I somehow always manage to wait right until the last minute to make the accessories I need for an outfit. For this cherry print dress, I cut it close, but did manage to finish a beaded velvet bag in time for the event.
The original idea I had was to make a cherry inspired purse, and although the finished project did not turn out exactly as planned, I am very pleased with the results.
Step 1: Testing the Pattern
I started with Vogue 7354 as a pattern. As drafted, there is hardly any room in the bag, and since I wanted more of a round shaped accessory that might resemble a cherry, I increased the diameter of the two circles that make up the front and back of the bag.
Before cutting into velvet or spending a lot of time beading said velvet, I mocked up a version in some scrap fabric. Yes, this does take a bit of time, but in the long run, it saves a lot of mistakes from being made. The muslin does not have to be pretty - those gathers are atrocious, but since I am going to rip the thing apart, it really doesn't matter! For one side of the mock-up, I added 1" to the diameter of the circle pattern piece, and on the other, I added 2". I preferred the larger of the two, so I went with that.
Step 2: Ideas for Embellishment
My initial idea was to really go for the cherry inspiration, so I thought I would add beaded leaves near the handles. Time constraints did not allow me to get that far, but so it goes . . .
I did know that I wanted to add beads to the bag, so I had to test out my beading pattern. If I really hated it, I could scrap the beads and go for a plain velvet bag. But it turns out I love beads on velvet, which meant a lot of hand sewing (which I also happen to love).
Step 3: Basting & Beading
The velvet required an interfacing of some kind, especially since I was adding beads. I used a mid weight cotton on which a grid was chalked.
Basting lines were stitched along that grid with a red silk thread that blended right into the nap of the velvet yet still made it possible to follow those lines while beading. The basting stitches served to secure the two layers together as well as mark where the beads were to be placed - I just love when something can serve a dual purpose!
I was a bit concerned that an embroidery hoop might leave a mark in this napped fabric or that it might break some of the beads, so I ended up making the beaded portion of the design fit within that hoop.
The final bit of beading was adding the large rondelles to the middle of the gridded pattern.
A quick blast of steam from an iron held over the wrong side of the velvet and most of the hoop marks disappeared.
Step 4: The Zipper
I was not about to fight with velvet and a zipper foot and hope my machine would cooperate with some lovely top stitching, so I knew I would be hand-picking the zipper. I decided to add a single bead to each back stitch as I worked my way along that line.
[Just a note: it is SO MUCH EASIER to install a zipper with two small flat pieces of fabric than struggling with an almost complete project. In some cases, this may not be possible, but if you can, stitch that zipper in place before getting too involved in the construction of your project!]
Step 5: Stitching the Velvet Together
Once that was done, I was able to gather the circles to fit the top and bottom of the bag. The beading does not extend all the way to the seam line, and I was concerned that this might look odd on the finished item, but I think that the gathers look like a continuation of the grid lines, so I was worried for no reason. And any remaining hoop marks definitely disappear into the gathers.
The two handles were then attached to the top and bottom pieces. And then the back and front was attached to that.
Sewing multiple layers of velvet can be a bit frustrating without a walking foot, so I like to baste those seams with silk thread before sending them through the machine. It takes a bit more time, but it also saves the hassle of trying to unpick a seam when the first go turns out a mess. And no matter how careful you are unpicking velvet, you will pull some of the nap right out of the fabric leaving bald patches.
At that point I turned everything right side out to get an idea of how my bag was going to look. Of course, I immediately had to turn it wrong side out in order to install the lining, but I rarely miss the opportunity to get a sneak peek of what my finished project will look like! It helps to keep me motivated.
Step 6: Lining the Bag
The lining for this particular bag is simply a duplicate of the bag itself, minus the zipper and the handles.
This lining fabric was not my first choice, but with no time to go shopping for something that might work better, I started digging through my stash of fabric. There were a couple of options, but in the end, I thought that matching the cherry motif on my dress would be cute. And really, swapping out the lining at a later date would be incredibly easy since I hand stitched this one in place. But truth be told, the cherries have grown on me.
I also added two small pockets to the lining (I find that bags rarely have enough of them!). The pockets are rectangles, folded in half, right sides together, and stitched, leaving a small opening to turn right side out. Those finished pieces are then stitched to the lining. And again, this is much easier to do while working in the flat. I have a tendency to forget about adding pockets to purse linings and then get super grumpy when I have to maneuver a shaped lining through the machine.
And I will say that I do prefer lighter colored handbag linings because it makes it easier to find what you are looking for when the inside of your bag does not resemble a black hole!
Step 7: Finished!
In the end, I did not have the time to bead any leaves to complete my cherry themed bag. But really, this probably makes the bag a whole lot more versatile. And there really is a lot of room in there, which is a nice change from so many of my formal handbags and clutches.
And that is the cherry on top of my cherry printed dress!