Off to The Handmade Fair at Ragley Hall

Sallyann Bags in the Sunshine

It’s been a very busy few weeks, as I increase my stock levels in preparation for attending The Handmade Fair at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire in England. Trying to get the balance right of which bags to take in what fabric and which bag style has been challenging.  Just at the point when I was feeling a little frazzled, I looked up from my trimming of a large messenger bag to see that a thread had become stitched into the seam of the denim lining of the bag, in the shape of a perfect heart. It’s like the messenger bag was sending me a message.

A subtle message
A subtle message

So I breathed, thought calm thoughts, and got the bags made just in time. I’ve even had to book my sewing machine in for a service after its exertions at the wonderful sewing machine spa that is John O’Donnell’s Singer Sewing Centre in Waterford. Whilst I am away it can put its foot up and get its machine parts oiled, whilst I drum up more work for it in England! As a quick aside, John is a fabulous help to my business, always at the end of the phone to advise me as I push my sewing machines sometimes to the limits of what they are capable of. I’m sure my machines count the days until they go for their annual service.

The bags getting ready to head to England
The bags getting ready to head to England

So the bags are packed (I have John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” playing on repeat in my head, despite the fact that I’ll be leaving in a small overloaded car to catch the ferry to Holyhead, which is somewhat more humdrum), and I’m almost ready to leave. I was at The Handmade Fair in Hampton Court Palace Gardens last September, and had an amazing time.  This Spring event in Ragley Hall in Warwickshire is a new event, so it’s a first for everyone.  Like the September event there are loads of classes and sessions where you can try out new crafts or learn new techniques in crafts that you are already passionate about.  There are seriously delicious food wagons parked strategically around the site, tempting you with everything from paella to artisan coffees. And then there is the Shopping Village, where I will be at Stall 34.

The Shopping Village is an array of temptation, with huge displays of fabric and yarn stalls, all manner of craft kit suppliers, and then handpicked suppliers of genuinely handmade items, like my bags.

Meadow Small Messenger Bag
Meadow Small Messenger Bag
Funky Red & Slate Large Cross Body Bags
Funky Red & Slate Large Cross Body Bags

There are some TV personalities who are involved with the Handmade Fair too, most notably Kirstie Allsopp who is a big supporter of handmade crafts and has been central to The Handmade Fair since its inception. For viewers of The Great British Sewing Bee, the judge Patrick Grant will be there this weekend, as well as Keith Brymer-Jones, the judge from The Great British Pottery Throwdown. So a little bit of stardust is being sprinkled amongst us all.

I’ve made a load of little purses for the Handmade Fair too – they are always popular with people wanting a little extra with their bags, or as a snap purchase as they finally find the small purse they’ve been looking for.

Meadow Large Messenger Bag
Meadow Large Messenger Bag

For those of you in the UK, if you’d like free tickets to The Handmade Fair for this weekend 12-14 May, email me as soon as possible and I will send you a link by return that you can follow to get your free entry pass. It’ll be lovely to see you at my stall! At the time of writing it is wonderfully warm and sunny here in West Clare, and has been dry for almost a month now, which is quite uncanny. I don’t know if this gorgeous Spring weather will last into the weekend, but whatever the weather, I hope that you have a wonderful few days, and with luck I will see a few of you in Ragley Hall this weekend. I’ll be back at Chapel Lane Market in Ennis on Saturday 20th May, for those of you planning your holidays and realising that a light, easily packed Sallyann Bag is just the thing for your next trip!

 

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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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Divided by a Common Language

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

I have to start with this picture of zips from jeans drying in the sunshine yesterday.  This is the start of the purse making process.  The zips are cut from the jeans, washed and then stripped out of their denim.  The zips are divided by size, then I cut the fabrics to match up with each size of zip.  Just recently, I have been making lots of funky chicken purses for customers in the United States, so this batch of zips are going to be converted into these cute little purses very soon!

Funky Chicken Purse
Funky Chicken Purse

Last week was a whirlwind of sewing, packing and training courses. It was Enterprise Week in County Clare, and our Local Enterprise Office was running lots of events to help small businesses like mine.

One of the events was devoted to the dark art of search engine optimisation. Even the phrase, and its more commonly used three letter abbreviation, SEO, gave me the chills.

The lady who was illuminating the topic gave us all pointers about how to get our websites to hit the dizzy heights of Page One on a Google Search Results page.

Keywords are the thing. We were tasked with talking to our neighbours about what keywords were most likely to be used by someone searching for our products. But as is ever the way at these events, if you put 10 small business owners at one table, they’ll start talking about everything except the task at hand.

So keywords are consigned to my homework. And this is where I started to realise how I need to work in at least two languages….American English and Irish/English English.

Why divided by a common language? Take this gorgeous large messenger bag. Is it a messenger bag, a satchel, a cross body bag, a laptop bag, a travel bag, a purse, a pocketbook or a work bag? Is it a shoulder bag? Could someone class it as a tote bag? If it goes to the beach, could it be a beach bag?

Old Map Large Messenger Bag

I need to lie down now! You can see my dilemma. As a “help”, I thought I would Google images of pocketbooks, so I could see what a pocketbook looks like. But Google helpfully presented me with the luridly graphic front cover of that number one bestseller “The Pocket Book of Oral Diseases”. Not for the fainthearted.

So I’ve drawn up a list of keywords, and like Santa, I’ll check it twice, but I may also ask visitors to my stall at Chapel Lane Market and other events what they would call my bags. Especially if they are from the United States or Canada. You can’t beat face to face conversation yet!

Which brings me to my favourite topic to blog about, markets! Chapel Lane Market in Ennis continues to be my main weekly shop window every Saturday. We’re open from 10-5 every Saturday, and the hall is full to the rafters with gorgeousness.

I’m back in the UK for the two Handmade Fairs. The first is at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire May 12-14, the second is at Hampton Court Palace in London from 15-17 September. These are fantastic events so I’m really looking forward to heading over for these. I’ll have some free entry passes, so watch this space, I’ll be publicising those as soon as I have them.

One final thought – have you seen the social media campaign by Margaret Molloy in New York’s City, who for the month of March is wearing Irish designed clothes and accessories?  Under the hashtag #WearingIrish, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, she and now a growing band of others, are promoting all that is fantastic about Irish designed and Irish made fashion and accessories.  And of course I’m more that happy to promote this campaign, by encouraging more and more people to start #WearingIrish by carrying one of my bags, designed and handmade in County Clare!  And because it is nearly St Patrick’s Day, what better than a green Sallyann Bag, one of my own Meadow fabric bags…?

Small Messenger Bag in Meadow
Small Messenger Bag in Meadow

All that remains for me to say is sona Lá Fhéile Pádraig for Friday. Happy St Patrick’s Day!

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Last Few Shopping Opportunities Approaching

It’s a crazy, busy time of year for everyone in the run up to Christmas.  I am approaching the last few markets I’ll be attending in 2016…here they are:

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

Large Messenger Bag in Meadow
Large Messenger Bag in Meadow

I will have as many of my bags in as big a range of fabrics as I can muster at these events.  I’m delighted with the reception that you have all given to my own fabric design, Meadow. I have sold out of it at each event I have attended with Meadow bags, which is brilliant, although it does mean that I am facing into a big pile of Meadow bags to be cut and sewn this week.  If you’re desperate to get your paws on one before Christmas, by all means message me to pick one up at the markets I’ll be attending, or order online.  I’m now making large messenger bags in Meadow too – see the picture above – it’s looking a bit gorgeous don’t you think?

If you’re ordering online, bear in mind that the last posting dates for Ireland to the UK is 19 December, and to Ireland it is 21 December.  I wouldn’t want to risk being up to the wire on those dates if at all possible though, especially if I have to make to order, so please be kind and give me as much lead in time to any orders that you might have!

It’s a short but sweet blog post today, necessitated by a need to sew not type.

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Off to London!

Funky Red Small Messenger Bags
Funky Red Small Messenger Bags

You may have gathered from my silence that I have been a little pre-occupied.  Since getting back from Sweden at the beginning of August, I went straight into a week of markets at the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann that was held  in Ennis this year. Following that, it was all hands to the sewing machine to produce enough bags for my next big adventure.

Kirstie Allsop’s The Handmade Fair in Hampton Court Palace Gardens.

Handmade Fair

So I have cut, and sewed, cut again, and sewed again, and finally I have stopped sewing, and counted.  All my bags are now sorted and stored in their new travel boxes.

Funky Slate Cross Body Bags
Funky Slate Cross Body Bags

I have tried to include as many favourites in as many styles as I can.  I don’t know quite what the discerning clientele of The Handmade Fair will make of my bags, or which fabrics they might prefer. So I have a few of pretty much everything.

It was about time, for instance, that I got a few small cross body bags made in the Paisley fabrics that I have in shades of blue, green and pink.

Cross Body Bags in Paisley fabrics
Cross Body Bags in Paisley fabrics

My fantastically supportive Chapel Lane Market pals, Clare from Crafty Nugz and Clare from Orinoco Creative Glass, have even booked to come to the Handmade Fair to see me.  Now I suspect the hundreds of stalls selling amazing hand made goodies in every shape and size, plus the promise of extensive freebies, high quality coffee, macarons and prosecco might have something to do with their decision to visit, but I like to think they might want to see my stall too.

Cross Body Bags in Large Blue Flower fabric
Cross Body Bags in Large Blue Flower fabric

The very talented Dave from Celtic Laser Crafts has been a huge help to me with regards to my display.  I was looking for hooks to hang some of my bags from the walls of my stand. He came up with the fantastic idea of making hooks in the shape of an S. I now have 10 of these laser cut beauties, ready to be fixed to the wall next Thursday when I travel down to Hampton Court to set up. I shall post plenty of pictures here and on my Facebook page. I also have two new banners, one of which will make its debut at Chapel Lane Market on Saturday.  I’m also at Vandeleur Walled Gardens in Kilrush on Sunday – your last two chances to get your Sallyann Bag before I head over to England to see if those streets really are paved with gold….

Serge & Arno
Serge & Arno

My trusty travelling companions Serge & Arno already have their passports and bags packed, and are looking forward to helping me out on the stall.

I hope that I will see a few of you at the Handmade Fair – please come and say hello if you do get there – I am in the East Marquee, at Stand E127. I’ll be the one with the cheesy grin on my face.

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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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Livet är Kort – Köp Väskan!

Life is Short - Buy the Bag

Well, I am up to my tonsils here in Bag Making HQ getting ready for my trip to the Urkult Festival in Sweden next month.  As you can see, I have started by getting some signs made – they were made by one of my fellow Chapel Lane Market stallholders, Colette of Colly’s Hobby House.  In case your Swedish is a little rusty, they say “Life is Short – Buy the Bag”.  I love them.

Life is Short - Buy the Bag
Life is Short – Buy the Bag

Fabrics orders have been made, straps and fasteners delivered, it is the final push to get bags made in time for shipping out to the festival site in Nämforsen.  The delivery drivers don’t even need to phone for directions anymore!

In the run up to Urkult I will still be doing a few local markets, if you want to get a bag for your holidays as a little treat for yourself.  I’ll be at Chapel Lane Market for the next 3 Saturdays, the 16, 23 and 30 July. On Sunday 24 July I will be at the Clare Crafts Association Summer Craft Fair at the Falls Hotel, Ennistymon, and on Bank Holiday Monday 1 August I will be at the Vandeleur Walled Gardens in Kilrush. For any of you who have not yet made it to Chapel Lane Market, take a look at this video of the market last Saturday to get a flavour of the variety of stalls that are at the market each Saturday.

Summer Bags
Summer Bags

I’m also getting ready for The Handmade Fair in London in September, and I was interviewed by a lovely lady by the name of Annie B for her blog, Mrs Crafty B’s Blog.  Take a look at the results here.

I normally regale you with tales of my daily morning walk in this blog.

Bumblebee in flight
Bumblebee in flight

The picture above is one I took this morning of a bumblebee just coming into land on a large thistle.  Unfortunately I haven’t been walking as much recently, due to the sad and untimely death of my walking companion, Daisy the Dog.  She was my constant companion in the sewing room and on my walk, and is much missed around Bag Making HQ.

Off now to make a start on the vast pile of bags in my “to sew” pile.  Lots and lots of bags to be ready very soon for shipping!  It’s all very exciting.

 

 

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Summer’s here – it must be, it’s raining!

Daisy Small Messenger Bag

As those of you who might read my blogs regularly (or as regularly as I publish them) will know, I tend to start my day with a walk up and down the road that I live on.  I’m normally accompanied by my dog, Daisy, who is a more or less willing companion, depending on the weather conditions.  On Fridays I go to the nearby town of Miltown Malbay, and this means Daisy and I get to walk by the sea, along the headland at the White Strand beach.  Whatever the time of year and weather, this is always a stunning walk.  For the first time in my life I saw a basking shark there a few weeks ago.

Wildflower Meadow
Wildflower Meadow

The picture of the wildflower meadow here was taken on this walk on Friday.  The meadow is generally ungrazed, and thankfully it is left late to be cut for hay.  The meadow is alive with skylarks and other rare birdlife, as well as unusual bumblebees and butterflies.  In fact I took a picture of a butterfly that I spotted on the headland a couple weeks ago and could not identify it. I sent it to the National Biodiversity Data Centre for their help in identifying the beautiful little butterfly, and I got a very rapid and excited response saying that it was a Marsh Fritillary, which is a rare and important species.  I was amazed! It goes to show how little we know about what surrounds us everyday.

Marsh Fritillery butterfly
Marsh Fritillery butterfly

Just a few weeks ago I blogged about the cuckoo returning to Coore, and how I could hear it calling.  All that has stopped now – the adult cuckoos have already started their long journey back to Africa, and the eggs they laid in the various host nests will have hatched into baby cuckoos, who have to make their way to West Africa without any help from adult birds in the next few weeks.

My walks in the morning often set the tone for the day, and on Friday, inspired by the beautiful wildflower meadow at White Strand, I decided it was time to get out my Daisy fabric and make a bag to suit the day.  So the beautiful Daisy Messenger Bag came into existence!

Daisy Small Messenger Bag
Daisy Small Messenger Bag

And of course sunshine always makes me think of holidays.  So I had to make the perfect travel bag then, a small messenger bag in my perennial favourite fabric, Old Map.  I took this picture of it on the road outside my sewing studio.  The view is almost directly West, so I was laughing to myself that if I just kept going along the road, over the Atlantic that you can just make out in the distance, the bag would actually reach the place shown on the front flap, North America!

Old Map Small Messenger Bag
Old Map Small Messenger Bag

I mentioned in my last blog that I’ve been selected to go to the urkult Festival in Sweden, and much of my time between now and then is devoted to making lots and lots of bags which I hope the discerning festival goers of Sweden will enjoy.  However, the organisation behind this opportunity, Creative Edge, also helped me to get involved with another scheme recently. Called Creative Steps, it involved pairing my business up with a craft business in northern Finland and a team of hugely enthusiastic business students from the University of Applied Sciences in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland.  The idea was to work with the team of students on a key aspect of my business, and that they would go away and study it and come back with proposals. The students were an international mix, representing Finland, Vietnam, Nigeria and Russia, so their perspectives were totally different to my own.  They were gripped by the challenge of working with a creative business rather than a more “normal” case study of well known consumer brand.

One of the challenges I asked them to look into for me was my desire to develop my own fabrics.  In fact it was through the creative business I was paired with for this project, Susivilla, that I learned of some textile designers.  So I am working away with them to try to start developing my own fabrics, which would be totally unique to Sallyann’s Handmade Bags, which will be AMAZING if it happens! Annika, the lady behind Susivilla, is a weaver.  She makes the most stunning rugs and scarves, inspired by the surrounding countryside and Lappish culture. Click on the link above and take a look.  Her stuff is beautiful.  She will also be at the urkult Festival, and the two of us are trying to work on the germ of an idea that we have for running a workshop whilst we’re at the festival.

These two projects that have spun out of my involvement with Creative Edge have been a real boost to my business – I feel like it is going in the right direction for me now. Developing my own range of bags using my own fabric has been a goal for a long time, but the mechanics of actually achieving it had eluded me until now.  It’s not going to be overnight, but I do feel it will now happen.

The other developments I have been working on are online too – I feel to have spent almost more time on the computer than at the sewing machine.  I have uploaded a lot of bags to my Etsy site and I have become a trader on Handmade at Amazon. My shop here on my own web site is still going strong, never fear, but these two websites give me a broader reach.  Especially for those of you with friends and family in the United States and Canada, do let them know about the Handmade at Amazon site, not just because of my bags, but also because of the range of crafts available on it.  It is very impressive.

As well as my visit to urkult Festival, there is a much larger festival happening much closer to home later in August.  The Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann arrives in Ennis from 14-22 August. It is the culmination of months and years of practice for traditional musicians from around Ireland and all over the world. They will come together in Ennis and compete to become All-Ireland Champion in their particular instrument.  The whole town and wider county of Clare will be alive with traditional music for the whole time.  It is HUGE for Ennis, and will be great fun as the musicians move into the town and take over.

Bodhrán Bag
Bodhrán Bag

In celebration of this massive traditional music event, I have worked with a local traditional bodhrán maker (a type of Irish drum), Ben March Bodhráns, to develop a new type of bag for Sallyann’s Bags – a bodhrán bag!  These are primarily made from recycled jeans, really highlighting how gorgeous recycled denim is as a fabric, with little highlights of oilcloth on the edges.  The bag is lined with soft, fleecy fabric for the bodhrán to snuggle into. These bags are totally unique – if you know someone seriously into his or her bodhrán playing, let them know!  These will be on sale during the Fleadh in Ennis.

For those of you hoping to catch up with me in the coming weeks, I will be at Chapel Lane Market in Ennis on 25 June and 2 July.  I’ll be at the Vandeleur Walled Gardens on 3 July and then at the Cong Summer Festival in Cong, Co. Galway on Saturday 9 July, followed by the Ennis Street Festival on 10 July. After that I will have two further Chapel Lane Markets before I pack up and head north to Sweden!

Primary schools break up here for the Summer next week, so the fun of juggling sewing and surfing will start, as my son is a mad keen surfer. If you’re facing into the Summer holidays too – enjoy them, and hopefully I’ll meet some of you along the way!

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Dusting off the Passport….

Small Cross Body Bags in Sky Blue & Teal

As ever, it has been busy at Bag Making HQ since I last wrote a blog post.  Time just seems to telescope away from me.  I was all excited last time about cuckoos and bumblebees. Now the latest summer migrants are American, Dutch, French, British and German tourists who come in to Chapel Lane Market in Ennis, smiling as they discover a place to buy REAL souvenirs of their time in Ireland.

It really is the start of the tourist season now.  I was fortunate to go on a trip to the Cliffs of Moher last weekend when the weather was unbelievably kind. The number of

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

languages being spoken in and around the visitor centre was bewildering and intriguing, and great news for the local tourism businesses. It was a brilliant day, with amazing blue skies and calm seas, which was a relief for me because we went on a cruise to the bottom of the cliffs with the Doolin Ferry Company, and I’m not the greatest sailor. For the first time in over 10 years of living in County Clare, I saw the Cliffs from a totally different angle, and we managed to get up close and personal with a load of nesting seabirds such as puffins, guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes.  If you’re ever thinking of a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way, my part of the West Clare coastline in not to be missed!

I think all those beautiful blues in the sky and sea last weekend inspired my sewing this week.  I was making some new fabrics up into bags in preparation for the Craft Festival held yesterday (22 May) at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire.

Small Cross Body Bags in Sky Blue & Teal

My two favourite small cross body bags from the week’s production were these two – a gorgeous sky blue and a dark teal colour – both colours much in evidence at the Cliffs of Moher.IMG_0401IMG_0353There was a dark teal messenger bag and a couple bag buddies in the new fabrics too.  I think I’ll be making a few more of them soon. The plain fabrics allow me the chance to riffle through my pile of cool pockets that have been unpicked from jeans, and I then get to match them to the lining denim and the outer fabrics when I’m making the cross body bags. I’ll be trying out a few small messengers in these fabrics too, but with a twist.  What this space.

The small messenger bags will be some of the bags I’ll be preparing to take to Sweden, to the urkult Festival in August.  I’m hoping to develop some new bags for that trip.  Part of the excitement about going to this festival is that I will get to meet crafters from all over northern Europe at the event.  In addition, with thanks to Creative Momentum and the Creative Steps programme who are arranging the trip to Sweden, I am already in touch with a Finnish weaver, whose business is called Susivilla. (Take a look – her scarves are AMAZING).  We’re working on a project with some students at the Lapland University of Applied Sciences right now, so I’m getting all these messages about ideas for urkult, for bags, for my business, for fabrics.  It’s very exciting.

Urkult Poster
Urkult Poster

I’ve posted a picture of the advertising poster for urkult so you can see a bit more about the festival.  I’m clearly a late bloomer as I’ve never been to a music festival before, so this is going to be quite something.

My Summer is shaping up quite well now.  Locally I will be going to Chapel Lane Market this Saturday 28th May, and again the Saturday of the June Bank Holiday Weekend, 4th June. On Sunday 5th June I will be at the Clare Crafts Association Summer Craft Fair, which is being held in the Community Centre in Doonbeg.  It is the Doonbeg Jazz Festival that weekend, so if ever there was a winning combination of fine jazz and finer craft, this is it.  The Jazz Festival is brilliant and there is music all over the village, so it is really worth coming along if you can. I love a bit of jazz on a sunny afternoon, creamy pint in hand….but of course I’ll be without the pint and in the Community Centre.  But if my stall is unattended, you’ll know where to look!

Finally, a little bit of advanced notice, especially for those of you who are based in the UK.  On the weekend of 16-18 September I shall be bringing the bags over to London, to Hampton Court Palace, where I will be one of the exhibitors at Kirstie Allsop’s Handmade Fair.

Handmade Fair

I will be able to offer discount codes for tickets and I may even get tickets that I can give to people, so if you would like to go on the special mailing list I’m creating to send out all these lovely goodies and special offers, email me at salshandmadebags@gmail.com and I’ll put you on the list.  It’d be great to see some of you at the event, which promises to be the biggest event I’ve done, and also really interesting, with a HUGE range of crafts going on. There’s a theatre with all manner of craft demonstrations throughout the day, which you can book when you book your tickets. It sounds fab.

It’s going to be a very busy Summer at Bag Making HQ getting ready for all these events!

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The Cuckoo is Back! Summer is almost here!

Turquoise & Blue Bags

I’m just in the door from my morning walk.  As I walked along the road a familiar sight greeted me.  Familiar, but I haven’t seen it since last June.  The cuckoo.  It’s a surprisingly big bird, and resembles a sparrow hawk in colour and shape, but its looping flight and unmistakeable call is the first real sign that Summer is here.  It calls for barely a month.  Its visit is fleeting. It comes all the way to Coore in West Clare from West Africa to call, mate and lay eggs.  It then returns to West Africa.  It is one of the last Summer migrants to arrive, and must be the first to leave, given that it subcontracts its child rearing to all the tiny warblers and pipits that live in the boggy land surrounding my home and studio.

Tough Dandelion
Tough Dandelion

It was just lovely to walk along the road with the cuckoo looping along in front of me, flying from perch to perch, calling like mad.  It is a haunting call that takes me back to childhood summers lying on the grass, surrounded by daisies and listening to bumblebees and cuckoos.  Cuckoos and bumblebees are both desperately in decline.  In the case of bees, it is becoming clear this is due to habitat loss, a determination by farmers and gardeners to eliminate weeds and the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.  The Bumblebee researchers at Biodiversity Ireland and the Irish Wildlife Trust are urging gardeners not to kill dandelions – often the first plentiful food source for bees in the Spring.  In celebration of this I took this picture this morning of a dandelion proudly growing slap bang in the middle of my road.  Dandelions are seriously tough, but their value as a food source is huge.

As for the decline in numbers of cuckoos, habitat loss is definitely a factor, with the loss of nesting sites for their host species in the bog lands and moors of Western Ireland.  Burning of bogs in April and May destroys the nests of their hosts  and the cuckoo eggs, eradicating a whole generation of cuckoos and other baby birds.  But given that the majority of the cuckoos’ life cycle is spent on the wing and in Africa, there are no doubt other causes in these countries too. Take a look at this website for some fascinating insights into the routes taken by these unique birds.

OK, I hear you say.  Enough about your wildlife.  What about the bags? Well, I’m sewing away.  I’m enjoying the fabrics I’ve recently sourced, like Funky Slate, the Paisleys and the French fabrics like Pink Leaf and Camellia. I’m attending a large Craft Festival in Dun Laoghaire at the Marine Hotel on Sunday May 22nd, so I want to have lots of choices for the people of South Dublin on my first visit to the Big City! It’ll be my first time at this event, so I’m really looking forward to my trip East.  It’ll be a test of my navigational skills, having never been to Dun Laoghaire before.

Red, Crimson & Cerise Bags
Red, Crimson & Cerise Bags

I’ve also had some AMAZING news!  I have been selected to be one of three Irish craft businesses from the western counties to attend a music festival in Sweden in early August.  The festival is called the urkult Festival and it celebrates the return of the darkness to the forests and lakes of this area of northern Europe as the period of 24 hour daylight comes to an end. The festival has music, arts, crafts and a very strong green ethos.  There is a Night of Fire which sounds completely breathtaking.  It is a part of the world I have never visited before, so I am hugely excited.  My bags will fit right in with their strong element of recycling, longevity and environmentally conscious acrylic coatings.

Messenger bag, Cross Body Bag, Green Messenger Bag, Daiper Bag
Green Paisley Messenger Bag

This Messenger Bag and its companions will be looking forward to travelling across Ireland and beyond this Summer. Here’s to sunshine and safe travels.

PS I’m in Chapel Lane Market in Ennis the next few Saturdays 7th, 14th and 21st May!

 

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