If you’ve never heard the term ‘toile,’ don’t worry, I hadn’t either until I designed this tote bag. “Toile” literally means ‘cloth’ in French, but has come to define a distinct style of fabric design that depicts repeating-pattern scenes. Very popular in the Colonial Era, these illustrated scenes iconified colonial life, pastoral scenes, historical towns and so much more. More recently, toile has made a come back, and more modern toiles have started popping up.
Having recently completed a few projects that focus on landmarks around my hometown of Concord, NH, this project felt like the perfect fit for my style and a new exciting challenge. Designed for Fifty Home, a homeware and gift shop featuring products made in all 50 states, this toile tote brings to life the landmarks of downtown Concord, New Hampshire, and encourages shoppers to do away with plastic shopping bags and instead, tote around (see what I did there) their groceries in a beautiful canvas bag!
Each landmark was either hand drawn and scanned into the computer, or drawn directly on a tablet (using an Apple Pen), using photos I found online as reference. Once we finalized which icons we were happy with, I started playing around with the arrangement of them until there was a balance of texture, heights, line weights and contrast. The key with a good repeating pattern is to design it in such a way that you can’t quite tell when where one iteration ends and the next one begins. As I developed the singe iteration of the pattern, I decided to use the lampposts and cobblestones as a way to pull all of the icons together, and draw the eye from one icon to the next.
The final tote bag design includes a featured center icon of the Fifty Home storefront and shopper on the front of the tote, and the complete repeating pattern design on the back.