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what is old is made anew

Banco do Brasil’s messengers carry their missives in these yellow cotton bags marked with the bank’s black logo. When they get old and/or sufficiently dirty, the bank donates them to the women’s group O Grupo Brasilianas that uses recycled material to make bags. These yellow oddly sized bags provide the material for some of the chicest bags these women make.

The bags are received every month and are first dismantled along the seams to expose the inside, before the women take them home for a well-deserved cleaning. Afterward the now clean yellow cotton fabric can then be used to make a bag according to designs requested by a customer, or one of the women’s own making.

Last week when I stopped by the Brasilianas they were working on individual pieces for local customers so I took the opportunity to fulfill my promise to learn how to sew a bag. I was in need of a new pencil pouch so that was what we set about making. After explaining roughly what I needed to my teacher, Dona Beija, we set about it.

She took some of the fabric and using a piece of cardboard measured out and cut two equal sized pieces of material. While she did this she had me practise on the electric sewing machine.

My nervousness increased as soon as I put my foot on the pedal and the machine whirred off. Apparently, it would require just a right amount of pressure- and what that was I would learn.


The zipper gave us the most trouble and we had to change one out after sewing it in, but all worked out. I was unsure how two flat pieces of fabric would make the tent-like bag I wanted but nothing was too much for Dona Beija. Some clever folding and the bag appeared just as I had imagined it! The final touches were to add the Brasilianas logo and a purple flower that Dona Beija had made to match the logo.

And I went home after the lesson a happy girl with a bit less fear of the whirring sewing machine, and with a new home for all my pens and pencils (and a bunch of other things).

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