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Made in San Diego: Jenna Bee Handmade

Owner Jenna Cady tells us how she went from sewing hobbyist to worldly handbag maker

By As told to Sarah Pfledderer

Jenna Bee

Jenna Bee

I was the quirky kid who didn’t play sports. Instead, I taught myself how to sew. And I sewed everything I could, from clothes to gifts for my friends. I inherited my creativity from my mom, who spent her free time treasure hunting for vintage furniture to refurbish. Eventually, I swapped my trips to the fabric store for trips to the thrift store or flea market. When I was 19 years old, I decided to turn my hobby into a business. I was going to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and I created Jenna Bee Handmade in my small college apartment in 2015. I made tote bags from upcycled fabrics I found at flea markets, recycling old leather jackets and using vintage leather belts as straps. Since then, I’ve refined my style and sewing skills.

I have a small, simple studio where my industrial sewing machine lives. Most of the room is taken up by a long wooden table that’s perfect for cutting, pinning, and drafting patterns. The other part of the room has a tall antique Swedish pine cabinet stuffed to the brim with fabric. I am a bit of a fabric hoarder. Once I fall in love with a fabric, I work around it to create designs that highlight and honor its beauty.

All of these fabrics are ethically handmade by artisans all over the world. I even moved to Spain for a year to curate new fabrics and inspiration. I’ve been on buying trips to Morocco and spent days exploring the lively, never-ending streets of the souks, taking in the abundance of colorful architecture and incredible artisans. Right now, I’m in love with my Sisal Basket Bag collection, inspired by vintage 1970s basket bags that I found in flea markets. These bags are a blend of two cultures—Kenya meets California. The sisal baskets are made from pure, sustainably sourced sisal fiber by Kenyan women who learned the art of weaving from their mothers and grandmothers. I finish the baskets with leather embellishments, a new medium for me.

Jenna Bee Handmade


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