Beginnings of Bags

comments: 28

Fabricsforbags_2When I start developing each collection of Posie handbags, I always start with the fabric. Usually I have a vague idea of the shape of the bag, and a "feeling" that I want to capture, but really, it's all about the fabric.

This February I've had an idea in mind about a room in spring -- an English nursery, actually, way up at the top of some old wedding-cake-y house, filled with lilacs (actually the lilacs are down in the yard), confectionery molding and slanted ceilings, tattered flowery wallpaper and flannel eiderdowns and big, paned windows. I have this idea when I go to the fabric store.

At first, nothing appeals. I take a deep breath. Keep looking. Sure enough, certain prints rise to the surface. They seem to indicate relationships with other prints I may have passed. I go back. The idea fleshes out. The cart becomes unwieldy. I always buy my fabrics locally, on sale days. This spring, it's patchwork, polka dots, prints like old pajamas, eyelet. When I get back in the car with my huge bag of fabric and a little bit of anxiety over how much money I've just spent, I see a small strip of paper face down on the passenger's seat. It's an old paint chip from when we painted some stuff in the shop. Pale pink, it's name "Pinafore." Perfect. Meet the beginnings of the Pinafore Collection by Posie.

Bagbeginnings1_2 It sounds like I made that up, but I swear I didn't -- it's uncanny how often things come together when I'm coming up with my little concept, so lovely and easy -- and actually, this part usually is. But it's the only part that ever really goes love-ily and easily, at least for me. If I could just sit around designing concepts and sketching them out and making the first one, I would. And the first one, or ones, can take all weekend, though it's nice work, exciting; I make coffee, watch BBC America, make a mess, hold my bag at arm's length and stare at it happily. There is a thrill in seeing something that you've pictured in your mind actually work out. You say, "How cool -- that's exactly what I wanted to happen!"

Of course, it took all day to get that one. The logistics of actually getting a whole bunch of 'em made can be more complicated. Because most of the things in the Posie product line are one-of-a-kind -- probably related to each other but not exactly like each other -- it makes the manufacturing part a laborious, slightly complicated process. Because I do so many different products, and such small collections of each, it's usually impractical or impossible to get help that I can afford, or is of high-enough quality. I do have an excellent seamstress that sometimes helps me with a lot of the repetitive, non-design stuff, but I still shop for and order all the supplies, find other solutions when the suppliers are out of stock (so often) or have discontinued something we've been working with for a long time (so often), drive around getting everything, pick out all the details for each item, and organize each stage of getting everything made and finished. In this case, I think I'm going to do it all: the cutting, the piecing, the stitching, the pressing, the gluing, the stitching (always more stitching). Then all of the handles and buttons will be hand-stitched on after the rest of the bag is finished. These bags are more complicated than my usual -- I'm definitely heading toward fewer different products in the line, but better, more complicated, more interesting designs. I feel happier with this. I want things to be just right. (Not that I wouldn't love to just design without all the making part, but for now. . . .) Each Posie bag is fawned over until it's released into the world, since I like to think that people care about how things are made, and that it matters to them that each bag is special. If it doesn't matter to them, at least it matters to me -- making handbags isn't going to change the world, but at least I feel like I'm putting something good and beautiful back into it. I try to remember this when I'm tired, or feeling discouraged. I really do believe that life is enhanced when its most prosaic things are filled with specialness and care. I guess this is what guides my work.


I LOVE your blog...I stumbled across it from Supereggplant's blog...Your blog is! I love the pinks, pastels, all the colors...YOur home is beautiful..Can I ask how you achieved that scalloped lining on your shelves? Is it cloth? Thanks

you're such a wonderful writer...i've just discovered your blog and your posts are like reading a little bit of a book, or a short story :)
thank you for sharing it all!

I love this post. Back when I designed fabrics, I always felt relief when I found my "big idea" and everything suddenly felt right. All that random inspiration I'd been gathering suddenly made sense. Love that.

That colourway is so scrumptious and the name is perfect. I love hearing about how you go about creating a new collection. And I can just picture your imaginary inspirational setting, almost smell the lilacs! Thanks for "taking me away" to England with this post... including the Cath ironing board cover!

Absolutely beautiful!

Ah, Alicia. I love how inspiration strikes, when and where it pleases. And I love your stories - it's like you take your inspiration, your dream, and weave it into a storyline. I can feel that nursery and smell the lilacs, and look out the window down into the garden. It's lovely.

A lovely post, a lovely concept, lovely fabrics.... can't wait to see the Pinafore collection, and ditto to the above comment about your stories.

How perfect in Pinafore?!? I can't wait for Spring, and I can't wait even more to see your new collection. Lovely fabrics!

Two questions repeatedly surface whenever I read your posts about your scrumptious products: 1) Do you ever make something (like a handbag) that you intend for sale, but in the end simply can't let go and wind up keeping for yourself? and 2) are you ever surprised at which bags go first and which do not? Do you see certain trends... and do you attempt to forecast future trends or do you simply let your muse and own exquisite tastes drive your collections? And finally, this is not a question, but a simple statement of fact: I am TOTALLY addicted to this little blog!!!

Melanie: Guess what? Me, too! Totally addicted ;-)

I can't wait to see this new collection!

I loved this post. It is so interesting to hear how inspiration strikes and then comes together. And finding the paint chip with the perfect name? so great.

Yes, i can relate to everything you have said. Especially the joy of designing a new collection and working on the prototypes, giving them all the time in the world. Those are magic days! -afterwards it´s mainly work, work, work- :)

Wonderful post, Alicia! When I was younger the crafting was all about the end product; now, being older, I enjoy the process of inspiration, research, and creation as much as, if not more than, the end product. Thanks for sharing your design musings with us and I can't wait to see how it develops :)

I really enjoyed reading your post because it was almost like being in my own head lol. The process of what you want the bags to look and feel can come from such a totally different spectrum. I too often think of a room or just a style and somehow incorporate it in a purse. Just lovely to see my thought patterns are someone else's too. You also make lovely things so this process must work!;->

Those fabrics are so beautiful.

I love all these fabrics - and I personally do care about how the bags are made, I love hearing about it and that each one is special!

I love all of them! They're beautiful! Where did you get them? None of the fabric stores around here ever have things like those... *sigh*

What a great post! I feel the same way about making the FIRST of something. It's so incredibly exciting to see something that was first in my mind, now physically in my own little hands! I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggles with the repetative issue...I too would love to just be the designer, happily plopping new ideas/inspirations on paper and letting someone else do the "drudge work". Thanks for posting, as always, it's inspiring!

Oh those fabrics look lovely - especially with such a pretty name attached to them. Can't wait to see the finished product!

i've crafted with fabric - then paper - then yarn - and back to fabric (never really letting any of them go). i love shopping for the colors - and i love seeing other peoples. your fabrics look fabulous. i can't wait to see the outcome!

pinafore is perfect!

I love that moment when everything comes together. it's such a high. everything is right with the world and you're the most clever person in it. then comes the actually making it all up. that's why I have to make every subsequent thing different, even if it's only a little bit. otherwise it seems like a chore.

we need jobs in some sort of crafting think tank ;)

Geez, this was fun to read. I love the look of your blog and your words as well. Most of all, I really KNEW what you mean about inspiration and fabric and color and creative ideas. It's so hard to describe to non-creative people. When someone comes into my studio and looks at a little swatch and few pieces of different things they ask "What are you working on?" and I can't really answer because I don't know yet, but I just like the colors and textures and put them together on my desk to think about and ponder. I love your photos too.

Your bags are so beautiful and your site is so inspiring. Thank you for that.

I love coming here!

I'll say it again: you write beautifully. I love these windows into process. Such serendipity! Can't wait to see the new line, and you've got me itching to go fabric shopping for a new series of bibs and bags.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


post a comment

About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.