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    Alice Saunders is working on a different canvas

    A duffel bag from Forestbound
    Henry + Mac
    A duffel bag from Forestbound

    Alice Saunders always assumed she’d live in rural New England. Those woodsy memories linger, hence the name for her canvas bag company, Forestbound.

    “I think I was reading some song lyrics over the shoulder of an old boyfriend, and the name stuck,” she says. “I grew up in New Hampshire — small, rural New England — and always thought I would return.”

    For now, though, she’s in Somerville’s busy Union Square with a new studio and retail showroom where she sells refurbished canvas tote bags and carryalls. She’s in an area with other rising independent businesses, like Queen of Swords apparel and home goods and Janji running gear.


    Saunders scours flea markets, estate sales, and military shows to unearth canvas materials to construct bags.

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    “I work with a lot of World War II-era textiles: duffel bags, tents, hammocks, aprons,” she says. “The bags are beautiful and have historic value.”

    She also does custom work by appointment. Clients can bring their canvas to create a brand-new accessory, maybe to honor a long-gone relative.

    “I do a lot of work for people who appreciate history and antique textiles. I can turn their grandparents’ old duffel bags into something new,” she says.

    She also makes from-scratch utility bags inspired by her vintage creations, etched with phrases like “Escape,” which are popular with travelers. Bags start at $325.


    “I went to school for history, and now I get to use my nerdiness to geek out over the history of the canvas,” she says.

    Her Hawkins Street showroom is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and on Thursday evenings beginning at 5 p.m. for wintertime sip and strolls through the Union Square neighborhood. It’s not quite the forest, but it can feel like a breath of fresh air.

    Kara Baskin can be reached at