It is my delight to introduce Noelle, the inspiring bag maker behind Old Dog Sewing, and the only other bag maker I have ever met in person!
On a gusty Sunday in March, my daughter and I trekked out to central Missouri. As we travelled, our familiar, cluttered St. Louis landscape gave way to wide open space. We reached Ham’s Prairie, windswept and beautiful. Three joyful dogs greeted us as we parked outside Noelle’s house on the 240-acre farm she and her husband, Philip, own.
Tell us about your farm:
We operate a seed treatment business, Legacy Farms Seed Service. In addition, our farm is a mix of crop farming and heifers. While we farm alongside Philip’s mom and dad who live a mile from us, my husband and I are the sole operators of our seed treatment business. During our busy season, typically mid-March through the end of June, Philip and I work 14–16-hour days. Though it gets stressful, we love what we do, and it is rewarding to know we help other farm families live the life they love. Needless to say, I don’t get much bag making done during our busy season.
How did you and Philip meet?
I am originally from Minnesota and attended William Woods University in Missouri to study Equestrian Science. While working as a large animal vet tech, I met Philip a few days before my college graduation. I had planned to go to the University of Knoxville in Tennessee and become a vet, but all that changed when I met Philip! He proposed in October and in April 1994 we married. On April 16, we will celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary.
Tell us about your children.
Our son Joshua lives in Kansas City where he works as a researcher. Over the past year, Joshua tested and analyzed data on the trial work for the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine. Our daughter, Kailey and her husband, Ryder live in Columbia, Missouri. Kailey, a University of Missouri graduate, runs a successful floral business, Bare Roots, specializing in weddings. Ryder graduated from my alma mater, works for an Electric company, and is both an exceptionally talented artist and avid hunter.
Do you have any pets?
We have 13 pets, and most of them have some special need. Four horses, one donkey, three indoor cats, one outdoor cat, and four outdoor dogs all call our farm their forever home.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Though we live surrounded by natural beauty on our farm, my husband and I enjoy getting away to camp and explore nature whenever we can. We enjoy visiting our state and national parks, kayaking the rivers, and hiking the trails. We have also been fortunate to travel internationally with my husband’s work with NuTech Seeds. We have visited Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Kitts, Costa Rica, and Panama.
Tell us about your bag making:
What led you to bag making?
I began my bagmaking journey in early 2018. At the time, both of our children were settled in college, doing well, and we had a beloved dog pass. Honestly, I was having a hard time adjusting with our family changing and needed something to shift my focus. My sisters-in-law all sewed, inspiring me to give it a try. The thought of making clothing or quilting seemed overwhelming but I knew I loved bags and accessories so that’s where I began. My mom, who passed away in 2010 after a short six-week battle with cancer, loved Vera Bradley bags and I kind of picked that up from her. My mom was extremely creative and loved doing crafts though she didn’t sew. I feel like my bag making keeps me connected to her in a way because she also loved bags and accessories.
What do you enjoy most about bag making?
You get results very quickly with bag making and then can move on to another piece. I find it satisfying to make one-of-a-kind bags and generally do not do production sewing.
What are some things you find frustrating about it?
With this being my hobby business, per se, I am getting an accumulation of pieces and limited ways to disperse them. I am hesitant to fully take on the business side as I fear it could take the fun out of my bag making and get overwhelming.
How did you learn to sew?
Basically, I follow the patterns. Initially, I looked into local sewing classes. While there are many quilting classes, very few bag making classes are available in central Missouri. I love to visit independently owned fabric shops. However, when I explain I am a bag maker, not a quilter, I get confused looks until I show pictures of my bags to explain what I do. While I would like to attempt quilting someday, for now, I have what feels like a million bags I would like to create bouncing around in my brain.
What is the story behind your business name?
Old Dog Sewing came about for two reasons. First, while I’m not “old”, I felt I was older than most when learning to sew. Many sewists I speak with learned to sew at a young age; I began at age 47. The second reason was a nod to our dog Cash who passed away at the time. My heart and soul go into the care of every critter God blesses us with and when it is their time to pass, a piece of it goes with each and every one of them.
How would you describe your style?
My bag making style is rarely conservative with pops of bright color. I love cheerful colors, especially in the linings. I plan the linings of my bags to be as special as the outside as it is half the personality of the piece.
What does your bag making process look like?
I am super particular about being organized on my own terms. Every pattern I use gets a new cutting chart and cardstock labels, typed, and printed, whether included in the pattern or not. Though time-consuming, this step solidifies the process of the pattern in my mind and is done for the next time I make that pattern.
Are there any fabrics/textiles you love/hate working with and why? I love working with canvas, quality cork, and most recently, waxed canvas. They are durable materials that are easy to sew on my domestic Bernina and I know the bags that will be created with them will last. Materials I do not like to sew are the slippery nylons, silks and satins, and stretchy fabrics. A lot of profanity goes into the project if I have to use them.
Do you have any must-have/favorite bag making tools? One of my two favorite tools is called a Screw Punch. It’s an affordable tool that easily makes the holes for rivet placement. My other favorite tool is a Rivet Removal Tool. Using it takes the fear out of having to remove a rivet without damaging the material around it.
What is your advice to new bag makers?
Trust the pattern instructions and be confident in yourself that you can do it. New bag makers can be hard on themselves and may get stuck unfairly comparing their work to more seasoned bag makers. I know I still have a difficult time with that. I read comments in bag making groups like “this is my first bag and such-and-such is wrong with it”. Why do we always have to point out the “faults” of what we make, instead of just being proud of what we create? There is such a thing as perfectly imperfect.
Thank you, Noelle, for the pleasure of meeting you! My daughter, Virginia, and I had such a delightful time and were so charmed by Noot, Artie, and the other animal friends we met.
By, the way, not only is Noelle a remarkably talented bag maker, but she’s a fierce baker as well! Noelle sent my daughter and I off with the most delicious treats. And, she’s even willing to share the recipe with us! You’ll definitely want to give her recipe a try.
SALTED BROWN BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP BLONDIES
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 cups all – purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 eggs
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ¾ cups brown sugar
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips*
- ½ cup milk chocolate chips*
- ¾ teaspoon flake salt
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. (Be sure to watch the butter closely during this step.) Once melted, swirl the butter in the pan a few times. The butter will foam and begin to spatter. After a few minutes, the spattering will stop. You will begin to see brown bits in the butter and the butter will turn golden brown. At this point, carefully pour the butter into a bowl and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 x 8 pan with baking spray and set aside. Combine the flour and table salt in a separate bowl. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a separate small bowl. Add the brown sugar to the warmed butter and mix well with a spoon. Add the egg mixture and stir until combined. Add in the flour mixture and stir until almost combined, then fold in the chips. Spread into the sprayed baking pan, being sure to get it evenly in the corners, then sprinkle with the flake salt.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until edges are firm and slightly browned. The top will be crisp and look like it just started to crackle. Let cool completely before cutting into squares and removing them from the pan. These keep best if frozen in an airtight container or sealable plastic bag. Makes 9 bars or 16 small-bite bars.
*or use any combination of chips that you prefer.