WHEN YOU PICTURE a sewing factory, maybe notions of hunched workers in squalid lighting trudge through your head. Not in our town! The airy and spacious Southeast sewing factory Spooltown is a small-run factory, complete with a lazy pup named Nelly, a tomato jungle, and breezy open garage doors—plus all the sewing machinery needed to make oodles of locally designed bags and cheerful reusable feminine products.

Spooltown is the brainchild of founder Sara Tunstall, who started the business two years ago, right next to accessories maker Queen Bee Creations. A former production manager for the Portland handbag mainstay, she saw a need for Portland designers to have their products manufactured locally. Now Tunstall's factory employs 17 folks, and is rapidly filling up a large new industrial space where they manufacture products for more than 50 clients like Grove, Seaecho, Non-Perishable Goods, and the aforementioned feminine products, GladRags.

"And we just worked with Bucket on their locally made French press designed for a mason jar. We're making the wool cozy that hugs the jar. It's just so perfect for fall," Tunstall says.

For Spooltown's upcoming Design Week panel "Designing Bags and Accessories for Production," Tunstall and her new business partner Dana Hinger plan to cover the basics of what designers should expect when working with a factory. "We meet with a lot of designers who are very excited, but new to the concept of working with an outside manufacturer. This industry can be incredibly secretive, so it's hard to find good information on what to expect when you approach a factory.

"We want to dispel some common myths, help give folks realistic expectations of process, timeline, and budget," Tunstall continues. "We also think the info that we'll present will be helpful to folks who currently make everything themselves. A surprising number of clients of ours came to us because they started to hate doing all of their own production. It can really start to eat away at what most designers love doing—being creative.


"Designing Bags and Accessories for Production" at Spooltown, 2029 SE 9th, Tues Oct 8, 7:30 pm, $10, spooltown.com.