Amanda makes the coolest messenger bags out of, wait for it.... Co-op Elevator Bean sacks, thrifted fabrics and vintage ties. They are gorgeous, each one is different and they are nice and roomy. I happened to stumble across Amanda's shop on Etsy one day and believe it or not, a couple of days later she was featured over at Distressed Donna Down Home. I took it as a sign and I contacted her to make me a bag.
I had a favorite vintage Snoopy tie that I found at an estate sale last year and I asked her to design a bag around the tie....
Thrifted fabric on the back...
A vintage Snoopy sheet was used for the lining...
How awesome is this???
And it's the perfect size for my laptop. I love it!!
I invited Amanda over to tell us a little more about her bags....
When did you learn how to sew? Did someone special teach you?
My mom, Judy, has always sewn and made a lot of our clothes when we were little. I remember her trading patterns that were cut out of paper grocery bags with her friends. One summer, we had a wide selection of jams to head off to Girl Scout camp with. It was the ‘80s, so I’m sure we were the most fashion-forward campers that year.
She also taught me the value of buying used things at thrift stores and consignment shops. When we were kids, she also worked at a consignment shop named the Kids’ Tradin’ Post. She always got first dibs on new arrivals and tortured my sister and I on a regular basis by making us try on endless piles of clothing.
What are your favorite things to sew?
My favorite things to sew are made from vintage items. I love going to a yard sale, rummage sale or thrift store and buying a mystery bag of sewing supplies. I like the idea of taking supplies that someone had stowed away decades ago, forgot about them and they ended up in a sack waiting for me to breathe new life into them. I realize that some of the items I stumble upon belonged to someone who is no longer with us. So in a way, I pass on their enthusiasm for sewing and making things through the bags I create.
How did you come up with the idea of making messenger bags and using neckties in the bags?
I work at an independent grocery store in Lansing, MI and started making these messenger bags about a year ago when I rescued some 50-lb. feed sacks that were destined for the Dumpster. Even though the first one I made looked like a total disaster, people seemed to like it. Soon, one of my coworkers came to me with a sack that he wanted made into a bag for his girlfriend’s birthday.
I continued making minor changes to the pattern and came up with the name Polyester and Trash after a few people told me how they thought it was great that I figured out how to make useful things out of something that most people consider garbage combined with thrifted fabric.
This summer we traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico on a research grant my husband, Rad, received and I bought a ton of bags at the markets all over Oaxaca’s central valleys. One day, I rode the bus for over an hour with about 15 bags rolled up and stuffed under my arm. When we got back to our place, I unfurled the bags to look at them closer, and a scorpion scurried out from in between the layers. I screamed and smashed the insect with a shoe repeatedly. I still don’t know why it didn't sting me one the bus ride home.
A few days after returning home to Michigan, we spent the day going to several thrift stores. The last Tuesday of every month is half-off day at most of the thrift stores in Lansing. It’s a really popular event. I walked in to one of the thrift stores and stumbled upon the most massive polyester fabric collection I have ever seen. Rad ran for a cart while I snatched fabric off the rack at lightning speed. Whoever this person was, they are my hero, because they measured each piece of polyester and pinned the measurement to the edge of each piece. All of it is pristine, uncut and without holes.
My friend Mary Lou gave me a sack full of old ties that belong to her dad, and I was set after buying a new sewing machine and a bolt of interfacing. I just sold enough bags to pay off the machine, so I hope to continue to sell a few more, even if it’s just enough money to support my thrift store habit.
Tell us about the Co-op Elevator bean sacks that you use in your designs.
The beans and mixed nuts are never low where I work. If they ask me, “Hey Amanda, do you have time to stock the bulk bins?” I always make it a top priority. When pallets of bulk items are dropped off at the store, I always scope it out and see if there are any new bags that I can lay claim to. In the garden center, there are a couple of guys who save birdseed sacks for me. I always cruise through the garden center on my out to the employee parking lot, and often times there is a bundle of sacks waiting for me.
In fact, I found another seller on Etsy who makes tote bags from the similar brands of birdseed. I contacted her to tell her that I liked her bags, and she said she had visited the store on a grocery shopping trip and inquired about birdseed bags. They told her that they saved them for me. She lives a couple hours away, but I think we are going to work out an exchange for different sacks the next time she comes to Lansing.
I am always interested in using different materials. I recently bought several horse feed sacks and chicken feed sacks from other sellers on Etsy, I bought some super sweet bowling patches from Donna, and I am experimenting with old beach towels on couple of bags.
What would you like people to know about your bags?
Each bag is one-of-a-kind and no two are the same. I never thought that I would have gotten so much use of that color theory class I took in college, but that art class taught me how to combine different colors effectively and come up with aesthetically pleasing results – even if they are not exactly everyone’s taste. I carefully consider the color choices for each one, but also make custom bags at no extra charge if there is certain color scheme someone would like used on their bag.
I sent you a tie that was special to me and you did a wonderful job incorporating it into the bag design. Do you like doing custom orders like that?
I love custom orders. If someone wants something specific and they are willing to pay me to make it, I’m all for it! I send a photo of the fabric swatches I think will look nice, and they let me know if they want to change anything. Since I have such a massive fabric collection, I usually think, “Aha, I have the perfect fabric for that!”
What do you like best about having an ETSY shop? Is it the sewing, the photography, the client interaction?
All three. I think Etsy is great way for people to showcase their talents and make money doing what they love. It’s a great way to interact with people that share similar interests and meet people from all over the world. I've only sold 10 bags so far, but if this ever turned into a full-time job, that would be ideal. I am still monkeying with the photography part, but I feel like the photos are getting better all the time.
What do you like to do for fun?
My husband and I started making bread and brewing beer this winter, but when the arctic temperatures go away, we are going to hit the estate sales and garage sales hard. I can’t wait to see what’s out there this spring!
I want to thank Amanda for coming by and sharing the story of her shop and her bags with us. If you get a chance, go over to Etsy and check her out. Make her shop a favorite and say hello!
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