Friday, May 29, 2015

Crazy Crafty: I Si-Si A Souvenir Tote Bag in Your Future

There was a time (a time in which we still might be living) when every American woman visiting Mexico came back with a souvenir photograph of a zebra-painted burro, a tourist jacket, and a straw tote covered in yarn embroidery and palm-leaf appliqué.  Heck, Mary had at least seven of the straw bags in a variety of colors and sizes before she ever even set foot in Mexico.  It isn't that these souvenirs are terribly rare or terribly exotic, quite the opposite; they are rather inexpensive, readily available, and a definite rite of passage - passage across the Mexico-US border in which forgetful tourists begin panic-buying souvenirs for all the folks at home.

Tijuana - 1955
My grandmother (center) with my father beside her.
My uncle is riding the burro.

In sifting through the wacky tacky archives, I found the above photo and one such straw tote bag, purchased at a thrift store.  The body and the handles/hardware were in decent shape but the decorations had certainly experienced much sunnier holidays south of the border.

Looking very much like it had witnessed more than its fair share
of fiestas, this was the sorry state in which we found the bag.

In an effort to make way between the piles of newspapers and stacks of empty tuna fish cans for guests to maneuver through the hoarder's paradise that is wacky tacky headquarters, we are midway through an unprecedented clean-out.  But the options to rid ourselves of this pitiful piece were quite limited - it was either fodder for the local landfill or a one-way ticket back to the thrift store (this would not have been the first time we paid for something at a thrift store only to donate it back again).  The options to overhaul it, however, were limitless!  It was time to break the buying/donating cycle and turn modern medical practice on its ear by taking this literal sad sack north of the border for a fun facelift.

I started by removing the shredded floral clusters and
giving the frayed yarn a well-deserved haircut.

Just happening to have yarn in shades of "close-enough" green and orange,
I grabbed a big needle and began to touch-up the embroidered leaves.

Mid-makeover, I liked the way that the my not-quite-a-color-
match yarn added some variegation and depth to the leaves.

Once the bag and the leaves were stabilized, it was time to complete the makeover; after all, there are serious responsibilities one must consider after deflowering a virgin tote bag.  I suppose I could have tried to resurrect the palm-leaf flowers but they were so trashed, so lifeless, and so...brown; and it just wouldn't be a true "Crazy Crafty" project unless a strong dose of color was injected.

Continuing in my preferred medium of craft store yarn, I made
pom pom flowers in the other two colors I had in the stash.

A minimally invasive facelift with maximum results.

After all the effort of the sad sack makeover, I decided
that a fabric lining would be the perfect finishing touch.

With the tote bag complete, the thought occurred to me that anyone foolish enough to carry a full lamb's-worth of yarn around on a second-hand purse during the summer months might also need some protection from the sun (if not the curious stares of passers-by).

Using the purse as a guide, I embroidered a Put A Lid On It
Sun Hat with the same leaf-and-pom pom-flower motif.

Just like the newly-refurbished tote bag, the hat is also topped by a pom pom. 

As I've mentioned time and again, a matchy-matchy ethos is the backbone of wacky tacky design.  So while the hat may not share a similar provenance to the tote the way a sombrero would, we think that this matching set is perfect for a Puerto Vallarta pool party or a caprice in Cabo San Lucas.

"Pardon me, do you know the way to San Jose?"

With all this talk of south-of-the-border souvenirs, we are in the mood to take a "Tijuana Taxi" for another round of swinging souvenir shopping!!!  So much for our big clean-up and clear-out...

"Tijuana Taxi" - Heb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (Scopitone)


Mr. Tiny


  1. What a great-looking set! I remember buying a similar woven bag on a trip across the border as a kid and feeling VERY fancy. The pom poms are a fantastic addition!

    1. Thanks, Lauren! I've seen your Enid Collins collection - you continue to be fancy!!!

  2. i love what you did to the bag! i have bought more than one of those with the decorations falling off. Now i want to try to make one over!

    1. Thanks, Rae!!! Please let me know when you do; I'd love to see your souvenir makeover!