Photo Credit: CRFashionbook

Recently a fellow designer sent out a call for pattern-testers ( ). Designers do this often for research & development and quality-assurance of a new product.

Have you thought of being a pattern tester? It is just as it sounds, it means you test new patterns to ensure their accuracy before they are released to the public.  Testing patterns can be done for many items including handbags, children’s clothing, felt toys and quilt blocks to name just a few.

When you first start testing patterns, that entrepreneurial spirit kicks in and asks, “how much do I get paid?” Well, that’s the thing about most pattern testing. You do it for free.

Yes, you are “compensated” by receiving a copy of the pattern before it’s released, and sometimes you might be given fabulous fabric to work with as well. And you just might have your workmanship showcased on the company’s website once the pattern goes live. But in general, pattern testers are just helping out the designer, just for the love of it.

Back when I started, I was always looking to try new things, but without a large budget to invest in research & development, I relied on bartering skills and buying overstock of fellow designers’ sampling inventory at give-away prices. You see manufacturers are required to buy 10 yards of fabric to sample with when they order from wholesalers. If a dress takes up 3 yards to make, what do you do with the remaining seven? How else could I afford luxurious silks and cashmeres! And, that’s where the pattern testing part caught my interest.  I looked for talented sewers and cutters who shared my passion for fashion design. They often came from the local school of fashion…kind of an internship, you might say. It is an opportunity to learn something new about writing patterns, marketing and other things that go into patterns and designing a collection. It’s also exciting to be involved in something that is still in the works.

I’ve heard some discussion about people doing sewing or testing work for free, claiming it undervalues good skills. And while I see both sides of the argument, I can only add my experience to the mix. You gain a lot from being a pattern tester and sharing your ideas. Besides networking and making connections, your work may be featured online and in print, and you may learn to make things that you probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise. I know that it’s not cold hard cash, but that’s not always the motivation with creativity.

How do I become a pattern tester? 

What works best is to simply to follow designers whose work you enjoy and answer any calls for help. Social networks are a good place to watch for these opportunities. If there are designers you’d really love to work with, send them a message to let them know. If you have adorable kids to model clothing, or if you’re an amazing photographer, let them know.

Do I have to be super experienced?

Not necessarily. Be honest about your abilities – most designers want people with sewing skills from beginner to advanced trying their patterns. This will help them determine how difficult to rate their final patterns, or they may edit them to add in more detailed instructions. It is best, though, to have a basic knowledge of how to read a pattern and how to follow the instructions.

How does it work?

Designers put out calls for testers on social networks or their blogs. Once you’ve been selected, you usually receive a digital or PDF copy of the pattern. You’ll be given a deadline, and sometimes there will be an evaluation form to complete. You’ll probably be asked to include several photos of the finished project as well.

Do I have to use my own supplies?

That is often the case. Designers like to see their creation in a multitude of different fabrics and they are interested in how you might interpret their look. Other times, a specific material is needed. So if it requires special fabric or hardware, make sure you can get your hands on some and still have enough time to complete the test before agreeing to help. Sometimes the company may provide fabric and hardware to make up the prototype.

What if I find a mistake?

If you do come across something that’s not clear, or that seems incorrect, make note of it. Double-check yourself first, and if there still is a problem, let the designer know as soon as possible. He or she can then make changes and let the other testers know, which saves everyone time in the long run.

You might find spelling or grammar errors, so be sure to point those out as well. No one wants to go public with something only to find mistakes afterward. Be honest, but be kind as well. Keep your criticism constructive.

One last thing: You need to be a good communicator. Be sure to let the designer know if something comes up and you can’t make a deadline.

Ever wanted to be in on the cutting edge of something new? You may want to add pattern tester to your list of skills!


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You don’t have to be a fourth generation Rockefeller or a Nantucket vacationer to have a monogram. A monogram is a great way to personalize travel and small leather goods, as well as, your own daily-use carry-all. Whether traditional and elaborate or modern and minimal, BAG’N-TELLE will help you design a DIY monogram that jives with your personality, aesthetic, and fashion image.

What is a monogram? A monogram tells a little bit about you. It suggests who we are or want to be, puts forth our views on lifestyle, tradition, and individual identity, not to mention the wonderful things it does for the customization of your own bag designs. A monogram consists of a person’s initials — usually a variation on the first, middle, and last name and much has been written about proper monogram etiquette, yet in the end your monogram should tell a story about you.


1. Choose A Letter Style

mono 2_Fotor

Embellish your bag design with a full name, team mascot, title or initials, with one of these eye-catching arrangements.

Note: The traditional monogram layout would be first initial, last initial, then middle initial.

2. Choose A Font Style


Find your favourite font, whether you prefer a serif, no serif or a timeless script.

3. Choose A Colour Scheme*


Monochromatic – for a subtle, safe look

analo revised 2_Fotor

Analogous – for a lively, smart look


Complementary – for a high contrast, bold look

With shades ranging from black to something a bit brighter, the thread/ink choice is yours. Make your statement as subtle or as bold as you like.

* Lettering colours vary based on fabric colour and should harmonize the overall bag design.

4. Personalize


When your style, thread colour, font and arrangement come together, the result is a wonderful look that is truly, uniquely yours.

5. Other Options

Beside embroidery, there are other ways to produce a personalized look to your bag design.

Try fabric printing/silk-screening. Copyright-free images can be easily be found on the Internet and used with iron-on or fabric transfer paper. There are many design motifs to choose from to give you ideas for your projects. Inkjet printers transfer kits are available in the marketplace and manufacturer’s instructions are easy to follow.

Paint and inks too messy? Perhaps an iron-on transfer?lettering_Fotor

Many sewing notion retailers offer press-on letter transfers. These items use a “hot fix” technique utilizing letter fonts and motifs. Kits are available as embroidered lettering or glass flat-back beads available in gemstone colours and rhinestone. Letters can be cut out and arranged to make a monogram or personal “logo”.

Still too complicated?

Look for embellishments to add to your bag design such as monogrammed buttons or key fobs.

luggage tag_Fotor_CollageMonogram keychains and monogram bag tags are available in lots of modern and traditional styles. Many of the styles can be designed in the pattern colours, accent colours, and fonts that will compliment your bag design.

Harmonize your metals. Match the metal colour and finish of your button/fob selections to coordinate with that of any bag fittings or metal zippers used in your bag design.

Finding your luggage in an instant with a bright coloured bag tag with your name or monogram on it makes travelling a breeze.

So there you are….a few ideas to inspire you how to truly make it your own. I am certain, you have a few creative ideas of your own.


Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Insight, Design Inspiration


I heart bagntelle

Who doesn’t like to win prizes?! It’s time for a give-away contest!!!

To win all you have to do is “share” with your co-workers, friends, and family the “I BAG’N-TELLE” badge on your social networks. Have them go to Facebook and “like” the BAG’N-TELLE page and in the comments section of the badge post, cut & paste the following…

“I BAG’N-TELLE….thanx (tag your Facebook name)”.

The person with the most “shares” wins a brand-new copy of Little One-Yard Wonders by Rebecca Yanker & Patricia Hoskins. Remember to make certain your friends tag you so you collect points to win.

This contest ends June 30th at midnight EST. The winner will be contacted when all the “shares” are tallied.

Good luck!



 Update: The contest is closed. Regrettably there is no winner of the give-away. Better luck next time.

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5-STAR reviews….thanks everyone! Always nice to hear…,55

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Look how Much You Can Make with Just One Yard of Fabric!

The newest addition to the best-selling One-Yard Wonders series is Little One-Yard Wonders featuring 101 delightful projects for babies and kids, each using just one yard of fabric and many requiring just a few hours to complete.

It was my pleasure to be one of the contributors to this fun DIY book.

Step-by-step illustrated instructions, beautiful close-up photographs, and pattern pieces included in a bound-in envelope make it easy and fun to create all kinds of adorable items, including the Merry-Go-Round Dress, the Ruffle Romper, the Western Shirt, and the Secret Monster Overalls. From tops and caps to play mats, pillows, and plushies, this book overflows with creative clothes, accessories, toys, and furnishings for little ones from newborn to elementary-school age. Whether you’re furnishing your nursery, making new clothes for a growing child, or creating a unique gift for a baby shower, this collection has the perfect project for you.

For those of you in and around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (or with friends and family near by), I want to let you know that the authors, Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins are having a book signing event on Saturday, June 7, 2-5pm at Crafty Planet in NE Minneapolis. Here’s a link to the Facebook event invite, please feel free to add your friends, family, and other fellow crafters!

Little One-Yard Wonders
Irresistible Clothes, Toys, and Accessories You Can Make for Babies and Kids
Rebecca Yaker, Patricia Hoskins
Storey Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-61212-124-6


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Photo: Courtesy of Craftsy

Let me present my new STORE feature.
While my sole purpose of BAG’N-TELLE is to be a creative educational design blog, I am introducing this unique page to offer many of my followers more insight and instruction to the world of design-it-yourself. It will offer an array of DIY subjects that will foster my idea of creativity and life-long learning.

My association with Craftsy, the online crafting people this past year, has been an enjoyable and rewarding one as it has provided me with another way to reach all my followers. Along the way I have meet and worked along with some great people. Colleagues like Kenneth King and Susan Khalje, fellow fashion designers, as well as other noted personalities you may know, like Richard Reinhart, baker extraordinaire and wedding photographer, Neil van Niekirk. The abundance of global talent and expertise on the Craftsy website is remarkable and so within reach through their unique teaching platform. They really get it and understand the delicate art of instruction. Best of all, you’ll learn from the pros and learn their tricks of the trade to achieving professional results, and share a love of crafting and a deep appreciation for the creative process.

Once you have enrolled, you may watch each class as many times as you want, whenever you want, your access never expires, with a 100% money-back guarantee.

So with that thought in mind, I will be offering links to many noted designers/instructors so you can experience the kind of creativity that we are passionate about and love to do so much. Consider trying Cake Decorating, Jewelry Making, Crocheting, Knitting, Paper Crafts, Quilting, Home & Gardening, Spinning, Weaving, Fine Art, Photography, Embroidery, Food & Cooking, and of course, my favourite, Sewing.
Keep watching as I add new course launches and flash sales on your favourite topics and enjoy the fun!


Filed under Bag'n-telle, craftsy, Design Insight, Design Techniques




Photo: Barbarossa Leather

A Buying Guide For High Quality Leather

The first step to knowing what to look for in buying leather skins & hides for handbag design is understanding what sets apart high quality leather from inferior products. Luxury leather is deemed as such due to a combination of three factors: The type of animal it comes from, the way it has been treated, and status of its grain. The most desirable and durable leathers are high grade and full grain, but there is more to it than that….a brief primer on leather terminology will ensure you know what you’re purchasing when looking for new leather sources.

Leather Grain (Grades)

In general, leather is sold in three finished forms:

Full Grain

grade aThe finest of all leathers. Only the hair has been removed from the epidermis. The surface is natural and has not been corrected, split, or buffed to conceal imperfections. The backs of these leather show no colour but left natural. Only the finest quality hides are reserved for this category of leather.

bTop Grain

Leather that has been buffed and is generally treated with full pigment colour. Top grade treatments are applied to leathers that have prevalent scars and other defects related to environmental exposure.

c graddeSplit

Leather that is derived from middle and lower layers of the epidermis. This leather is exclusively used for making suede or corrected-grain leathers, which are covered in a fully pigmented polyurethane coating (commonly called a “PU Split”). This treatment is reserved for the least desirable hides, and is substantially less durable than full grain and top grain leathers. Corrected grain leathers can mainly be bought as two finish types: semi-aniline and pigmented.

Tanning Processes

The three most common tanning processes used in fashion and accessory design are: vegetable tan, chrome tan, and vegetable re-tan (a combination of both processes).

Vegetable Tan—Vegetable tanned leather is produced using ingredients found in nature, most commonly plant and vegetable matter, tree bark, leaves, fruits and similar products. This is the most environmentally responsible process of tanning leather, and is also less harmful to the leather itself, allowing skins to maintain their tight fiber structure, thus resulting in better wear over time. Vegetable tanned leathers will burnish, resulting in a desirable patina appearance that continues to evolve over time.

Chrome Tan—This process uses chromium sulfate and results in soft leather, which will keep its look, unchanged for the lifespan of the product. The chrome tan process allows for more vibrant colors and a soft, supple hand.

Vegetable Re-tan – This process allows leather to maintain its strength durability and some burnishing, while adding a softer, more supple hand.


Which Animal Sources for Leather?

Virtually any animal hide or skin can be processed or tanned to produce leather. The animal source used is often a by-product of the regional food chain and the mechanical and chemical processing of the skin render a variety of characteristics suitable for many different applications. Leather offers a wide selection of textures, grains, durability, comfort, maintenance, cost, water resistance, abrasion resistance, weight, strength, pliability, softness, and appearance.

Leather from small animals are described as skins while those from larger animals are called hides. The terms are often interchangeable.

Bovine or Cowhide leather is the most abundant and common leather source. Cowhide offers maximum value for texture, appearance, durability, and comfort. Cowhide is easy to care for, the least expensive due to its availability and is dirt and water resistant. Cowhide is one of the heaviest leathers making it very tough wearing and durable featuring a pebble grain appearance. Although it can be somewhat stiff, cowhide breaks in easily. Cow leather is used for virtually every leather product including handbags, and can be natural or dyed in an array of fashion colours.

Calfskin is used to produce a high quality, attractive leather with a soft, fine feel. Calfskin has a smooth surface, which is dense, lightweight, and abrasion resistant. Calfskin takes on high luster with use and is used in creating small leather goods.

Pig or hog skin leather is a dense leather similar to cowhide with a soft and supple feel and very good durability. Pigskin is very pliable, comfortable and water resistant. Pigskin is used to manufacture handbags and its texture can be treated in many ways such as stamping, perforating, or embossing.

Goat skin leather is an economical, strong and durable, with a smooth fine grain. Goatskin is slightly softer and tougher than cow leather and is lightweight, comfortable, supple, flexible, and water-resistant. Kidskin is a very soft leather made from the hide of a young goat.

Sheep and lamb skin leathers are extremely soft, comfortable, and pliable. The finely grained leather is thin and supple with a buttery texture. Sheep leather is lightweight, warm and delicate and absorbs water well. Sheep leather’s low tear and tensile strength stretches and well and reshapes after wearing, however it can distort with excessive use. Because sheep skin leather drapes well and flows, it is often used to make high-end leather garments, as well as handbags.

Deerskin is one of the toughest leathers available due to the thorny nature of the animal’s natural habitats. Deerskin leather’s high tensile strength is abrasion resistant and offers high durability. Deerskin is extremely soft and comfortable with a spongy feel. It is lightweight, water-friendly, stretchy and fits well. Deerskin is more expensive and used to manufacture handbags, wallets, and upholstery.

Bison or Buffalo skin is a heavy duty and durable leather and very value priced. This leather is rugged and strong, yet soft and supple with a rubber waxy feel. Buffalo leather features thicker fibers which are more widely spaced and evident hair follicles creating a pebbly appearance. Bison leather is used to make furniture, shoes, belts, bookbinding, rugs, gloves, jackets, and baseball gloves. It may be too thick for conventional sewing machine stitching yet can be easily sewn by hand using saddle-stitching.

Ostrich and emu leathers are much rarer, but are some of the finest and most durable leathers. Ostrich leather is luxurious, soft, supple, and thick featuring an exotic goose bump appearance from the large feather quill follicles. Ostrich leather is popular in luxury fashion and is used to make boots, footwear, upholstery, accessories, clothing, luggage, purses, wallets, and briefcases.

Crocodile and alligator skin (aka cayman) renders a very attractive and fashionable leather. The leather is strong, supple, durable and very expensive. A bony layer within the skin adds a protective shield, while a dimple on each scale makes a very exotic look. Crocodile and alligator leather is used to make luxury goods, handbags, wallets, boots, belts, and briefcases.

Snakeskin is typically produced from venomous sea snakes which are commercially farmed. The leather is delicate, thin, soft and flexible, while the fine small hexagon scales produce exotic detailed grains. Snake skin leather is used to make boots, wallets, and handbags.

Eel skin is a very thin and elegant, which is not very strong. Eel skin leather can be durable but requires maintenance if exposed to elements. Eel skin is soft, shiny, and smooth with horizontal pin-stripe patterns. This leather is actually produced from a slimy eel-like fish called the inshore hagfish, which is caught in the wild. Eel skin becomes softer and suppler with use and is used to make wallets and handbags.

Stingray or shagreen leather is very tough with a siliceous layer on the surface, which makes it as durable as hard plastic. Stingray leather has a beautiful appearance and wonderful feel, which is very strong. Stingray leather scales even protect from fire damage. The leather is usually dyed black and covered with tiny round bumps dyed white to highlight the decoration. Stingray leather is used for clothing, furniture, wallets, belts, purses, and briefcases.


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