Welcome to the official blog for Polyester & Trash! You may have stumbled upon this page by accident or followed the link from my Etsy shop. In either case, I’m glad you’re here. These posts will focus on sourcing vintage materials and the steps that go into the construction of the items I make. I specialize in salvaged and second-hand materials because using what others no longer need or want is both economical and environmentally responsible. Plus, I can never find anything I like in a typical fabric store. Chevron pattered canvas and endless supplies of fleece really aren’t my thing. Right now, I make two sizes of messenger bags, but plan to expand the product line to include clothing and home décor.
Through a bit of what I remember from home economics courses in high school combined with what my mom taught me on her sewing machine decades ago, I create one-of-a-kind products and sell them to people both in my community and on the Internet. They’re not for everyone, but if you’re the sort of person who prefers to wear conspicuous accessories, I think I might have something for you.
I got the idea to start making bags in my spare time when I took a part-time gig at privately owned farm market/garden center in central Michigan in 2013. My job was to stand in the back of the produce department and cut fruit all day. During a trip out to the Dumpster to dispose of some pineapple peels and melon rinds, I saw a fellow employee casting empty 50-lb. feed sacks into the trash. One was for Brazil nuts, a second was for black beans and the third formerly contained red lentils. I rescued them from a boring life of slow decomposition in a Michigan landfill and took them home. Soon, word got out that the woman who cuts fruit in the back collects empty feed sacks and employees would swing by and drop off empty sacks in exchange for pineapple and cantaloupe chunks. I really wasn’t sure what to do with my new stash of trash and I was rapidly filling Rubbermaid storage tubs with a variety of feed sacks from the bulk foods section as well as bird seed sacks from the garden center.
During a trip around southern Mexico, I noticed that people reused feed sacks for a variety of purposes, which is why I saved the bags in the first place. I knew they had potential and I wanted to create something more than just a simple bag for hauling groceries home or dirty clothes to the laundromat. I already had a massive stash of polyester knit thanks to the abundant supplies at virtually every thrift store I ever lived near. I thought I could combine the polyester with the feed sacks I had squirreled away and make something unique. Joann Fabrics was having a pattern sale that week, so I flipped through pattern books until I found a simple and functional pattern for a messenger bag.
The first messenger bag was a complete disaster. I carried the bag to work anyway and showed it to a few people. They didn’t seem to notice all the mistakes I made and one of my coworkers asked me to make a bag for his girlfriend. I brought in some fabric samples for him to choose from, and made the messenger bag on my next day off. It took me nearly eight hours to make and I received $40 for my efforts. I decided to reinvest my earnings at half-off day at the World Mission thrift store in Lansing. This was the day I stumbled into the largest polyester knit fabric collection that I had ever seen in one location. It was all immaculate, pre-measured and half price to boot. I quickly seized polyester knit from the rack by the armload while other shoppers gave me a bewildered look. I must have appeared quite crazed. How could it be that I was the only person in town who wanted to purchase enough pristine polyester knit to fill three black trash bags? I decided to use vintage neckties as fabric for the strap since I have always had a love affair with wide, ugly neckties and there is no shortage of them at the local thrift store.
Soon, I had purchased a new sewing machine on credit, ordered business cards and set up a shop on Etsy. I continued to modify the pattern, cut down my production time and even managed to sell some bags to people who weren’t my mom or my friends. That hideous first messenger bag still hangs in my sewing area because I don’t have the heart to throw it out or give it to someone. It also forces me to remember that nothing comes out as planned on the first attempt and I can always improve the finished product.
The items that I create continually evolve and often times the end product looks completely different from the original concept. Follow me around to yard sales and thrift stores as I add to my hoard of vintage fabric, neckties, notions and anything else I think I can use. Then watch me transform them into something that fits the bizarre aesthetic of Polyester & Trash.