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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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….
It is all systems go as I start my packing for Sweden.
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…..
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
Happy Easter everyone! I had to show you this Easter (or Yeaster, as the Marmite people would have it) Egg. I am a Marmite lover, but I am finding the idea of Marmite and chocolate a bit challenging. Recent “innovations” by confectionary companies such as milk chocolate and cheese and onion Tayto crisps have left me feeling somewhat nauseated, and the Cadbury’s Caramel and Vegemite bar brought back from Australia by some friends was an an acquired taste I wasn’t rushing to acquire.
This is necessarily a short post, for which I apologise, although you may be relieved. Bag Making HQ is very busy at the moment, preparing for 2 markets this week, Chapel Lane Market in Ennis on Saturday from 10-5, and the very gorgeous Vandeleur Walled Gardens Easter Egg Hunt, Craft and Plant Sale on Sunday from 12-5. New bags are being sewn, especially box bags and bag buddies, both of which are proving popular amongst my lovely discerning customers.
Did you meet the box bags?
The box bags are made out of oilcloths and coated cottons, and lined with denim. They are perfect for use as wash bags, for shaving gear or make up, but have also found use as a holder for yarn and crochet hooks, and in my particular case I use one for the yarn and small needles I am using to knit a tiger. They came into existence when I decided that I wanted to see if I could sew a cuboid shape. Having proved that I could, and that they looked rather handsome, the box bag was born. They retail for €30 each, and come in most of the colours of the fabrics I use.
The bag buddies too are acquiring their fans. They are handy little fellows. Small enough to be held in one hand or to hang off the wrist join its soft denim wrist strap, the bag buddy can act as wallet, handbag and travel bag all rolled into one. Inside are card slots for credit/debit cards, and enough room for a phone, keys, cash and a passport. At the end of the wrist strap is a clip, and this clip can be used to fasten the bag buddy inside any one of my bags which also have clips sewn into their side seams now. If you’re on holidays and want a little extra security for your purse, these are your solution. But equally if you’re going out in the evening and don’t want to carry a full handbag, they can step up and be your evening bag with aplomb!
All of these will be available at both markets I’ll be attending this weekend, along with some old favourites like the zip top totes, and even the odd reversible open top tote, making a trip back to the Vandeleur Walled Gardens where it made its first ever appearance on the public stage.
Have a very happy Easter to you all, happy Spring Break to those of you in the States, and I hope that I will get the chance to meet with many of you in the coming weeks.
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.
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!”.
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.
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!
Every now and again, something happens which is unexpected and exciting. Such a thing happened to myself and four other craft traders from Chapel Lane Market in Ennis when we met Cheryl Acheson from GlenAran, which sells Irish crafts at stores in Killarney, Kenmare , Inishmore and Shannon Airport. They have two stores in Shannon Airport, one just before you go through Security, and one within the Duty Free Shop itself.
We have been given the opportunity to promote our craft directly to the public at their Shannon Airport store in Duty Free. Each Friday and Saturday one of the five of us will be at the GlenAran shop to promote our crafts, as well as demonstrating to visitors in the Duty Free area how we make our particular crafts.
The five of us taking part in this innovative and exciting event are:
It’s a massive vote of confidence by GlenAran in the quality of our crafts, and a hugely generous move by the company. It is a good example of a local business helping small start up businesses to gain experience in a larger market for their products.
GlenAran has a reputation for sourcing skilled craftspeople to supply authentic, handmade products for their stores. Their staff in stores are highly trained and many have visited the workshops of the craftspeople so that they can talk knowledgeably about the items they are selling. In preparation for our time in Shannon, GlenAran have been mentoring us through advice about display, packaging and sales techniques, which has been invaluable to all of us as recent start up businesses.
The craft promotions will start on Friday 3rd July at 7am in Shannon Airport Duty Free, and continue every Friday and Saturday throughout July and August. I’m first up (literally!) on Friday 3rd July, and will be hopefully bright eyed and bushy tailed as I set up my stall in Duty Free. I’ve been working on a range of bags in bright, Summery colours, and I’m hoping that these will catch the air passengers’ eyes as they walk through the shopping area on the way to the departure gates. If you’re flying through Shannon Airport over the Summer on Fridays or Saturdays, be sure to call to our stalls to say hello!
This is a busy week all round, with markets on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As well as Shannon Airport on Friday, my bags will be making their regular monthly appearance at Miltown Malbay Farmers Market, hosted by SuperValu. My husband Mike will be manning the stall on Friday, so here’s hoping he gets a generous welcome from all the customers and stallholders! It is the start of the world famous Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay on Saturday 4th July, and the Farmers Market will be running most days next week in SuperValu – my bags and I will be there on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 8-10 July, from about 11am.
Also this weekend it is the Ennis Street Festival, so there is a HUGE amount going on all over Ennis. Chapel Lane Market is very much part of this and will be running both Saturday and Sunday. I will be there on the Saturday, from 10am – 5pm as normal. I really hope the weather is kind because there is so much going on around town – it is not to be missed.
Finally, on Sunday, I shall be at the very lovely Vandeleur Walled Gardens in Kilrush from 12 – 5pm. It is their July Summer Craft Fair and Plant Sale. The gardens are quite magical, set within high stone walls and surrounded by the wonderful Kilrush Woods. The gardens happen to possess a coffee shop which does amazing cakes, scones, and snacks. If you’re in West Clare and looking for a place to go, the Vandeleur Walled Gardens are the best spot. Even better, children love the space and freedom to explore the gardens, maze and super-sized chess set, follow the butterfly trail and generally tear around, and you can bring your dog in, where water bowls are provided! Who could ask for more??