Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens? Warm woollen mittens? Crisp apple strudel? What about carpet bags? Are any of these your Favourite Things?
Ok so it’s a tenuous Sound of Music / Julie Andrews link but surely it was her famous character Mary Poppins that brought our attention to that most wondrous of carpet bags. As we know, Mary arrived at the Banks’ London residence with a modest Victorian Gladstone that possessed truly magical qualities.
In real life, the carpet bag became a popular travelling accessory from around about the mid 18th Century. Often, the bag would have dual purpose. They would be constructed from a section of an oriental style rug or tapestry which could then be used as a small mat before lashing up the sides to create luggage. These were known as ‘railway rugs’ and reference is made in Robert Louis Stephenson’s Travels with a Donkey in the Cévannes (1879): “… my railway-rug, which, being also in the form of a bag, made me a double castle for cold nights”
They were seen as a useful alternative to the steamer trunk and other bulky baggage; light enough to be able to carry without the assistance of a porter, and hard wearing enough to withstand lots of wear and tear. in 1886, the Scientific American publication described it as old-fashioned and reliable: the carpet bag “is still unsurpassed by any, where rough wear is the principal thing to be studied. Such a bag, if constructed of good Brussels carpeting and unquestionable workmanship, will last a lifetime, provided always that a substantial frame is used.”
Today, modern carpet bags are more often seen as a fashion accessory rather than as practical luggage for travelling. Although, what a lovely alternative it would be to the rather bland looking suitcases most of us travel with.
Of course, you can still find vintage carpet bags; Ebay and Etsy are good sources. But there are also plenty of contemporary manufacturers creating new ones. Carpetbags.co.uk produce a range of all different shapes and sizes, mostly true to original designs. From hefty, hearty luggage sized holdalls to smaller shoulder bags, this company has been evolving since the 70’s where the owner started out making a few bags from salvaged carpet which eventually found supply through Liberty and Harrods, to today’s industry which is still based in the UK.
So if you’re planning your next holiday, maybe a carpet bag could feature in your travels? Surely luggage carousels all around the world would be all the more interesting for it…….