Teresa Halcomb’s boots are not made for walking … but you can carry them while you walk.
Through her Vintage Western Design, Halcomb, of Clinton, repurposes cowboy boots into handbags that provide Western flair wherever they travel.
Halcomb, a driver for River Bend Transit, has done leather repair for many years. She didn’t become a handbag maker until she saw a picture of a bag made out of cowboy boots in Country Woman Magazine.
“I kept the article for, like, three years,” she said. “It didn’t give step-by-step instructions or anything. There was just the picture.”
When her husband, William Halcomb, returned to school to finish his electrical engineering degree, she found herself sitting at home alone. So she decided to try repurposing boots into bags.
She went to Goodwill, bought a pair of boots and created a bag that she carried to work. A co-worker saw it and bought the bag from her.
Halcomb then began selling her creations at a consignment store in Mount Carroll, Ill. Little by little, her purses became a sought-after item. She sells them for $180 to $240.
Now that Halcomb has been creating the handbags for about five years, she seeks venues at professional craft fairs and will be at the Midwest Horse Fair in April 2015.
Additionally, she makes “memory hair” bracelets so that women have mementos from the horses they have loved so much. (“I had horses before I could walk,” she says.) For men, she makes hatbands that include hair from their horses.
To find the boots she will rework, she generally shops at Goodwill, and she also buys used boots from individuals. “I won’t buy ‘manure boots’ or ‘barn boots,’ ” she says. “I’m looking for turquoise, or really pretty ones, ornate ones.”
She removes the shoe part of the boot, then cuts the boots up the back and sews them together, adding a rectangular bottom. She uses only kangaroo leather lacing, which has proved to be sturdier than cattle leather lacing.
“Also, I can get it in prettier colors,” she said.
If Halcomb has no interruptions, she can complete 1½ bags in a day.
Although she owns a heavy-duty sewing machine, she hand-laces and hand-sews the purses, making 20 to 30 annually that she sells at fairs, through her Facebook page at facebook.com/VintageWesternDesign?ref=br_tf and her Etsy shop at etsy.com/shop/Vintagewesterndesign?ref=search_shop_redirect.
She has done some custom work, too. For example, one man provided her with a pair of Tony Lama Western boots — “his Sunday-go-to-meetin’ ” pair. Using those, she made a handbag — with his belt buckle as an accessory — for the man's daughter.
This will be her second appearance at the QCCA Expo show. “They’re one of the best shows I’ve been to,” she said. “The people they select are artisans.”
Halcomb continues to develop new designs. Next year, she will create a conceal-and-carry purse for gun owners. “The mind never rests,” she said.