Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bead Memories ~ New Bag!

International Bead Conference tote bag, detail
Time line:
  • 1985 ~ started making beaded necklaces and buying a few beads
  • 1987 ~ joined the Pacific NW Bead Society, a small group of researchers and collectors
  • 1988 ~ quit my job and started making my living with beads
  • 1990 ~ attended my first international bead conference and discovered my clan

Not in my make up to be much of a joiner or identify myself with any groups. All that changed on October 5th, 1990 when I walked into the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC to register for the Second International Bead Conference. As I looked around at the milling group of beaded-necklace-wearing registrants, a warm sense of belonging flooded through me and I remember thinking, THIS is MY CLAN! For the first time, I knew, without a doubt, that I was not alone in my beadlust.

Mostly these folks were collectors and researchers... They wore and craved the really ancient beads, wanted to understand trade routes, wanted to know how and where beads were made. A few like me were also interested in more modern beads, the types now considered vintage, in designing jewelry with beads and in seed beads. Yet, we were there together and strongly felt our clanship.

International Bead Conference tote bag
With our registration materials, we received this conference bag, which I immediately adopted as my every-day purse. Being more of an LL Bean type than a Nordstrom girl (not much into fashion trends), I carried this bag around every day since 1990... for 18 years! I added an inside pocket (now frayed) and leather on the bottom (which after a few years had developed significant holes in the corners). But despite my patching efforts, it finally got too shabby-looking even for me to use as a purse. So, with respect for my clan, I am retiring it to grocery tote duties in the future.

In 18 years of using it, I am dependent on its size, strap length and sturdy leather bottom. Nothing I've tried could take its place... Only one solution: make a new, similar bag!

layered quilted fabrics
I twisted my sister-in-law, Julie's arm to give me this hand-dyed fabric some time ago. It's not quite upholstery weight and not stiff; it's somewhat textured and feels like cotton. I wanted the inside of my new bag to be a lighter color. So I took Julie's fabric and some batik and machine stitched them into one fabric.

purse, bag, handmade by Robin Atkins
Here's my new bag!

purse, bag, detail leather binding, Robin Atkins
purse, bag, detail leather binding, Robin Atkins
To avoid wear/fray problem at the top of the bag and inside pocket, I bound both with leather (yes, it's real). I also sewed leather to the bottom of the bag to protect the corners and avoid wear.

Funny how difficult it is to let go of the old and worn, even when I have nice and new to replace it. Maybe grocery shopping will be more fun these days....


  1. Nice! Great idea.

    Hmmm...maybe you should cut the old side (logo area) out of your original bag and sew it inside this new one as a fray-it-forward from that bag to this?

    At least every time you open the new bag, inside would still be all the memories of the original.

  2. I like your new bag!!! And, great memories!! Someday I might get around to joining a bead society, too!

  3. Nice bag, well done Robin !

  4. I love your bag. Perfect color and fabric selection. Man, are you talented. Beading and sewing. You ARE in good company!!

  5. Love the colors of your new bag...and yes, it is wonderful to have that feeling of belonging when you walk into a bead related fellow beader stays a stranger for long!

  6. Ok, I like your new bag and I like that you have a new bag. But, I have to be honest; I LOVE your old bag. I like the story; I like it's meaning; I like that you've carried every day since you attended the conference. I'm sorry but I have to fight for this bag to not be relegated to grocery duty. Can't you hearing it screaming at you in protest? It can be reinforced and shored up in the areas where it needs it -- we can do botox and boob jobs for women -- surely we can find some solution for your bag. It's very wabi-sabi Robin -- it has lots of tales to tell and it's been a good and faithful friend. Use the new bag for grocery shopping; but please try to find a way to keep the old...OK -- your bag has finished channeling through me...of course, you're free to do whatever you want............
    Signed, President of the Save Your Old, Faithful Bag Society, Susan Elliott

  7. I am so glad to know that I am not the only person who loves BIG bags and becomes attached to one in particular!

    Love what you have done with this new bag, Robin . . .

    Kathy V in NM

  8. That's a great new bag, but I wouldn't count on grocery shopping being more fun.

  9. Robin, What a beautiful bag!!!!! It's so elegant. Your old beloved bag can retire with pride knowing it was replaced by one made with such care, and skill, & with such beautiful fabric. Liz

  10. What a good seamstress you are! Great bag. I would second the idea of patching the conference logo on your new bag somehow.

    Greetings from Hamburg

  11. Your new bag looks ever so chic and sturdy, and it is made so well!

    A bag for each and every day, for eighteen years. That means you also took it with you on your travels? Will you cut out the logo and use it for something else one day, I wonder? I bet there are not many of its brothers and sisters around any more today.


  12. So enjoyed viewing your beadwork, so wish I was in the Seattle are to met you in person and see your presentation. Libby


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!