Saturday, 17 January 2015

Franklins Haberdashers Colchester and the handmade, locally sourced bag.

Colchester has a lot of great independent shops. 
And 3 in particular enabled me to make this bag, in less that 24 hours and for only a couple of pounds. 

I started it yesterday afternoon when I decided to boil some red onion skins from some onions 
I had purchased from Humphrey's the Grocer. I've never done this before. I don't know why I decided to do it.  It was probably because the weather was bad and my son and I were housebound which neither of us like.

After an hour in boiling water, I removed the skins and put in a small length of my Emmaus Charity Shop fabric (£4 for almost 2 metres) that I had soaked in tap water. I had folded and tied it based loosely on Japanese Shibori dying techniques but using onion skins rather than Indigo. 
Or tie dye to the hippies amongst us.

I placed this in the 'onion water' /dye bath and simmered it for an hour. 

After an hour, I removed the fabric from the pan, took off the bindings, washed it under a cold tap until the water ran clear then let the fabric dry. The dye bath had been a dark red so I was a bit surprised when the fabric dried brown/yellow...

I was pretty pleased with the effect nevertheless, not bad for an almost free project, made with materials from the high street!  But unsure at what to do with the now dyed fabric I went to bed. 

However, at 5:30am this morning I woke up and decided to make a bag. 
I do not need a bag. I am currently selling loads of bags on eBay but I had an idea of 
what I wanted to do. Onions have never made me so excited before.

I stitched the fabric together to make a very basic shopper bag shape. 
Even I couldn't quite believe the neatness of my hand stitching at 5:30am, however it has 
confirmed my belief that if I had a sewing machine I would definitely make good use of it. 

Once the sides were sewn together, I had to wait for the shops to open as I wanted to try 
and buy some leather for the handles and some rivets to attach them to the bag. 

As soon it was open, I headed to one of my favorite shops in Colchester, maybe even the Universe. Franklins Haberdasher's. It's wonderful. A veritable Aladdin's cave of all things haberdash-y.  
I would happily spend days here.

As luck would have it, they had a 'scraps' box full of leather trimmings, 10 pieces for £1!
So I jumped in and picked the longest bits I could find. 
I then bought a rivets pack which was £9 for the rivet tool and 10 rivets.

When I got home I sorted through the leather and cut the pieces into more useable, handle shaped strips, sadly none of the pieces were long enough for an over the shoulder bag they were such a bargain, it didn't really matter.

I then attached the rivets and handles to the bag with a hammer, narrowly smashing a floor tile in the process (always hammer onto something you don't mind damaging folks).

And that, my friends, is that. I'm pretty happy with it. On the one hand it looks like the Turin shroud but on the other it looks like something Plumo or Anthropolgie might sell for £50. 

I am definitely going to make more. I am not sure it would stand up to carrying a sack of potatoes but it would definitely hold a phone, purse, keys, book, Milky Bar Buttons, all the essentials basically. 

So, thank you to:

Humphrey's for the onions.
Emmaus for the fabric.
Franklins for the leather.

Shop local, you never know what you might end up with!


  1. Ooo nice! You could make a killing making and selling hand dyed ribbons for wedding flowers, you know ;-)

    1. Thanks for the comment Sian, good idea. I'm getting quite into the bags at the moment though, made another one today using frozen berries! x