une belle energie: adorable handmade yoga mat bags

I can’t resist handcrafted cuteness, so when I discovered Une Belle Energie’s Etsy shop and saw her adorable yoga mat bags, I was smitten. Made from burlap and muslin cotton, the bag has a natural, earthy look. The interior can hold a large yoga mat, and there’s ample room for a change of clothes or a post-yoga snack. The bag fits comfortably over one shoulder and the weight of the yoga mat felt evenly distributed. What sets the bag apart, however, is the hand-stitched felt detail. It’s playful and fun, and definitely projects “une belle energie” (which is French for “good energy”).

Hayley Swinson, the girl behind Une Belle Energie, answered a few questions for me about her delightful yoga mat bags. She’s a multi-talented girl, so learn more about her on her website and check out her other creations on Tumblr.

How did you decide to start making yoga mat bags?

I have always been interested in yoga, but it wasn’t until last winter in Montreal that I started taking regular classes. In class, I saw many people coming in with generic mat bags that were more utilitarian than aesthetically pleasing. It wasn’t until I started working at Yoga-à-Porter in May, however, that the idea came to me to create my own. At the store, we sold a couple different bags, but none of them was particularly unique or interesting. My boss, Caroline, knew I was into sewing and crafting, and one day suggested that I try creating my own bag. I took home one of the bags at the store for sizing, came up with my design and went from there.

What other things to you like to make/create?

I actually started my Etsy shop with the intention of selling friendship bracelets. In the summer of 2010, I was a camp counselor in West Virginia, and one of the things we did to keep busy was make friendship bracelets. When I left camp, I kept making them and created my own designs and patterns. Unfortunately, the amount of time it takes to make a bracelet (several hours) does not correspond to the amount someone is willing to pay for one (a few dollars), so I closed my bracelet shop and moved on to make jewelry and bags. I’d also love to get into print making because I love stationary. My boss at YAP also once commissioned a tarot card pouch from me, which turned out pretty well, so you might see some of those on my site in the future.

What does une belle energie mean and how does it reflect you or your worldview?

Une Belle Energie stems from what my boss and coworker would say about someone they liked. “She has a good energy, I really liked her,” they’d say. I’m not sure if the phrase is inherently francophone, or more tied to yogic practice, but it clicked with me and I felt it was an appropriate name for a store selling yoga bags.

Is there a connection between yoga and your creative practice?

Yes, definitely. Going back to the name of the Etsy shop, Une Belle Energie, I feel that this beautiful energy is channeled through yoga, but should be put into practice in your daily life, which, for me, includes my creative practice. This yogic lifestyle helps me to keep an open mind to new projects and connections that I might otherwise not consider. To me, yoga is not so much a form of exercise or even worship; it is learning how to live a balanced, forgiving life in every aspect of your existence.