- Simplicity, first and foremost. The most elaborate pattern I wear on a regular basis is a basic stripe, so it's next to impossible to convince me to carry something around with some floral bonanza happening all over it. On top of that, the shape of my bag must be pared down. 800 straps and 3,000 pockets? No.
- Durability. I am tough as hell on the bags that I carry and the pouches that I stuff to the brim with all of my purse necessities. The other day, as I hauled in supplies for a wedding I planned, my purse was stuffed with all of its standard contents PLUS a flat iron, two cardigans, a hot glue gun, chalkboards, multiple pairs of scissors, some candles, and a bottle of water. My bag didn't buckle or break under the pressure. Good bag.
- Natural materials. Linen, canvas, leather, cotton duck, etc. It has to be and look natural.
- Interior pockets. I'm neurotically organized, so don't give me a purse that won't satisfy my need to put things in their proper places.
- Timeless style. My current bag has lasted through an entire year, transitioning season-to-season without trouble. I like this.
Katie Henry uses upcycled/repurposed vintage fabrics and leather to create her incredible bags, totes, clutches, and pouches. Her concepts are innovative and functional, her sewing skills beyond amazing, and her enthusiasm for Friday Night Lights completely infectious. (She doesn't even know me and she was the primary reason I watched the entire series in approximately two weeks. And also one of the reasons why I love Tim Riggins, naturally.) I have one of her foldover/crossbody clutches, which is great for touristing around NYC and travel in general, as well as a few other smaller pouches which I use to keep my purse organized. I use the mini-pouches she sometimes throws in as a gift with purchase for coins and my Square reader.
My brother and his partner gifted me my Milkhaus Design zip tote last year for Christmas and I'm madly in love with it still. It's durable and functional, impeccably made and thoughtfully designed. Bethany Nelson, the shop's sole designer and maker, was also recently the Etsy Featured Seller! Bethany creates lovely screenprints for her bags, totes, pouches, and even a line of home goods.
Tessa Valyou, **one half of the duo that runs New Duds, recently branched off and started a line independent of her husband's screenprinting efforts with Foliage Handbags. Using some of the incredible designs her husband generates, as well as waxed canvas, vintage fabrics, and sumptuous (yeah, I said it) leather, Tessa's bags and pouches are expertly made and oh-so-useful. I use one of her feather pouches as my "basic necessities" bag and another feather pouch as my wallet. They've lasted without issue for almost two years! Her leather pencil pouches are completely handsome, too. I can't wait to see what she continues to produce for this line!
I've made it a matter of principle to support handmade -- or at least consider it as a my "First Resort" when I start to shop for something -- and I think it's important to share your experiences with independent designers as much as possible. Word of mouth is the most effective means of increasing business for these folks. I hope that in 2014 I can continue to share some of my favorite indie crafters and shops here, and I hope you consider shopping handmade as a First Resort this holiday season (and always), too.