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Mustache Bags

4 Dec






This was a fun project!! Made the bags for hubs 40th birthday party. Sandy hit & half couldn’t make it. Forgot to give them out. Brought them to renegade sold a few. Now gifting them. Hard to list when I didn’t sew the bag, just created the “screenprint” or stencil & painted. The best part was working with both of my daughters. Good times!

The mustache theme has been popular on Etsy but I found irony in that my husband has never grown one, not even during movember.

A few behind the scenes pics.

xoxo, Jen

Wedding Favor for Guests – behind the scenes

20 Jun Nautical Burlap Wine Bag

Recently, I received a request for 125 Nautical Burlap Wine Bags. They would be used as gifts for the attendees of a wedding. The wedding is taking place on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

I’ve made this bag for a couple of different weddings now but only in quantities of 10 or so. The bride saw this bag in my Etsy shop & contacted me about her order.

Making 125 of anything is a lot of work. Ordering the supplies in bulk takes time. Some suppliers only have a small quantity on hand & in stores…even smaller.

The materials include: soft cotton woven rope, grosgrain ribbon, designer burlap & a good quality thread.

Ordering the burlap wasn’t a problem as the supplier was fully stocked for the summer. There have been periods of time when it has been back ordered for months. Finding the striped wide grosgrain ribbon took a little bit of time to find the right supplier but worked out perfectly. Matching the thread to the burlap & ordering in bulk will make all future projects a dream. The last piece & finishing touch the braided rope. As the saying goes…never let them see you sweat.

Finding the rope!! Arg!! Doesn’t begin to describe this piece of the puzzle. I ordered the rope from a supplier. Fantastic until it arrived. It arrived in a natural color not white. Cream is not white. So I have 400 yards of rope that I do not need. The hunt goes on…and I finally break down & contact a local fabric shop. They say not a problem & will deliver on time. The date quickly approaching & several calls & appearances & excuses later…the rope is back ordered at the manufacturer. This is information that was known by them & not shared with me. I had to make some quick decisions. I could have just adjusted my whole order had they just told me. I had 110 yards as each bag requires 1 yard of rope. I needed 15 yards of rope. Several visits to other stores produced zero yards. I am always outside the box thinker…what about a different size rope, certainly something must be close in size?? Oh why yes…there is not much difference between 1/2 inch and 5/8th inch, the untrained eye can not distinguish. Oy vey!!

So the shop that failed me, orders the remaining yardage 2 days before due date. I don’t trust them so I go online when I get home & order a back up supply and pay up the wazoo for next day air.

The bride & groom arrive on Friday. The order complete & utterly perfect. The grooms remarks on seeing 125 of them was “oh wow you’ve been busy.” Yes, 125 wine bags looks a lot different than 125 pennies.

To the bride & groom, thank you for your trust. I hope your guests love them. It was a challenge physically & emotionally and so worth it. I would do it again.

This production would not have been possible without the help of my husband who designed my labels and pinned ribbon on bags; mom who came for a visit & hemmed bags; my friend/household assistant Nancy who cut rope & turned bags & pinned; my 4 yo who ran under the desk to pull out the printed copies of my labels while I used my industrial paper cutter just 2 hours before delivery. My whole family who tolerated my endless hours of production. You are all so amazing. We’ll look back when I am almost famous and laugh.

No project this large is complete without a photo journey.

Here are some of the bags on my table getting ready to be serged. All woven fabrics should be finished properly or it will unravel & have holes.

After the serging…then each bag must be turned right side out. Burlap fibers go everywhere.

The next step is pinning the top hem so that the edging of the burlap is underneath & does not come unraveled. Takes a very steady hand to make sure the stitching is even. Also, the opening is so small, it does not fit on a free arm.

This was just about 2/3 of the bags when they were pinned & ready for their final hem. Sorry that I didn’t take pictures of the next step which was packing them in the box for delivery. I was so focused & close to my deadline.

The final step of this sewing project was cutting the 125 yards of rope used to tie a bow or nautical tie around the top of each wine bottle.

Thanks for taking the time to read about what it is really like being a designer & not having the resources of a manufacturing facility or other seamstresses helping me sew. I learn so much about my strength & determination with each turn that this business has taken.

xo, Jen

Hand Monogrammed gift

19 Mar


Hand monogrammed gift, a client stopped by requesting 3 items to be hand monogrammed. I just adore the sweet simplicity.

Finding My Style

18 Oct

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the question “What is my style?”

There are some other handbag designers on Etsy that when you see a photo of one of their bags you instantly know who’s it is before you see the sellers name. I want that same brand recognition.

Finding your style is the fun part of the journey. I’ve been crafting my bags for 2.5 years and I’ve explored many styles of bags in the ultimate pursuit of finding my style.

The past can sometimes provide guidance for the future

Recently, I returned to a journal entry that I wrote over a year ago. I was given the opportunity to have a meeting in my studio with Liz Conover. Read her Linked-in profile and you will see why this was an amazing opportunity for me. The best part of that meeting had nothing to do with business. I was able to see just how sweet and utterly sensational she is. I’ve seen her at a few other events since this meeting and she has such a warm personable charisma (as does her husband Udi) that you just can’t help but want to be around them.

I digress but was necessary to explain the next part. She is a consultant for the highest end market of handbags and fashion. That said, she is a supporter of grass-roots efforts, Eco-friendly ideas and being yourself without compromise. Having a full on vision of where you want to be in five and even ten years. Is your life about bags or being the caretaker of your family. That is to say do I want sitters, long hours, vacations, and time with family.

You can’t honestly give it all, to all facets at the same level, I have to share my time with my business, my family, and me. In other words finding my ratio. All of these need to be considerations for growing your business. Whether or not you hire help or outsource any responsibilities is another consideration. Also, is this a business that I’d want to sell in 1o years.

Another important part of our conversation was more about the type of bags that I create. As I said, I’ve tried many designs in part to see what I like and in other to see what my fans/customers like. So when Liz and I spoke a year ago she said to me you are not preppy, preppy is plain and boring. You are unique and whimsical. That my items are not mass-produced and that I put detail in every stitch. The colors and color combination are outstanding and that I combine colors that your mom said you shouldn’t. That I am totally a spin-off from the 1950′s.

So needless to say I was floating after this conversation and sort of put aside the most important part. She told me to be me always me and that I should never compromise who I am or change for another person. Bag lesson and life lesson. As I said, she is sensational.

My personal style

My clothing style is a clash of preppy boring and sustainable. I only wear solids but especially when I get dressed up, I am all 1950′s and vintage (but mostly solids). Generally I seek out cottons, a whimsical feel (but not print) with ballet style tops but sometimes you’ll see me in a blue polo sweater and pink shorts but not everyday. I do like to accessorize with something fun like a bold belt, pink shoes (atypical), scarves, pearls, bracelets and fun handbags.

Designing risks

I know that when I design I take a risk that I will lose fans & customers but that happens from time to time even with big store chains. I take a look at their color palate for the season and sometimes I swoon and other times I run for the hills.

I like that I change and evolve with new ideas that meet my lifestyle as many others share the same style. I don’t just make one thing and stick with it, I always keep trying new things. Sometimes they work and other times they do not.

A recent design element that I want you to weigh in on

I believe that I have found my style and what I love most. I love embroidered elements. The time and skill that it takes to complete such intricate designs all by hand. I am not hip with the machine embroidered design. They are fine but not for me. You can tell the difference and I like that someone toiled endlessly to draw and then stitch by hand the fine little details that make an item certainly unique. As my daughter said when she was 6, it is the love that you put in it that makes it special.

Unfortunately my other half dislikes embroidery. His preference is my burlap designs with fabric band across the front, sometimes a grosgrain ribbon but usually that is too much for him.

I trust his judgement as we’ve done a lot of design work together. We argue quite a bit about design and we do disagree from time to time but most often we see eye to eye and our combined style is pretty nice I think. If you’ve been to my house, it is not just my thumbprint but a collective of both of our ideas on design, decorating, and photography.

I’ve not abandoned my burlap design and it is still one of my favorites. So he need not worry. I still want to make them but sometimes a girl needs options.

Enter…my new designs for the winter with the following features:

1. Wool, Tweed, Corduroy (we both like these fabrics)

2. Brightly colored whimsical interiors (same, we both like them)

3. The loop and button (me)

4. The embroidery (my favorite element and his least favorite)

Of course, I still do custom work so if you liked an idea of wool without an embroidery feature or you wanted a different color fabric that is always an option unless it is one of my OOAK designs and I have no more of that particular fabric.

What other elements of my designs that are my favorite

1. Burlap designs

2. Winter designs that are neutral with a pop of color

3. Winter colors that are bold, bright and whimsical like the purple flower tote

4. Spring designs with a whole lot of color

5. Short handles as I am not a shoulder bag girl

6. Small totes and honestly even my large totes are pretty small but no more weekenders or full on mom diaper bags

7. Wood handles may come back in the Spring

Thanks for taking the time to read but here is what I need from you.

What are your likes and dislikes about the colors, embellishments, size, shape, anything really?

I need your feedback to help me stay on track. Yes a large part of the design process is what do I like to make but if I am the only one that likes them, then my sales will reflect that and certainly that is not the road I want to travel.

peace, love and happiness,

Jen xoxo

Here are a few of the designs I mentioned

Winter Collection 2011

Burlap Collection

Whimsical Fabrics

Dance Bags for my Girls

16 Aug

It is not very often that I have enough time to make myself or my girls a bag. I know this is a backward way of thinking but my shop has been bursting at the seams with excitement and energy.

This project began weeks ago on a trip to Massachusetts.

The monogramming alone took me several days. I may have mentioned the letter “M” was a four-hour project. Below…late at night burning the midnight oil.

So this project was very important for my girls to see how long it took me to complete and they helped and watched every step of the way. Each bag took me about 10 hours to complete because of the large monograms (that is my sewing work week).

I had finally completed the bag and I took it apart 3 times until I was happy with it. The first version was much too large. For them and for me. Now this bag is large enough to carry all their ballet and Irish dance gear but small enough that each can carry their own bag.

This bags dimensions are: 17.5″ across, 13″ tall and 5″ deep.

I used a seersucker fuchsia and white gingham fabric for the exterior and Jennifer Paganelli for SisBoom on the interior. Honestly Jen’s fabric is lovelier but I needed the boxes for my cross-stitch letters. Using the boxes made the cross stitch pattern very easy. I used a black cotton duck for the bottom so their bag wouldn’t be destroyed by the floor at dance school.

On the interior I included one pocket and used an Oil Cloth to make a pouch that is sewn to the bag for their water bottle. Nice that it is waterproof and also holds their water in place so their shoes don’t get wet if it tips over. Irish Dance shoes are not the cheapest shoes on the market and since I have two girls the little one needs to wear her big sisters shoes.

Because of its size. I did a standard “x” configuration to give the handles extra support. I used medium/heavy interfacing for the outside layer and extra heavy interfacing on the inside layer.

Two very large bags for two very small and very sweet girls. They have worked so hard at Irish Dancing and both deserve these labors of love for all that hard work. Now if they can just remember to put their shoes in the bag before and after class, we’ll be good to go.

The reaction was the best. I love my girls so very much and they were so patient for these bags and also with mommy working 20 hours a week.

I hope you enjoyed this project recap. I spent a lot of time on it and I know the work shows and that my girls are happy.

My best, Jen xx oo

***I should add that I am happy to customize a bag like this one for you. Please contact me for details and pricing. Cross Stitching is labor intensive but a beautiful result. I also do other types of monogramming by hand that are less labor intensive. Together we can work together to make the perfect dance bag for you, your daughter or your son!

A Love Affair With Burlap

1 Jun

It is no secret that I am having a love affair with burlap. It is summer time, the air is warmer, clothes are lighter, more daylight hours, flowers blooming, and love is all around. It is nothing short of a harlequin romance with its simple organic material, clean lines, and a vintage look.

I’ve made many styles of burlap designs, all unique, none of them from a pattern. In my burlap series: Itty Bitty Totes, Small Beach Bags, Cross-Body Bags, Small Totes, Wine bags, and now…a Clutch.

I am always nervous with folding burlap as it can be brittle. The fabric that I use is a designer weight, not like a potato sack and is often used for upholstery projects because of how well it is woven. It worked perfectly for this design. I love creating a new handbag for each event that I attend. There is no better marketing than wearing what you do. I wanted to change it up from my last clutch and do something different, a bit longish and flat.

It is all about the icing design on the cake right? So what do you get when you start off with a one piece flat burlap clutch and add a knife pleat cotton ribbon that gives it a “candy ribbon” effect down the front and add a few pearl buttons? You get, what I think is my best design yet. A fresh new design using vintage techniques with all new materials to make it beautiful. This design has a soft zipper top, a matching fuschia kiss lock lining, and an iPhone pocket. The full dimensions are 10″ across x 5.5″ tall.

This is a one of a kind item (OOAK) that I made for myself to wear to an upcoming Fundraiser Lobster Bake. I needed a clutch to match my new dress from ModCloth (Cake Artist), with my fuschia pink gauze pashmina wrap (bought locally at Good Goods in Darien) and my denim blue espadrilles (from Piperlime that happen to be the coziest heels I’ve ever owned). I would be happy to make one of these lovely clutches for you in another fabric. The retail price on this item is $30.

**Copyright 2011, The Itty Bitty Bag Company. This is my original design and it is not permissable to copy in any form.

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Black & White Damask Shoulder Bag

27 May

Despite being the Itty Bitty Bag Company, I often get requests for large, weekender, and mom bags. We won’t call the mom bags a diaper bag because sometimes you are well beyond the diaper phase but your kids still require you to carry a lot of stuff. I am still taking orders on all these bags but each bag takes me about 5 working mom days, so they take me a while to get through with all my other orders. Current production time is 4-6 weeks.

This custom order was for a large black and white damask shoulder bag, with 2 pockets, a cell pocket and a zipper top. It has longish handles with a 12″ drop. The dimensions are approximately 15″ x 12″ x 5″. It is embellished with grosgrain ribbon across the front and lined with a fuschia pink that just pops. I love black and white with fuschia, it is such a great color combination.

Here are a few other angles of the large bag, the zip top, inside pockets, close up of the ribbon, zipper open…

I did buy this fabric in bulk, only because I go through it so quickly and there are so many different types of bags that I can make that can utilize this fabric. I think it would also look great with Navy blue but haven’t been asked for that color combination yet.

What other colors do you think would look fab with the black and white damask?

Crafty Girl Valentines

10 Jan

Have Extra Fabric in your shop?

You’ve made all the yo yo’s you can, but the small pieces of fabric just accumulate. They are perfectly fine but like me, your addicted and more fabric comes in before it goes out. And lets face it, our customers want to see something new. So what do you do with all the little pieces of fabric? You can hold onto it taking up valuable space in your shop or you can do a yo yo/fabric square listing. I’ve wanted to do a listing like this for some time now. I thought Valentines day was the perfect holiday to do it. If you have a crafty girl in your home or you yourself are a crafty girl, these fabric squares are fantastic. They are also perfect for making cards, scrapbooking, bookmarks, beginner quilting, applique and oh so much more! I used all the left over fabric from my designer collection. All of these fabrics have been used in making my bags. If you use fabric in your Etsy shop, this is a great way of being green and not just throwing away scraps of fabric. I also have some other fabric that is not as big as a square that is available for purchase if you do collages, prints or other type of fabric art. I have a geat you tube video on how to make yo yo’s but I think all the other ideas are pretty self explanatory. My 3 and 7 year olds love using my small pieces of fabric. Fabric is fun to hold and playwith.

Heart Fabric Yo Yo Box
Heart Fabric Yo Yo Box

Custom Bridesmaids Wedding Totes

9 Jan

The wedding is scheduled for the the middle of February and the order shipped out today! So excited for this order. The bride is going to include several little gifts inside each bag for her bridesmaids. The bags are slightly larger than my Extra Small at 6″ x 6″ x 3″. The handle measures 4″ drop from the center of the handle to the top of the bag.

The first image is 3 of the bags with a band of ribbon. The other two bags, I decorated with a grosgrain ribbon tied into a bow. You can see all the bags in the gallery by clicking on each one.

3 bags with Ribbon Band

3 of bags with Ribbon Band


It is so perfect that so many brides have considered my fabric totes for their wedding gift to their bridesmaids, especially since my company began as a bridesmaids gifts for my best friend. :) I love being a part of someone’s special day. So if you are interested in having keepsake totes for your bridal party, send me an email and we can discuss fabric and options. I make all types of bags from the littlest zipper pouches up to weekender bags.

2010 Reflections + 2011 Predictions

5 Jan

Looking back on the sewing scene of 2010, what trends stand out in your mind?

How the sewing community in my own neighborhood has grown. That so many came out to my free class on Etsy at our local library. I think it is very interesting that several mid 30′s, early 40′s women are starting their own businesses and all of them include some amount of sewing. I think this is an amazing trend for our generation and our future generations, that not everything needs to be purchased and can be handmade.

What were some of your favorite things? (Trends, fabric collections, patterns, blogs? Whatever you really loved.)

I love love Riley Blake’s Quite Contrary line, it is like antique prints are making a huge comeback and I love them, my daughters middle name is Riley.

What was the best thing you made in 2010?

I love my burlap collection!

Burlap Beach Bag

Burlap Beach Bag


What is one of the best things you saw that was made by someone else?

I am obsessed with a few designers right now! I really love items that are upcycled or have a vintage look and anything with hand embroidery.

What do you think 2011 has in store?

I think in the wake of items not being made well, outsourced to another country, mass-produced, that handmade market places will continue to flourish. Items that are upcycled or have a vintage look will continue to do well. Why else would names from the past be so popular, like the names Abby & Emma. ;)

Anything you’re ready for the sewing world to get over?

Many people are still trying to copy other designers in the hopes that they will share the same success. Trying new things and finding what works for you is not always easy and takes time. Be patient, your calling will unveil itself just by trying new things.

What’s on your sewing agenda for 2011? What are you excited about?

I am really excited for 2011. I have so many new lovely fabrics & burlap and can’t wait to get started on my Spring line. All designers struggle at first with what will be your signature item and finding what works is hard and takes time. I think I found my niche and I can’t wait to see how it works out.

What would you like to learn more about?

I wish I could go back to school. At some point, I think we all say this too. I really wanted to go to art school but selected a different path. If I could go back, I would go to fashion/design school. I really love sewing, love textiles, love new ideas and playing with them. Being creative is so rewarding but is frustrating when you are self-taught. I learned a lot from my mom but it was sewing basics. I would love to learn techniques like smocking and many other types of sewing.


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