With a background in design and a history of creativity, it’s no surprise that our Meet the Maker guest for the day has taken to bag making like a duck to water. Elizabeth Gilmartin’s inspiring story, amazing bags, and adorable fur-babies make this one interview you won’t want to miss.
Please tell us a little about yourself
What can I say about myself? Hmm…I guess the short version is that I have just turned 29. I have a Bachelor’s in Design & Technology from Parsons School of Design in NYC, got married to the hubby on a Friday the 13th, and am a mom to two adorable fur-babies.
I’ve been an artist in one form or another since I was a kid. I just loved making things: be it drawing, painting, knitting, small stint with sculpting, macramé, scrap booking, computer animation, baking, and now sewing!
How long have you been making bags and how did you get started?
How long have I been making bags? Seems like forever! By forever, I mean March… last March…. March 2015.
But how I got to that point is a bit of a long story!
I’ve always been creative (though in mediums other than sewing), but with a job and life going on I didn’t really ‘make’ like I used to. In October 2013 I had a stroke! It was a burst AVM, but since I got to the hospital quickly everything was ok after some quick brain surgery lol. But it did leave me without any of my right periphery vision…so I couldn’t drive any more. And anxiety left me unable to take public transit (wow this story is sounding gloomy). After moving in May 2014 to be closer to family, I found that for once I didn’t have a job or anything else to occupy the majority of my days and became a bit of a hermit.
Normally I’m a creative in other mediums, but right after Christmas 2014 my grandmother sat me down to work on my own Christmas Tree Log Cabin mini quilt for our own home for the following year. I had a small home sewing machine that had barely used it (I got it probably around 2008 and had barely touched it). She told me to lug it out of the dark depths of the closet so I could learn to sew again. It turned out beautifully and just a few months later I got a request for a mini wallet for the MIL. Can’t say no, right? Plus it was an excuse to put those newly relearned skills to work! So off I went to look for something… and as tutorials, patterns, and FB groups filled my screen a new love was born! (In case you were curious it was the Dog Under my Desk ‘Get Carded’ wallet that I had chosen). Sewing bags was great since it was quick (well, compared to knitting at least), fulfilled my love of amassing piles of things (fabric in this case), and with the plethora of patterns and new ones releasing constantly I couldn’t get bored!
And even a year after I’ve started sewing bags, I’m still wanting more and more! I look forward to selling my makes and maybe becoming a designer myself one day (ok, that’s a bit far reaching right now).
What do you enjoy the most about bag making?
The challenge, the variety, and the community. With just about every new pattern I’m tested and not always successful–out comes the seam ripper–but it’s always a fun new experience and I become better every time! Plus there’s always something new and fun to try. And for the good times or bad, there’s so many online groups who are there to cheer me on, give tips, or share my pain.
Do you have a favourite fabric designer or style?
Essex Linen – it just looks beautiful with everything.
Avant Garde line by Katarina Roccella – is on my wish list, it’s a crazy combination of beautifully bright and graphic prints.
What is your number one bag making tool or notion that you cannot live without?
Oh man, it’s really hard to narrow down my sewing essentials!
Wonder Clips are pretty essential, but I would get nowhere fast without marking tools. I use 3 different ones depending on fabric and location…
- Clover Pen Style Chaco Liner – for dark cloth or some speciality fabrics chalk is the safe bet. This is great because it makes such a clean thin line. Bonus: it’s refillable.
- Dritz Dual Purpose Marking Pen – there are just times when you need a mark that is clean and precise, but that you can easily get rid of. I normally use the disappearing ink side (lasts an hour or more). Though if it hasn’t quite disappeared when I’m done, a quick spritz of water does the trick!
- Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel Pen – this is perfect for those quick marks in the SA (but never use it on a part of the fabric that can show later) when I’m noting something and then I can turn around and make a note on paper with the same pen!
Do you have any tips for someone new to bag making?
Don’t be afraid! To an extent you just have to dive in. Grab some common extra tools/notions to help ease you in and definitely try out some common interfacings. But really you just have to jump in! The support, tutorials, and guides are all out there. And even when the first bag (or few) don’t turn out perfect, you’re bound to catch the fever and apply everything you learn to each subsequent bag!
What has been your proudest creative moment?
It’s constantly changing as I learn and improve. Almost every new bag is my proudest creative moment but finishing the Ultimate Art Supply Case by Sew Sweetness is currently at the top of the list. It just looked incredibly complicated with its multiple zippers and lots of little details. But lo and behold it turned out beautifully and is currently stuffed to the brim by its new 5 year old owner’s things.
A little something extra adorable from Bitter Candy Handmade
If you follow me on Instagram or have seen me in Facebook groups, you’ve probably seen my two furbabies, Mado & Paku. After the first bag they were coaxed into, my furry promoters now hop into newly finished bags to pose (or fall asleep).
A little about my furry models:
Mado is a white 6lb, 6 year old Maltese. Born in Korea my mother brought him back after a visit to family there and I pretty much claimed him as my own the moment he stepped off the plane. He loves to eat, sleep, lick endlessly, expend as little energy as possible, and touches his butt against those he cares about.
Paku is my black and white 6lb, 5 year old Paperanian (papillon-Pomeranian mix) and was born in Hawaii (man I miss living there!). He’s apprehensive and skittish around strangers, loves to fetch and play tug-o-war, revels in sunbathing or burying himself in fresh warm laundry, and cuddles under the covers with me at bedtime.
You can see more of Bitter Candy Handmade at:
Thanks, Elizabeth, for sharing your amazing journey. I’m not sure what I love more. The beautiful bags or the adorable fur-babies.