Our workshop team here at Distinctive Chesterfields uses every last inch of our 100% bovine leather hides to handcraft our stunning sofas and chairs, even saving what small scraps are sometimes left over to send off to the people who make the buttons which feature on the furniture’s unique buttoned backs. And we’re about to introduce you to someone else who knows all about utilising every last piece of material to make something truly special…
Meet Alyson Bond, who receives gorgeous old leather coats from her customers, before fashioning them into equally lovely handmade leather bags. She’s even made one of her popular leather bags from an old chesterfield, which is what prompted us to contact her for our Handmade Heroes slot here on the blog.
Without further ado, then, here’s a fun Q&A with Alyson herself, who discovered a love for sewing as a youngster and has since made that hobby into a full-time job. Take it away, Alyson…
Distinctive Chesterfields (DC): You’ve managed to make a full-time business of making leather bags. But tell us, how did the idea first come about?
Alyson: After making one for myself and getting lots of comments about it from friends and mums on the playground and going on to make them one too, I actually thought this could be a business.
DC: You say creating bags from leather jackets is a great way to preserve memories? How rewarding is to turn an old jacket that no longer fits into something people can still enjoy using?
Alyson: It is just the most satisfying thing to create a bag for my customer and to see their face when I had the bag over, filled with memories of a family member, for example, or just of a garment that no longer fits.
DC: It was a YouTube video that prompted you to have a go at making your first bag, wasn’t it? But how does that first creation compare to the bags you make now?
Alyson: I still have my first creation, it is pretty crudely made and shabby but I wouldn’t part with it as it shows how far I have come. I made it with my domestic machine and struggled with the foot and needle, but now I use an industrial machine built for the job.
DC: You sell your bags at London’s Spitalfields market, as well as receiving order requests from across the world. What kind of customer loves your product?
Alyson: I hopefully appeal to all ages and both sexes and people passionate about recycing, upcycling and eco, as well as anyone looking to go down the memory, personal, bespoke service route.
DC: We believe you made a leather bag from an old chesterfield sofa. How did this come about?
Alyson: My friend in her 70s stripped down her chesterfield sofa when she recently changed her sofa for a new one, and sent me the leather to reuse. I have loved making the chesterfield clutch bags, it really is fabulous – faded and loved old leather full of history, including all the old buttons too.
DC: Are you a fan of TV shows like The Sewing Bee? And has the programme inspired you to be even more creative with your bag designs?
Alyson: I was absolutely addicted to the Sewing Bee – and yes it has opened up my eyes to many new opportunities to me.
DC: You say you hate wasting things, so it’s great that old jackets are being put to good use. Are you big on upcycling in general?
Alyson: I am afraid I am typical of a lot of creative people, and I am a hoarder of all things fabric and leather!
DC: The bag-making process starts for you when you receive a customer’s old coat. But have you ever received one that you couldn’t bear to cut up?
Alyson: Occasionally one will arrive in the post I have bought and it ends up in my wearing wardrobe for a while, before the chop! I did recently have sent to me a WWII Trench coat that really bothered me to cut up, but when its belongs to the customer I just have to get on with it. It did become a rather cool cylinder round end duffle holdall which worked well with the features of the coat.
DC: You’ve been sewing since the age of 12. What and who was it that introduced you to the hobby?
Alyson: My Mum; as far back as a very young child I remember her sewing box which I used to love rummaging through. My sewing teacher at high school was a patient lovely lady that inspired me to dress make, she sadly died very young around the time of me leaving school but remains in my thoughts often.
DC: You have two kids; have you managed to coax them into learning to sew too?
Alyson: My two children are both creative in many ways but so far no interest in sewing.
DC: Finally, where do you see your business going? Where would you like to see the company in five years’ time?
Alyson: I will always be continuing with the reusing upcycling theme and hope to make a range of bags with upcycled car leathers soon and also furniture leather.
Thanks to Alyson for taking time out to be interviewed for our Handmade Heroes feature here on the Distinctive Chesterfields blog – keep your eyes peeled for more lighthearted interviews like this, too! You can follow Alyson on Twitter, or head to her website at www.alybond.co.uk