It was a sad day last year when Karen Templer made the tough decision to close her successful knitting bag and notion business, Fringe Supply Co. Perhaps most well known for the “Field Bag,” a drawstring project bag that touts over 20,000 posts under its #fringefieldbag hashtag on Instagram, the loss was a huge one to knitters and those who appreciated the versatility of the bag. While some have tried to copy it, nothing has or probably will come close to the fame and love garnered by the Fringe Field Bag.
Needless to say, we were thrilled when we received the announcement from Grainline Studio that the Field Bag was to be released as a sewing pattern in collaboration with Karen Templer. The Field Bag lives on - now to be sewn up by eager sewists and knitters around the globe. We caught up with Jen Beeman of Grainline Studio and Karen Templer for a few questions about this exciting new pattern.
When you made the difficult decision to shutter Fringe Supply Co., did you have ideas about how you might move forward with this popular product? How did this collaboration come about?
KT: People had been asking for years if we would ever do a sewing pattern for the bag, and when sustaining production became unworkable during Covid, converting it into a pattern anyone could sew for themselves seemed like a natural evolution. Since Jen and I had worked together a few years ago to convert my original Fringe project bag (predecessor to the Field Bag) into the popular Stowe Bag pattern — and have become close friends in the interim — it seemed like the ideal way to make it happen!
This pattern release seemed to come up quickly. What went into the process of releasing this pattern to the public? How long have you been working on this behind the scenes?
JB: Time no longer has meaning to me after the last 15 months so I had to check with Karen on when we started working on the Field Bag pattern we believe it was June of 2020. It actually came at a great time for me. We had just finalized the fit of about 10 size 14-30 patterns with our pattern maker and fit model over the summer while Covid cases were low, then as they crept back up over the fall we had to stop working on patterns that required fitting. Since a bag has no fitting required it was a great project to fill in while we waited for other patterns to go through grading and testing. As for the actual process, we started from a pre-cut kit from the Field Bag factory and the original tech pack and went from there making a pattern, writing instructions, and working on illustrations. We then employed a group of pattern testers to test the pattern and made adjustments based on their feedback. From there the pattern went to our copy editor for a check on punctuation, grammar, and consistency with the rest of our pattern collection, and then to print!
Karen, did you have any thoughts about releasing your iconic bag as a pattern that others could make? Was it a difficult decision to share your work more broadly or was it exciting to see it take on a new life?
KT: I’m excited to see what people do with it, but also for people to have the experience of sewing one! I can say from personal experience — and the feedback from all the wonderful test sewers — that it’s a very satisfying make. Everyone is always like “I cannot believe I made this!”
As I am sure you learned, writing a pattern for consumers and makers is different from creating a pattern for mass production. The construction of the Field bag is brilliant and like nothing I've sewn before - Karen, did you come up with the pattern and how much collaboration happened between you and Jen at Grainline? Can you walk us through this part of the collaboration, how did you both work together to make this happen?
KT: The construction is truly brilliant, and that’s the work of Alyssa Minadeo who worked with me on all of my prototyping from the Field Bag forward — getting my designs from my brain and sketches into samples and instructions that a factory could take and work from. The brilliant bit you’re referring to is actually what made a number of factories tell me they couldn’t do it originally. They wanted to cut corners, literally, but I held off until I finally found a small factory that embraced Alyssa’s elegant method. All of which makes it sound complicated to sew, and it’s really not! The biggest challenge is simply working with canvas, which a lot of people might feel intimidated by. But it’s completely doable, and Jen has done an equally brilliant job of taking Alyssa’s original production design and making it doable for home sewers, on a regular machine.
The pattern was easy to follow. Was it hard to transform your process into an easy to follow pattern for others to understand? Did Jen help in this process as an expert in excellent and easy to follow patterns?
JB: We were in charge of the instructions but since Karen and her team had already done the heavy lifting of designing the bag it was a pretty smooth process. It’s always a bit of a challenge to make instructions for a bag because it’s a bit different to describe than sewing a garment. Karen set us up with Alyssa who had originally helped to design the bag for production so we had her for any questions we had that cropped up while working through the spec sheet. And of course our pattern testers were so helpful in predicting where people might get confused with our instructions and offering helpful suggestions for clarity!
Now that you have released the Field Bag, are there plans for more collaborations in the future that we might look forward to?
KT: I’m not predicting the future in the current world, but you never know what might come next!
Jen, do you have plans to do other collaborations under your Grainline brand? What would you most like to see Grainline collaborate on next?
JB: We don’t have anything in the works at the moment but I do love collaborating! Especially when we get to take geniously constructed objects like the Field Bag and turn them into a sewing pattern. It’s so fun to get to work with another creator and see how their brain works regarding construction and design!
Want to make your own Field Bag? We have the leather straps, cotton drawstring and 10oz waxed and unwaxed canvas in stock for an original Fringe sewn by you! Or get a bit more creative with it and try out a printed canvas or perhaps a denim? Happy Sewing!