I am so sorry about that title. It’s cringeworthy, and I couldn’t help myself.
So, I’ve been making a lot of bags lately.
They’re an easy creative outlet, and they don’t require a lot of time or space to create. Considering that my sewing space is spending the month of April floating temporarily in a poorly laid out shambles (and considering that my self-esteem has taken a brutal hit following a failed business endeavour, leaving me financially unable and emotionally unwilling to expand my clothing line, or even work on new pieces for the one measly store that currently carries my work, oh god my life right now), this bag making inspiration is something of a godsend, even if they’re only being created to rot away on Etsy.
Makers gotta make, after all. And you don’t get to dictate when the Muse calls your name, or when she turns her back and leaves you barren. You don’t get to control your creativity, only your skills.
When I was first excited about these bags that I was compelled to create, I was browsing through some online fabric shops. I love the look of two-tone totes, and I wondered if I wanted to use some faux leather as my bottom layer of fabric. Faux because I’ve spent the last few years trying to be aware of and reduce the harm that I may cause: harm to myself, harm to the environment, and harm to the animals who are killed for their flesh and hide. I might only be one person, but, as the saying goes, “each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty.” So real leather was never a consideration.
I found a lovely assortment of faux leather options online and I was pretty excited that the options were affordable and attractive, but when I clicked on the links to take a closer look, a warning popped up. It referenced California Proposition 65, and it offered a link for more info.
For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t know until I was browsing these fabrics), many faux leathers are carcinogenic and are known to cause birth defects. Some faux leather is even linked to Lou Gehrig’s disease. Holy shit. Here’s a PDF from the Center for Environmental Health that details their research into faux leather handbags and accessories. In a nutshell, they say that some faux leathers are less toxic than others, but they ultimately suggest avoiding all faux leather, just to be safer.
And before anyone starts touting the benefits of using natural leather as a more sustainable resource, please read about the toxic chemicals that are used to treat leather, and about all the cancer that they might cause as well.
And while we’re at it, let’s take a look at the environmental impact of cotton production (spoiler alert: it’s a lot of water and pesticides!). Ugh. Cotton fabrics have been my go-to for years. I love cotton dresses, I love canvas bags, and I love denim everything. All cotton. Ugh.
I guess I better spend some time thinking about what I make. Do I take this downtime as an opportunity to transition fully to upcycling?