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Giving an Old Coat a New Life

by Kristin Stewart

Red plaid bag
Red plaid bag

There is an old Yankee saying: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In my case, necessity mixed with a little creativity gave birth to a new company: Coat Totes.

I found myself in need of a good handbag. But I couldn’t find one that I liked. They were all too big or too small, too bright or too dull, too heavy or too long. You get the idea.

I have some experience with a sewing machine, so I thought I would make myself the perfect bag. But I like pockets, and I don’t know how to sew nice pockets. This led me to think, “What sorts of things exist with pockets already that I could deconstruct and use to make a bag?”

In September 2009, Coat Totes was born.

Beige bag
Beige bag

Coats have beautiful pockets. Coats have many beautiful elements that I use in making my bags. After some trial and error, I found the right patterns and the right way to lay them out on a coat that would make a fabulous, unique bag.

A bag with lots of pockets! Most of my bags have at least two pockets on the outside (the original coat pockets) and all have pockets on the inside, too!

Once I came up with the basic idea, I started thinking of ways to make it better. In fact, I’m always thinking of new ways to make the bags better. I decided to use recycled fabrics for the linings as well.

If I was recycling coats, why not recycle other things for the linings? So I use materials from draperies, curtains, tablecloths, clothing, bedspreads, and scraps of fabric. Reduce, reuse, and recycle into a beautiful, useful new object!

Blue plaid bag
Blue plaid bag

All bags are made from 98% recycled materials. Only the thread is new. Coats are gently used, and acquired from local thrift stores and friends’ closets. All of my materials, the coats and the linings, are fully cleaned before beginning a new life as a bag.

Coat Totes can also create custom bags out of a customer’s old coat, and ship it directly. If you have old coats in your closet that you can’t bear to part with, there is now an alternative way to give it a new life – have it made into a one-of-a-kind handbag.

Coat Totes is committed to re-using and recycling as much as possible. I find there are so many coats and fabrics out there that I have no need to buy any “new” material. Why put new stuff into the world when we have so much already?

It’s just a matter of being creative and finding new uses for the old stuff!

Charcoal bag
Charcoal bag
Kristin Stewart

Kristin Stewart, the owner and designer of Coat Totes, lives in Harwich with her wonderful husband and two great children.

She has a degree from Brown University and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. When not working on her bags, Kristin may be seen performing with her family and the Seaside Clowns.

Visit her website** or email her

**Please note that the Coat Totes website will go live in February