x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Practical fabric crafts from All Things Bright and Beautiful

Carla Bygrave's fun fabric bags and cushions started with a need for some craft therapy.

"What started me off was my fabric and jute bucket bags," Carly Bygrave says. Sammy Dallal / The National

When I moved to Dubai in 2006, it was a mixture of highs and lows for two years – an experience common to many newcomers. I took up sewing because I wanted to be involved in something creative and therapeutic just to get a sense of balance. Before that I worked as an office administrator. 

I create whimsical, fun and practical fabric-based items such as bags, cushions, buntings and French note boards.
I was always handy with a sewing machine, but what started me off was my fabric and jute bucket bags. We lived in a villa with a long flight of stairs and I was forever piling stuff at the top and bottom to remind myself to take them up or down.

I started using wicker baskets but kept stubbing my toes on them so I decided to make my own soft bucket bag out of jute and scraps of floral fabric. A friend admired it and encouraged me to make some more and sell them at a craft market.

Four years on and more than 600 bucket bags later, I still enjoy making them. I try to make each one unique. As astonishing as it sounds, I remember every one that I make. They’re like old friends. One day, I even gave chase to a woman carrying one of my bags at a shopping mall. I must have given her a shock.

I knew that I was doing something right when I got invited for a television interview on Good Morning Arabs. After the interview, I received messages from as far as Libya saying how much my work has inspired them to take up sewing.

There has been an upsurge in interest for crafts among young people in the past 10 years. Handmade is very fashionable, and I love that there is an abundance of fresh inspirational artisan work in Dubai.

I feed off the creative energy of Melanie Gissing Design, Maddy & Eva children’s clothes, Gorgeoustuff by Linzi Kan, Komeropouti-Little Craft Shop and the Bead Studio Al Ain.

There are many craft markets in Dubai. I would recommend Arte at www.arte.ae.

As for what’s next, I would like to continue making beautiful things and come up with fresh ideas to delight others. I would like to inspire them to see that the sewing machine is not just for mending or the mundane, but rather a tool for art and self-expression.

Carla is a regular vendor at Arte Craft markets, www.arte.ae. A selection of her products is sold at the Mexar shop in Umm Suqeim 1 (04 394 9717). Her personalised cushions are available at www.luxelittle.com. For more information, email carlabygrave@yahoo.co.uk or visit her Facebook page, Bright & Beautiful ME