Samantha (aka Mrs H) is a bag pattern designer living in the South Wales valleys with her husband Dus and their unfortunately nick-named daughter, Elvis. She’s been designing sewing patterns for bags since 2011, and relishes making tricky styles accessible to all. She particularly loves using pretty hardware and breaking all the usual sewing rules! You can see more of her patterns at www.mrs-h.com and on her Etsy store.
I made her Window Shopper Tote and she kindly sent me The Swim & Gym Bag pattern – yay!
A big thanks to Samantha for her wonderful patterns and for sharing her story!
1) How and when did you start sewing bags?
I started my journey in November of 2010 when I needed a thrifty Christmas gift and from then onwards into 2011 I really threw myself into bag making. I was quickly addicted!
2) What Sewing Machine(s) do you have? Do you recommend it for bag making?
I have the Janome Memory Craft 6600P (the P stands for Professional). I’ve had it nearly a year now and I love it with all of my heart! I put a lot of time into researching a new machine; I’d previously been using a cheap plastic domestic machine and whilst I could make most things, it felt like an uphill struggle, having to stop and mallet seams or hand crank through top stitching. The Janome 6600P has the built in Acufeed system which is an even feed system that works with the standard Acufeed foot or you can purchase extra feet such as the zipper foot. I love that so far I’ve been able to use the standard Acufeed foot to put in super neat zips, do lovely top stitching, and never have a problem with thickness of seams.
I love that the machine has an extra high lift on the presser foot – perfect for bag making…and I especially love that it has pedal free stitching – you can start sewing just by pressing the start/stop button!
3) What’s your favorite pattern?
Hmm, that’s a really tough one… I’m very fickle and find myself loving whatever pattern I’m currently working on. As with children though I don’t stop loving my previous patterns so my bagineering heart just keeps growing! Some of my all-time favourites are the Companion Carpet Bag, the Gentleman’s Wallet and my latest one, the Captivating Clutch. It helps to see so many gorgeous versions being made in the sewing groups on Facebook, it just makes me fall in love with my patterns even more!
4) Why did you start your bag pattern business? What’s special about it?
I started my business in 2011, but it wasn’t until my daughter (unfortunately nicknamed Elvis) was born in 2014 that I started to put a more serious business view to it. Before it had been a hobby, taking time off to be a new mum helped me to see that I really wanted to build it into a brand.
I love working for myself. I love seeing patterns I’ve written becoming bags I could never have envisaged. I love seeing bagineers earning a living from selling the bags they’ve made using my patterns.
5) Where do you sew?
I’m very fortunate and have a gorgeous light and airy studio in our home. My husband and I both work from home (he builds websites) so when we were looking for a new house we prioritised a work space in our list of requirements. Our house was built in the early 1900s but had a whacking great extension added in the 80s. To anyone else the space would be a big useless void, but to us it’s perfect. It’s almost as if the house was custom built for us!
We’ve painted the walls white and painted MDF flooring with a grey paisley pattern which is then sealed with yacht varnish. We’ve got daylight colour bulbs in the ceiling lights and I’ve got a sewing counter for my machines and a large cutting table made from bookshelves and a plywood top. I’m so very blessed to have this work space and couldn’t imagine improving on it!
6) Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful?
As a lazy bagineer I’ve found many a trick to make life easier, mostly because I’m very cavalier with traditional rules. For example, I use a waistband method to sew easier bag straps (found in the Window Shopper pattern, the Bookbag Backpack pattern, and the Captivating Clutch pattern). The best tip I can give you though is that if you want flawless zips, throw away the silly wide zip foot that came with your machine as standard and buy an ‘adjustable zipper/piping foot’. It will change your zips forever!
7) What is your favorite fabric for bag making? Any favorite line/designer?
I’m massively in love with anything and everything Bari J designs for art gallery fabrics, but I’m also a fan of charity shop upcycles. You can find some fab fabric in the form of a dress or a blazer for so little money, and it gives the garment a new life as a bag!
8) What do you now know about bag making which you wish you knew when you started out?
It’s ok to play and experiment and invent. When I first started I felt like a fish out of water with not knowing the ‘rules’ and having no formal schooling in sewing since I did my GCSEs at 16. But now I realise it’s ok, it doesn’t matter. Necessity is the mother of invention and it’s alright to invent your own method as long as it gets you to where you want to go. Oh, and that it’s probably best to schedule hardware deliveries for when my husband is too busy working to notice a massive box of bling arriving from Canada!
9) What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Perhaps that I’m dyslexic? I have a lovely unique brain and can visualise 3D bags in their 2D components easily. I can manipulate data in many varying forms and see many tasks as a whole event. But I don’t know my times tables, I throw commas into a sentence every few words (I know you’re going back to check now, right?) and I have to have my sister Amanda (who runs the admin side of my business) to check almost everything I write for spelling and grammar and silly errors. Seeing as she’ll probably have checked this interview it’s best I say hi to her now. Hi Amanda! Yep! Hi Samantha!
Being dyslexic enables me to approach my work in a different way from others and I am so thankful for the different way my brain works!
10) Any parting words?
Every single day that I get to work on my business I’m grateful. I’ve met so many lovely people in the world of bagineering and been surprised so many times by people’s generosity and kindness. I can’t fully describe the feeling I get when I see a bag made up to my pattern in fabrics I wouldn’t have chosen and using hardware I wouldn’t have used. I think it’s part jealousy and part exhilaration that I was able to play a small part in the finished bag. It’s an absolute honour to write sewing patterns that are used by people setting out on their bag making journey as well as those who have been doing this for far longer than I can image. My only wish is that those who comment and email would know how much they encourage me to keep going. I value each finished photo and every social media tag because it spurs me on to finish whatever pattern I’m working on next.
Thank you for the chance to ‘chat’ with you Annabelle.
Learn more about Mrs H and her bag patterns on: