The Joy of Luscious Camellias Even During Dark Dark Days

Luscious, Hot Pink Camellias on the Lime Green and Black Lattice Bag

This Lattice Purse has been in a big plastic bag in my garage attic for several years now. But I came across it recently and hung it up in my at-home studio. It hangs where I can see it when I am sitting at my desk. I can hardly take my eyes off it.

As the news has turned increasingly dark, it’s my purses that are most exuberant, most luscious with flowers and beads, brightest and most joyful that are capturing my attention. The Lattice Bag is the biggest of them all. And it’s the one that has my heart right now.

The hot pink flowers are faded from when the purse was left too long in some shop window during a trunk show years ago. They are sun-kissed in much the same way that actual flowers are. And it is this imperfection that makes them, for me, even more beautiful.

I live surrounded by purses . . . and I get used to them, so much so that they can look dull to me: there is nothing special about them. Sometimes it is only absence or distance that allows me to see them as they are.

I was taking the Lattice Bag with me to Frederick, Maryland to be photographed by Bruce Falkinburg – he took the fabulous photograph above and below – when I caught sight of the purse over my arm in a reflective shop window. A spotlight on big, bright flowers in a dark room.

Wow.

I almost stopped in my tracks. It was like seeing it for the first time. Maybe in a way I had never seen it before. The sidewalk was crowded with people were shuffling past and all around me in their blue jeans, dark non-descript jackets and brown beany hats. Unmemorable shoes. Women carrying purses that all looked the same . . . I mean, they really do – some version of brown or blue or black, some monogram printed on leather, thin leather or chain strap. And then there was my Lattice Bag. A riot of color in that almost monochrome sea.

I felt such joy at that moment: I felt then the joy I felt making those big flowers so long ago, and the excitement when I figured out how to make the cable pattern in two colors so that purse could be made all in one large piece, no piecing together. I remembered why I made that purse and in those colors. An issue of Vogue Knitting came out with a similar bag on the cover, that one decorated with spiral roses and in it were real roses. I loved the whole look: beautiful taffeta skirt, amazing stockings on the model, and carrying a bold bag. I wanted to make it. And then I looked at the pattern. It was made in three pieces. All sorts of assembly. “No way!” I remember thinking. I might even have whispered it. I tried to find a way to use the same stitch pattern and make it in the round. Wouldn’t work. I got out one of Barbara Walker’s books of stitch patterns and started leafing through. Had to be a way. Had to be a way.

I knew I wanted to work in two colors, just the way my inspiration bag was made, but it also had to be possible to make it in the round. And it had to be increasable, meaning that the pattern had to be able to be smaller at the bottom and larger at the top. Many stitch patterns wouldn’t/didn’t give me that flexibility. When I started working the cables, I got really excited. It took a little bit to work out how to use two colors, but once I had that sorted, I swatched a slice of the entire bag. A dramatic slice of pie that I worked from large end to small, just as I was planning to work the bag. Once I had the pattern picked out and had settled on how large each contrast color field had to be between the cables, I had to work out how many stitches and cables had to go around for the bag to be what I wanted.

Notice how the cables get smaller as you work from top down toward the bottom.

And after I had sorted all that out, I decided to make the purse rectangular as well as circular. That was a whole different set of challenges! I started out by working it top down, but unlike the circular version where it decreases so nicely into the center with that fabulous bicycle spoke look, the rectangular bottom decreased into the center left a very unattractive fault line just where the decreases were. That wouldn’t work. I had to start from the bottom up.

Ok, starting over again: striped bottom . . . and this time I had to work out how the stripes would match up with the contrasting colors of the cable pattern. It was a great moment when I figured that one out!

Hot Fuchsia and Orange just zang together! I love it.

I remember how much fun I had picking out colors that twanged together, zinged and almost visually clanged when they were next to each other. That’s what I wanted, that visual happiness. I made four different versions of 2 basic styles, and I lined each one with beautiful iridescent, dupioni silk.

Four Beauties.

The joy still radiates off of that big bag. That’s why it’s been catching my eye lately. And just then, just as I was standing on the street, staring at the bag reflection in the window in my reverie, just then, a man at the stoplight rolled down his window, leaned across the seats in his car, one hand on the seat beside him, left hand still on the steering wheel, and yelled, “I love your outfit!” Big smile. Light turned green. Window gliding up as he drove away. I was so happy.

I’m going to start carrying this purse again, I decided right then. But first, I needed to swap those plastic handles for JUL Flat Strap Forager handles with the Chicago screw application. And the snap needs to be revamped . . . and I’ll put 5 Fancy Bag Feet on the bottom. . .

And loving the camellias so much again got me thinking . . .

The Victoria Purse with Camellias and Cherry Blossoms – A Detail of that big Camellia

I want to share this joy.

So I’ve re-worked the pattern. And I’ve put together a class you can take. I hope you’ll join me!

If you have made the Camellias and they have brought you joy or you have a story to tell, please write it in the comments. I’d love to hear it. You can also write to me an email to nora at nonipatterns.com and send pictures. I would love to see what you have made.

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