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Bag Fanatics Retreat 2016

I’ve started this blog post about half a dozen times now.  I want to find the right words to describe last weekend at the Bag Fanatics Retreat.  It was such an amazing experience to spend time with people who “got” me.  I came home so inspired and refreshed.  I am so grateful to Kylie and Lisa for bringing it altogether and to all the amazing women I met!

Attendees Bag Fanatics Retreat


I’d wanted to go to a Sewing Retreat ever since I heard there was such a thing.  Hanging out with a bunch of sewing people … seriously could there be anything cooler!!!  When my friend Kylie from Little Moo Designs told me she was organising one with Lisa from two pretty poppets I knew I HAD to go!  Twelve months in the making, the Bag Fanatics Retreat was even better than I could have imagined.

Stacey's at the gap

It was held at Stacey’s at the Gap outside Toowoomba in Queensland.  The accommodation was in cabins with between 2 to 5 ladies per cabin.  I shared with Lyn from Bags by Lynwam and Susie from Twirl Girl.  Luckily, being from Melbourne they were able to give me “Heater Safety 101”.  Boy was it was COLD!!!!  I must be the world’s worst packer for cold weather.  Logically I knew it would be cold, but that didn’t stop me packing 3 pairs of sandals, shorts and cardigans with 3/4 length sleeves!!!

Bag Fanatics Retreat working

When I told my sister we started sewing at 7am and finished at 10pm she thought that was pretty funny.  BUT if you’re into sewing, I think you’ll be pretty jealous, even more so when I tell you all the meals were provided.  Imagine not having to cook or look after anyone else and yet having delicious home cooked breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and desert every day!!!


BFR Bags Included in the retreat registration fee were 4 bag patterns.  The Urban Bucket Bag by Little Moo Designs, the Sew Compleat Shoulder Tote by two pretty poppets, the Rubenesque Hobo by Emkie Designs & the Matilda Bag by Hide4350.


The best thing was all four designers were on hand to help you sew the bags.

My bags from BFR 2016

Here are the bags I sewed! I’m still kind of in awe that I sewed 4 bags in a weekend!!!

The week before the retreat my dog walking backpack gave up the ghost so I really wanted to turn the urban bucket bag into a backpack that I could use when walking Lexie.  Susie showed me how to do it and now Kt wants me to sew her one.

I used the last of my Echino fabric on the Rubenesque Hobo and I’m so happy with how it looks with the dark brown Packer leather.

I kind of cheated a bit with the Sew Compleat Shoulder Tote.  I brought this fabric from Spoonflower for Issue 5 (I used the knit version for a Bonfire Jacket) and had been dying to sew it into a bag ever since.  I skipped the pleating and just used the one fabric to let the fabric shine.

I skipped sewing the Matilda Bag (clumsy me + hammers -> not a good look!) and took the bits and pieces home for Mr Fox to assemble.

For my final bag I sewed my favourite purse pattern.  I first sewed this purse back in 2010 and every few years after my old purse dies I like to have another go at it!  I used this fabric that I’d been hoping to sew a dress for me from … I’ll get that dress sewn one day!


Jen sewing 1

Singer Australia kindly lent me a Heavy Duty 4411 sewing machine to take to the retreat.  It sewed beautifully through mulitple layers and through leather and pleather.  I only broke one needle and that was because I tried to sew through a zip stopper!  I had two sorts of pleather that I purchased from Spotlight for my retreat bags.  The machine had no troubles with the light brown but I think the green must have been “stickier” and the machine wasn’t a fan of sewing it.  I think if I’d used a walking or vinyl foot or tried some of the pleather sewing tips such as sticky tape on the foot or tissue paper between the layers it might have worked better.  All in all I was so pleased and grateful to be able to borrow this machine.

Jen Sewing 2

I would include more photos of me sewing, but turns out I’ll never be a sewing stock photo model as I have a really pained look of concentration on my face when I sew … who knew!


We were also gifted goodie bags.  The amazing sponsors really raised the bar with their gifts!

Sponsors Bag Fanatics Retreat

A special shoutout to Packer Leather.  They’re based in Brisbane and I probably wouldn’t have tried sewing with leather without their samples!

Packer Leather

Your Chance to WIN!

Packer Leather have donated a purple kangaroo hide for me to give away.  If you’d like to win it comment below with what you’d sew with it before 8am 16th September 2016.  The winner will be chosen via




61 Comments to “Bag Fanatics Retreat 2016”

  1. Joanne 09/09/2016 at 5:00 am

    Sounds like you had an awesome time! Ooh I have never had my hands on kangaroo hide. I would totally make a jacket for Miss though – purple is right up her alley 🙂

  2. Serena 09/09/2016 at 5:06 am

    Sewing retreats look like fun!!! I think I’d try the sew complete shoulder tote or maybe some purple hotpants 🙂

  3. Melisa 09/09/2016 at 5:09 am

    Was such an amazing getaway , highlighted by meeting you Jen!. Im loving the Packer leathers and would love some yummy purple. I would most likely make a bag or clutch, pattern unknown 😀 I find the leather speaks to me so I would need to see it in person first lol.

  4. Di Welch 09/09/2016 at 5:10 am

    Fabulous Jen such a great opportunity to sew such beautiful bags. I’d love to win & would sew up either the Hippo Hobo or this new Rubenesque Hobo by Emma. Just so nervous to buy or sew with leather, hoping this would give me to push I need!

    • Jen Kennedy 16/09/2016 at 7:36 am

      Congratulations Di! You’re the winner of our competition! I’ll send you through an email to organise getting your prize to you! xJen

  5. Jodie Paulin 09/09/2016 at 5:35 am

    It was an absolute highlight meeting the “famous” Jen Kennedy! You are as gorgeous in person as well expected!
    I’d love to win the beautiful leather from Packer Direct to make a rubenesque hobo for my purple loving sister! This was her favourite pattern from the retreat x

  6. Mel Euhus 09/09/2016 at 5:37 am

    Was lovely to meet you Jen, and thank you for saving my Sew Compleat with your pleather scraps! Hmm purple….i think I’d have to design a bag for it from scratch, already thinking of all the Tula prints that would match it! x

  7. Emma 09/09/2016 at 5:45 am

    I had a fabulous time away with all the attendees (and I loved meeting you Jen!) My hippo hobo was damaged on the plane, some heavy footed person must have kicked it when it was under the seat…so I need to make a new one, I have the BEST Liberty fabric that would be perfect to pair with purple leather – if I had any *wink* *wink* lol 😉

  8. Cathie and Cindy 09/09/2016 at 5:48 am

    We would make some baby shoes 🙂

  9. Donna McCalman 09/09/2016 at 5:49 am

    The retreat was AWESOME & One Thimble is a great magazine to read through (I was going to say little but at 200 pages or so – definitely not little). I think that I’d make the Urban Bucket bag again but in ALL leather this time. First time ever using leather and Packer Leather hide is awesome to play with. Thanks for the opportunity

  10. Katherine Wright 09/09/2016 at 5:57 am

    OMG i love Packer Leather, such a fantastic product to work with and with beautiful end results. I would love to make an urban bucket bag with the purple hide and black accents.

  11. Ellen Wiedman 09/09/2016 at 6:02 am

    What an awesome 3.5 days we had. I nearly purchased a purple leather from Packer on Wednesday… But I did get a grey one.. Maybe they might look nice together in a repeat performance of the black and white bag I gave Kylie in the swap. Lol. Or maybe on a Sugar and Spice OR Lombard St by ChrisWDesigns.. As she was a sponsor. Lol .. So good luck to all.

  12. Tanya 09/09/2016 at 6:18 am

    I love the luxurious feel of Packer’s kangaroo hides, and I love purple, so this would have to be turned into a tote for me!

  13. Tracy Fitzgerald 09/09/2016 at 6:32 am

    It was a pleasure to meet you Jen, and all the other keen bag makers at the retreat. I would love to receive some purple leather but it would depend on the fabric i pair it with as to what pattern i use but more than likely it would be a handbag

  14. Toni Avery 09/09/2016 at 6:36 am

    It was such an awesome retreat – I don’t know how many times in the past week I have said I wished I was back there!! I would totally make some turnabout pouches from little moo designs and a hippo hobo from the lovely Emma from Emkie designs!! 🙂

  15. ann cooper 09/09/2016 at 7:00 am

    I would have loved to attend and I think I would sew a hobo bag

  16. Jenny Jolley 09/09/2016 at 7:06 am

    I would sew love to do a retreat like that. And imagine having the designers on hand to help. With the give away I would sew a Standup and Tote Notice??❤️??

  17. helen cooper 09/09/2016 at 7:40 am

    How awesome Jen, I loved following your bag retreat snippets you showed us 🙂
    Hmm, What would i make?
    I would probably just spend the first week just smelling it, I love the smell of leather. I’d probably have a go at making a bag. I like the hippo bag style!

  18. Nyssa Lesniak 09/09/2016 at 7:48 am

    I’d make another Urban Bucket Bag, I really want to try it as a backpack 🙂

  19. Abbie 09/09/2016 at 7:58 am

    Wow what a weekend! I’d definitely be making one of these bags with it! I’m pretty sure a bunch of ladies from this retreat visited the shop I work at on Monday, I had the day off and the girls told me about some bag retreat ladies who came in, would have been great to be there and meet them!!

  20. Joy Morgan 09/09/2016 at 8:06 am

    It was a great weekend and so nice to meet you! I would make a bag, possibly another Rubinesque, teamed with purple feature fabric to showcase both the leather and fabric!

  21. Helen Gerloff 09/09/2016 at 8:28 am

    The BFR retreat was a fantastic way to meet new like minded bag fanatics and to learn so much from everyone. I have some awesome Leesa Chandler ‘Melba ‘ fabric in grey pink mauve and cream which I would love to use the purple leather with to make another hobo bucket bag which would showcase the leather and the fabric.

  22. Sharon 09/09/2016 at 9:55 am

    It sounds like a dream weekend!!! I would sew a purse for myself and/or a jacket for Miss S. We are both huge fans of purple.

  23. Louise Romanis 09/09/2016 at 10:27 am

    Sounds like an awesome weekend. I think a Sew Compleat shoulder tote would look awesome using some of the purple kangaroo hide

  24. Rebecca "bag ninja" Wood 09/09/2016 at 10:28 am

    I would have to say I would make a purple Urban Bucket bag, I had the pleasure of testing all 4 of these bags before the retreat and that was my fave (but only by a smidge, it’s like asking to pick between kids!)

  25. Fiona russell 09/09/2016 at 10:31 am

    Would make a feature me tote and matching purse

  26. Kirrilee 09/09/2016 at 10:34 am

    Oooh! Purple kangaroo leather!?! I would totally team that with a zombie print and make a heap of different turnabout pouches. ?

  27. Lauren Johnson 09/09/2016 at 10:40 am

    Sounds like a great weekend! I love kangaroo leather and would use it for a Hippo Hobo, or a Tainted Love Foldover Clutch (or three!). I have a beautiful black and white fabric designed by Aboriginal artist Anna Pitjara that would look amazing with the purple leather!

  28. Melita 09/09/2016 at 10:45 am

    I am so jealous of everyone who attended the retreat. I would sew everything with the leather. Thanks to Kylie and her patterns I am now obsessed with leather

  29. Claire 09/09/2016 at 10:47 am

    Sounds like a wonderful time was had by all! I would love to try the kangaroo leather, I can’t get it from my local supplier sadly. My favourite colour is purple so i would definitely use it to make a bag for myself.

  30. Sarah 09/09/2016 at 10:50 am

    Purple leather! I’d make Amy Butler blossom or Swoon Sandra with that. Now you’ve got me all inspired I’m off to google sewing retreats.

  31. Barb Glasscoe 09/09/2016 at 11:03 am

    I love purple and I have a feeling I’d be hoarding it for a while until I found just the right bag pattern. So many to choose from!!

  32. Tracey Kenyon 09/09/2016 at 11:05 am

    I love sewing retreats, iv been on a couple with some quilting friends. It really is time we organised another.
    Id send the hide to my friend, who’s lovely hubby just sent her off to a weekend boot making retreat and if there was any keft make a little bag

  33. Bev 09/09/2016 at 11:07 am

    I’d sew so many pretty things with purple leather (and I’d share some with my purple loving friend too!) Bags, pouches, I *love* purple!! x

  34. Beverley Power 09/09/2016 at 11:09 am

    I’d sew so many pretty things with purple leather (and I’d share some with my purple loving friend too!) Bags, pouches, I *love* purple!! x

  35. Brooke 09/09/2016 at 11:12 am

    I have never worked with it either. I would love to try a statement clutch,using the leather as a feature on the flap and then using some of the purple Eden Tula range.

  36. Paula Parnell 09/09/2016 at 11:18 am

    The retreat was a first for me too. I was so excited and nervous before I arrived but soon realised what friendly, inspiring, and generous women I lucky enough to be surrounded by. I feel so blessed to have walked away from the BFR feeling like I had made some wonderful new friends and learned a lot! I would use the purple hide to make a Statement Clutch (Two Pretty Poppets) for my purple-crazy bestie.

  37. Danielle Kathryn 09/09/2016 at 11:23 am

    It was such an inspiring weekend with talented ladies! Purple leather would certainly make some amazing turnabout pouches…There’s so many ideas running through my mind with many options for the leather!

  38. Kylie G. 09/09/2016 at 11:27 am

    Love love love packer leather….in fact I have a leather collection thanks to their awesome prices lol. I would love to make a purple tainted love fold over clutch with purple super girls fabric for the lining.

  39. Cheryl Scheffel 09/09/2016 at 11:35 am

    I’m really sorry that the Bag Retreat wasn’t possible for me to attend. Living here (Ocean View,DE) I would never thought it possible to have a chance to sew kangaroo hide. PURPLE!!

  40. Linda Schafer 09/09/2016 at 11:38 am

    It was an awesome weekend. It was wonderful to learn to sew with Leather. I think I would make a Hippo Hobo by the wonderful Emma from Emkie Designs another great sponsor.

  41. Angela 09/09/2016 at 11:42 am

    I am so jealous of this retreat. Sounds like a dream weekend. The purple leather I would so as many ways as possible. Accent a wallet. Accent a matching purse for my daughter or my mother. Everything you made looks wonderful. Thank you

  42. Melanie 09/09/2016 at 11:43 am

    I wish I could have attended!

    I would love to make a bag for myself. I LOVE purple.

  43. Nicole Bryn 09/09/2016 at 12:06 pm

    Sounds amazing! I wish I could have attended! I love reading your post. Thank you for the generous giveaway! I’d love to make the hobo with it and I’ve been dying to try working with leather!

  44. June 09/09/2016 at 12:22 pm

    Sounds like a fabulous weekend wish I was there. Have some Packer leather and used it for the first time in my Tainted Love Foldover Clutch in my very first Masterclass with Kylie from Little Moo Designs. Would love to use purple leather in the Urban Bucket Bag xx

  45. Viv Sims 09/09/2016 at 12:43 pm

    Sounds like it was amazing! I can’t believe everyone made 4 bags. Wow! If I won the leather I would incorporate it into a Summit Pack (Cloudsplitter Patterns).

  46. Kylie 09/09/2016 at 12:44 pm

    I’m looking forward to making all of these bfr bags and I’d definately love some purple leather to add to the urban bucket bag and I’m itching also to try the hippo hobo 🙂 Wish I was retreating with you all…..holding on now for next year! xx

  47. Melanie 09/09/2016 at 1:15 pm

    I’d make a bag with a coordinating fabric. would be my first bag ever, so would be so nervous cutting into gorgeous leather.

  48. Amy Pluis 09/09/2016 at 1:29 pm

    It was such an amazing few days and it was so great meeting you. How generous are Packer Leather?! If I was lucky enough to win this I would make a bag from it, most likely the Hippo Hobo!

  49. Naomi Vela 09/09/2016 at 1:43 pm

    Recently there’s been SEW many bag patterns released with leather or vinyl (pleather) accents to them, and they really do look so much better, so I’d probably try out some of those yummy patterns that until now, I haven’t made as I don’t have any leather to play with! Thanks for the chance to win some. Hugs Naomi

  50. Teena Vanderlaan 09/09/2016 at 1:48 pm

    Sounds like it was a great retreat. I have not sewn with leather yet but am desperate need of a new handbag for myself so I would love to make a purple kangaroo one. How special.

  51. Leslie waters 09/09/2016 at 2:33 pm

    Anything! I love sewing with leather!

  52. Jill M 09/09/2016 at 6:24 pm

    So much fun! If I had that leather (is it really kangaroo? ?) I would use it for side panels on a pencil skirt.

  53. Lisa Verret 09/09/2016 at 7:09 pm

    I would love to win the purple kangaroo hide. Purple is my favorite color! I would definitely make an awesome tote bag with it and a matching wallet! Wish I lived close enough to have attended this event.

  54. Sharon Forkosh 09/09/2016 at 11:54 pm

    Next year I am in! Purple is my favourite colour. I think I would have to wait and see and feel it before deciding v which bag to make! And it would be all mine! Lol

  55. Janet G 10/09/2016 at 3:10 am

    Oh my gosh, I love working with leather but amazingly have never used kangaroo leather. Thank you for the give away =)

  56. Carolyn Williams 10/09/2016 at 3:41 am

    I am just starting to learn how to sew leather bags and having premium material just gets my creative juices flowing. I would love ANY color I would be fortunate enough to win!

  57. Amanda T 10/09/2016 at 12:35 pm

    Id make myself a purse and matching bag most likely using a Little Moo design

  58. Jayne Baldwin 11/09/2016 at 12:12 am

    I would love to make one of the bags from the retreat when they come available for us to buy ….otherwise I would choose another one of these ladies patterns to make a styling bag 🙂

  59. Valerie 11/09/2016 at 11:01 pm

    Wow it sounds like everyone had a fantastic time on the retreat, very envious ? just to be able to sew all day with no interpretation would be bliss! I have only just started making bags after many years of sewing ladies clothing and would love to make one with this kangaroo leather for my daughter’s christmas and purple is her favorite colour! Thank you for sharing your weekend with us x

  60. Crystal Harrison 13/09/2016 at 2:29 pm

    I fantasize of a trip just like this one!!! To sew all day without interruptions. Wow!! I would love to make one of these lovely bags of course!!! Thank for the opportunity!


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