Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hankering for a pretty purse? -

Katie Henry, aka madebyhank, is sure to please

Don't let the name confuse you. Madebyhank is the pseudonym for one very talented girl, Katie Henry. Five years ago, Henry lived with a friend who inherited her grandma's old Singer, and they both began to sew. They thrifted old lady dresses by the bag full, cut them up, and re-worked the material. She's been sewing every day since, and presently designs and makes purses and totes as well as some sewn drawings.

Completely self-taught with no formal art or design training, and relatively new to the "Internet world," she now is happy to be able to make her livelihood selling her work online. She is the curator of an Etsy shop and a website that showcase her purses. "I have accidentally started a business," she says. " Sometimes people ask me about my design background, but they have the wrong idea about me. I'm simply obsessed with sewing."

If you find yourself perusing the madebyhank Web site, you'll see that Henry's gorgeous purses fall into categories such as "bigger," "smaller," "squarish," and "zippered." She likes to mix patterns and textures together. One popular style among customers (and a favorite of Henry's as well) is the "Tough Ruffles" purse, which she describes as "pretty and tough." Often using two tones of the same color in this design, she uses a technique that "builds up texture," sewing a scrunched-up piece of fabric onto the purse and then stitching over it extensively to add even more texture. "I love stitching to no end," Henry says exuberantly. “I also like this technique because it's very durable.” Some of her purses are adorned with hand-sewn designs (the rabbit is a popular one), many have vintage leather belts as handles, and all are lovingly finished with the freehand stitched "madebyhank" logo.

Committed to using as little new materials as possible, she crafts her purses mostly from vintage materials and re-purposed clothing, mixed with canvas and heavy cottons. Durability is a big priority: she uses a "secret layer" of interfacing to add strength and padding. The handles are stitched and re-stitched to ensure that nothing will come undone. Piping excites her lately, and she recently learned how to make her own. She likes how nicely it finishes a purse, and often uses it on her "squarish" design. She feels that it's these important little touches that make all the difference.

Henry's story is a perfect example of a girl who loves what she does, and does it well. She is a bit giddy from all of the good fortune that has come her way. "I'm very grateful for my success so far," she says. "Someday I'd like to have a store front with a little studio in back. But for now, I'm very happy with the way things are and I'd just like to be able to find enough hours in the day to maintain what I'm doing."

You can see Henry's purses at Madebyhank on and at her Web site,

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