or thinks of a wonderful improvement to my pattern.   Michelle recently tested the Delmar Wristlet.  Grab your pattern here and try out Michelle’s expert bag making tip for yourself!

Tutorial - Delmar1

Tutorial - Delmar2

Tutorial - Delmar3

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Sue Reed

    I really enjoyed this interview with Michelle 🙂

    1. holditpatterns

      So glad to hear that, Sue. I love seeing the gorgeous bags Michelle makes and it’s really fun to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into her process.

  2. barabooboo

    Love your blog post! Thank you for featuring me and my shed!!

    1. holditpatterns

      My pleasure! Thanks so much for participating. Your gorgeous work and sewing shed are so inspiring!

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