Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fabric Travel Clutch Improvements

Ok, I've been so hesitant to write this post. When you design a product, you never want to have to admit it could use improvements. Who doesn't want to believe their product is perfect without need of change from its inception? But, the truth of the matter is as you use a product, you do come to realize such and such might be better if....  And that's the case with my otherwise perfect Fabric Travel Clutch.

When I designed the clutch, I went through several prototypes. I laid out different designs, used different fabrics, and most importantly tried different interfacings to apply behind the fabric. Interfacing is basically a sewn-in or ironed-on web like material that makes fabric have more body or makes it more stiff. It's what makes the collars of dress shirts stiff. A lightweight interfacing can give a skirt more body. It's most definitely required on almost all craft projects involving fabric. Otherwise you'd have a flimsy, droopy purse that could not stand up under its own weight. So, you might say it's the most important aspect of a fabric craft project.

When making my Fabric Travel Clutches, I determined I'd have to use one of the most stiff interfacing available. It's Pellon 809 fusible interfacing. And each piece, front and back, of my FTCs is mated with a piece of Pellon 809. Even though I use one of the strongest interfacing available, I still had an issue with the spine of my FTCs. With repeated opening and closing, the linen would start to bunch in the spine and the spine would weaken.

Ok, so I knew this was an issue, but I wasn't sure how to fix it. When I received a couple of emails from customers saying they loved the design, but wished the spine was a bit more stiff, I knew I had to find a way to resolve the issue. I'd go over this time and again with my husband (the engineer) and he kept telling me I needed to add something behind the linen. But how? When my brother and sister-in-law were here for A's 3rd birthday, I showed them my concern. My bro (also an engineer), said what my dear hubby said, add a strip of fabric behind the linen. But he added  that he thought I needed to sew a line down the middle to bind the linen to the strip to the outside fabric. And this is where he explained a bit of physics to me.  (This is my little brother, mind you)

When I sew the front of the clutch to the back, the pieces are equal in length. I leave an opening at the top to turn the clutch inside out. When I fold the clutch in half, the outside fabric is stretched and the inside linen is bunched a bit. A little bit of this is actually good because this helps give you the room you need to fill up your wallet. Too much makes the linen bunch unattractively down the center. This spine area is also the weakest part of the wallet. So, now, fix it already.

And I did. The new design has a 4" strip of heavy duty twill backing heat bonded to the back of the linen and interfacing. I use heavy duty heat bond (just try peeling it off - it withstands non-sewn appliques on the world's greatest product tester t-shirts - my little munchkin).  I also sew down the middle to bind all those pieces together. You can see the difference in how clean and non-bunched-up it looks here:

Here's more of a close up picture:

So far, the response to the change has been awesome. I made the change on all outgoing FTC's in late July/early August. I've been carrying one around in my purse since the first of August and I can tell it is certainly an improvement over my previous design.

So, while I was reluctant to admit my design needed any changes, I am honest enough to believe you shouldn't keep selling something when you know it needs a fix. I want my customers to love their purchase. I don't want anybody to get something from me and think, "It's nice, but I wish it were more sturdy".  Most importantly, I want my customers to feel like they can come to me if they have an issue with their purchase or if they have an idea for improvement on any of my products.

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