The Short Version
I like a bag that’s soft and forgiving. I like the uniqueness that stems from imperfection. I like fabrics that tread lightly on the planet and respect people. So, Welcome to Folk Tote - we're so happy you stopped by. Together, my husband and I produce soft and quirky works of art that celebrate the world’s cultures and leave behind the smallest possible environmental footprint. The footprints we do leave are in San Antonio, Texas
The Long Version
The women in my mother’s family sewed. It was that simple. And sewing went hand-in-hand with being a fabric geek. I remember hours walking the fabric aisles, touching cloth: Is it soft? Is it smooth? Does it drape?
In the nineties, my mother’s particular passion turned to machine embroidery. Her way was to hand me a finished design and say, “See what you can do with it.” The day I built a nine-patch mini-quilt around one of her pieces, and then turned that quiltlet into a tote bag, I knew an idea had been born.
That first bag wasn’t everything I wanted it to be, though: Too many tidy corners, too little slouch.
I prefer a bag that’s soft and forgiving. For me, that means no leather, no vinyl, and no hard edges. One that settles against my body without poking my side. One that doesn’t mind being flattened and rolled and tucked away.
So began my quest for the perfect tote. I dove into my accumulated stash of fabric: vintage linens (saved as much for their history as their appearance), scraps rescued from thrift shop garments, and – of course – piles of yard goods passed down from family and friends. But somehow, no matter how many pieces of fabric there were, I never seemed to have the exact shade of “orangey-pink” (for example) that I needed. The solution was obvious: more fabric.
But now not just any fabric would do. I had developed a deep affection for old cloth. Not just for its storied past, but also because old cloth goes easy on irrigation, pesticides, and fossil fuels. Would I be able to find new textile manufacturers who made an effort to tread lightly on the planet? The answer turned out to be yes. They were relatively rare, but they were out there, each greener in their own way: one company used organic fibers, another filtered their dye water before returning it to the watershed, and still another rolled their yardage on recyclable bolt forms made from local plant fibers.
At the same time, I wanted beautiful textiles rooted in cultures around the world, but from folks with a social conscience. So I looked for free-trade fabrics and indigenous designers. I looked for firms that funded the village library or health clinic. And I found them, from Bali to Ghana.
At that point, my husband threw caution to the wind. Mark had always dabbled in painting, but it wasn’t until we were at a fiber festival, scouting for yarns and roving from local, small-footprint farms that he got hooked on needle-felting. Then Mark’s chemistry background kicked in, which led to marbling, monoprinting, and wax-resist fabric dyeing.
I still incorporate beautiful Indonesian handprints, free-trade Australian indigenous prints, vintage fabrics, and the like in my work, but today the bulk of my new material is produced by my husband. It can’t even be called “small-batch,” because he makes most of the pieces individually, using less than a square foot of fabric.
And that brings us full circle back to that perfect shade of “orangey-pink” – which I can now have, virtually on demand. And best of all, it means I have another family member to share my fabric geekiness.
Thanks so much for visiting!