Recycling old sails and scraps from new sails
Reusing the old sail material, and offcuts from new sails is a great way to make use of the sails that cannot be repaired to use on a boat. Many times the stitching is coming apart from the UV exposure. It could be that the material has stretched and the sail no longer has a proper shape to efficiently make power for a sailboat. Whatever the reason that the sailcloth isn’t useable for its original purpose, it’s great that these different people saw the potential, and started using the sailcloth to make useful bags that can live on for years more.
Sea Bags – Portland, Maine, USA
The sailcloth bags from Sea Bags are designed and sewn in a building that hangs over the water.
Located on Custom House Wharf in the heart of Portland’s working waterfront, it’s an unconventional location to be sure.
But they believe, the sound of seagulls and the smell of bait from the local lobster boats is an important part of the character of the sailcloth bags. Local is the Heart of Sailcloth bags
Sails are collected one at a time through a network of passionate boaters who love the community and the water. So, their materials come from Maine first, New England second and USA third. And they use one of the last remaining thread manufacturers in the U.S. and one of a few rope manufacturers in New England. So their sail supply chain is as local as it gets.
Finally, with many different styles and sizes of sailcloth bags, there is one for everyone.
Flowfold – Maine, USA
Working at a sail loft in Maine, Charles Friedman was introduced to sailcloth and learned to use industrial sewing machines to repair boat sails. One day, he took some scraps of racing sailcloth from the factory trash and sewed himself a wallet. Just like that, trash turned into treasure, and the first Flowfold product was born.
Soon, Charley realized the potential and started sewing more wallets. And following, each iteration was stronger, lighter, and more simplified than the last. As a result, friends and family started asking to buy his wallets. Soon enough, word spread and he knew he was onto something.
Deciding to go for it with a close-knit crew of friends, Charley sold his car for startup capital, and together they launched Flowfold with their first product: the Recycled Sailcloth Vanguard. Every new piece of gear, like sailcloth bags and backpacks, is crafted to solve problems.
Today, they still use the same meticulous design approach today with every new product. Shaving down ounces, choosing sustainable materials that last longer, and taking the time to build them better is always the goal. Because of their confidence in their well-made products, Flowfold offers a Lifetime Warranty on all their sailcloth bags and products.
Sambags – Canary Islands, Spain
I found Sambags on Instagram. These sailcloth bags are made by hand by a woman named Sam in a small sail loft in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. She washes and cuts the sails up and makes different designs, some with anchors, some with cats, and others with latitude and longitude coordinates.
I asked Sam if she had a website I could link to, but she said no. She went on to explain that she gives a large part of her earnings to a local cat shelter and if it’s windy, she goes sailing. If not, she stays home and makes bags. Very cool.
727 Sailbags – Lorient, Brittany, France
A trio of friends and entrepreneurs started 727 Sailbags in 2010, with common goals and love for the sea. They make bags with the goal of sustainability and creating bags that can reduce the use of single use plastic bags. This passion, mixed with their eye for style and function, is used to create bags and cool decorations from old sails and ropes. 727 has expanded their line to now make apparel too, made from spinnaker cloth.
In October of 2020 the former racing yacht Jolokia, chartered by the Compagnie Marine, set sail with a load of bags and products from 727 Sailbags, on the 10,000 mile trip to their store in Annapolis, Maryland, USA. 727 Sailbags wants their products to be produced and transported sustainably. While on this sail, the crew is also collecting water samples to be tested later for microplastics in the ocean water.
To read about this and other companies hauling coffee, rum, chocolates, and more by sail, check out this article, Sailing Ships Hauling Cargo in 2021.
Oceanum Vela – Italy
Melissa, as a sailor and sustainability professional, and seeing measures being taken by major race organizations, nonprofits, and foundations dedicated to helping sailors protect the ocean, she found a way to make a difference too. From working in the sailing industry, she became becoming a dedicated race fan and saw the sail repurposing shops, and with her connections, decided to one up the competition.
Her company, Oceanum Vela, now makes bags from the race boat sails, so other fans can own a piece of history and have a cool new bag. The body of this bag is made from a Super Maxi Yacht, Scallywag’s laminate headsail.
Melissa gives 10% of her profit to Ocean Conservation efforts. And check out this podcast she did, talking about how she started this business.
Re-sails – Newport, Rhode Island, USA
Christian Schlebach started Re-Sails in 2002 by manufacturing sail bags and accessories out of used sails. After working many years in the yachting industry, he saw a lot of old sail being put into dumpsters. Seeing the potential of Dacron in many applications, Christian started designing jackets and bags in his garage. After two years of sewing at home, he decided that a store in Newport, RI was the correct next step.
Today, Re-sails has another store in Annapolis MD, and plans for a few more stores located in sailing communities.
Second Wind Sails – Massachusetts, USA
Being creative, sourcing locally, and making quality products are the keys of Second Wind Sails. One of their products that really stood out to me is their shower curtain, a simple design, but done in a classy way.
Their spinnaker sailcloth bag with kevlar bottom also is a very balanced mix of materials and function. The handles are made from double braided nylon, ehem, rope.
Mafia Bags – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Marcos and Paz Mafia, brother and sister from Buenos Aires, launched their upcycling bag manufacturing company incorporating their last name, Mafia Bags, in 2012. This brought together their love for nautical sports and their passion for sustainable business. Marcos was a professional kitesurfer, the idea for the recycled sailcloth bags came to him seeing the colorful used sails sitting in piles. For some time he had been looking for a better bag for his wetsuit. The sail material turned out to work perfectly for his bags. MAFIA grew quickly through word of mouth.
The bags, backpacks and totes are made from sails donated by sailors, professional athletes, and other organizations. Growing quickly, Mafia, opened their headquarters and a store in San Francisco in 2014, a store in Tokyo in 2015, and they have plans for a location in London.
Made from combinations of sailboat sails and kite surfing kites, the backpacks are strong, lightweight and no two are the exact same. Made from different colors of sailcloth, they have a bag or tote that will fit many different needs.
Hoist Away Bags – Maine, USA
Hoist Away Bags is a company in coastal Maine making one-of-a-kind useful and beautiful bags. They collect old, abandoned sails and give them a second life to be used on land or sea.
Hoist Away Bags’ method creatively incorporates interesting elements of the original sails. They use trim, grommets, hanks, and the sailcloth to make bags and other practical products. Graphics or emblems on their products are parts of the original sails. Inside each bag is a quote to brighten your day!
They also include a little of the history of the sail that your bag was made from. From tote bags, clutches, wallets, purses, and backpacks, Hoist Away has a big selection of different well-made sailcloth products.
Mountain Water Canvas – Truckee, California, USA
Jessica Luca Stevens started sewing boat covers, snow tarps, and industrial sewing in 2003. Her company, Mountain Water Canvas, supported her other hobby, ski patrol in Tahoe. A few years later she headed back east where she continued to sew and pursue other interests until she returned out west and reopened in 2018. She makes high-quality bags from the offcuts of the boat covers and other large items she makes.
Taking the proven durable methods of making products that withstand the weather and elements, Jessica makes these bags with care, to last. She also uses old sails to create a mix of old and new material with classic boat logos.
Written by Jay Weaver, published 12/16/2020