Art to Wear: 5 Bags That Stand Out

art to wear patchwork bag
This laptop/messenger bag by Helen Gregory is an attractive way to carry a computer or sketching materials.

cate pratoI have a theory that handbags come in only two sizes: too big and too small.

The small ones can't hold my wallet, phone, sunglasses, reading glasses, keys, coupons, throat lozenges, make-up, etc. And the big ones seem to swallow up the contents so I can't find anything. Ever.

Which explains why my family refers to all of my handbags as "the black hole." As in, "Sure I'll get your glasses for you. Are they in the brown black hole or the orange black hole?"

And now that I have a laptop again and am asking Santa for a tablet or e-reader, well, the whole bag situation is getting more complicated.

art to wear quilted bag
These little pouches by Melanie Testa can hold the essentials and get
tucked into a larger bag.

One method of organization that does seem to work for me is the bag-within-a-bag. Put the essential stuff in the smaller bag and use the larger bag for supplies I don't need as often, like the phone charger and a small sketchbook or journal, in the larger bag. If I have to run into a store, I can just pull out the smaller bag and leave the other in the car.

Patchwork grommet tote by Pokey Bolton, using screen-printed fabrics.

This also works well for when I'm going out and need to keep a lot of stuff with me in a more heavy-duty bag, but want to take a smaller and/or prettier bag to my appointment.

And it's a great plan for traveling, as the larger bag holds a book to read, a sketchbook, lightweight scarf, and so on.

My husband suspects that this is just a rationalization for acquiring a larger variety of handbags and totes, but what does he know? He keeps his wallet and keys in his five-pocket jeans and anything else he needs to carry goes inwait for itmy handbag.

recycled art Alisa burke
Recycled paper clutch by Alisa Burke.

Plus, I don't have to buy any bagsI can just make wearable art with the fabric, batting, canvas, and other supplies I have hanging around the house. I love justifying art making by creating something useful (not that I have to justify it!).

And I've decided to look at the whole handbag/laptop carrier/e-reader situation as an opportunity, not a problem.

So I have been looking through my sources for bags to make. There is such a variety of shapes and uses, but even more ways to decorate bags to turn them into wearable art, using silk screening, recycled art, or just using fun fabrics.


 I found five I like (and think I can make) just by looking through my "Quilting Arts TV" video collection.

  • Laptop Messenger Bag by Helen Gregory, Series 800.
  • painted art to wear tote
    Paintstik-painted bag by Linda McGhee.

    Printed and Stitched Zipper Bags by Melanie Testa, Series 300.

  • Reversible Patchwork Tote by Pokey Bolton, Series 600.
  • Linda McGhee's Purple Paintstik Zip Bag, Series 600.
  • Alisa Burke's Recycled Paper Clutch, Series 400.

The best part of these wearable art patterns is that I can watch the artists show me how to make the bags, step by step. And each design is open to interpretation and personalization, depending on the fabric, colors, or mixed-media materials I use.

It just goes to show that "Quilting Arts TV" is not just for quilters, but for mixed-media folks (and pursuers of the perfect handbag) like me. 

P.S. Do you "artify" your accessories? How? Leave a comment below.


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