Art Meets Non-Toxic!

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Don’t you love art shows? Like many of you I love supporting local artists and have picked up their work a special gifts for friends and a few for us. Of course, I’m always on the lookout for products using non-toxic materials. This past July I was beyond delighted to stumble on a beautiful collection of handmade felted, super soft merino wool bags that are totally toxin-free and with a minimal impact on the environment. And they’re made here in Colorado!

Christy Begien | Christy's Non Toxic Lifestyle

Loki-Zebra – small front

So, what do you get when you have an incredibly gifted designer with a background in textiles, a love of the arts, a leaning towards healthy living and who lives with Lyme disease? You get a beautifully crafted collection of handbags made with love and non-toxic materials!

As I’ve gotten to know Joan Doll, the creator and designer of Coarse Cloth, I became even more intrigued in that she is involved in every phase of every handbag. She sources this yummy soft merino yarn from Italy and uses fabrics from O Eco textiles, creators of earth friendly fabrics.

Even the straps are eco-friendly.  All of the strap leather is vegetable tanned, English bridle leather trim or straps made at one of the few remaining U.S. tanneries still producing toxin-free leathers. Their vegetarian-friendly handbags offer expertly handwoven straps made by a master weaver in Boulder County.

Christy Begien | Christy's Non Toxic Lifestyle


As straps are an important piece of a bag, all straps are carefully sized to fit each customer and can be changed out at shows or afterwards. For custom orders the handwoven straps can be sized and colored according to customer preference. Cool, eh? She also uses local craftspeople for additional help in the production of these unique handbags.

At that show, I saw the perfect bag and purchased it for a friend. Joan’s design background lends itself to clean, seamless bodies, and unique styles in lovely colors-mostly neutral, but some with pops of color. This is the bag you will get TONS of mileage out of, especially during the upcoming wet months. Did you know that wool lasts a long time and repels moisture beautifully? A small brush will easily clean the bag periodically. I also love that these bags are also lightweight and come in several styles and sizes.

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Joan, who will share more of what she does at Coarse Cloth.

Introducing Joan Doll, Owner of Coarse Cloth

In comparison with synthetic microfibers, natural fibers may be coarser in size but no less soft, thus the name “Coarse Cloth.” – Joan Doll

Christy Begien | Christy's Non Toxic Lifestyle

Joan Doll, owner, Coarse Cloth

My background and education are in the fine arts and textile design. My paintings have been represented through galleries in Pennsylvania and Delaware and purchased for notable corporate collections. I later received my Bachelor of Science degree in textile design from Philadelphia University. While I was most interested in printed surface design, I also studied the fundamentals of knit design and commercial weaving. This has been helpful to my design process. As a designer for Anthropologie’s women’s apparel division, I developed  design from artwork I created and I also reworked archival designs into repeats for their printed fabrics. As a designer at Craftex Mills, I designed woven jacquard textiles for residential and contract fabrics. After moving to Boulder County in 2015, I began working on a line of knitted, felted handbags for my new company Coarse Cloth Ltd.

Everyone has areas of interest they want to put their focus and energy into. Mine has always included the visual arts and design of all kinds. It’s a pretty broad brush but over a lifetime, knowledge and practice begin to converge into something unique and tangible.


I began painting with oils as a child and later replaced them with acrylic paints and watercolor. I also loved making batiks using Ritz dyes. My grandmother taught us to crochet and knit. My mother sewed and we had a sewing machine available to learn on. Because we lived far from town we didn’t have the distractions that were available to most other kids. I think that may have been fortunate for me. My time was spent in my imagination formulating experiments with color, canvas, paper and fabric.

Christy Begien | Christy's Non Toxic Lifestyle

Each felted wool bag is fully one piece and seamless.

I began showing signs of illness early on and by the time I started college I was feeling pretty overwhelmed with fatigue and brain fog. It was then that I believe I also became infected with Lyme disease, though this wasn’t a recognized illness at the time and I wasn’t diagnosed until many years later. In the meantime I gave up my art and turned to my studies in pre-med.

I eventually had to leave school due to my health issues, so I was able to begin painting again. This change from the sciences back to art put me on the path to eventually start Coarse Cloth Ltd. My illness contributed to my desire to work only with nontoxic, healthy materials.

I returned to school much later to study textile design at Philadelphia University (formerly Philadelphia College of Textiles) and I loved every minute.

Coarse Cloth Ltd allows me to pursue many avenues of textile design and product development through experimentation using superfine merino yarns and organic woven fabrics with surface embellishments.

Christy Begien | Christy's Non Toxic Lifestyle

Explorer – BarkBody – Top – sm

We also now have our own knitting machine: an antique, manual, Dubied. The Dubied company is no longer in business but their knitting machines are much sought after by small textile makers and artists. We are very fortunate to have this machine.


As an early holiday gift to myself, I purchased one last month so that I could start using it! For those of you in Colorado and the Boulder area, Joan and her husband Nick will be at several holiday gift events. Be sure to check out the web sites for upcoming dates and locations, as they’re coming up soon. If you’re reading this from afar, go to her web site to view current offerings and to place custom orders. They do sell quickly so if you see something, don’t fret, as you can contact Joan and she may have extra stock and something similar. They even do custom work! You pick your colors! Here is her web site:

A huge thank you to Joan for sharing her beautiful company, mission and collection with us! We are grateful for your gifts of design and sustainability.

Peace and Good Health!

Christy Begien | The Non Toxic Lifestyle



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  1. Mike  November 7, 2019

    A wonderful post, if I don’t say so myself!

    • Christy Begien  November 15, 2019

      thanks, Mike! Are you related to the author, by any chance? :))

  2. Kathe  November 11, 2019

    The Coarse Cloth bags are truly works of art, so beautiful! Thanks for this thoughtful and thorough story letting those of us who don’t generally make it to art shows, know about Joan’s products. With conscience, commitment, and amazing design talent, she is setting a high standard of value — sustainable, beautiful, and durable. Encouraging and informative to the Non Toxic Lifestyle community to read about Joan’s persistence and success.

    • Christy Begien  November 15, 2019

      Thanks so much for this beautiful commentary on Joan’s bags. They truly are works of art and with the right heart behind her story. I hope like minded people check out her site or meet her at one of her local shows. Thank you again, Kathe! Blessings….C