AsK Kat: For Beginners ONLY

(This post is part of a new series we’ve started in an attempt to publicly answer some of the mostly commonly asked questions we receive.)

This new question & answer series has already proven to be quite popular, and you know what? It’s kinda fun from our end too, so let’s continue the fun with another question that we receive on a regular basis and that would be,

“Which of your patterns would you recommend for a beginner?”

Our very 1st pattern, The Apropos Pack

This is actually a pretty interesting question, and in order to answer it properly we’ll need to rewind the clock to early 2004 and the months leading up to our very 1st pattern release…

When I first started playing with the idea of starting up a pattern business I did quite a bit of research into what was already on the market. I wanted to find out if;

A) the Market was already glutted with handbag patterns, and 
B) if all sewing ability-levels were being served by the available patterns.

Here’s what I found out;

Even though there were bag patterns available from a variety of sources, I felt like the Market was far from glutted and here’s the other interesting and surprising thing I found out. Virtually every one of the bag patterns that were on the market in 2004 were self-described in the following way;

Quick…Easy…Great for Beginners
With very few exceptions, the silhouettes were all very similar, with precious few storage options. 
And here’s what I concluded;

1) the intermediate to experienced ability-level was very much under-served at this point, and
2) the Market was ripe for interesting and modern silhouettes that offered oodles of storage possibilities.

And you know what? This was music to my ears, because this was the exact target audience I had in mind for my new pattern line! So I dove right in head first and I’m still swimming with this school of thought 9 years later!

Which brings us back to the original question(s) that prompted this post…

“Which of your patterns would you recommend for a beginner?”

                         “When will you be adding an easy handbag pattern to your line?”

So…what follows is my typical response is these questions,
 (and now they probably won’t surprise you, right?)

Our newest pattern, The Uptown Saddlebag
  1.  I really do not recommend our pattern line for beginners.
  2. With the exception of the Reuse-a-Bag (which really isn’t a handbag at all), our designs are not quick and easy Saturday afternoon projects. 
  3. No, I really have no plans to add a beginner pattern to our line at this time. 

First of all, it’s not my vision. I’ve learned the hard way that I really don’t do my best work unless I’m all in… or totally inspired by a project.

And secondly, there’s already a host of designers out there who LOVE designing quick and easy projects and since this is their target audience and this type of project is their vision, their finished product is well-conceived and totally inspired.

So… if you are a beginner, or if you are looking for a quick & easy Sunday afternoon handbag project, then my advice is to check out the following websites. I know each of these ladies personally and I can recommend their work wholeheartedly!

Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs
Margaret Travis of EasyPeazy Quilts
Linda McGehee of Ghee’s Handbags
(then… when you’re ready for a more involved project, 
come back and see US!)
So…What are YOUR thoughts about our answer to this question? 
Were there any surprises? 

Please feel free to leave your comments in the space provided below 
and stay tuned for the next post in this new series 
when we’ll answer another of our commonly received questions!

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11 Comments So Far, You're Next!

  1. I considered myself a confident beginner when I made my Harmony bag, and found it wasn’t that hard. The Sidekick was a little intimidating, but even that only took me a few afternoons, from cut to carry. The most recent one I did was the Apropos for a sewing contest, and since I’d done two of your patterns already, it was pretty easy! I think, given that your patterns are so well written and you include fantastic diagrams, any confident beginner could do well with several of your patterns. But really, no surprises in this post. I love that you cater to a more advanced level sewist. I still only consider myself intermediate at best, but I love and appreciate the thought you put into your patterns!

    Quilting for Sanity!! (

  2. Sue H from upstate NY

    I’m an experienced sewer but had never made a handbag. I did your BOHO bag as my first one and I thought it was so easy that I have recommended it to a couple of friends who are new sewers. One has made it and found it was straight forward and is going to get another one of your patterns to do.

  3. Kathy, I appreciate that you cater to your audience. No need to compromise. A beginner could sew your bags. Just start with each section as per your instructions…a bite at a time. Or ask a friend who sews for guidance and make it a day or an afternoon adventure.

    Several years ago I designed (made my own pattern) and made some simple tote bags for gifts and one for me. What made it beyond simple was the fabric. I fussy cut the striped and coordinating fabrics to give the effect I wanted. The bags are soft and do not stand up….more like grocery totes with a side pocket in each side between the straps which encompass the bag from the bottom in one long piece back to the starting point. For an example see LL Bean tote bags and visualize outside pockets for paper and paperback book/receipts, etc.

    Last year I purchased a couple bag organizers and use one of them in that tote to make it sturdy and keep me organized with everything (the kitchen sink…Ha!) The small cross body bag (purple vinyl from Walmart) I take into the store when I shop fits in the center section. It is just big enough for money, credit cards, checkbook and phone.

    I recently purchased your newest organizer to sew up organizers to fit my totes and provide custom organization, rather than relying on a finished product which seems to always be missing a particular sized pocket, pouch or zipper section.

    • Thanks for commenting Ann and for your kind words. I’m especially glad you’ve found our purse organizers helpful. Like you, I just can’t stand to be without one now! 🙂

  4. Keep on doing what you’re doing! I enjoy your patterns BECAUSE of all the detail. If I wanted an easy pattern, i.e. a simply designed bag, I’d buy a pattern from one of the other zillion purse pattern designers out there. I was so ecstatic to find your patterns. Don’t ever change!!

  5. I love that you are not willing to dillute your vision to be all things to all people, and that you are willing to refer other pattern designers. That tells me boatloads about your character, and you are definitely someone I will do business with and recommend!

  6. I love your patterns, and the way they read makes it easy to construct. I have tried other bag patterns, but something is always ‘missing’. I love your storage options, and they are easy to modify. I can make them wider (my preference) or I can add extra pockets or zip pockets (eg the bellagio bag works well for this). Or I can leave out the card slots. They challenge me to find the right fabric(s) or embroidery designs which will suit each pattern. Sometimes they ‘work’, sometimes they don’t, but I never get discouraged from trying something else or completing the bag.

  7. Such nice comments. Thanks so much! 🙂

  8. Melody Girard

    Your bags are more attractive and utilitarian than most of the bags designated as “beginner’s projects.” The “easy” projects are just totes, which you can usually make without a purchased pattern, or buy Target for less than than you could make it. So what if it has a pocket? You can find pocket totes for low prices, too.

    I need a zippered closure to a utilitarian, organizing bag, and I haven’t seen that in the “easy” bags.