I think Miss Austen would approve!

Tomorrow I am going to the Knitting & Stitching Show in Harrogate.  This is fast becoming an annual thing for me and a few of my friends and not only is it a chance to stock up on bits and bobs for the sewing room, but a chance to find a few treasures.  Yesterday, I thought about what I had bought last year and what I had done with it.   I am not a great one for buying and not using, but I did have one thing that I hadn't yet decided what to do with and it is rather cool.   The Quilter's Trading post (check out their lovely website here ) were selling little packs of Regency Costume Plates and being a huge Jane Austen fan, I bought a packet.  When I got home, I put them safely in my specialist embroidery box as I felt that they would probably go with a project that needed cotton lawn, linen and fine thread work.   There they have stayed, lodged in the back of the box and my mind, waiting for an idea.

I am always in awe of the fine travelling accessories the ladies of Miss Austen's time had, and remember especially going to visit Josephine Bonaparte's house in Rueil Malmaision, in the suburbs of Paris and seeing the most wonderful collection of absolutely beautiful accessories with little embroidered bags and embossed leather carrying cases.  Somehow, chucking everything in a zip up holdall doesn't quite have the same feel....? These little printed costume plates seemed to be a good size for a small project and taking inspiration from days gone by and something more recently made, I made a plan.


A few months ago, I had made a clutch bag from the designer Anna Maria Horner ....... and I was very taken with this style.

Embroidered Clutch

You can read all about this here.

It seemed to me that it might lend itself rather well to making a quilted version that would be perfect for carrying one of my favourite things when I am travelling 'Pashmina's'.   These seem to me to just SO useful all year around and especially on journeys, but keeping them from getting bunched up and in a mess in my suitcase is always a challenge.   So here the idea came together.   I used the same basic pattern from Anna Maria's Leaning Rose Clutch.   Using 2 fat quarters of coordinating, but contrasting fabric from my stash, I cut the shape of the bag, making it larger this time, but keeping the leaning angle the same size.  I then carefully cut out and ironed one of the Regency plates and pressed the edges under about a quarter of an inch.  I used a decorative stitch on my machine in a contrasting thread to attach it and actually it worked beautifully.  

Miss Austen 4

For the embroidered letters, I simply went to my laptop and chose a font that I thought worked well.  I printed it out in a couple of different sizes and then traced the best fitting one onto the fabric.  The joy of this is that you can tweak it and experiment with different fonts. 

Miss Austen 7

 I used perle cotton #8 and a chain stitch for the embroidery itself.  Then I layered and quilted both the back and front of the bag.   I used a loopy sort of pattern to match the decorative stitching I had chosen, but on reflection I think that perhaps a criss cross diamond pattern maybe more in keeping with the day and will try this on the next one.

Miss Austen 5

I added zip tags on the ends of the zip as I only had a smaller zip in my sewing box, but again, I think this is a neater finish than using a longer zip that goes right up to the edges of the bag.  In fact, I have to confess that before when I have used these it has been on a much smaller scale and I think it was luck rather than sewing skill that they turned out ok. Working with longer tabs, I finally understood the idea and how to construct them properly.   The only thing it means is that the tassel, if you chose to add one, falls in a different place once the bag is closed and folded, but I rather like this.  

I put the little bag together and chose not to line it - this was a mistake that I hadn't anticipated.  As my quilting was neat, I thought it would be alright, but actually the bulky raw edges of the seams inside are rather ugly and much better hidden by a pretty lining - I know it is all on the inside, but if it is for a gift it would be much nicer to add a lining ...again something to note for the next one.  The finishing touch was a tassel....I know...I know...I do have a bit of an obsession with these, but using a skein of tapestry wool in a compliementing colour, is to me the perfect finish to any bag of any sort!!!   In general,  I am pretty pleased with this and think that with a little work, it could be a great way to use these little panels and a really pretty christmas gift too...

Miss Austen bag

So with my first prototype made, the next one will be better.   I think this is rather a lovely christmas present and adds a touch of vintage glamour whenever you should happen to be travelling.

Miss Austen 3

I think Miss Austen would approve! 

Love, Ruby x

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