How the bags get made

Meadow Messenger Bag

I was fortunate recently to be visited by a photographer, Julia Dunin, who was tasked by My Creative Edge to photograph the creative process that results in my bags. Julia made it an enjoyable process, and I’m delighted with the photographs.

I thought I’d share the results in this blog, but first I’ve also added in a short video of my über patient husband hanging out the umpteenth load of washed recycled jeans on our washing line, which is one of the first things that has to happen before the jeans can be cut to shape and size and the zips removed.

Once the jeans are dry, they are “filletted”. they are cut into two halves, right and left legs, and the zips are removed.

Creative Process
Jeans – washed and cut

The zips are removed from the denim and readied for use in purses. the rest of the denim is sorted by thickness – certain bags need certain thicknesses of denim, some are not so fussy.

Creative Process
Fabric

The fabrics then need to be selected from my store – this is some of my fabric waiting to be cut.  The fabrics are cut to size, and then I can move on to the component parts, like the zips for the zip top small and large cross body bags.

Creative Process
Zips for Small Cross Body Bags

And then I start to sew…

Creative Process
This is a Fiona Bag – a Small Messenger Bag
Creative Process
Trimming the ends
Creative Process
Making the base of the bag
Creative Process
Sewing the base
Creative Process
Attaching the straps
Creative Process
Closing the strap on the finished bag
Creative Process
Ta da!

And then for fun, Julia suggested a short photoshoot with a bag…

Meadow Messenger Bag
Meadow Messenger Bag

I just love this photo – it perfectly describes how practical and useful, and still beautiful, my bags are.  They’re as happy when you’re in wellies walking the dog as they are attending a meeting with the Bank Manager or an evening out with the girls.

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Zip it up!

Naked zips

Sometimes I have the chance to make little coin purses. These deceptively simple little purses are made from the recycled jeans zips and little pieces of my bag fabrics.

But how do I make them? Well, here’s a step by step guide.  Parental Guidance Statement: Gratuitous video footage of a man putting jeans on a washing line

It all starts with the jeans, like with all my bags.  They arrive from the charity shops, get sorted by size and usability and then washed.  And that means an awful lot of this goes on:

 

My husband Mike, who is tremendously supportive of all my bag making adventures, is often the person who gets tasked to hang out the jeans. Not all the jeans are usable for bag making, but all of them have a zip, so the zip is cut from the jeans and washed separately. They end up on the line too.

Zips for purses drying in the sunshine
Zips for purses drying in the sunshine

Once dried, all the zips need cutting out of the jeans.  This is a messy task. My sewing room becomes covered in threads and shards of denim, but at the end of the process I have a whole heap of wonderfully usable zips from which to make purses….

Naked zips
Naked zips

And then the fun can begin.  As you can see, although most zips have a basic navy fabric outer, some come in fun reds, yellows or turquoises.  I hunt out my fabrics, and then sew away to make some of the purses. At the moment these are available only from my Handmade at Amazon.com shop, on Etsy and at my stall wherever I happen to be (Chapel Lane Market this Saturday, in case you were wondering). I hope to add a few to my shop here on my site very soon.

My favourite fabrics right now are Funky Chicken and Cheeky Cat

Cheeky Cat Purse
Cheeky Cat Purse
Funky Chicken Purse
Cat Purse Zip
Cat Purse Zip

It’s a fun way to use up every possible bit of the jeans that I can. They came into being because I had a whole heap of the zips sitting on my desk, and I couldn’t bear to throw them out.  Jeans zips are made from metal, and become better with age. They also get a little burnished with age (don’t we all?), so they wear particularly attractively.

The purses are a great little gift for children to get for their Mammies, Mums, Moms, Mothers, Mamaí and Madres this Mother’s Day, which is this coming Sunday 26th March here in Ireland and Sunday 14 May in the States.

As I said earlier, I’m at Chapel Lane Market this Saturday in Ennis from 10-5 with all my crafty companions providing you with an array of locally produced gorgeousness unparalleled in the West of Ireland, so be sure to call in to guarantee that you get something really lovely and handmade this Mother’s Day!

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Fly me to the moon, let me play amongst the stars…

Plane & Moon

View

Those of you who take the time to read my blog posts will know that most days I start out by walking the dog.  The weather is irrelevant – the dog needs to go out, so come rain, hail, sleet or (too rarely) sunshine, I am out walking Poppy first thing.  This morning the walk was a pure pleasure, with a cloudless blue sky and bright sunrise.  I looked up and saw an aeroplane seemingly heading towards the moon, and the song in the blog post title came into my head.

I live slap bang on the west coast of Ireland, and we’re on the flight path for most of northern Europe and beyond to the United States and Canada, so seeing the contrails in the sky is a regular thing.  But to see them so clearly in a cloudless sky is a treat.

And these aeroplanes got me thinking about travelling, and the fact that I have to pack all my bags and my displays up when I got home to prepare for Showcase, which starts on Sunday 22nd January. And then I remembered that people I know who have bought bags had sent me pictures of the bags on their travels recently.

 

Blue Paisley going on a trip
Blue Paisley going on a trip

So here we have a large messenger bag in Blue Paisley, alongside a purse in the same fabric, about to head off on its travels.  Apparently the trip closely mirrored several scenes from the film “Planes Trains and Automobiles” in the number of travel variations unexpectedly taken by its owner in order to try to get to her destination. And here’s a Meadow Bag on a trip across the Irish Sea recently, having been on a visit to the UK.

Meadow Bag on board
Meadow Bag on board

Why am I telling you this?  I suppose because I love to hear from people who have my bags and finding out where they have gone to.  By selling online, I have sent bags and purses all over the world.  My list of states within the US where there is now a Sallyann Bag is growing, with Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, New York State, Minnesota and Kentucky leading the charts!

 

Old Map Large Messenger Bag
Old Map Large Messenger Bag

The bags have also headed off the Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK to live. The range of destinations the bags have visited on holidays is long and eclectic. Sunny favourites such as the Canary Islands, Spain, Greece, Italy and France top the list, but they have headed further afield to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sweden, Denmark, Hong Kong, Belize, India, Indonesia, Thailand and South Africa.

Mixed Messenger Bags
Mixed Messenger Bags

Please do send me pictures of your bag when you’re away, if you think of it.  I love to see where the bags have got to – I am always amazed how far they get.  The bags are designed to be good travelling companions, but I’m always interested to hear your feedback too, so if you think of a little tweak which might make the bags even better, please let me know, and I’ll see if I can incorporate the improvements into future bags.

Blue Star Small Messenger Bag
Blue Star Small Messenger Bag

For now, my next trip with my own handbags, together with a raft of display bags is to the RDS in Dublin, to Showcase 2017.  I’m hopeful that by exhibiting at Showcase, I will be able to work with shops across Ireland, to increase the number of outlets where my bags are stocked. I appreciate that not all of you want to buy online, and you most certainly don’t all live within easy reach of Chapel Lane Market in Ennis (but do try to visit Chapel Lane Market – it is FAB!), so more outlets around Ireland would be fantastic.  In addition, buyers from across the world also attend  Showcase, so who knows where my bags might end up being stocked in 2017?

And the good news is that Chapel Lane Market will be reopening for 2017 on Saturday 11 February at 10am! If you want to nudge someone in my direction with regards to a Valentine’s Day gift that you’d actually appreciate, let me know what you’d like and I can ensure it will be on the stall on the 11th.

See you after Showcase, when I will report back with all on my adventures in the big smoke, Dublin!

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From the Cutting Table to the Catwalk!

Large Cross Body Bags in Meadow

After the excitement of my unique print arriving, it was straight to the cutting table. There is a joy in an untouched roll of fabric, but an even greater joy cutting the fabric to make the bags.

Meadow fabric on the roll
Meadow fabric on the roll

I cut a selection of small and large cross body bags and some small messenger bags.

Small Cross Body Bag in Meadow
Small Cross Body Bag in Meadow
Large Cross Body Bags in Meadow
Large Cross Body Bags in Meadow
Small Messenger Bag in Meadow
Small Messenger Bag in Meadow

These made their debut at a fashion show in Ennis, with one small messenger bag actually hitting the catwalk! It was amazing to see my bags on the catwalk, on the arms of models, looking fabulous. I was like a proud parent as I stood by the stage, taking photographs as the models strolled by showing the bags’ best sides.

Catwalk

The first big outing for the bags was in Chapel Lane Market on Saturday, when the lovely people of Ennis and Clare came over to inspect my new fabric, which I’ve called Meadow.

Meadow bags on the stall
Meadow bags on the stall

The first two bags in the Meadow fabric have long journeys ahead because both their new owners live in the United States.Ballymaloe Craft Fair_DL BROCHURE

The next stop for the bags is Ballymaloe in County Cork. I’m taking the bags to the Ballymaloe Christmas Craft Fair, where I hope to introduce the bags to a whole new audience

this Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November.

For those of you who like to plan your Christmas craft shopping, here is the list of where I will be in the run up to Christmas this year:

19&20 November Ballymaloe Craft Fair, Ballymaloe, Co Cork

Saturday 26 November 10am – 5pm Chapel Lane Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Sunday 27 November 11am – 5pm Clare Crafts Association Christmas Craft Fair, Bunratty Castle Hotel, Bunratty, Co Clare

Friday 2 December 6-9pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Saturday 3 December 10am – 5pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Sunday 4 December 11am – 4pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Tuesday 6 December Shannon Group Charity Fashion Show, Shannon Airport, Co Clare

Friday 9 December 6-9pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Saturday 10 December 10am – 5pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Sunday 11 December 11am – 4pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Friday 16 December 5-10pm Corofin Christmas Night Market, Corofin, Co Clare

Saturday 17 December 10am – 5pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Sunday 18 December 11am – 5pm Clare Crafts Association Christmas Craft Fair, Old Ground Hotel, Ennis, Co Clare

Monday 19 – Friday 23 December 12-7pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

And don’t forget, ifs you can’t get to any of these events, you can order online at this site by following the links to “Shop”.

Have a safe and happy run up to the festive season, and please try to shop locally when and where you can – it helps small businesses like mine to grow and create opportunities and employment!

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Poppy Appeal….

Vandeleur Walled Gardens

It’s rather grey and wet Bank Holiday Monday here at Bag Making HQ. I had the pleasure of being in Vandeleur Walled Gardens yesterday which was a riot of gorgeous colours. The picture above is of the garden furniture that I was longing to lounge on. Below is my stall, full of the colours being shipped off to Sweden….

Bags galore
Bags galore

It is all systems go as I start my packing for Sweden.

Urkult Poster
Urkult Poster

Last week saw three boxes containing my stock of bags and all the various bits and pieces needed for three days of markets  at a Swedish folk festival in the middle of the woods head off in a courier’s van.  I truly hope that we will be reunited at the hotel in Sweden where they are supposed to arrive on Wednesday. In a past life I spent a lot of time flying around Asia attending exhibitions, and hard won experience means that I have my emergency stock and market supplies travelling with me, just in case my freight goes astray.  I recall arriving very late at night in Calcutta, and my bags were in Buenos Aires.  It’s not a great feeling.

I have my 20 slides ready for my Pecha Kucha presentation.  No, I’d never heard of a Pecha Kucha either.  Apparently, it is a clever Japanese way of speeding up presentations.  You have 20 slides, and 20 seconds to speak about each slide. No more, no less. My presentation is going to be about making the bags from start to finish.  I confess to including some slides showing the sewing room cats hard at work, in the hope that will distract people from listening to my ramblings.

At some point in the Urkult Festival I am due to give a short workshop about recycling fabrics, trying to encourage people to upcycle, recycle and reuse instead of binning and sending them to landfill.  My bags are a clear example of what you can do with a pair of old jeans, but I made a little toy cat (what else?) this morning, to try to show that you don’t have to  make bags with old jeans.  In fact web sites such as Pinterest are chock full of ideas for old jeans, from plant pots to aprons to cocktail dresses. Here is Serge, my denim cat…..

Serge
Serge

I will endeavour to post at least a few pictures and comments on this blog from Urkult, to give you a flavour of the festival and what I am up to.  Do keep an eye on my Facebook and Instagram pages too, where I will be posting plenty of photographs (I hope – will there be wifi in the woods??).

So why did I call this post “Poppy Appeal”, when all I’ve written about is the Urkult Festival and a denim cat?? As any of you who happen to be regular readers of my blog will know, last month we lost our very much loved dog, Daisy.  She was a big German Shepherd-type dog, and my constant shadow in the sewing room, sleeping beside me as I sewed. She left a huge, dog shaped hole in the family.  And then last week there was a post on the Ennis Dog Pound Facebook page, showing two Springer x Pointer puppies, one of which was almost immediately snapped up by my fellow Chapel Lane Stallholder, Lorna (Wild Atlantic Silver – gorgeous). And we took the other one.  Far more rapidly than had been intended.  So, please meet Poppy.  She has arrived into Bag Making HQ like a small tornado, and is slowing down bag production something rotten.  But she is rather cute….

Poppy
Poppy

And please forgive me if my production totals are down on pre-Poppy weekly totals!

Have a good week, and I will be back to normal blogs following my return from the woods of northern Sweden, hopefully fully revved up for the All-Ireland Fleadh being held in Ennis from 14 – 22 August.

 

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Wow! What a year 2015 has been!

Flowers
Flowers
Flowers

Every post should begin with a bright picture of gorgeous flowers!  I was presented with this beautiful bunch of flowers after I helped out at the last Local Enterprise Office Women in Business networking event last week, entitled “A Celebration of Success”, which was organised by the force of nature that is Theresa Mulvihill of Smart Marketing.  Along with Hannah Arnup from Ballymorris Pottery and Orla Meere from Meere’s Pork Products, I took part in a panel discussion about my eventful 2015, and my plans for 2016. How to sum up 2015 in the 5 minutes I was given? Crikey!

A plethora of purses
A plethora of purses

It has been a mad year, so exciting and busy, and as 2015 comes to a close, I am still scurrying around making bags and purses for my final market of 2015, Chapel Lane Market in Ennis, on Saturday 19th December, from 10am – 5pm. Chapel Lane is looking so gorgeous and festive, it’ll be lovely to have one last market before Christmas in the company of my stallholder pals and the friendly folk of Ennis and Clare who have been such great supporters of the market since we started in March this year. The starting up of Chapel Lane Market is definitely a highlight of 2015.

Another highlight has to have been taking my bags to GlenAran’s Duty Free shop at Shannon Airport over the Summer, and then in October they were formally stocked by GlenAran in that shop.  It’s so exciting when friends or family fly through the airport and tell me they have seen my bags in the shop.  It’s a huge vote of confidence in Sallyann’s Handmade Bags, and I’m so chuffed about it.

And then I won the Silver Award in the Bank of Ireland Start Up Awards! Wow! How did that happen?  And how did I manage to break my ankle just as I was about to go to the awards ceremony? Without my fellow finalist Shoeniversity live tweeting the event, I wouldn’t have known I’d won silver until the morning after. It was such fun to take part, and lovely to get the silver award.

Now it is time to get planning for 2016.

Coco helping with the sewing (not)
Coco helping with the sewing (not)

If I can get Coco to move out of the way and let me get sewing, there will be new bags in 2016.  January is a time for me to plan and experiment with new fabrics and new ideas.  I’ll still be making the large and small messenger bags, the large and small cross body bags and the perennial favourite, the zip top tote, but I love a challenge.  So I have a few things buzzing in my head that I need to get out of my head and onto the sewing machine.  One of these couldn’t wait until January – it was the box bag.  I wanted to see could I make a smallish make up/washbag that would suit both men and women.  It had to be lined with denim (of course).  And it had to look nice.  So I have made a few and trialled them at Chapel Lane and the Clare Crafts Association Xmas Fair, and they seem to be a popular addition to my range.  Here are a few of them stacked up at a market:

Boxbags - perfect for shaving stuff, wash bags, make up, you name it...
Boxbags!

The box bags will soon be appearing alongside all of my bags in the online shop part of this website.  The shop is now fully operational.  Woo hoo! I can now take purchases online, payments securely through PayPal, and send out the bags anywhere in the world. Hooray!

I hope to secure some more outlets across Ireland in 2016, and maybe to branch out internationally as well.  I’ll still be a regular at Chapel Lane Market in 2016, and I would like to take the bags to other markets elsewhere in Ireland.  I reckon the odd festival could be fun – who’s up for Electric Picnic next September?

Daisy and Lucy on a cold, wet day
Daisy and Lucy looking cosy

So all that remains for me to say in this post is thank you to all of you who have supported me in 2015, by reading this blog, coming to the various markets I have attended, purchased from me or one of my retailers, bought online, or simply liked a picture on my Facebook page. Thank you.  I hope that your Christmas and New Year are as cosy as Lucy and Daisy in this photo, and that I see you or hear from you all early in 2016.

Happy Christmas!
Happy Christmas!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Sallyann’s Handmade Bags!

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Heard at the Craft Fair….

Coore cows

Craft Fairs are generally good fun.  You arrive about an hour before they are due to open to the public, set up your stall, wander around annoying the other stall holders by disturbing them whilst they are setting up, then you return to your stall in readiness for opening.There’s a bit of a buzz, excitement in the air as you get ready.  Yesterday I took the bags to the Clare Crafts Association Summer Craft Fair at the Armada Hotel in Spanish Point.  It was one of those Summer days where within an hour you got rain, sea fog and bright sunshine.  A few hardy souls were swimming and two people took a rowing boat out for a spin.  Spanish Point is my local beach where I could happily spend a few hours walking up and down the beach, swimming or surfing.  But yesterday I was grateful to be inside the hotel – the weather wasn’t my idea of beach weather.  So I was hopeful that the good people of West Clare and the many holidaymakers around at the moment would support  the event.

Spanish Point Beach
Spanish Point Beach

Which they did! We had a steady flow of visitors, who meandered happily around the 23 stalls, enjoying the huge range of crafts on display, from paintings, sculptures and ceramics to quilted items and jewellery.  What I like the most about craft fairs and markets is the immediate feedback and chat you get from people about the bags.  Some people say the most fantastic things, which make you smile for the rest of the day.  Yesterday I spoke to a lady who was sounding off about the huge prices some designers charge for handbags. She had seen some in a shop and was outraged at the high prices being charged, “so high – you’d have to sell two bullocks to pay for them!”.

Coore cows
How many Sallyann Bags for these cattle?

I’m no farmer, and don’t know the going price for a bullock, but I don’t think you’d have to sell any cattle to get your hands on one of my bags.  After all, they are just simple, well designed, useful, practical bags.  I’m not going to try to sell you a lifestyle next week.  You don’t need me to tell you what your duvet cover or your sugar bowl should look like!!

And then a lady and her daughter came over to talk to me and to look at the bags.  They liked their craft, and had clearly already bought a couple of pieces from others in the room. I was completely taken aback when she picked out a funky red Fely bag, turned to her daughter and said “That’s not a bag, that’s a work of art!”.  What an AMAZING thing to say! I was hugely flattered, and duly got all tongue-tied.  But I’m still floating 6 inches off the ground after that compliment.

Funky red & grey dandelion
Two favourite fabrics, funky red & grey dandelion

This is going to be a busy week for markets, fairs, festivals and duty free! I’m back in Shannon Airport, at the GlenAran Shop in Duty Free, on Friday 31 July from 7am, so look out for me if  you’re flying through Shannon on Friday.  On Saturday I’m at my very favourite community market, Chapel Lane Market in Ennis from 10am – 5pm. Sunday sees me return to the beautiful Vandeleur Walled Gardens in Kilrush for their  August Craft and Plant Sale, from 12-5pm.  Finally on Bank Holiday Monday I will be amongst the crowds at the amazing Kilmihil Festival of Fun. There is a craft fair in the Community Centre on there main street of this village.  For those of you yet to sample Kilmihil Festival of Fun, make this the year that you do.  The whole village lets its hair down for the weekend, with all manner of events, from tractor runs, walks, pig racing, vintage cars, sheaf throwing, turf stacking.  Then on Bank Holiday Monday there is a big parade which can be quite eye-popping.  I hope that I’ll see you at one or other of these great events this weekend, but whether I do or not, have a great Bank Holiday Weekend!

Chapel Lane
The welcome on the mat at Chapel Lane Market
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Sewing made difficult 

Sewing made difficultMaking a bag is not always easy. Sometimes the oilcloth slips, slides or sticks to the sewing machine foot. Or the denim is so thick the needle breaks. But mostly those are easily overcome.
But strap making with a large, playful cat following your every move is a different matter. Big black paws pat the straps, stamp on the scissors and tangle the reels. Metal clasps are sent rattling to the floor, and magnetic snap fasteners become fixed to the bell on her collar. 

 

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