Looking back on my decision to create the most complicated purse known to man, I’ve learned a couple of things about myself.
Number 1: I like pretty things, and when I see something I want, I go after it.
Number 2: Sometimes, I am struck with the crazy notion that it’s necessary for me to make these pretty things myself…. which is to say, I routinely bite off more than I can chew.
Number 3: I’m stubborn than a mug.
How else could I have stuck with a craft project that took me a whole entire calendar year to finish? And it was a handbag?
You may have seen this style before. It’s one of those woven bags that is made out of paper, like candy wrappers or magazine pages. I’ve always liked it, and when I came across a really good tutorial for it on YouTube (the Holy Grail for anything you want to learn), I glanced over my shoulder at the towering pile of magazines that my roommate hoards, and decided that making a bag like this would be my next craft project.
Mind you, I enjoy having craft projects. I’ve been known to make a necklace or two, maybe a tote bag here and there, or a pair of pajama pants if I want to get really jiggy with it. It’s fun to have something to do while watching television or chatting on the phone, or even enjoying some wine with friends. I figured I’d work on this bag made of folded magazine pages at my leisure, finish it eventually, and then I’d have a super cute bag to whip and nae nae over my shoulder as I proudly declare, “Yes, minions: I made this myself. No store bought bags for this one right chere.”
Fast forward to my behind sweating and grunting, struggling to get this thing made months and months later. OK, I’m exaggerating. It really was not hard work. It simply was the craft project that never ended.
As aforementioned, the YouTube tutorial is fab, and even though it’s in French, the crafter Kativilaga does an excellent job at showing you all the steps and communicating via English subtitles when some parts are tricky. I found it easy to follow along with her. And therein, I believe, lies the problem.
She sucked me in without proper warning. This project takes fooooreeeevvveerrr! Your fingers get achy. And you get tired of sitting. And you’re bored of TV. And sometimes you feel like you ain’t making any progress at ALL!
But truth be told, you are making progress. With each fold, each trim, each stitch, if you keep going, you eventually are left with a pretty darn cool bag. After all, her wonderful tutorial showed me how it would be in the end, and without that inspiration, I don’t think it would’ve stuck with it.
You might be wondering how durable it is since it’s made out of paper. It’s actually incredibly durable because I covered each piece of magazine paper with clear contact paper, kind of laminating it. Then, the pages were folded together in a weave pattern in rows, further reinforcing its strength. After the row is made to a certain length (like a belt), I closed it off and began sewing the rows together, one on top of the other and so on.
Here is a pic of the materials I started with. In the upper left are sheets of torn-out magazine pages, selected because they had colors I liked. Second to the left are sheets of contact paper that I cut to a certain rectangular size. To the right of that are sheets of magazine pages (from the pile on the left) cut to a certain rectangular size. The final stack on the right are cut magazine pages that I carefully applied the contact paper to. That’s the “done” pile. Then I started folding (you’ll have to watch her video to see the process; it’s impossible to explain and you’d just curse me for being confusing) and weaving.
It’s the ultimate assembly line. You just keep working and working on it and you don’t even notice that moss is starting to grow under your butt and the turn of the century has happened again. Seriously, every single part of the process was slow as Georgia molasses.
Think about it: if I used 500 magazine pages, then that’s 500 pages that needed to be selected, 500 pages that needed to be cut, 500 pages that needed to be contact papered (without making little bubbles in it, grrr), 500 pages that needed to be folded into squares, 500 squares that needed to be woven together, 500 rows that needed to be sewn together. Cheese and rice, I’m having sympathy pains just remembering what I went through.
My fingers would regularly hurt. I stopped working on it for weeks at a time. I regularly spent hours working on it in a single sitting, watching movies, the Golden Globes, talking on the phone, sitting on the patio, chatting with friends, whining to my boyfriend, anything to pass the time. Because the main thing about this project is that it just takes effing time. I grew exasperated with it… and yet I was wild to see how it would turn out.
Because I was absolutely in love with it from the minute it started to come together. This is the very definition of “labor of love.”
Every time I had to pick up my rotary cutter to slice through yet another stack of magazine pages, every time I had to throw away another huge stack of the backing from the contact paper, every time I folded yet another hundred squares of the pages… I just knew it was going to turn into something dope.
And dope it is. In fact, without a trace of ego, just genuinely loving this bag, I’d venture to say it’s dope as f*ck.
I added straps to it (with loops that are really shower curtain rings, lol), and even added magnets to the inside so that it can snap closed.
I took it to the beach to test its water-resistance. All systems go!
But I actually don’t use it as a tote, or as a purse.
Since I’ve been in business for myself, I’ve been using it as my briefcase! And it is a fantastic FANTASTIC conversation-starter. With several of my potential clients, we actually end up talking about it for like 15 minutes at the beginning of meetings, and then it’s not a matter of IF they’re going to hire me; they’ve already decided that they like me! My work speaks for itself, anyway, and it seems that the fact that I made this beautiful creation gives them more information about my personality, dedication, attention to detail, creativity, and personal signature.
I like that.
And I love my bag. I have so many people offering to buy it right off of my shoulder. But I don’t think I’ll ever sell this one. Besides, they’d run screaming if I told them the price. From working on it for a year (though I probably could’ve finished it in six months if I just didn’t have anything else to do), I wouldn’t sell it for a yen less than $3,000. LOL. Not a rupee less, not a peso, not a Candadian dollar, not a guarani, not a dime less than $3,000.
Which is hilarious because I’m sure there are high-end designer bags for $3,000 whose actual value (in terms of craftsmenship and time it took to make) aren’t even worth $20 bucks. Isn’t that hilarious?
Anyway, that’s my DIY bag! That’s all folks.
Beth Clark is a writer and foodie who loves to roam around Atlanta, uncovering the city's quirky, glam, upscale, and down-home character. Curiosity is her compass, and you'll find her writing on thecitydweller.me and Atlanta.net. Connect with her on Instagram as well, at @thecitydweller.