On a Sunday afternoon inside the Midwest Karate Association of St. Paul, six sewing machines and a group of women are busy making cloth bags — to give away. To members of the loosely knit “St. Paul Baggers” group, the answer to the question “Paper or Plastic?” is neither.
Roberta Casey of St. Paul came across the Morsbags phenomenon a few years ago while looking for patterns for homemade Christmas gifts. Morsbags was started by British teacher Claire Morsman in 2007 in the hopes of reducing the one million bags used each minute around the globe. Morsman especially wanted to keep bags out of the mouths and stomachs of seabirds, whales and other creatures.
St. Paul baggers have held six events, and their “pod” has given away 600 bags. They give them away regularly to a food shelf in Buffalo, Minnesota. Casey likes to give them out at Rainbow Foods. “The people that need them the most are carrying the flimsy bags home,” said Casey.
One advantage of today’s session taking place at a Karate studio: Karategi or old karate uniforms have been chopped up, their heavy white cotton used as a sturdy reinforcement for the bottom of the bags.
Anita Bendickson, who runs the Karate studio, says they’ve only run into one challenge bestowing their pretty wares: men. Apparently they’re not as keen on carrying these bags, so Bendickson holds up a plain brown bag she’s working on. “Brown bags. Guys will carry those.” They’ve also made camoflage man-bags.
Cassandra Moe was contributing embroidered linens and vintage fabrics salvaged from her grandfather’s home. “You should see the pile of fabrics we’ve been going through,” said Moe. “We just want to make good use out of them.”
Today’s creations will be given away next Saturday morning at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact morsbags.com to start your own pod.