Vintage Linen

Although it’s still winter in Georgia, I’m already looking ahead to warmer weather and a new line of beautiful tote bags. My designs are inspired by a lovely, vintage flax and hemp fabric sourced from Eastern Europe. In countries such as Bulgaria and Hungary, sturdy homespun linen was used to make bags to store or transport grain. The fabrics I’m using were handwoven before World War II, with some pieces going back to the 19th Century. Eastern European grain sacks have stripes of different colors and patterns, which were used to identify the family or farm; some bags even include embroidery done by women in the family.

The vintage grain sack has a wonderful texture and soft neutral color. It feels like something you’ll keep forever—timeless, familiar, a bit of reclaimed history. I often design around the unique stripes, and I especially love finding a piece with a cross-stitched monogram. What hands stitched those letters? Would she ever have imagined her handiwork crossing the ocean to be used again?

It may be gray and cold outside, but I’m dreaming of bringing a big linen tote to the Peachtree Road Farmer’s Market and filling it with fresh peaches and tomatoes. It’s the bag I’ll pack with a towel, sunglasses, and novel for day on the beach at Fripp Island. It’s a joy to give new life to these fragments of the past. Les choses du passé sont toujours utiles.