Red & Grey

Zips & Festivals


It’s festival season here in County Clare. From the beginning of June until the end of September, there is a festival almost every weekend, and some last for a whole week or more.  The festivals often revolve around a person who hails from the particular village or town, and whose achievements are celebrated annually, but sometimes are simply set up to bring people together to celebrate fun and laughter.  As an example of the latter, Ennis Street Festival was on from 2-5 July this year, and brought crowds onto the street to celebrate art, music, dance and laughter. I was at Chapel Lane Market on Saturday and the crowds of people flowing through our hall all had smiles on the their faces, and in the case of many children, gorgeous face paint enhancing the smiles still further.

As an example of the former, Saturday July 4th not only was US Independence Day, more importantly for the resident and many thousands of visitors to the small town of Miltown Malbay, it is the 43rd Willie Clancy Summer School.  This is HUGE in the area where I live.  Every B&B, guest house, hostel and hotel is booked up often a year in advance for “Willie Week”, as it is affectionately called. Tent cities suddenly emerge at Spanish Point and White Strand beaches. And all to celebrate the life of a hugely talented piper called Willie Clancy.  Thousands of adults and children turn up to classes in their chosen traditional instruments: flute, concertina, fiddle, tin whistle, but most importantly uilleann pipes, for which Willie Clancy was most renowned.  The classes are mostly in the morning, and then from about 2pm onwards eager players emerge wanting to join in the music seisúns on every street corner, shop front and pub. Music fills the air along the street – if I have to drive through Miltown during Willie Week it is always with the windows down so that I can hear the music.  As well as the traditional music in all its forms, there are ceilís and set dancing – truly the week is when Miltown lets its hair down and has a great time.

As I live so close to Miltown Malbay, I am fortunate to be a member of the Miltown Malbay Farmers Market, which once a month promotes local crafts enabling craftspeople to join the food producers.  We trade in the foyer of SuperValu supermarket in Miltown, and during Willie Week we come in most days.  I will be at the market from 12-4pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week.  Which is where I come to the other half of the title of this post.  The zips.

Purse zips
Zips ready for making into purses

I have an embarrassing shortage of purses currently.  I make the purses by unpicking the zips from the jeans that I use to make the linings for my bags.  Zips from jeans are fabulous quality metal zips, often made with brass teeth, so they last for ages and don’t wear down or start jamming.

All ready for purses
More zips!

I then cut bits of oilcloth to fit the zips.  The purses as a result are totally random sizes as I fit each zip specifically to its bits of oilcloth.

Fabric for zips
Fabric waiting to find its zip

It’s always fun as I try to make a load in one sitting – they are fiddly to sew and nearly always result in figures full of pinpricks and broken sewing machine needles.  But the final result is pleasing as I fill up my basket of purses.  I always encourage customers to have a good search through the purse basket because the small ones always slip away to the bottom, and sometimes the one in the particular fabric they are searching for is hiding. The purses are the perfect size for all manner of uses: change, foreign currency, digital cameras, phone covers, glasses, rosary beads – you name the use, these purses are up to the job!  A lot of my fellow stallholders have a Sallyann Purse for their takings for the day – they are light and slip int the pocket easily.

Red & Grey
Ready for purse making

So that’s my task for this afternoon, as well as preparing more bags for orders and getting ready for the fun and frolics of Willie Clancy Week and Chapel Lane Market on Saturday.

Purses ready to go

Better get cutting!



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