Make it sew

What's in Her Bag: Canned Ham Vintage's Cheri McNulty

One tote's contents reveal the busy days and secret escapes of a vintage revivalist.

By Sarafina Murphy-Gibson October 29, 2019

Cheri McNulty at Canned Ham Vintage

One could say that Cheri McNulty helps hold Canned Ham Vintage together by its seams. Literally and figuratively.

Working with her daughter, Ashley Rogers, the shop's owner, McNulty is not only the boutique's chief seamstress. She also serves as banker, bookkeeper, shopgirl and, in general, “keeps the lights on.” Canned Ham is a vintage retailer located in the Rosemary District that sells furnishings, houseware and apparel. Rogers and McNulty spend countless hours rummaging at estate sales or visiting private homes looking for treasure to bring back to the shop.  McNulty then goes through their finds, mending popped seams, tackling stains or replacing wayward buttons, getting each piece ready for a new home.

McNulty's appreciation for the world of vintage is layered. She sees the items that come through the shop as a means of recycling, but also a valuable way to hone a deeper understanding of history through objects. She credits her talents as a seamstress to her mother who worked in alternations and understood the value of a needle and thread. After years of handling delicate garments, McNulty has acquired all sorts of interesting tricks. For example, did you know you can seamlessly mend small tears in cashmere sweaters by using a strand of hair as a thread? With a skillset going beyond simple repairs, McNulty is an award-winning macrame artist, specializing in soft sculpture, and is currently fashioning unique head-pieces in preparation for the return of the “Roaring Twenties.”

So what does a busy and talented woman like Cheri McNulty carry about in her sturdy Lands End tote?

There are, of course, the everyday necessities: her wallet, a handy Baggu and the “medicine cabinet,” a pouch filled with everything needed for a life lived on the go, from dental floss to aspirin. For work, she carries a binder filled with top-secret information about future projects, a day planner, business cards and a hole punch for making tags if she catches a spare moment. In addition to a sewing kit and a measuring tape, McNulty says her bag is a revolving door of buttons, trims and fabric swatches she carries about in hopes of finding a perfect match.

The contents of McNulty's tote also reveals her secret life as captain of the Desiderata, a 27-foot Ericson sailboat. Whenever time allows, McNulty likes to escape to the sea. Her sailing gloves are never far from hand. She carries a small length of waxed linen for tying off the ends of lines, a handy handkerchief and an iPad she uses for navigational charts. Balancing play and practicality, McNulty's bag demonstrates the importance of dedicated work while also striving for personal happiness.

The contents of Cheri McNulty's Lands End tote

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