Fashion: From Old Fire Gear To New Bags and More

What started out as an idea for unique and rugged bags for our kids, has blossomed into a creative adventure. Every piece has its own personality and style, with no two pieces being exactly the same.All creations are handmade from recycled fire gear and fire hose.

Let’s go back to where it started. About seven years ago, around the dinner table, my husband (a fireman) was on a committee to get new bunker gear for their fire department. I asked what happens to the old stuff and he said it is destroyed and thrown out. (Fire gear has an expiry date and/or is safety tested, and once it is no longer safe to use it is decommissioned.) Along with this conversation, the youngest said he needed another backpack because his was broken. As this was his second one, I asked to see if I could fix it – but the material had shredded. I asked my husband if they had any decommissioned gear around the hall that I could have.

Starting with one set of bunker gear, I sat down to clean, tear it apart, design and sew my first bag. The first attempt led to dull scissors, a broken sewing machine, hand sewing and a large amount of frustration, but eventually produced a messenger style tote bag in a design still being used today with a few modifications.

I made bags for our family and friends just for the excitement of creating them. It was not until two years ago that we decided to make a go of selling to a broader audience. I applied for a local craft show and was shocked when they accepted us. I had three weeks to make displays and stock for the show. I was terribly excited, and had incredible support from family and friends. The response was overwhelming and humbling.

We started off with just a few products, and now have quadrupled the products we sell. This business is very much a family business. My oldest son is the web designer, my daughter is sewing/ creating and youngest son is on fire hose duty. Both my mother and my mother-in-law sew and rip down gear. Of course, my husband is my right hand in all of it while continuing with the job he loves.

We do not let anything go to waste. The liners for the inside of the bags are the liners from the inside of the coats. Pockets are removed and repositioned. Clips to close the coats are now used to hang keys, close bags or finish the ends of dog leashes. We use canvas and rubber from the fire hoses to make notebooks, flask covers, card wallets, dog leashes, Canadian flags, even earrings and cufflinks. When my husband threatened to take the couplers from the ends of the fire hose to the scrap yard, I made them into candleholders. I can’t keep them in stock!

We also do a lot of custom orders. We use some of the scrap flashing and will stitch names and numbers on the bags too. We are very proud to be Canadian and all our bags have a Canadian flag attached. We like to give back to the fire departments with donations of our recycled products.

One of the goals that we set out to reach was to be accepted to one of Canada’s biggest artisan shows. I am excited to say that we reached that goal and then some.

In our near future we will be launching an online store. For now, if there is something you would like, give us a call or email.

Peggy TurpinPeggy Turpin is the owner, designer and production head of Past Into New. A nurse by trade,she has always dabbled in creative pursuits. She is proud to be a fireman’s wife. She lives in Wainfleet, Ontario with her husband and three children. For more information, please visit pastintonew.ca.

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