Long before I was a professional Long Arm Quilter I was a maker of some pretty fabulous bags.
I have a story for you today. If you are in a hurry that is fine, just scroll through the pictures. there will be more wonderful quilts soon.
I get asked all the time why I don't take orders for Camp Follower Bags anymore. Not too long ago I got chased down in the commissary by a lady carrying one of my bags that I made 9 years ago. She was shouting "Your Tia!!!" Indeed I am. Wow, that makes my heart sing. I know many of you did not know me during the days of Flickr so you may be unfamiliar with my Bags. (you can look at my Camp Follower Bags Blog if you like. It is still live, and you will see my cute kids when we lived in Australia). I made bags from the uniforms of Servicemen (and women) for the folks who loved them. I didn't buy a bunch of old dirty uniforms and make bags from those, I only made bags from the actual uniform that that particular person had sweat (and often bled) in after the clients contacted me through my website. Each bag was totally unique. I think at my height of popularity I was making 12 completely different type bags that I had designed and created a pattern for. It was very difficult to keep up with demand with just me making them, but I hung in for a long time. My designs were being knocked off right and left. It was so sad to see something I worked so hard at being snatched away. I understand why it was happening...they were pretty awesome and I couldn't possibly sew for everyone. People would email me furious at my price point. Enraged I was charging for a product that took from 8 to 16 hours to make. First I had to figure out what the client wanted, what fabric to use with their uniforms, deconstruct the uniforms and then create something totally custom, beautiful and in most cases reversible. That's a tall order but I did it for hundreds of bags. And I did it with a glad heart.
Well, not only did I make bags for service members who were alive and well, I also made the bags for the fallen soldiers' loved ones if they asked me to. I didn't charge for them because I felt it would be wrong. I was honored to do it. I did it with love.
Well The Hero bags, as I called them is what ended up making my whole business come to an exhausted halt. Towards the end I started getting requests for Hero Bags from women whose husbands weren't dead at all. Heck some of the ladies had nothing whatsoever to do with the military, they just wanted a free bag. These people clearly had no clue what is was like to get the call or visit that would send your world crashing or to see a friend break. I suppose they were going to use it as a talking piece? Frankly I have no clue why they would want one. My market was as niche as they come. It broke off a chunk of my heart when I got request after request that turned out to be false. I was just done.
I changed lanes from making awesome quilted bags to quilting awesome quilts.
I just want you all to know why I quit. I loved it so much, but it became too much for one woman and quilting is so much easier.
This is the last part of a Hero Bag order that I started on over 2 years ago. Margie is the mother of SSG Rolfing. I have never met her, but from our correspondence she must be one of the most wonderful and patient people on the planet and my soul aches for her loss. If you have the time please go read about SSG Rob Rolfing. Go read about Margie's son. Know that we all lost a fine man.
Margie wanted me to make duffel bags for her grandsons. Rob's nephews. Out of the 12 type bags I have made in the past, none of them were duffle bags. The trouser leg just wasn't wide enough, there wasn't enough fabric. I started on these bags so many times but put them away because I just didn't have enough uniform to make them happen. Finally I forced myself to do it. I ended up using every single bit of the trousers to make these bags. The inside out pockets, the fly, the reinforced knee and rump. All of it got used. Frankly when I first spoke to Margie I did not have the skill to make this bag...or to figure out how to make it happen. I am a much better maker now. This was the time for it to happen.
The bags are quilted just like all my other Camp Follower bags are, I even used variegated thread.
I used Rob's patches and one of his favorite shirts to make the sides of the duffel bags.
One of the bags turned out about an inch longer than the other and I couldn't find a zipper to fit. As a last resort I took one of the zippers from an old ACU and it fit perfectly. It was like it was meant to be. Maybe it was one of his friends? At any rate I started sobbing. Silly right? Many folks cry about zippers, but not for the reason I was.
Margie, thank you for letting me make these bags. I am so sorry it took me so long to make the time to figure them out. I hope the boys love them and wear them out after years of sleep overs, visits to you, hiking trips and just all out use.