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I love accessories. . .jewelry, shoes, scarves, bags. When you’re under 5′ and not built like a pre-teen boy, finding clothes can be a chore. So I shop for accessories. And I love them. But I am really hard on bags. Really, really hard on them.

I brought a great school-bag/tote to Botswana but it took a beating in the travel, heat, dust, and especially on our Christmas trip. I’d been in the market for a new tote that I could bring to school but that would look good while traveling. I wanted an EDC that was sturdy and good-looking and could hold a laptop, books, camera, paints, water bottles, sunglasses, phone, wallet. . .all my regular or travel gear. Did I mention good-looking? I’m picky when it comes to my bags.

I can’t remember where I stumbled across Peg and Awl, but I’m glad I did. They are a small family company out of Pennsylvania and have made a business of creating beautiful, handcrafted items from reclaimed materials. Much of what they use is gathered from flea shops, basements, construction sites, and abandoned places. A lot of it is over a century old. These reclaimed materials are gorgeous, lending a character to something “new” by crafting out of something “old”.

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After a long time looking, saving, and contacting multiple companies to compare bags, I settled on the coal (black) waxed canvas tote with reclaimed leather handle, which was made out of military gun slings. I was a little freaked out about this – I think that items carry memory and meaning and energy of their own – but the products were so beautiful and the idea of reclaiming and reusing something convinced me.

The bag arrived to Botswana via Steve’s parents, and it is perfect. It snugly fits a laptop, my wallet, my traveler’s journal and daily diaries, phone, pens, glasses, and whatever else I throw in there – wraps, water bottles, travel mugs, you name it. The canvas is quality – sturdy and strong. The leather is gorgeous, already cracked and scuffed and soft, just how I like it. The bag is a bit heavier than I would like, but it’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make given the quality of the materials.

Canvas and leather tote

There is a large pocket outside for easy access to things like keys, and four pockets inside – two large, one small, and two for pens. These are lined with repurposed cloth from a dressmaker from the early years of the 20th century. I added a zipper, which is essential for travel.

Canvas and leather tote

I carry it everywhere – it goes to and from work with me and has already weathered several camping trips, where it came out none the worse for wear. A bit dusty, maybe, but nothing a damp rag won’t fix. I love that about this bag – it looks chic enough for me, is an excellent EDC, and is tough enough to not get destroyed from rough use. It was a big investment, but it was my fortieth birthday present to myself and it will last for years.

Canvas and leather tote

Peg and Awl says that the tote is “a blank slate waiting to be marked with the adventures and stories of use.” It’s already been in Botswana, Qatar, New York City, Portland, Or., and Missoula, Mt., carrying its own history and going on new adventures – collecting stories along the way.

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