It started with generations of linens discovered in a closet of a mother’s house. When Cynthia Orcutt took on the task of moving her mother out of the house she had grown up in, she never expected it would spark a business. Her grandmother’s beautifully embroidered delicate cloth did not fit in with her Western Maine lifestyle, so she began thinking up ways to repurpose the fabric rather than let it sit in another closet.
Cynthia’s “aha” moment came on a trip to Italy, in the walled town of Pienza. While browsing the local shops she met a woman who created purses from old linen that mimicked WWII ammo bags. It was then that the idea for a bag company using heirloom fabrics began to take shape. As a nod to the country’s inspiration, Ancora Bags, the Italian word for again, one more time, was created.
Cynthia’s next step was to work with a local stitcher to design a prototype for her bags. While Cynthia loved the bags from Pienza, she knew that these would not fit the practical Western Maine sensibility. Mainers use totes.
After a few prototypes that almost hit the mark using a variety of locally sourced fabrics, Cynthia happened upon leftover Sunbrella Awning fabric in a fabric warehouse in Auburn, ME. Finally, the bags came together. Combining the new fabric with the linens from her mother’s closet, Ancora Bags became a perfect mix of sturdy and delicate.
Now Cynthia has expanded from her original Heirloom bags to include four more lines. Pattern Bags made from wools, flannels, and fleeces have a classic Western Maine look, while Camouflage Bags acknowledge the importance of outdoor sporting in the region. The Awning line is made almost entirely from Sunbrella material and celebrates the bold graphic stripes found on porch awnings, and the newest is a line of personalized Wedding bags special ordered by the bride and made from fabrics provided by both sides of the wedding party.
To manufacture these beautiful bags Cynthia creates kits with hand written instructions on how the bag should look. Local seamstresses who have found their way to Ancora bags through word of mouth from friends, local churches, and the United Way of Farmington then sew the kits into a hand-made, one of a kind bag.
Now Ancora Bags can be found online, at the Orcutt’s family owned Schoolhouse Art Gallery in Kingfield Maine, and in stores throughout the state. Ancora Bags remains committed to sustainable business practices and will continue to support the Western Maine economy as it grows.
Cynthia, and everyone at Ancora Bags is excited to see these totes giving new life to unused Western Maine fabrics, discarded materials, and beautiful family heirlooms.
- Grace Hooke, Sales and Marketing