Wednesday, November 15, 2023

A tiny new bag

Hello, friends! 

It's November! Somehow, summer happened and I don't remember a whole lot of it, honestly. So much has happened this year. Emily graduated from high school, and I sewed a prom dress and threw a grad party and got all emotional. Kate started a new late-summer job at the water park. The high school swim and dive season resumed in August and our days were non-stop shuttling to and from the pool and daily mounds of towels in the laundry. And we moved Emily into her new place at her Uni which, funnily enough, was the same apartment I stayed at when I first came to Minnesota 21 years ago to go to grad school. Very full-circle. 

It surprised me how physical it was, moving and setting up new digs, even if it was just a fraction of the size of a regular house and just 30 mins from home. We did a late night grocery run to stock her fridge after a quiet dinner together at the end of the day. You know the kind - you're working hard and you forget the time and suddenly the sun's set and you realize you should probably have dinner, so you drive out into an unfamiliar neighborhood and find a random sandwich place and it's only after you've sat down to eat that you feel the weight of the day and the looming goodbye settle on you. I bawled all the way home but I was so proud of my kid for doing this on her own, and so grateful that she was excited for instead of petrified of the transition. 

And just like that, the house was quieter and there was more bathroom counter space and we had to reorganize the laundry roster and learn to cook less food because there were just four of us now. I'm not an empty nester by any means, but it was an adjustment, nonetheless. My neighbor, who herself sent off three kids to college, said, "The first one is the hardest because it's the one that makes your family no longer intact." I also know of many other moms who'd beg to differ, and who'd swear that it's the youngest that's the most devastating because it's the last one that strips you of those those caretaking responsibilities which have been your identity for so many years. And there will be yet others who will say it's the second one, or the fourth, because that's the one who was the kindest to the dog, or the one who always remembered to buy the milk, or the one who tended to check in regularly so you never had to guess where they were. At the end of the day, we all agree on this: it's momentous when a kid leaves home. Particularly when it's not something you've grown up being used to - nobody leaves home at 18 in Singapore. Where would they go? It's a tiny island with a very finite number of tertiary institutions and everyone transitions from childhood to adulthood alongside their parents, and the caregiving shifts direction ever so subtly and evolves organically and in-person.

But I survived. And we're creating new patterns and logistics in how we continue to love each other. And what a blessing that she's only 30 minutes away and there are always convenient reasons to come home every other weekend, or stop by the apartment or campus. Any continuity from her old life helps, too. Like her music: earlier this month, my husband and I attended a couple of concerts to hear her play - new stage, new orchestra- and band-mates, but same kid, same trombone, and the same music that had always brought her so much joy. She was back home for homecoming to help take pictures of her sisters, stopped in at Sections last week to watch Kate swim, and two weekends ago, all three girls and I went to a rock concert. There were other random occasions, too - a week after she'd moved out,  we attended a fabric printing class together, just for fun. There's a separate post about that coming, but I wanted to mention that here because we'd signed up for that before she'd left home so we could have something artsy to look forward to after.

Which brings me to this bag (at last, I hear you say). I needed a new bag for so many reasons. For one, I'd had my old bag for more than six years and thought I should downsize, now that I no longer need to cart around all kinds of Motherphernalia. For another, I wanted to sew bags again. I should clarify: I always want to sew bags, but my kid had just left home and where other people might, say, eat a pint of Ben & Jerry's to cope, I sew receptacles. Summary: I was subconsciously looking for a reinvention, and my old bag was on its way out. Voila.

So here it is - my new much-smaller shoulder bag. Still upholstery suede, though, because that fabric lasts forever and doesn't show wear at all. That six-year-old bag I was telling you about? Still looks new on the outside, although the cotton lining is definitely worn.

I'm still sewing my straps the borderline-obsessive way.

Here's the strap anchor. It's a bit of work to attach externally instead of in-seam between the outer and lining layers of the bag, but I wanted to be fancy, so serves me right.

Here it is, inside-out. The lining is some real South-East Asian batik, probably Indonesian. 

While we're on the subject, I've always thought the tie-dye batiks we get here in American fabric stores were too fadey. In fact, I almost didn't believe they were batiks when I first came here to the US, because growing up in Singapore, batiks had been synonymous with vibrant fabrics like these. 

End of detour. This is the strap with a lobster claw, which I put in all my shoulder bags, to which to attach key rings. Saves me the trouble of digging for mine amongst all the other junk in my bags - I just feel for the strap instead, and pull out the keys.

An inside shot to show you one of the two inner pockets. You can see them more clearly in the first batik-side-out picture above. 

A couple of WIP shots next. You can see the pocket laying across the middle seam of the project - it's kinda like one of those spot-the-hidden-object pictures. Also wanted to show you that my fabric edges don't always line up in the construction process - see the two unmatching lower edges for what I mean. What's more critical (to me, anyway) is how the fabric piecing aligns at the seam, and sometimes, precision in other places has to give. All that irregularity disappears into the base seam anyway, so it's still all good.

What was the point of this next picture? No clue, sorry. This is what happens when you take photos and don't post them till months after. Maybe it was to show that curvy seam and the edge-stitching? Huh. Let's say that's it. Moving on, now!

Final shot of Fleur modeling the bag to give you an idea of its size. Okay, it's not really tiny like the title claims - it's just more compact and current than my old one was. Fleur does a lot of modeling for me these days now that the kids are hardly home to pose for me. And I am horrible at selfies and finding appropriate mirrors for taking selfies. So it's a good thing I have a body double. Plus, unlike the kids, she never fidgets.

I might have a couple of these bags to put in the store for the holidays. One of them is a fun variation - will share pictures in the next post. 

Early wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone! Feast with abandon, enjoy your loved ones, and -id you're traveling - be safe on the roads (and air)!


  1. It is a very cute and good-looking bag! I am glad to read you, and good news about Emily, too. It's always funny to me, how my experiences in France relate more to what you tell about yours in Singapore than to what our kids are living here. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Gorgeous bag. I love the batik lining.

    We are in the throes of college apps here. Emma may end up right next door, or across the pond at a UK uni. Big changes!

  3. "I sew receptacles" :) You make me laugh. Love the bag. I have 4 kids and the thought of the nest emptying is so odd. The oldest is staying at home for university next year so it's not happening quite yet!


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