Bag Brag Tuesday Linking Party - Week Eleven!
Bag Brag Tuesday Linking Party - Week Twelve!

Designer Interview - Janelle of Emmaline Bags

Today's interview is with a designer whose work I admire! Janelle Mackay of Emmaline Bags!

Janelle Mackay
Janelle Mackay

I can honestly say that I have great pleasure in bringing this interview to you because Janelle's patterns are FABULOUS to say the least! I know because I have tried one of Janelle's patterns for myself, The Necessary Clutch Wallet. Janelle is also a very helpful and friendly person too! Anyway....rather than having ME ramble on, it is over to you Janelle:

When did you start designing patterns?

I started designing bag patterns in 2011, while I was still living on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.

What led you to this path?

I was selling my handmade bags and clutches on Etsy and other craft markets, and while really loving the results from other pattern makers, I found myself coming up with new ideas, and new ways of doing things.  I realized that instead of buying patterns to make bags to sell, I could just create my own.  I was starting to grow frustrated with the vast competition and high shipping costs involved in selling handmade bags and came to the realization that it’s actually the design process I loved the most, and actually, my patterns were pretty good!  I loved the creative process involved in pattern making and gravitated quickly in the direction of selling patterns instead of bags.

What training do you have or are you self taught?

My sewing and pattern reading knowledge comes directly from the help and teachings of both my mother and my junior high home economics teacher.  So while my pattern drafting is self-taught, I feel that I apply techniques and appropriate sewing terms into my pattern making directly from my years of sewing early on.  But some times, if an idea strikes, I can be known to make up my own way though, and that is a lot fun!

Describe your process of designing a pattern?

When I am designing a pattern, I start obsessing about the next pattern before I am even done with the one I’m working on.  So my design process actually starts way before I can actually begin with it.  Sometimes I just file it in my brain, but lately I’ve been drawing pictures in a journal so I can refer to them when I actually have time! I draw the bottom, sides, strap detail, front view, etc.  Sometimes I only have one detail that I know I want, and the rest comes later.  For instance, The Steph-in-the-City Bag has these lovely V shaped pleats at the bottom.  I knew I wanted those and that is where I started.  I start folding pleats with a large piece of paper.  Fold, measure, fold, cut, crumple up, fold, unfold, cut…. And so on. 

Steph In The City Bag by Emmaline bags
This is how I created my Necessary Clutch Wallet too.  I used pieces of paper, measured, drew, folded and created the shape I want.  After the paper process, I do a mock up in scrap fabric and alter my pattern.  Eventually when the paper pieces are right and have been tested, I scan them into my computer and edit them with computer software.

What do you find the hardest part about designing a pattern and bringing it to the public?

The hardest part about designing a pattern is time restraints.  I always want things done quickly, but sadly it seems like it can be weeks or months between ideas and getting a pattern out.  I wish I had more time!

Which one of your patterns is your favourite and why?

My first handbag pattern that was sold, The Emmaline Bag, is my favourite pattern.  I love that it’s named after my business, I love that it was received so well by my amazing customers, and I just love that shape.  It’s the bag the got me started!  I made it to fit my own needs, and it’s a constant reminder to make things that work for me, and that I like, and to not worry so much about others are doing and what’s popular because there are bound to be others that like what I like too. 

The Emmaline Bag Variations
The Emmaline Bag!

How would you describe your design style? Anything unique about your patterns?

I am not sure I have a design style, or if I do, I’m not sure what it is but I’d be open to opinions!  I like bags that are professional looking, and can go from season to season depending on what fabric you use.  I have noticed that most all of my bag patterns have pleats, I am not sure if that is an Emmaline trademark, or just a coincidence!

When you are not working on your own designs, do you like to sew other things? What and for whom?

When I was a young girl I learned to sew garments, but when I was around 22 I started quilting.  That was a long time ago!  I’ve gone through periods of quilting and not quilting and back to quilting again.  I’m definitely a quilter at heart, but the projects are long and you don’t always have an instant reward.  I love bag making, and I also like to make some clothes now and then too because of the almost instant satisfaction.

Comma Wedding Quilt
Which do you prefer, the design process or the actual sewing and why?

Sewing the first bag or two for a new pattern is part of the design process and I LOVE this.  After the first couple of “test” bags, I usually make a few samples and I don’t love that as much.  To be more specific though, I think I am a sewer first, and a designer second.

Is there something you have learnt as a designer that you would like to share with other designers or newbie designers?

When I started out I wanted to make bags that suited my needs and tastes and then I got wrapped up in the needs of others.  While I think it’s important to listen to what customers want when you are making a custom bag, when you are making one for yourself, I think you should stay true to your inspiration and tastes and not worry too much about what some critics might say.  You know what you like, so go for it!

When do you work on your designs?

I work on my designs when everything in the house/family is clean and taken care of.  Lately, this prevents me from having any time to design, so I am working on a dedicated time for sewing and design that will be a non-negotiable work time.  This will be while my son is in school, after the dogs are walked, after I’ve filled all of my purse supply orders. and after I’ve answered emails.  I think that will happen when summer is over.  Right now I make time when I can.

Do you have a dedicated work area?

I have a nice little sewing room with a great wall shelf and a sewing table and I absolutely cannot show you a picture of it, as it is a total disaster at the moment.  The creative process is a very messy one!  I clean up after every project, but somehow that didn’t happen last time!

Do you have a favourite fabric type you prefer to work with?

I love to make my bags in linen, canvas duck, quilting cotton, leather, wool blends, twill, jean.  Hmmm, I’m not sure I have a favourite.  I really love all kinds of fabric.

Handmade Leather Clutches
Favourite Fabric Designer?

At the moment, I don’t have a fabric designer that I buy exclusively, but I have several that I always look for.  I love Tula Pink, Amy Butler, Joel Dewberry, Zen Chic and wow… I just love fabric!  Honestly, I am addicted to fabric and I wish I could buy it ALL!

What advice do you have for a beginner or someone interested in learning to sew bags? 

If you’re interested in trying to sew bags, I think it’s a great idea to start with tote bags.  They are very easy to assemble and give a great result. Really, sewing a gorgeous bag is very easy and with the right pattern, you will have results that you will be very proud of. There are many patterns and tutorials on the internet, so surf around a bit until you find something you like and then go for it!


What a great interview, don't you think? Thank you Janelle! To find out more about Janelle, pop over and visit her Blog! If you would like to try one of Janelle's patterns for yourself, you can visit Janelle's website here! Janelle has very generously offered all readers a 20% discount off the shopping cart until the end of August!  Just use the discount code: ChrisW20

You can also find Janelle on Pinterest, Facebook and Etsy,

Next week we have another wonderful Sewist Interview! This Lady (Hey....maybe one of these days we will have an interview with a man! Wouldn't that be interesting? LOL Anyone reading this volunteer??) is another one of my Fabulous Pattern Testers....always completing the bags on time and doing an awesome job too! will have to wait until next week to find out more.......


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