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Selling Handmade Bags: The Behind-The-Scenes Experience Of Real Kiwi Bagineers' Customers

The world of the handmade is changing. In this article, we present a few inspiring stories from those who have created and sold handcrafted bags that they sew on a professional level.

We are sure that you will find someone here that you relate to so enjoy.

If you want to read more about how to turn your hobby and passion for sewing bags into a business we have an article for you: 6 Essential Steps To Sell Your Handcrafted Handbags and Purses Online

Sharon De Kock

Sharon’s story

Sharon De Kock is based in Auckland and trades under the name of Sew me creations. She mainly sells her bags via word of mouth and at the Karaka and Clevedon markets. She sews custom orders for handcrafted bags as well as a variety for the market. She also has a website: Sew me Creations and you can follow her on Facebook

What prompted you to start your bag business?

When the pandemic struck, my husband and i were teaching in Mozambique. We had planned to spend our school holidays travelling around Africa, but because of covid, borders to other African countries were closed. We had to find another way of occupying ourselves during school holidays and it just so happened that a colleague was trying to sell her sewing machine right when school closed for the long summer holiday. I had done a bit of sewing when our children were babies, so my husband decided to get me the sewing machine.

I started experimenting with fabrics that one could buy along the roadsides in Maputo. The African Capulana fabrics are vibrant and colourful and each Capulana tells a story. I started by making very basic tote bags with no real structure to them. Very soon I was searching for patterns that were a bit more challenging and my stash of Capulana grew at an alarming rate.

Hubby and I decided that we could also spend some of our holiday time building a sewing workstation with drawers and shelves for storage. Towards the end of our two years in Mozambique, I had started selling my bags to friends and colleagues. Word got around of my bag-making and eventually my bags were making their way to other parts of the world as people were buying them and sending them as gifts. By then I was totally hooked and had fallen in love with fabrics that show where people come from.

When we decided to return home to NZ in 2021, i managed to bring some Capulana fabric home with me and started investing in fabrics and prints from other countries as well. Besides the African Capulana, my other favourites are prints from Mexico, Spain, and JAPAN.

What do you like about making bags to sell?

I love showcasing beautiful fabrics, experimenting with different combinations of cork, faux leather, vinyl, etc. and pairing it up with awesome bag hardware. I love how someone's personality, culture and sense of identity can be captured in a customised bag.

How would you describe the type of bags that you make to sell?

I love lots of colour. I very seldom make bags using just black or any single colour and when I do, I’d use something bright and colourful for the linings. I'd describe my personal style as ethnic or cultural. I love fabrics that represents different ethnicities. However, not all my customers are into that style, so I make sure I stock a range of fabrics, including more monochrome colours.

Do you make lots of the same bag or many different ones?

The zip 'n go bag by Endesign is a hot favourite with my customers at the moment. The bomb dot com beauty bag by Lauren Mormino is also quite popular.

Who do you mainly sell to?

Customers at the markets and work colleagues.

What do you like and not like about selling at the markets?

I love the community feel to the markets and the exposure I’m getting with lots of people coming through and taking a look at my product. I like that people have placed orders for customised bags because of the product they've seen at my stall. The disadvantage is that one never knows whether the time spent at the market will be profitable or not. Sometimes I do really well and other it’s a bit quieter. But I know that this is part and parcel of the business, so i don't get too hung up about it.

Tell us about your custom makes.

People also orders once they've seen my bags at the markets. I post photos on Facebook and I take some of my makes to work and display it in the staffroom. I think customers see my bags as different to bags they would buy in shops. People have also mentioned that they like the workmanship and quality.

I enjoy consulting with a customer about their choice of fabrics and colour combinations and matching up hardware. I get a real kick out of watching their faces light up when they see the end-product and of course, the best compliment is when they order for a second time or refer someone else to me.

 

 

Maxine Sutherland

Maxine is based near Wellington and trades under the name of JustMax. She specializes in custom orders and has her own website on which she also sells beanies, scarves and yarn arts. Visit Maxine's JustMax Website here

She uses Facebook and Instagram to promote and sell her bags, through posts and Facebook shop. You can follow her here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/justmaxnz 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/___just.max___/

Here’s her story:

Sewing had always been my craft of choice but for some unknown reason I moved to the yarn arts - probably because it suited our lifestyle at the time, took up less space and my project was easily taken on a trip in our caravan. 

When I found out that I was going to be a grandmother for the first time, I took my sewing machines out again.  Whilst browsing and looking at mom friendly/nappy bags the bug hit and before I knew it, my bag making obsession took over my life and sewing/craft room.

What do you like about making bags to sell?

I normally 'make to order' so customers know what they are getting and my standard of workmanship as well as quality of hardware

How would you describe the type of bags that you make to sell?

My personal preference is tote style bags, but because I make specifically for customers I don’t have a specific style.  My favourite fabric is vinyl and leather.

Do you make lots of the same bag or many different ones?

Bonnie Bucket has been my most popular

Who do you mainly sell to?

I don’t seem to have a specific target market - because my sales are mainly word of mouth, they head to my website and often decide based on what they see there.

How do you mainly sell your bags?

I sell through a combination of platforms - A local retail outlet, website, Facbook, Instagram, custom orders, word of mouth

Tell us more about your custom makes

I succeed because people know quality when they see it and they know/have heard that I offer a very good after-sales service

 

 

Karen Burke

Karen Burke is based in Auckland she does some custom makes but also sells through Felt, an online made in New Zealand, market place. She sells her bags under the trade name Kaybee Creations NZ and you can check her out on Felt here https://felt.co.nz/shop/kaybeecreations

Follow Karen on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kaybeecreationsnz/

And Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kaybeecreationsnz/

Karen’s story:

I've always loved making bags - starting out several years ago with simple canvas tote bags.  A close friend of mine suggested I sell them, and it has just taken off from there.  I sell bags and glasses cases through her local shop.  I have done a lot of custom bags also and enjoy collaborating to produce a bag we both love!

What do you like about making bags to sell?

I absolutely love seeing my bags "in the wild" and how much people enjoy something that I have created!

How would you describe the type of bags that you make to sell?

I love to use Rifle Paper Co fabrics.  Most of my bags are a combination of quilting cotton and vinyl.  I tend to go for bright colours and rose gold hardware, the resulting bags are always so gorgeous!

Do you make lots of the same bag or many different ones?

My latest favourite is the Blossom Crossbody bag by Bagstock Designs

How do you mainly sell your bags?

Online through Felt and at a local shop to their customers.

 

Tell us more about your bags

I like to make functional, yet pretty bags. Customers for custom makes find me mainly by word of mouth, but also through Facebook/Instagram.

With custom makes, you know that your bag will definitely sell, instead of just hoping that someone loves it as much as you do.  Most clients have already seen my bags and liked my style, so we know that they have similar tastes.

 

  

Jolene Chu

Jolene Chu is from Masterton, she only really started sewing bags a coupe of years ago, but already has a steady business, selling mainly at a market and through Facebook. Her trading name is Jo Jo Sews.

Follow her on Facebook here: https://bit.ly/37JGrcg

 

Here’s her story:

What prompted me to sell? Actually I'm not sure, I hadn't touched a sewing machine since I was 12 and started again when I turned 40, a friend of mine who makes kids jackets out of woollen blankets encouraged me to get back into it really as I did enjoy needle craft.

I love the way that you can use colour when sewing bags and now I have a bit more time on my hands, I’m working hard to grow my bag business.

I have a very supportive family with my business venture. 

What do you like about making bags to sell?

I like making bags as I love seeing the results of colours mixing together and how well it works. It's also time out for me, 

How would you describe the type of bags that you make to sell?

I like to make styles of bags the same but the colours between each bag is different on the inside.

Do you make lots of the same bag or many different ones?

It is the wallets that I sell most of the time, it is a very popular item. Its also a product I use all the time.

Who do you mainly sell to?

The sort of people is never the same. I have had all ages and styles of people buy a wallet.

How do you mainly sell your bags?

I sell my wares at a market called the Stall Keepers Society Market in Greytown Wairarapa in the town hall.  I also sell online on Facebook.

  

Sarah MacGibbon

Sarah MacGibbon is based in Richmond on the South Island where she trades as Hewetson Ridge Handmade. Her bags have a uniquely appealing personalised style and are mainly sold through her own website: www.hewetsonridgehandmade.co.nz 

 

Here’s how Sarah started:

I already had a handmade children’s clothing business, but I was trying to expand my target audience to include more people than just those who had children, so it naturally evolved into making bags and wallets too.

What do you like about making bags to sell?

I love the whole creative process, from choosing the size and style of the bag, selecting the fabrics, and hardware, to seeing it all come together, then seeing it serving its beautiful purpose. I feel like you can get a lot more creative with bags than you can with say clothes (what I started out sewing) it's easier to mix and match your patterns and techniques along the way and customize something truly unique.

How would you describe the type of bags that you make to sell?

I try to make a little bit of everything to try and cater to as many customers as possible. Everyone is unique and have different tastes and needs, some people want a bag to be hands free, others like a shoulder style. After years of lugging around nappy bags, I love something small just for the essentials, but some people love something large to throw everything into, so I try to include a little bit of everything.

Do you make lots of the same bag or many different ones?

A lot of my bags are fun and quirky, and I try to mix something bright and eye caching, with solid coloured accenting durable vinyls. There's no end of plain black handbags around in mainstream shops, but are any of them lined with chocolate M&M fabric? Not that I've seen, so I try to make bags that make people smile 😃 

I mainly make wallets and shoulder slings.

Who do you mainly sell to?

Kiwis? I sell a mixture of online and local markets, but most of my stuff stays within NZ

How do you mainly sell your bags?

Through my own website where you will also find some children’s clothing

 

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