TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Guest Artist- Mandy Curl of Mandinka Designs

Illionois fiber artist Mandy Curl has taken the task of recycling or repurposing to a new level. She transforms men's suits into gorgeous functional bags and purses that are both attractive and expertly made. When I first saw her bags, I thought, "Now here we have someone who really knows how to make something old into a treasure!" I felt jealous! Heh, heh. Mandy is in this for the long haul. She presents her store and lines professionally and offers a healthy selection of styles and fabric combinations. She also has some new "bugs" or toys that are really cute and neutral scarves that are perfect gifts for men. It's a joy to have her here on Fiber Focus!

Handbags from Recycled Suit Coats

My business Mandinka Designs has taken many forms over the years, involving sewing and fibers in some manner or another. But in 2005 when I stumbled on the idea of bags from suit coats, I knew I had found my "thing".

I received my BA in Psychology and then discovered fiber arts and received my MFA in 2000. My thesis exhibition consisted entirely of clothing, but I knew I didn't want to be a part of the fashion or the "art to wear" worlds. So, I worked in the interior design field as an independent doing upholstery and custom home furnishings for people. While this work did allow me to work from home and be my own boss, I was still making things to other people's tastes and preferences. I was always, in the back of my mind, trying to think of that one idea/product that was all my own that I could make and sell.

I've always loved men's suit coats, especially the insides with the beautiful linings and labels and pockets. I love wearing them, as well as cutting them up and making them into stuff. It seems serendipitous how my business and the bags I create encompass the different elements I love: fine craftsmanship, tailored style, neutral color, recycling/repurposing, making art and thrifting. I've always loved going to thrift stores, and now it's part of my job!

My hope for the future is to continue to make and sell more bags while still remaining a small business with the emphasis on producing artist-made, finely-crafted pieces. Oh, and to make a decent living doing it!

Mandinka Designs handbags are available at www.mandinka.etsy.com


  1. Rachel, Congratulations on a Great blog!! I hurry to your site every morning to see what or who is new. Thanks for sharing with us. See you soon. Deb

  2. Love these purses. I want to cut up my husbands suits he never wears. I don't even think he'll notice! What a talented lady...Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great Bags! I too make bags - out of old sweaters that I turn into felt. I used to save the neck labels from the sweaters, partly because I thought I would do something collage-ish with them, and mostly because I just like them. Seeing the suit labels reminds me of that - I love it that you showcase them like that.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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