In the Studio—Aprons, Towels, and the Quest for the Perfect Bag

129twigandvine made in the studio this spring, photography by Sue Schlabach

 Friday is here at last.

Sun after lots of cool rainy weather.

A trip to Montreal—tonight!

Here is a sampling of things made in the studio this spring.

Denise and I hand-printed a big batch of flour sack towels back in March. Most are gone, but I still love the look of them stacked on the chair after we made the bundles.

We also collaborated in designing six shopkeeper-style linen aprons. One was a commission that winged its way to Robin in Texas. Another headed to Arizona rather quickly after we posted it to the shop (the striped one with blue and brown accents shown above). Another was sold too (but I can’t remember where it went…) Two are in the ilo collective shop.

The latest two we’re designing will have adjustable straps and are deep gray/black linen with an industrial flare. No pictures yet—they’re still on the drawing board being refined.

Before the Ireland trip I designed and sewed a new bag that is my prototype for ‘the perfect bag.’ {Meaning, lots of interior and exterior pockets, groovy look, strong handles.} For the first one I used some vintage Marimekko fabric given to me by my friend Brenda (Henhouse Fibers). I show both sides of the first perfect bag above: with the bold fabric on one entire side, and as an accent pocket on the reverse side which is the Belarusian linen I keep going on and on about.

The test bag went to Ireland, Montreal, New York and all over Vermont and New Hampshire since I made it in early April. It’s holding up well, but I have modifications in mind to truly make it perfect. A little more reinforcement where the handles meet the top placket. A few pocket size changes. Nothing major, but a quest toward true perfection.

If all goes well, I’ll start selling The Perfect Bag on the shop this fall. Perhaps in two sizes.

Of course, my idea of perfect may not be the same as yours.

That said, if you have opinions about what makes the perfect bag, I’d love to hear them.

What do you store in pockets? What size do you like? Long handles? Short handles? Let the research commence…I’d love to hear.

129twigandvine_floursack_towels photo by Sue Schlabach


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

June 21, 2013 at 9:29 am

Love the bag. My perfect bag always has a zip at the top with no gaps!

Sue Schlabach 129twigandvinereply
June 21, 2013 at 10:21 am
– In reply to: lovinghomemade

I agree. A zipper that fully closes it up is a must. Thanks!

June 21, 2013 at 10:09 am

A place inside for cords and another for keys. I can’t believe how many of both I use throughout my day. Usually my hands are full when I’m trying to at it so having it accessible in a pocket is so much easier than in a tangle at the bottom of my bag!

Sue Schlabach 129twigandvinereply
June 21, 2013 at 10:24 am
– In reply to: Rhonda

Perfecto. I put a shallow wide zipper pocket on the outside top for all the phone and charging cables and my earbuds. That’s working well for me so far, do you think that would work for you? And, yes, I have a key clip inside that helps (when I actually remember to attach my keys to it). I want to make an extension on it in the next bag so it’s easier to grab when my hands are full. Thanks for your comments!

Midwestern Plant Girlreply
June 23, 2013 at 7:20 pm

I use a small leather bag about 7x7x2″ with a flap. I only carry my wallet, lip gloss, phone. I would love a top closing bag with 2 pockets one for my sunglasses other for phone. I also use a long shoulder strap to cross over my bod. =)

Sue Schlabach 129twigandvinereply
June 25, 2013 at 6:58 am
– In reply to: Midwestern Plant Girl

A minimalist!! Now I’m thinking I’ll need to design a mini—a fun challenge. I wish I could edit things down so well as you.

September 22, 2013 at 3:38 pm
– In reply to: Sue Schlabach 129twigandvine

I am a minimalist too! Just phone, a couple of cards, cash, lip salve, a small brush and keys. Across body strap.

Sue Schlabach 129twigandvinereply
September 22, 2013 at 3:47 pm
– In reply to: Rachael

Having just traveled with two different bags, the idea of the perfect bag keeps evolving for me. And I’ve decided that a cross body strap is essential. Thanks for your ingredients!

Lori O.reply
June 23, 2013 at 10:01 pm

That Marimekko fabric is fantastic! How do you handprint the flour sacks? Put that in another post! I like handles that I can put on my shoulder so the bag sits under my arm on my side. I like a zippered pocket on the inside for personal items, too.

Sue Schlabach 129twigandvinereply
June 25, 2013 at 7:02 am
– In reply to: Lori O.

I love it too. I wish I had acres of it. As for flour sacks we use screen printing inks and hand carve stamps with a rubbery material you can get at an art or craft store. You use linoleum cutting tools to carve, but the material is very soft and easier to cut than linoleum. We use a roller brayer to make a thin film of the ink and lay the stamp in there, try a test imprint on newspaper and then start stamping on the cloth. Easy. Fun. A pencil eraser makes a great polka dot!!! Maybe I’ll pull off a DIY next time we print, but that’s the gist of it. We ordered blank flour sacks on line, but I’ve seen them at a few local general stores too.

PS MacMurrayreply
June 24, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Ha! Glad to finally stop in again after getting very sidetracked from my own blog. Love the shopkeeper’s apron and how it wraps around. Have a great and prosperous summer.

Sue Schlabach 129twigandvinereply
June 25, 2013 at 7:03 am
– In reply to: PS MacMurray

I get the sidetracked thing! I’m glad you like the apron. It’s a great simple look. Enjoy your summer, too. Lots of humidity and thunderstorms here daily.

June 25, 2013 at 5:56 am

Secure fastenings (zips are best I feel), many pockets and long strong straps – also nice if the bag is soft so when it doesn’t have much inside it doesn’t remain big.

Sue Schlabach 129twigandvinereply
June 25, 2013 at 7:05 am
– In reply to: KnitNell

Ah, we love the same kind of bag. My prototype bag fits this description rather well—but definitely needs a few pocket refinements. I like to be able to fit in the ‘kitchen sink’ when I need it, but also let it be loose and empty at times. Thanks so much.

August 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Oh, the quest for the perfect bag… a lifelong endeavour so far!
Mine has to be hardwearing, waterproof, not show the dirt, have a long shoulder strap, a pocket for phone, with a clip and separate pocket for my keys (so they don’t scratch everything) and another pocket for earphones. Definitely a zip fastener (can’t be doing with buckles or magnetic catches!) and be not too bulky, but have enough capacity to stash a lightweight fabric tote inside so that when it gets full I can pull the tote out and fill that with stuff too!

Love the pattern on yours, but it would be grubby in no time if I used it. I’m just no good at keeping bags clean.

Sue Schlabach 129twigandvinereply
August 20, 2013 at 8:14 am
– In reply to: modflowers

Waterproof would be good! Dirt-colored, very good. This one has surprisingly sluffed off dirt, but the handles are sagging and need rework to be the height of perfection. Zips rule for bags, couldn’t agree more. After having a camera slip out of a bag in the overhead compartment of an airplane I am a zipper gal all the way.

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