Port Canvas is known for its colorful, hand-sewn tote bags, handbags, duffel bags and other 100-percent cotton canvas bags that it sells in its shop in Kennebunkport. The company got its start in 1968, when it made its bags from scraps from sailcloth designed for the sea; today it also uses material from the Maine woods.

About five years ago, the company began producing bags from a fabric made of natural wood fiber. The fabric, called Tree Cloth, is woven like textiles, but using a modified technique. The raw material comes from softwood used in kraft papermaking, according to Port Canvas general manager Scott Phillips. The material is slit thinly and then twisted. It arrives at the textile manufacturer looking like twine, Phillips said, and is then wound into fabric and sent on big rolls to Port Canvas.

“We’re the only ones in the world that are making it,” Phillips said.

The fabric is strong but supple, Phillips said. The company uses it to make a large tote called a Ballast bag ($75) and a smaller Batten bag ($55) that is “basically a handbag for women,” Phillips said. “A lot of people think of it as a beach bag, but it’s an every day (bag).”

Like all of the other products made at Port Canvas, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, each bag is hand stitched. The person who stitches a bag signs his or her initials on the inside, on the Port Canvas label.

The Tree Cloth bags can be found at the Port Canvas shops or online at portcanvas.com. Port Canvas bags are also carried in Archipelago, which is the Island Institute’s store and gallery in Rockland, and at Blue Whale Trading Co. in Kennebunk.


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