I have been staring at this coat for quite some time (much to my husband’s chagrin, too, as my studio is also his office, my office, and the family craft room and we are always stumbling over things.) Part of the reason for this is my queue of projects. I’m always balancing my schedule with deadlines, family life, and my creative desires.

Back in January, April sent me an email:

“My mother passed away from cancer about 20 years ago and I have been carrying around her old suede coat w/Mink collar since then.  I guess I felt so connected to the coat because my mom would fold it up and I would sleep on it during church.  J   She wore it all the time, but it is not my style/size so it has just been hanging in my closet.

Anyway, I’m tired of just seeing in hanging in the closet and I think it would be nice to have something that I can carry with me….E.g., messenger bag, lapop/ipad cover etc.”

I was so moved by this sentiment, picturing the child laying on the coat in church.

April and I sent messages back and forth and honed in on a pattern that she thought her daughter would like. I used Butterick B4147 and it was easy to follow.

Part of my hesitation about cutting into the jacket was simply due to fear. That coat holds a lot of memories! But sometimes all it takes is the first cut. We had a lovely discussion of the process on my Facebook page about the process. I get such nice support and encouragement from everyone there.  Connie wrote:

“Jane, God has blessed you with such great talents! But more than that, He has given you a special commission, an assignment or unique calling so to speak, to reach out and bring comfort to hurting hearts.  That’s no easy task, but you accomplish it with such grace and love.  Yes!, your hands touch these garments and transform them into works of art and useful purposes, but more importantly, they become an item the hurting person can wrap up in or carry with them, look at, feel, touch, remember….their heart now finds and knows an extra unexpected comfort and assurance of memory, love and honor…You have the talent and the heart to provide “the healing bridge” they’ve longed to find…You help them complete their circle of life!”

Wow. I am so grateful to Connie, my blog friends, Twitter and Facebook friends – oh yes, and some real-life friends – who support me in my work. I didn’t set out to do this kind of work with my sewing, but it is certainly a mission which I enjoy! I am truly moved by the stories I hear and enjoy the process of becoming woven into them.

This particular tote pattern actually called for the use of suede. I was unsure how to interface and asked my Twitter friends for advice. In the end, I used fleece interfacing which gives the bag some body.  April selected the contrast fabric that her daughter would like, so I used it to line the bag.  One of the challenges of upcycling an old garment is making sure there aren’t holes or excessive wear in the fabric. Another is the need to use sections which contain seams. There can be quite a bit of bulk added.

I’m really happy with how professional the bag looks and would love to use suede again in the future. Stay tuned for bag #2, which will be a hipster-style bag. I hope I have enough suede left. I found a nice ikat fabric to coordinate with it!