When I first started making tote bags I lived in Phoenix, just a few blocks away from a local discount fabric store called SAS Fabrics. They carried hundreds of fabrics and everything needed for sewing. I would often lose hours browsing and examining all of the fabrics and materials. Because this was a discount store, the fabric often did not have labels or information regarding its content. I purchased, indiscriminately, everything that looked appealing. Through trial and error, I learned which fabric was most suitable for my tote bags. Today, I have a tried and tested formula, but I have to admit that those first few totes, designed and created with a variety of different fabrics, were some of the most interesting bags I ever made.
My first tote bags were an eclectic bunch.
Over the years, I began to notice that the textiles that I was most drawn to were the ones with a cultural connection. At SAS fabrics I found a goldmine of African wax print fabric which I loved. There was something very special that drew me to them, even without understanding the cultural context and meaning behind them.
African Wax Print Fabric and one of my early tote bags.
On a trip to Vietnam, I purchased fabric at a local market created by weavers from the hill tribes in the north of the country. Those textiles were hand-woven and embroidered by women in the villages. The bags I created from those became my absolute favorites.
Rice paddies around the hill tribe villages of Sapa, Vietnam and traditional fabric from the area.
At Brimfield Antique Flea Market in Massachusetts, I found vintage Scottish tartan fabric. The fabric is made out of wool and you can feel the history behind it. Eventually, an obvious fact came to the forefront - I needed to work with global textiles.
A tote bag I designed using vintage Scottish tartan fabric and pictures from Brimfield Market.