History, Home, and a Handmade Tote

“You can’t go home again”, made famous by Thomas Wolfe and repeated relentlessly in country music songs ever since, is meant to express the idea that once you’ve left home for bigger and better things, you can never return to your small hometown to recapture the same emotions it once instilled in you.

No disrespect to Thomas Wolfe, but you totally can. I do it all the time, and it’s awesome.

I’m lucky enough to have moved only about 90 miles away from my own small town to the big city – that “small town” being Winston-Salem, NC, and the “big city” being Durham, NC. I wasn’t born in Winston-Salem, but it’s the first place that ever felt like home to me. And while Durham isn’t a whole lot bigger than Winston, it certainly feels that way some days.

Fun fact: The Reynolds Tobacco Building in Winston-Salem was used as a model for the Empire State Building. Don’t believe me? I’ve got the shirt to prove it.

I loved spending my teenage years and college summers in Winston-Salem, working nights at a small family fun park, galavanting around the streets of the city with my friends, and dancing the night away at a local venue to music that probably did serious damage to my eardrums, but, whatever.  I thought Winston was pretty cool back then, though I grew out of most of those activities (galavanting is still one of my favorite pastimes). Lucky for me, Winston’s done some growing up, too.

One of my favorite things about home is visiting in the Cobblestone Farmer’s Market, a weekly gathering of farmers and vendors in the heart of Old Salem. The market is based on a tradition that began in Salem in 1803, when a German Protestant community known as the Moravians built a Market House to purchase produce and meat from outlying farms. About 5 years ago, local farmers began to sell fresh meat and produce in the village once again, though there are significantly fewer hoop skirts and horses involved this time around.


I accidentally stumbled upon the market on a walk to my favorite coffee shop, and I was so excited about it that I ended up impulse buying a jar of honey and a gorgeous bouquet of wildflowers that I then had to carry about a mile and a half back to my car while still juggling my coffee. Not the most fun I’ve ever had.


Enter Sprout. I decided that if I’m going to be the type who frequents farmers markets, I ought to be prepared, right? Luckily, Sprout offers The Everyday Tote, the perfect bag for fresh produce lovers like me. While I have a slew of tote bags with various business logos on them already, I loved the idea of having something handmade for Saturdays at the market. The Moravians always chose handmade over store-bought, and that’s becoming my preference more and more lately too.


My favorite thing about the market is the emphasis it places on locally grown produce, so I decided my bag needed that same vibe. However, I’m also kind of weird, so I settled on a print featuring plants that eat meat. I chose Venus flytrap – butter by thecalvarium, and I paired it with a bright, happy floral print (Blooms Tropical Flowers Floral by caja_design) for some balance. I wanted Linen-Cotton Canvas for my base fabric because it’s a natural cotton with some nice texture. I also wanted something that could hold some weight since I plan on using my bag at the boring old grocery store, too. You can order the same one if you’d like- I call it Carnivorous Garden. Bonus: The tote is reversible for days I feel more floral and less flesh-eating.


Making my bag was super easy! It took me around an hour to complete, and most of that time was spent being in denial about having to turn the straps, wrestling them away from my cat, cursing myself for being so impatient, being in denial some more, and finally resorting to the safety pin method which worked great.

All the trash cans in Old Salem are disguised as old barrels. So here’s my beautiful tote posing with some trash cans!

My sweet mom and I had a great time wandering the market with coffee from my favorite place (she’s hooked now, too). And, we were totally able to carry those coffees around unhindered by our purchases because of my awesome new tote bag. Wins all around.

Hi Mom!


She loved my bag so much that she asked me to order her one as soon as we got home. She’d never seen Sprout’s site before, and had a lot of fun mixing and matching patterns to create her tote. She opted for using Eco Canvas, a vibrant and sturdy fabric made partially from recycled plastic, and chose two floral patterns for hers as well – Botanical Bloom by Fizah_malik and Romance Poppies Ogee Green by Robinpickens. You can also buy the project she created, called Botanical Bonanza. She’s excited for me to sew it up for her!

I can’t wait to go back to the market with my mom the next time I’m home. We like to buy a little of what we need – honey, bread, and any veggies my dad isn’t already growing – and a little of what we don’t – fresh wildflowers from a local farm – while wandering among the buildings and the people of the city we call home. The market and its vendors embody the best-known mantra of the Moravian community that settled Old Salem, a sentiment I carry with me whether home or far away:

“In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.”

Cheers, Gina

Time-lapse video of me cutting down my Everyday Tote

GinaGina is a printer operator at Spoonflower (or as she likes to call her position, “Slayer of Ink Beasts”) and a summer intern with Sprout. When she’s not having audible conversations with machinery, she can be found sharing facts about pigeons or Wonder Woman or old buildings with anyone who will listen. Her hobbies include fabric hoarding, wrestling her sewing projects away from her polydactyl cat Oz, and aimlessly wandering with coffee in one hand and her polaroid in the other.


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