Mock-ups or samples of the prototype are almost always required on high fashion and commercial projects by the designer before bag construction can begin. For a DIY project, you can use these same quality-assurance methods to ensure a superior product and meet your expectations.
Mock-ups ensure that the finished product will meet the designer’s vision, and are used as a benchmark to gauge the quality of the workmanship and materials once the pattern-making is completed. All too often on design-it-yourself projects, this “check and balance” system is overlooked or considered to be an unnecessary option. For a novice DIYer, investing a little time up front creating a mock-up of the bag design, can be the difference between a successful hand-made project or a “homemade” job with much disappointment.
“How do you meet ‘high-standard’ expectations?” The answer is simple: you create them.
When conducting classes and workshops I like to ask the question, “How do you meet your own creative expectations?” The answer is simple: you create them. The best way to do that is to execute the finished product before any real work is done. This gets the pattern making and the assembly process “on the same page”. If the designer does this front-end work and job planning correctly, then meeting any high-standard expectation is a simple process of recreating what has already been demonstrated. This goes a long way toward ensuring successful results. In the long run, it saves labour, time, and money.
One important consideration is to value mistakes….believe it or not, mistakes can be beneficial. They cause us to search for a different, and often better way. They facilitate experimentation with new materials, techniques, or styles. Mistakes or challenges (as I like to call them) are an important part of the design process because they provide unique opportunities for creativity. Always make a mock-up of the bag design to test your pattern before cutting into your expensive or perhaps, limited material. Don’t be disappointed if it does not ‘turn out ‘ on the first attempt as planned; that is what sample mock-ups are for. Make as many attempts as needed to achieve your desired goal. These mock-ups allow you to modify the end result, correct the pattern, and work out the sewing/assembly process.
Unlike large-scale commercial projects, creating mock-ups for single bag designs can be pretty painless. With the products, tools, and techniques available today, DIY can produce samples quickly and affordably. If you have a limited quantity of material available or your material is costly to experiment with, making up a sample in a cheaper fabrication is acceptable. A good example would be using the saddle-stitched leather handbag tutorial made up in thick wool felt. The felt is similar in weight and texture as cowhide leather yet inexpensive to purchase. Felt has similar characteristics as leather, such as it does not fray when cut and there is no directional grain to the material. The wool felt is marked and cut the same way the leather is worked, then applying the saddle-stitching by hand, inserting the zipper closure, adding hardware and strap handle to complete it. A finished bag design mock-up [upper left] is created that can be easily be reproduced in the high-quality tanned cowhide leather [lower left].
Once the mock-up was made, it was scrutinized and deemed that a shorter extended zipper was needed and that the strap handle should be tightened up in its overall length, as seen in the final prototype. Keep in mind, all mock-ups must be constructed using the same weight and texture as the final material(s), with the same hardware, and assembly methods that will be used on the final project.
Remember, it is always better – and more affordable – to know that you are knowledgeable with the construction of the proposed project before the work begins than to find out you are uncertain how to execute or finish your project.
Enjoy the Process! Don’t forget the reason why you’re doing this mock-up, regardless of what materials you choose or the size of your budget, even if your concentration is on the end product, . . . don’t forget to have fun with the process of designing your own handbag.