I make bags. Purses and tote bags, wallets, clutches…the list is ever expanding. But the one thing they all have in common is that they are made out of material from second-hand clothing. It is the story of how I became the ‘bag lady’ that I want to share today.
One day a friend of mine e-mailed me a pattern for a simple, draw-string style bag. She knew I sewed and wanted help making a bunch of these bags to sell. They were raising money in order to be able to adopt. (see ‘The Hebert Adoption Journey’). We made a few, but didn’t sell very many. Just for fun, I decided to make one for myself. I scrounged up an old pair of jeans that really didn’t fit any more and went to town tearing them apart and piecing them together. Here’s what I made:
When my friends saw the bag I had made, several of them wanted one. So I started making bags for them. Everyone kept telling me, “You should sell these!” I wasn’t ready for that, too much work, too much committment. Then I made a bag for a silent auction to raise money for a mission trip my teenagers were going on. I couldn’t believe the response that bag got; there was a virtual war going on over who would make the biggest bid to get the bag. I couldn’t believe it…maybe there was a market for them…
Meanwhile, summer was slipping away and the school year was almost upon us. Normally during the summer I earned a small income by working at a nearby amusement park. It was a perfect job for me because it was seasonal and meant that I could be home during the school year, which was important to me because I home school our two children. My daughter is graduated now, and in bible college, but my son was entering his junior year. Being at home with my children is great, but it also means a bit of sacrificing in the way of income. So I started praying about in-home employment.
Then came the “God moment” at the cutting table of JoAnn Fabrics: a “chance” meeting with a woman who made baby car-seat covers and was looking for a seamstress to do some piece work for her (Elizabeth Parks Designs). Next came a tune-up for my 17-year-old sewing machine, a couple of weeks of productive sewing, ten car-seat covers, and an e-mail bringing that short chapter to a close.
But now my sewing machine was out from under layers of dust, my daily routine ready to accommodate hours of sewing, and my creativity and ambition beginning to pump madly. There was only one problem. I needed material to sew with and had no funds to purchase anything. Enter the hand-me-downs.
I messaged and e-mailed all my friends begging for their hand-me-down pants…denim, corduroy, velor…whatever they were willing to part with. The response was heart-warming. Before I knew it, I had piles and piles of pants and had several wonderful reunions with friends I hadn’t seen in years.
Then I got to work. I had 5 weeks to get ready for my first craft fair. I didn’t know what to expect. How much stock did I need to have? Would people even be interested in my products? How much would they be willing to pay? Three craft fairs later I realized that folks really seemed to like my things. So I started praying.
The question was whether I should buckle down and take this pass-time seriously, whether pursuing a career in hand-crafted bags and accessories was part of God’s plan for this period of my life. I got that familiar, gently nudge, that ‘still, small voice’ saying, “Go ahead. Give it a whirl.”
The next thing I know I’ve got order upon order to be done in time for Christmas, sales from a local farm store where some of my things are sold on consignment, and even a few purchases from my brand-new Etsy shop, Hand Me Down DesignsME.
I’m in a lull right now, which is good, because most of my stock is depleted…and even more importantly, I need time to get my head and heart back on track, remembering this is God’s success, not anything I could have accomplished in my own power. It’s hard to stay focused sometimes. I have to be honest, there are times when the whole bag thing completely consumes my thoughts, even interfering with my time with the Lord. That scares me a bit…without Him, I am nothing. My pot will become empty, brittle, and useless if I don’t keep my priorities straight. So I’m blogging. My way of reminding myself…God is SO good, and I am so blessed that He’s allowing me to do something that I love.
And this post is WAY too long…but now you know how it all started.