the story of my perfect tote bag

So, I have this tote bag. I’m not going to post a picture, because it’s not much to look at: it’s navy blue, with navy blue straps. It’s big, it holds lots of stuff, and it is one of the first things I ever made for myself…therefore I carried it whenever I needed the space. Lately, that meant anytime I went to the studio to teach.

But it was making me sad. It was so plain.

plain black tote bags


My dissatisfaction with this bag made me think: why should something be plain just because I plan on using it every day?

(I know that was my thinking when I picked out that plain fabric way back in 2003…I was afraid of prints back then, if you can believe it.)

I decided I would make myself a new tote bag, one that was perfect for me. It would embody all the things I love, and therefore I would love using it every day, not like the sad navy blue thing I had been suffering lately.

chevron patchwork from the wrong side


The front is a chevron patchwork of bold prints, and the back is purple velveteen (one of my recent acquisitions). The straps are dark blue denim with gold sparkly leather, and the lining is bright red. There are four massive pockets, all lined in contrasting fabrics.

As you well know (unless you’re new here), those are pretty much all of my favorite things! I’ve been working on it for a while, but I finished it this week, and I couldn’t be more in love!

Valerie's custom chevron patchwork tote bag


Now clearly, this bag is not for everyone. But it is perfect for me, and that’s what matters.

(the best part is that each fabric in the patchwork reminds me of a specific time or place…better than a scrapbook or a photo album!)

It occurred to me, while I was walking down the street, smugly toting my perfect tote, that this is exactly how you pinpoint your personal style. What makes you happy? What do you feel good in? What do you reach for without thinking about it?

Or conversely: what is wrong with that thing you have that doesn’t make you happy?

zip pouch in progress

I’ve known that I don’t like to wear plain things for a while now, ever since the end of my office job meant the end of “business casual.” Over the years I’ve changed out the stuff I use for more interesting versions, as well: my wallet is purple (surprise!), my makeup bag is gold leather, my keychain is an art deco print, my luggage is bright orange, and my rain boots are leopard print…you get the idea.

Why should your everyday items (like the gold and red zip pouch in progress above) be plain just because you plan on using them everyday?

Since when does versatile or practical have to mean plain?


zip pouch with hand drawn details and velveteen


I think those words mean something different: whatever it is that makes you the happiest. That’s what you’ll use the most often, and what you’ll turn to time after time. Why would I ever use the plain navy bag again, when I have my perfect tote? I wouldn’t – that plain navy thing is now completely impractical.

The things you use the most and surround yourself with should be the things you love the most. If plain navy thrills you, then by all means, go for it. But if you require a bit more stimulation, figure out what makes you smile, and then seek it out!




3 thoughts on “the story of my perfect tote bag

  1. Love your new tote. If I saw you walking down the street carrying it, my first thought would be…….there goes a happy and lively woman!
    Your red and gold bag will be so pretty, and wow, look at the perfect zipper!!

  2. Love, Love the tote. I too am no longer plain. Even though I am still Business casual.( not outrageous, but definitely NOT plain.) If you ever want to tute out the pattern for your tote, I for one would love it.
    You go girl

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