Theme Book – Part 3 – Ideas and thoughts

Further to the second part of my blog on my theme book I decided to do some more research on bag shapes particularly concentrating on the era in which the designs of Clarice Cliff were at their peak and this seems to be the Art Deco period.  Although looking through Google images as a starting point showed me some incredible bags of the 1920’s and 1930’s many were beaded small evening bags or larger leather ones but there were also a large number of tapestry and carpet bags both for evening and day time use as they were commonly used for travel with smaller versions appearing too.

A little research enlightened me to the fact that carpet bags originated in the USA during the 1840’s and 1850’s when the railroads meant there was a need for cheap luggage and so saddle makers purchased old carpets and used the least worn out sections to construct this new style of bags.  It was not long before these bags were used by every level of society from the well-to-do to the less well off and men as well as women.  Later during the Civil War and later it was easy to spot travelers or outsiders by their use of the bags.  After the Civil War during the Reconstruction Period many people with a little money moved from the northern states to the  southern poorer states to take advantage of opportunities and hence it was easy to identify these outsiders by their use of the Carpetbags – many of these people were crooks or charlatans or politicians in the corrupt Reconstruction Government but also included honest hardworking farmers just wanting to make an honest living.  However the outsiders from the north became known as Carpetbaggers with the term meaning a Yankee who was not to be trusted or a scoundrel and even today refers to an outsider who is involved in politics – as I write I have come across that term being used in social media recently, but not understanding the meaning, as we are approaching the American presidential elections.

img_3236Over time it seems the old Carpetbag has evolved to be made out of tapestry or needlepoint, as I have touched on above, although for me my favourite style is very much of the luggage variety.  However looking now at my idea for the woven panel inserted in a flap it seems there is a design idea to base my bag on a Carpetbag particular if I use a plaid or tweed fabric as the main bag fabric – I am aware that a light weight fabric does quilt well as I discovered in Part 3 (Project 6, Stage 4) and also the fact that either fabric would work well with the woven panel.   The plaid fabric I have is shown and this not quite the right colour but does at least give me an idea of what I am looking for – I need to get the sample panel finished to take with me when I go into town in order to find the perfect fabric.

img_3234If I think more about the Carpetbag style this enables me to loose the front flap but leaves a question on fastening.  I am considering a metal sew-in purse closing which I can get in a 25.5 cm length and this would give me a resemblance of the original fastenings albeit lighter and a little more elegant and also minus the buckles.  However I am not sure if this type of metal closing gives me the security I require – the tops can be opened depending on stiffness and hence I am still considering a recessed zip but on the other hand it does give the bag an elegance that is desirable.  An advantage to the design I have roughly drawn out is the fact that the bag has boxed corners – depending on the width of the base I require I can further add a covered card/lightweight board base to the interior to help the bag keep its shape.

Another aspect of this style of bag is that it enables me to loose one of the designs and just insert the woven panel directly into the front of the bag with a second on the reverse – is loosing one of the panels a good thing? that I am really undecided on.

For the handles I have discovered some antique style D rings that could be attached to the front with simple tabs (above the recessed zip area or possibly slightly below) that could potentially be stitched firmly before the lining is inserted with the zip attached.

I am still considering woven handles for the bag in a simple wavy design that will match the panel – the handles would then be backed with the same plaid or tweed fabric as the main bag.

img_3235So my question comes down to which style – the more traditional Carpetbag style with or without the metal purse fastening or the satchel style I mentioned in Part 2 of this Theme Book blog and which I show again here?

The fastening at the base of the flap on this satchel style is likely to be a turn clasp (apparently easy to fit but I would be ordering two to try one first!) – I would be looking for an antique style.  The D rings on this version of the bag would be the same as on the other design i.e. an antique style.

Now I have two ideas in mind for the style it is back to work on the woven design aspect and also possibilities for any added embroidery details.


Carpet Bags. 2016. A little history of handbags [online]. [Date Accessed:  October 2016].  Available from:

Carpet Bags. 2016.  Brief History of Carpetbags and Carpetbaggers [online].  [Date Accessed:  October 2016].  Available from:

Sammy Davis Vintage. (Date unknown) The history of Carpet Bags: 1920s – 1980s [online]. [Date Accessed:  Octob er 2016].  Available from:


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