“Handmade” is a term that always intrigues us when we’re buying a new product. It speaks of care and quality, of a company or a person with a passion for what they’re doing. But how can you truly appreciate handmade unless you’ve seen the product getting crafted? We decided to head over to the Waltzing Matilda to watch a Possibilities Bag (more on this in a second) get made from start to finish.
The inspiration for the Possibilities Bag comes from old mountain men who used to carry a similar do-everything bag on a daily basis. One day the bag was used to carry food, other days it was where they tossed their dirty laundry, basically, the possibilities were endless, hence the name. Mike Balitsaris came up with the design for this particular rendition of the storied bag after seeing some old Swiss Army bread satchels that featured a simple leather strap that secured the pack. The name and the design came together to create this piece, and this is how it’s done.
After all the holes are set and pieces cut, we head out onto the roof to enjoy the weather while hand-stitching the bag together. Waltzing Matilda uses the waxed thread from Maine Thread Company a 50-year-old outfit in Lewiston, Maine. Mike personally visits all these places to meet the people making the items that will go into his goods. The stitching is probably the most time-consuming aspect of the process (probably why few places do it by hand), but it’s also the time when you shoot the shit and maybe have a beer while sitting on the roof slowly working away.
It all starts with leather scraps that Mike acquired from an old factory in Massachusetts that used to supply Coach with their leather. In another life, this leather might have been on the arm of a woman walking down 5th Avenue. The first part of the process is measuring and cutting all the pieces involved. No big machinery, just a sharp X-Acto knife. You don’t get the clean lines you would with a machine, but what you do get is character and uniqueness. After measuring and cutting, we take a 3-prong leather punch and work around the edges of the bag smacking it down with a rawhide mallet to create the holes for stitching it together. There is a beauty and character in the slightly imprecise methods used, it’s not uniform and cold like the work of some large robotic factory.
Next up is attaching the loops which are cast following a 2,000-year-old tradition by a blacksmith in Philadelphia and stitching on the leather cord which came from a ranch where it was part of some horse reins. Everything at Waltzing Matilda has a story. This adds something to each piece that no mass market item could ever contain.
After everything is attached, all the pieces are stitched together, and the bag is almost finished, we break out the blowtorch. There are no little sewn on tags on Waltzing Matilda’s products, there are only branded on logos. We sear the bag with the WM logo after heating the iron with the blowtorch. The bag gets finished off with a coat of leather oil and is ready to handle whatever you plan on tossing in it.
Now that you’ve seen how it was made, here’s your chance to win it:
This contest is closed. Congrats to John S. on winning the bag!