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The Monkey Bag

- - creating with gift fabrics - -

When you’re a maker, people often want to give you things. Sometimes, it’s fabulous and they are good things that you actually want. Other times, you absolutely don’t want them and you also don’t want to be rude. It can get tricky. Over the years, I have learned to receive carefully. Once when I was offered two lifetime collections of fabric, patterns, and buttons from an older friend’s mother’s and aunt’s estates, knowing these would most likely not be things I wanted, I replied that I would be happy to take the buttons. I knew she expected me to take everything and I heard her voice stumble while she decided. Eventually, I received only the buttons. If she had said I needed to take everything, I would have declined.

One of my friends is moving from Canada to Spain and deciding what to take and what to leave behind. She weaves and makes architectural tiles so when she offered me her fabric collection, I knew it would be small and select. I told her that I’d be happy to take it, sort out what I wanted to keep, and disperse of the rest to people I knew could use it. I kept quite a bit and sent piles of various sizes to three other artist that were geared toward their work. And now, they will sort out what they want and disperse of the rest. It’s win-win.

Other than the bicycle fabric, everything in this bag came from my friend’s collection. I added the bicycles to represent her new adventure. One side of the monkey fabric is lighter while the reverse side is darker. Both were fabulous and offered four instead of three choices for designing the bag. There was a 6 x 60” strip of the monkey and the check fabrics and yardage of the bicycle print. Often, I have no idea what I’m making when I start however, in this case, I decided to make a crossbody bag just in case she’d like to have it as she’s planning to tour Europe for a bit before settling down.

Once I’d designed both sides of the bag, I layered the exterior with backing and batting and stitched them together diagonally. With horizontal or vertical stitching, how the stitching aligned with the seams may have been an issue. With diagonal stitching, that wasn’t a problem.

Looking at the images above and below, you’ll see similar components on each side and that the bottom is the same.

I wanted the sides to go with each other but not to be identical and I wanted the bottom to be clean, simple, and not create a lot of bulk.

There are two zippered welt pockets on the inside and both a snap closure and a tie along with a long strap. The finished bag is 10 1/2” high by 12” wide at the bottom by 2” deep. It’s a pattern I’ve used numerous times and works really well for carrying what we need but not too much. I refer to it as the walking bag. Gifts like these fabrics can become an excellent starting point for designing a piece. Sometimes they will be in your typical colour grouping but other times - like this time was for me - they will be colours you never or rarely work with. I like how that helps me to get out of my rut and try something new. This is my first newsletter of the year. Happy 2023. You might have noticed that I changed the name to In The Studio With Myrna. I talk about why in this week’s video - A New Name For 2023. Right after changing it, I panicked and now it feels like the right choice. As hoped, it has created more opportunity. THANK YOU so much for reading my newsletter and following my creative journey. I’d love to hear what you have planned in your studio this year. Have a comment to share? Email me at

Talk soon -

Edit: This post was originally published on Substack on January 20, 2023 and has been republished here.

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