Buy Less/Buy Better: SylvieBags

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Sylvie Farrington is celebrating her 25th year of making all styles and sizes of bags from repurposed, vintage barkcloth. Barkcloth is a soft, thick, slightly textured fabric that was a popular choice in the 1940 to ’60s for drapery and upholstery projects. You’ve no doubt seen examples of the designs in old movies, or may even remember it from the curtains of your childhood. The heavy-duty fabrics come in fun, colorful patterns that truly exemplify the aesthetic of the midcentury modern home. 

A SylvieBag on display.

Farrington first fell in love with the look and feel of barkcloth when she found some of the fabric at an antique show in 1999. “The designs have such appeal,” she says. “They evoke a feeling of joy. They never really go out of style because they’re old to begin with. There’s a timelessness, and a sense of nostalgia.”

Each SylvieBag is handmade using authentic vintage barkcloth, sometimes pieced together with other heavy-duty cotton fabrics. Designs often incorporate hand-sewn Czech crystals for punctuation, and fun, rainbow-colored zippers sourced from a company in Switzerland. 

Farrington comments on the durability of the fabric, saying, “It’s a sturdy cotton weave. They don’t make cloth like that anymore.” She adds that the colors don’t fade over time, or bleed when hand-washed. Her latest creation, a large, rugged tote, can even be thrown into the washer and dryer. 

The designer sources her material from a variety of places, although she says that it’s getting harder and harder to find. 

“People who sell me the fabric say they wouldn’t know what to do with it,” Farrington says. “It’s nice to know that I have an entire business based on something that was made a long time ago and that is getting revived into a brand-new item.”

The SylvieBag line includes pillows and potholders. Find all of the products at sylviebags.com. A selection of Farrington’s barkcloth pillows are also available at North Water Street Gallery in Edgartown. 

For more holiday shopping ideas, see our Local Gift Guide.

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