The Sonogachi Bag

The last time I visited Calcutta, I met with a young sex worker who was part of a movement to empower other sex workers, to provide them with a bank, safe houses, and to create schools for their children, who mainly are prevented from attending. She asked me point blank, “Are you going to help us?” I did not have an answer. I now do. In honor of the brave women around the world who survive and feed their children by any means necessary, many whom are enslaved, I am launching a gift wrapping paper replacement product called “The Sonogachi Bag”. We will be donating 50% of profits to a collection of organizations who support women and girls around the world who need our help.  In the coming year, I will be sourcing beautiful fabrics from India and Indonesia for the bags, as well as sourcing local organic cotton to create a range of bags for sale in stores.

A large part of this fabric gift bag movement is to create a change in the way we think about gift wrapping, and to provide ideas and patterns so that anyone can make gift bags at home using any fabric.  Even old towels can make beautiful luxurious bags when you add a bit of fancy ribbon and fringe.

In my family, we have completely replaced wrapping paper with beautiful fabric bags. Some of them are silly, with festive cartoons. Others are gorgeous, with silks, tassels, and ribbons. One especially beautiful bag I reserve for my husband’s special gift, year after year.  My mother made us each a fabric gift bag when I was a little girl, and the first Christmas that I had my own little one, she gave it to me with a final gift, and now every year that bag resides under my own tree.  The bags can be passed down generations, and take on more meaning as the years go by.  I lost my grandmother this year, and I will be making some of the fabric from a dress of hers into a gift bag.  She will be with us in spirit every holiday.

silk-market-india1Several years ago we took an RV tour around the Olympic Peninsula, and I was taken aback at the fields of clear cutting that we passed.  I have seen clear-cutting before, but it had been replanted, and was more like a giant corn field that happened to be growing trees.  We passed by barren fields of giant stumps that had once been beautiful enormous redwoods, and no replanting had even been attempted, it was obvious.  It truly broke my heart to see this in person.  That fall, as the holidays approached, I had a moment much like my uncle had years ago when he threw their TV through the livingroom window into their front yard.  No more wrapping paper.  Each year it requires ten million fully grown trees to supply our country with wrapping paper.  Such unnecessary use of our world’s treasures.

I took myself down to the fabric store and bought an incredible amount of beautiful and silly fabrics.  I created dozens of bags, keeping some for ourselves, and gifting the rest away.  That first Christmas it was eerie unwraping packages that didn’t crinkle. I worried that the feeling would not be the same. To my surprise, the sense of wonder was still there, and not only that, there wasn’t that dreaded trip to the dumpster with armloads of paper that sometimes had only been used for a day. I had each child select fabric that they loved, and their presents were wrapped in that fabric. Others were a mystery to them. Large presents I found could be wrapped in felt and tied with beautiful yarn. The felt sticks together and doesn’t even need tape. We also have festive birthday bags, and some very special small bags that hold very special gifts. That was in 2010, now five years ago.  I haven’t purchased wrapping paper since.  Below are some not so great quality photos, that are examples. We will be developing beautiful bags, with recycled saris, and hand-stitched masterpieces from around the world, with a wide price range. Once you fall in love with the fabric bags, you will love the way they look, collected together like treasures gathered from an ancient time.

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