BTS with Jenna Aliyah
From start to finish, every bag or banner I make is hand-crafted by me in my home studio using natural fiber materials and vegan-leather. When I started this business, I wanted to make sure that the things I create are not only useful to their owners but are also kind to the environment. It’s not always the least expensive or easiest way to create a product, but I believe it’s incredibly important.
My inspirations for prints grow out of everything from vintage prints to tribal art to the southwestern landscape. Every print begins in the sketchbook.
The Tulum print is inspired by pre-Columbian Aztec designs. Most of my designs are geometric in nature, and I wanted this one to create a larger design when repeated. I see a Mexican tile floor or table top when the design is rotated.
Then comes the block phase. Working with my hands is something I’ve loved since I was a little girl, so carving my own rubber blocks is a very important piece of the puzzle. It allows me to experiment with different orientations and alignments. It’s very easy to tweak the design in this medium. The instant feedback of a printed block on fabric allows for quick and effective adjustments. Once I’m happy with a design, it’s time to have a screen made. I work with an awesome team of local screen makers who help me get the best possible results for my screens.
Screen-printing is a relatively new and exciting part of my process. My goal for 2017 was to learn how to implement this skill as a way of growing my business. It took many stressful hours of trial and error and I definitely wanted to give up on it a few times, but now that I’ve come out the other side of that struggle, it was well worth the time and effort. I’ve since converted all of my original blocks to screens and I’m really excited about how this increases my efficiency and decreases error associated with the block-printing.
I am almost never working solely on one piece at a time. Using this method allows me to print faster while still having a personal connection to every item I make. This productivity increase is a game changer for the growth of my business. As a one woman army (with occasional assistance from my favorite feline employee), I am the marketing director, designer, seamstress, shipping department, et al; therefore, time is everything. Printing as many as three linen pouches with one pass of the screen means more time to focus on the creative process.
Once I have finished printing everything it’s on to the cut-and-sew part of the process. All of my newly printed fabric must be heat set using an iron to cure the ink to the fabric. The fabric and linings are cut down to size for the bags that I am making, always working in stages to keep the assembly line moving. At this point I also prep whatever waxed-canvas or vegan-leather might be needed as zipper pulls, straps or structural aspects to clutches or cross-body bags.
The linen pouches are one of the quickest items for me to sew up and because of this, they are one of my favorite items to make. My grandmother taught me how to sew when I was very young, but most of my sewing experience comes from working in costume shops for the theatre. In that environment, quick, efficient sewing is an extremely valuable skill. I love to challenge myself by seeing how many bags I can make in a certain amount of time.
Zippers are prepped with a fabric tab on the end that corresponds to the color of the bag it is for and sewn onto the lining and printed fabric. The bag is pinned inside-out taking care to line up the print and sewn all around. The seam allowance is trimmed and the bag is flipped right-side-out and my tag is sewn in. (All my zippers and tags are organic cotton and sourced from small-businesses on Etsy). The beauty of a hand made item is that every piece is given special attention, therefore I can make sure each bag lives up to my quality standards. The sewing process is not the most glamorous part of my business, but it is the most important.
The final step for the linen pouches is to add a zipper-pull created from either waxed-canvas or vegan-leather to match the bag. Additional accoutrements such as rivets or hardware for the cross-body bags are added as needed.
Linen pouches are my favorite item to make not only for the challenge but also because I think they are the most versatile item. There is no limit to what these small and mighty beauties can be used for. Now these pouches are off to their new homes and ready for whatever purpose you can dream up.