From New Orleans to Florida: One Year in

The move/transition from New Orleans to Florida has not been easy for me. I feel I am here for the right reasons and am very glad to be here for those reasons, and in some ways I feel more settled than ever (we have a house and yard!!), but there are so many things – from big stuff like food, culture, architecture, and lifestyle, to little nuances and daily glimpses and experiences, and a feeling of community, something larger than any one of us – that I miss so much my heart aches. When I lived in New Orleans and walked the streets, I felt so strongly that I BELONGED there – that my soul was part of the fabric of the place, and that I perhaps had even lived there in a prior life or something. I felt HOME, like this was what I was looking for all my life. I felt lucky, each and every minute of each and every day living there. And I never wanted to leave or move.

Caribbean meets Europe

One intangible that I really loved about New Orleans (that nobody explained to me prior to my visits), was the Caribbean-meets-Europe influence. Specifically, the Caribbean part. When walking around the Quarter, stumbling upon those old Creole cottages, I was like, “What? Nobody told me about this!!” Lord knows I was forever clipping photos and articles (pre-Pinterest) of quaint bungalows with tropical artsy abodes that I could SOME DAY attain, but I had no idea I’d find them in the US. Had been to several islands and loved them. Had lived in the Caribbean and loved it. Had traveled through and lived in Europe and loved it. I was looking for more of that in my life; looking for my spot, my niche. And then, on an introductory jazz fest trip to Nola, staying in the Quarter with gangs of friends, I was overwhelmed with my new-found love for New Orleans. I did NOT want to go to the hot, crowded fairgrounds for the fest, I wanted to stay in the city and soak it in and just be there, live there. I found it, I found home. I wanted to stay there forever and settle in. And so, we uprooted our lives and did just that for 10 glorious years.

More Caribbean, please

The only thing New Orleans did not offer for me was an easy escape to a beach. As much as I loved the city and living there and being a part of everything, I also needed space and to get away and to see aqua blue waters. Like, often. And although beach visits were attainable from Nola, it wasn’t THAT easy and required some planning and effort and, quite frankly, money. So, in a perfect world, I thought I’d keep my Nola city life, and somehow acquire a beach bungalow on the emerald waters of the panhandle some day TOO. We LOVED Grand Isle, Louisiana for its natural appeals and isolation (we only visited off-season), but even that did not have the Caribbean crystal turquoise waters my heart and mind seeks.

Beach living now

And so it isn’t the end of the world that I am in Florida now, and that I have quick and easy access to that escape my mind and soul needs. Our home is 6.6 miles away from the closest beach option (where I can put my feet in) and just KNOWING it is there gives me such great relief! And I visit often.

So after a whole year here in Florida (yikes, one year already!), it is still an adjustment, but I have found a few things that I really like. I’m going to try to switch my blogging topics to my new life and experiences in Florida. It’s ain’t all bad, and there are a few really cool things too. So, here goes…. My life in Florida. Stay tuned!

Introducing: Waxed & Stonewashed Canvas Totes

Very excited to announce the release of some new work! After more than 10 years of crafting unique, one-off, upcycled leather bags, I’ve decided to give canvas a try. I’m really excited about creating this growing line of bags, as well as the new challenges of creating replicable designs, developing a new workflow and mindset, and of course learning to work with different types of materials.

The first collection of new bags I’m releasing includes a classic everyday tote, featuring two types of canvases: waxed and stonewashed. Inspired from the worn and lived-in feel of vintage leathers I typically work with, I searched long and hard for relaxed, durable, and enduring materials to develop this new collection. I was thrilled when I discovered these unique canvases – such wonderful quality with the promise of developing ongoing character and comfort with continued use and love.

Waxed Canvas

Dark Navy Blue Waxed Canvas Tote

The waxed canvas is really incredible. After some research and testing, I decided to go with a very high-quality Martexin Original Waxed Canvas. This finish is a unique fabric treatment that provides a lifelong resistance to inclement weather. This is really great as water (and other liquids) will bead up and repel off the surface of the canvas, thus protecting your bag from the elements (I tested this – it works!).

Brown Waxed Canvas Tote

And a fun side-effect of this waxed coating is that the fabric will actually start to develop a beautiful aged patina over time as the waxy surface moves around and creates creases and signs of distress (very much like leather). Thus your plain canvas tote will actually start looking really cool and aged as you use it, and is sure to become your favorite bag over time!

Stonewashed Canvas

Stack of stonewashed canvas fabrics

I’ve worked with vintage, worn canvas before, and there really is nothing like it. It’s unique because of its continued durability while becoming more comfortable and faded with every use. However, it was difficult to source such such vintage canvas to develop more than one or two bags. But after searching a bit more I was lucky enough to stumble upon this collection of “stonewashed” canvas.

Stonewashed Canvas Tote Bag

These fabrics are thick and sturdy, yet have the visual effect of old, faded vintage canvas. They arrive already worn-in, but I take the extra step of pre-washing them again to develop even more lived-in comfort and texture.

This canvas is largely cotton, but also has a touch of polyester which really helps with wrinkling. Therefore, if you want or need to wash your stonewashed canvas bag again in the future, you should be safe to give it a spin in the machine, with perhaps a short tumble in the drier followed by a full drying session out in the sun or open air.

Minimalist, Classic Styling

It was no mistake that I made these bags as simple and streamlined as possible with limited materials and additions. With so many bags on the market with so many deliberately added bells and whistles, I purposely strived to present a simple, very usable every-day tote bag in a reasonable size that is suitable for most body types. This minimalism also includes a handy hidden sewn-in magnetic closure to limit the external hardware additions.

Interior of a tote bag showing pockets

There are no fancy internal compartments (aside from two pockets for your phone, keys and small essentials), so you are free to load it up as you see fit!

I’ve made and carried a few bags with these exact dimensions and have been thrilled to easily handle a day’s worth of items without overwhelming my shoulder or my overall outfit (pouch, camera, phone, hat, water bottle, sunscreen, etc.). Easy to cart your essentials, yet small enough to tuck away when necessary. It is the perfect day-tote!

Small Batch Production

I hope you enjoy exploring these new bags as much as I enjoyed designing and making them! I will be working on a small-batch production basis now, so I should always have a few of these canvas bags on hand ready to ship but will continue to make more as needed to fill incoming orders.

Also stay tuned for additional future designs and colors. I envision a few larger totes – carry-on/work-bags and a larger weekender to name a few. Zip pouches are probable too! And as always – please do let me know if you have any special requests or individual questions/needs. And, yes, I will still be making more upcycled leather bags too!

Seeing Things Through: Lessons Learned from Sewing

If nothing else, running this sewing business has pushed me and taught me how to see things through to completion. I don’t know about you, but there are countless times when I started a project with grandiose visions, and then once it got hard or tricky, I made a mistake, or if it required a new tool or element that I didn’t have, I just gave up and abandoned it. Heck – if it was only for me and nobody knew I even started it, then who cares if I finish it or not, right? (Oh – the piles of half-completed projects in my house!)

But when running a business and making products for potential future sale, and/or when working on a particular custom piece for a client, there really is no turning back. I must persevere and find a way to push through the tricky part of the project and find a way to make it work. And it is funny, because at this point in making a bag – when it gets tough or when I screw up – I always tell myself, “There is NO WAY I’d keep going now if I didn’t HAVE to!” I know myself and my default behavior, but am forced to change my perspective, have a little talk with myself, tell myself I’m “at work,” and then keep going. And when I refocus (usually after stepping away for clarity, going for a walk, or getting a good night’s sleep), I almost always come up with a workable solution and am able complete the task that I would have trashed if my “other self” let me.

And in the case of making (and fixing) an error when working with leather, that feeling is legitimate. With leather, if you make a mistake there really is no turning back. Every stitch and seam punctures holes in to the skin, and taking out a seam leaves holes and damage. So when a mistake is made during leather-work, I am forced to create a solution, a workaround, and a way to get out of the situation without giving up. These bags can take days to make, and giving up on Day #3 because of a few faulty stitches is just not an option. So I force myself to see it as a new challenge, and although not what I originally planned, I find a way out of it. Sticky situations come with this job, and having the patience and creativity to master-mind a way out of it is essential. And, admittedly, once the solution is complete the smug feeling of clever accomplishment is priceless. 🙂

I can’t show you all of my mistakes and how I fixed them, because that would be giving away my dirty little design secrets, but rest assured – they are here.

And once again, I am reminded that sewing – for all of its practical glory and personal satisfaction – also offers important little life-lessons along the way, such as: don’t panic, how to not give up, getting yourself out of tricky and seemingly impossible situations, and how to strategize to independently accomplish tedious and complicated tasks, to name a few. And it’s just another reason why I love getting lost on independent creative project work. Parts of my brain that I didn’t even realize I am using are gaining much more exercise than just developing the technical motions of crafting a “new bag” (or pillow, or dress, or whatever). I’m learning to grow and develop as a person too.

And I bet I’m not alone in this feeling…

Most Popular Pins

If you’ve seen any of my work on Pinterest, you probably stumbled upon one of these photos. They were made and sold many, many years ago and are now living new lives out there somewhere in the world, but they remain – BY FAR – my most viewed pins! Tell me – what makes them so appealing? The colors? The mix of textures? The reuse of leathers? Do tell!