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Jean Story wanted two things in her life -- a bag large enough to fit her knittingprojects inside, and additional income for her retirement years. She now has both thanks to a bag making business she started six years ago, just months before she retired.

"I'd been experimenting with project bags because I couldn't find something I liked. (And) I had been in the making of turning it into a business," said the DeWitt Township resident. "I'm an old "becky homeky." I used to teach people how to sew. I hadn't sewn in years, but I'd been a knitter, and my favorite project bag maker didn't have bags to fit my projects. I'm not a small person, so I needed a bigger bag, if I wanted to knit a sweater." 

So, in June 2013, she launched MidMitten Designs, which is geared toward crafters, and anyone wanting a fun, well-constructed bag. They're offered in four styles in "a bunch of different sizes," and made with her original designs out of mostly quilting cottons. A lot of the fabric features fiber-related prints with sheeps, llamas and alpacas.

She promotes the bags on Facebook, Instagram, and by sending an email newsletter to people who sign up at fiber shows where she vends.  

She has many repeat customers, and said, "I think sometimes (yarn) shop owners are a little surprised at the number of people who show up in their shop because they're following me on Facebook and Instagram."

"I (also) do fiber art festivals and fiber-related events. I have been a vendor at Yarncon (an Indie Fiber Fair) in Chicago the last two years. I also do trunk shows, and there's a couple yarn shops that tend to have them available -- the Yarn Garden in Charlotte, and Unwind Yarn Shop in Brighton. She also sells them through her Etsy shop. 

"Extra-large bags come with either (an) adjustable (from shoulder to cross body length) strap or a removable wrist strap," she said. "There's a clear vinyl pocket about nine inches tall and 17 inches wide on the front for holding printed patterns or notions that you need quick access to. 

"Large and medium sized bags come with detachable wrist straps and are made with vinyl windows in the front so you can see what's inside. Zipper ends are covered with fabric to prevent snagging." 

Then, there's what's called "Sassy Sacks," which are available in two sizes. They have a canvas bottom and a cotton drawstring top. "The large has shoulder straps and interior slip pockets. The smaller one has a loop on the side for easy carrying," she said. "Both sizes can be easily turned into a 'bucket' by folding the top over the base." Sassy Sacks are so named for the "pithy/sassy" remarks appliqued on the front. And, all the bags "stand upright once there's a project inside."

Knitter Mary Neuder of Grosse Ile, said, "I have probably one of almost all of them. We (other knitters) started buying them when she was still working her regular job. We saw them on the yarn crawl at the Yarn Garden in Charlotte. We use them for a lot of different things. I have probably over 20 because they come in all different sizes. I'm a bag-aholic. I love bags." 

Sherry Meyers, a knitter who lives in Charlotte, has "at least 15" of the bags. In the past, she and several of her knitting buddies have asked for certain features to be added. She said, "Some of the designs are things we've asked for. The bags are very good quality, and very conducive to what knitters are looking for."

The bags are popular with non-crafters, as well. Story said, "The medium sizes have been used for things like TSA travel kind of stuff, and storing medications -- like supplies for diabetics. I use one of the smaller ones to carry all my extra electronic cords and batteries because you never know when batteries will die on you at a show. And, one friend uses hers to carry her extra hearing aids in." Neuder purchased one for her daughter when she was expecting twins so she could use it as a diaper bag.

Overall, prices range from $11 for a notions pocket to $63 for the extra-large bag with adjustable straps. And, due to demand, Story has one person who helps with production. "She makes them in her home, and she lives just a few miles away."

About that extra money for retirement -- well, I'd say it's being put to very good use! Story said, "I was able to take a bucket list trip to Iceland last year, and I hope to be going to Australia and New Zealand in 2020."

She credits fellow knitters for having a successful business. "They are my testers and suggesters. They contribute to product design."  

Look for MidMitten Designs at the Yarn Garden in Charlotte during Mid-Mitten Shop Hop, Sept. 19-22, and again at the Fiber Expo at Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor, Oct. 12-13. 

Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact MidMitten Designs on Facebook and Instagram. Email: midmittenknitter@gmail.com.

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