The Tale of a Cat & Mouse Zip Top Tote

Cat & Mouse Zip Top Tote

Once upon a time, there was a Cat & Mouse Zip Top Tote Bag. It lived happily with its owner in County Clare, and for the most part, behaved impeccably.

Cat & Mouse Fabric Zip Top Tote
Cat & Mouse Fabric Zip Top Tote

One day, the bag’s owner decided to go on a fantastic trip to the United States, to visit New York City. It’s a known fact (not false news everybody!) that Sallyann Bags love to travel, and the Cat & Mouse Bag was eagerly packed with all the necessities such an exciting trip could require.  Off it flew, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of New York City.

On a trip to a residential area of New York however, disaster struck. The Cat & Mouse Bag went missing, never to be seen again. It’s owner was gutted.

Now, I can’t begin to say that I can help in the recovery of the contents of the bag, which I am sure meant a great deal to its owner.  Losing a handbag is a nightmare, and often not for the loss of the cash and cards that were being carried (although that HURTS), but because of the personal items also in the bag. The photos, the favourite tiny toy you carried to pacify your toddler, who is now 14 and gets embarrassed if you show him the toy car in a restaurant while he’s deciding how to eat his own bodyweight in pizza, the essential sewing kit and that biro you got free from a hotel in Limerick which just happens to write the most beautifully of any pen you have ever owned. You know what I mean.

But when the Cat & Mouse Bag owner contacted me, I could at least consult one of my favourite places in my studio, my fabric store –

Creative Process
Fabrics

And – Lo! Cat & Mouse Fabric. It’s been a while since I made a Zip Top Tote, but I have just completed Cat & Mouse Bag Mark 2 –

Cat & Mouse Zip Top Tote
Cat & Mouse Zip Top Tote

Cat & Mouse Zip Top Tote

It’s never going to make up for the loss of Cat & Mouse Bag Mark 1, but at least has been possible to replace the bag itself. I can’t always promise to be able to do this as some fabrics cease to be available from suppliers, but in this instance I think you’ll agree there is a happy ending to this tale of travel, adventure and loss. And don’t forget, I love it when you post pictures of Sallyann Bags on their travels – post them to my Facebook page or my Instagram page so we can see where they get to.  Just be careful they don’t get lost!

Bags on their way to Chapel Lane Market
Bags on their way to Chapel Lane Market

So now I have just completed a few extra bags to add to my stock for tomorrow’s Chapel Lane Market in Ennis. It’s my last Chapel Lane Market tomorrow for a few weeks as I take a break now for a few Saturdays. I’m back again on Saturday 15 July. In the meantime, if you’re wanting a bag I now have over 15 outlets across Ireland, Italy and Scotland to help you get your essential Sallyann Bag for the Summer.
Shannon Heritage Shop, Shannon Airport
Design & Craft Studio, Charleville, Co Cork
George & Milly, Castledermot, Co Kildare
The Museum Shop, Knock Shrine, Co Mayo
Design Lodge, Lahinch, Co Clare
Moher Cottage, Liscannor, Co Clare
Stephen Pearce Pottery Shop, Shanagarry, Co Cork
Ballymaloe Shop, Ballymaloe, Shanagarry, Co Cork
O’Brien’s Crafts, Doolin, Co Clare
Leaping Lizard, Bridge Street, Westport, Co Mayo
Above & Beyond the Warehouse, Guildhall Street, Derry/Londonderry
Bastion Gallery, Bastion St, Athlone
The Corner Gallery, Moffat & Kirkcudbright, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland
Covent Garden Shop, via Pietro Micca, Turin
Craft Granary, Chair, Co Tipperary
The Cheese Press, Main Street, Ennistymon, Co Clare

Cottage Garden Centre, The Hand, Miltown Malbay, Co Clare

Have a lovely few weeks, until I blog again….

 

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Back to the Sewing Machine

The Handmade Fair site

Well! Wasn’t The Handmade Fair at Ragley Hall fun? Driving into such an amazing location was stunning.  Ragley Hall itself is gorgeous, standing on a hill overlooking glorious rolling parkland and a lake, beyond which was the marquee village that formed the Handmade Fair.

Ragley Hall
Ragley Hall
The Handmade Fair site
The Handmade Fair site

And then the set up. It was warm work, moving all my bits and pieces, including my prized bit of Handmade Fair kit, my power drill, into position.  I had a wonderful man appear out of nowhere who offered to bring all my heavy pieces.  Suddenly it became a two person job, and so much easier. Not forgetting Alice, from the event organisers’ team, who also lugged bags across the grassy sheep field towards the marquee.

I started with an empty shell, and ended up with a completed stall, five hours later.

Start of the Set Up
Start of the Set Up
Pretty much finished
Pretty much finished

So then to find my accommodation for the duration of the event – in the little village of Inkberrow. The perfect spot – I was staying above a pub that had real ale on tap, and walks down quiet country lanes on the doorstep – perfect for getting the blood pumping after a day standing at the stall.

Opening day brought the crowds and rain! How dare it rain on Kirstie? It was like September all over again – a steaming hot day to set up, then pouring rain on the first day.  It didn’t deter the visitors and the three days passed in a whirl of talking to really interesting people. So many groups of mums, daughters and granddaughters, and gaggles of friends all interested in crafts and exploring new skills, like upholstery, willow weaving and embroidery. Talking to people as they passed the stall was great fun, finding out what excited them about crafting.

The Handmade Fair site
The Handmade Fair site

The weather improved as the weekend went on, and by Sunday, it was warm and sunny all day.  All my practice at Chapel Lane Market in Ennis meant that my packing up was done with military precision. It may have taken me 5 hours to set up, but it took me 40 minutes to pack up! I was like a woman possessed.  I think knowing that I was driving back to my parents’ house for a lovely meal before the drive back home to Clare was what spurred me into super speedy mode. Monday morning saw me up and on the road early, leaving behind the gentle rolling landscapes of Middle England, and heading back to my wonderful wild West Clare. First thing Tuesday I had the dog out for a walk at White Strand near Miltown Malbay. It was the most fantastic restorative walk. there really is nothing like a walk by the sea to clear the head.

White Strand
White Strand

And now I’m back to sewing and preparing to head to Chapel Lane Market this weekend.  My sewing machine had a holiday at the sewing machine spa whilst I was away and has returned to me purring like a kitten.  It’s like having a new machine! Which is a good thing, as I had returned to few orders, and a few holes in my stock list that needed refilling.

Blue Paisley Carolina Bag
Blue Paisley Carolina Bag

I was delighted that one of the orders was for a Blue Paisley Carolina Bag – not a bag that I have made before in this fabric, and it looked so lovely, I rushed outside and took pictures of it to send to the person who had ordered it.  And now I’m showing off with a picture of it here too!

Yellow Daisy in action
Yellow Daisy in action

On the cutting table right now are several Yellow Daisy bags off to a couple of my stockists in Ireland – the perfect bags for the sunny days forecast to arrive here this week. See you at Chapel Lane Market on Saturday….and this week we’ve a special visitor who is going to show everyone how to braid fabric. It sounds like it’s going to be brilliant.  We open at 10am, and the braiding Workshop kicks off at 1pm.

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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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A quick (and I mean quick) video

Mixed Messenger Bags

I’m often asked how long it takes to make a bag, so here you go – all 32 seconds of it! I can only dream of this being the reality, but at least it gives you a basic idea!

The end result of this making frenzy, a Mixed Messenger Bag, will be on sale at the first Chapel Lane Market of 2017 which is on this Saturday, 11th February, 10am – 5pm. See you there I hope. The Mixed Messenger Bags are also now available from my online shop on this site – choose “Mixed” in the drop down box for what fabric you’d like.

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New Year, Preparing for Showcase 2017

Mixed Messenger Bag

Happy New Year to you all!  I hope that 2017 brings peace, happiness and gorgeous bags into your life.

January has started with a bang for me, as I am straight into preparations for Showcase 2017 at the RDS in Dublin from 22-25 January.  This is THE major trade show for craft businesses in Ireland, and retailers from across Ireland, Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and the rest come to view the huge range of crafts produced in this country under one roof.  It’s a very big deal for me to be taking my bags to this event, and I am very proud to have been selected by my Local Enterprise Office to be one of their businesses on the Showcase Balcony.  This is where small, emerging businesses such as Sallyann’s Handmade Bags get to have a stall and to promote their businesses to all the buyers who attend.

LEO Showcase Exhibitors

This means I need to titivate my display, sort out my promotional materials, and most importantly of all, have examples of every single bag that I am intending to offer to retailers on my stall for viewing.  This is a lot of work, so much of last week was spent cutting fabric and denim to have everything that needs to be made, cut. The target for this week is to have the vast majority of the bags made by Friday, so that I can spend the following week getting my stand prepared and all my paperwork in order.  I hear that snigger at the back.  I know, I know.  Best laid plans and all that.  But its a target, and I’m aiming high!

I had a play with a new idea on New Year’s Day.  It had been bubbling away for a while, and then with all the soothsayers on the radio and TV in the run up to 2017, all seeming to use the phrase “2017 will be a mixed bag”, the idea crystallised.

Eh voilà! The Mixed Messenger Bag was born!

Mixed Bag
Mixed Messenger Bag – Front

Based around the plain fabrics that I have in stock, I cut different pieces from each colour that came to hand, and I was pretty chuffed with the result.  The colours all work really nicely with each other, and on this particular example, the burnt orange side and base looked really striking.

Mixed Messenger Bag
Mixed Messenger Bag – Back

I was so pleased with this style I’ve decide it should come along with me to Showcase, which is fine, but it means I now have a few extra bags to add to the cutting list.  Each of the example bags I’ve cut will be different, and a couple include a rather lovely shade of pink that I ordered in just before Christmas.  I hope to get them all photographed and will have them on my Facebook page in the run up to Showcase, with a view to adding them into the online shop here on my website from the end of January (just in time for you to drop some heavy hints for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day…)

Mixed Messenger Bag
Mixed Messenger Bag – Side

Talking of such events that are beginning to appear on the horizon, like the first primroses and daffodils, one of the earliest signs of Spring is the re-opening of Chapel Lane Market in Ennis after its brief hibernation through January. It looks like we will be re-opening on Saturday 11 February, but this has yet to be absolutely, totally, definitely confirmed.

Primroses
Primroses

For me, my list of events so far for 2017 is looking like this…

22-25 January Showcase 2017, RDS Dublin Trade Only. If you’re a retailer and would like to attend, please email me at salshandmadebags@gmail.com for an invitation.

11 February (tbc) Chapel Lane Market re-opens for 2017 season! Whoop whoop!!

14 February St Valentine’s Day

26 March Mother’s Day

12-14 May The Handmade Fair Spring event in Ragley Hall, Warwickshire, UK

15-17 September The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace Gardens, London, UK

I was wondering if it might help some of you hard pressed lovely people if I ran a wish book in the run up to events such as St Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day? If you want to pick out the bag that you like, you can let me know and I will write it down in my wish book, under your name.  You can then gently hint to your husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend/partner/significant other where the object of your desire is to be found, and I can make sure I have one in stock for you to avoid disappointment. Does this sound useful? Email or call me if this is something you’d like to do.

So enjoy the calmness that January brings, don’t overdo the fad diets and exercise regimes, and I will see you all very soon.  In the meantime if you would like a bag, my online shop is always open, and I ship worldwide from the fabulous little post office in Miltown Malbay. Happy New Year to you all, and for those of you in Asia, Happy New Year of the Rooster on 28 January. May a river of gold flow into your pocket.

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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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Belated News from Sollefteå & Urkult!

Urkult Festival

 

Urkult
Urkult

As promised, here are a few words and pictures from my Swedish adventure, accompanied by Serge and Arno, the recycled fabric cats. The picture above shows the lads looking down into the town of Sollefteå from our Bond-villain style hotel on the hill above. The view is fabulous.

This is my first visit to a music festival, and what a place to start, in the village of Nämsåker, the Urkult Festival snuggles into a gorgeous wooded setting

Urkult Festival
Urkult Festival

sdr

It seemed like the whole world was ambling by the stall, heading in for the fire ceremony to mark the opening of Urkult 2016. 

Serge & Arno have been enjoying their trip so far. Lots of new experiences, and delicious Swedish breakfasts. Today will be their first taste of festival food!

Urkult
Urkult

Here’s a picture taken at the fire ceremony on the opening night

Urkult
Urkult

The second day we had a small amount of time to explore, and I took the chance to look around the festival site.  The view from the Museum next to the festival was stunning, looking down over the river.  It was warm and sunny, and there were lots of people swimming in the river.

Urkult
Urkult
Urkult
Urkult

Here are Arno & Serge enjoying their picnic spot overlooking the river.

Handmade Bags At Urkult
Handmade Bags At Urkult

Then after a rather shaky presentation, my first ever Pecha Kucha (20 slides with 20 seconds to speak about each slide), it was back to the market to set up the stall again.

Urkult
Urkult

The festival by now was in full swing, with a brightly coloured crowd ambling in and out to see bands, catch some dancing or get some delicious food. The crowd was a really mixed bunch, with families (some with really young babies), older couples, teenagers, students.  Most were intrigued by the group of stalls that I was part of, all of us sponsored by Creative Edge.  There were three of us from Ireland: myself, Airmid Soaps and Skincare and Bearfoot Enterprises, 3 Northern Irish businesses (Ciara Campbell Ceramics, Patricia Millar Ceramics & Journeyman Saddler and 1 Finnish craft weaving business, Susivilla, run by the very wonderful Annika Kontaniemi, who is helping me to develop my own fabric designs (more on that in another post).  As a group we got on very well, and the opportunities to talk to each other, share experiences, ideas and news was a major benefit of the event.

I found that a lot of the visitors to our stalls were really interested in the handmade aspect of our products.  All of our businesses have a strong green ethos too, and this was very attractive to the festival goers.  The whole of the Urkult site was a green zone, with massive emphasis placed on reducing the impact of the festival on the wooded site it was held in. We also presented a different type of product to many that were on offer at the other stalls.  many contained imported goods from India and China, much was the kind of generic festival clothing and gear that you see at festivals across Europe.  We were delighted that we were providing people with a choice to buy something truly original.

All too soon it was our last day in Sollefteå.

Urkult
Arno & Serge go Ski-Jumping

I took Arno & Serge for a last rapid look around our fantastic base near the urkult festival site.  Our hotel was a ski resort in Winter, and next to it was the scary ski jump.  I climbed right to the top with the lads and they posed for a photograph, which doesn’t really do justice to quite how far down the landing area is – it is out of sight when you jump!  There was a roller ski festival on at the hotel too, the Summer equivalent of cross country skiing, so the whole place was full of ridiculously fit people in lycra and roller skis, and me looking totally unsporty in my plimsolls and t shirt, ready to head off back to Stockholm.

Stockholm
Stockholm

Kevin from Airmid, Silvia from My Creative Edge and I managed a very brief canter around the Gamla Stan area of Stockholm, which was beautiful  It was warm and sunny, and we were able to see the Royal Palace and the gorgeous cobbled streets of the old town before we had to head back to the hotel.

sdr
Off home for Arno & Serge

It was a very early start for us as we headed to the airport at 4.15am.  We were back in County Clare by lunchtime, straight back into preparations for the massive Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann that started on 14th August.  That will be covered in my next blog post!  I’ll be at the Scout Hall in Ennis, opposite the Holy Family School, from 12-7 for the next 5 days, Wednesday – Sunday. If you’re coming to the Fleadh, don’t miss out on Chapel Lane Market’s gorgeous offerings in our temporary new home.

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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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April Showers

Thrift

My studio is in my house, which is on the side of a hill overlooking the Atlantic.  The ocean is about 3 miles away as the crow flies, and when it is clear I can see the coast, from the road past Coosheen near Kilkee, Doonbeg and Doughmore Bay, Quilty, Mutton Island and up towards Spanish Point.

There’s a crucial phrase in that last sentence – “when it is clear”.  Being so close the edge of Ireland – the edge of Europe! – it means that it is a very elemental way of living.  The weather is felt very intensely. Take today for instance.  I set out for my morning walk at 9am in sunshine.  It was bright but cold, with a sharp, north westerly wind.  I could clearly see down to the coast.  Most of our weather here blows in from the ocean, so if I can see the coast, I can fairly reliably enjoy a dry walk.  I turned away from the sea and walked east up the hill from my house in the dry.

Threatening clouds
Threatening clouds

At the point where I turn around, I look back down west towards the coast.  Looming above me were HUGE grey clouds, and I could see the veils of heavy, showery rain falling from them as they approached me. I started for home at a speedy pace, hurrying the dog from her usual relaxed sniffing of smells. The rain hit just as I was going down the first hill towards my house.  It was icy cold and sheeted down my face, off my coat and soaked me through to my skin on my legs.  Note to self: get some waterproof trousers.

But within a few minutes, and as I climbed up the slight rise towards the house, the rain stopped.  And hill fog descended. So the visibility dropped from over a kilometre to less than 200m in the space of 2 minutes.  The fog was driven at speed by the strong north westerly wind, and as I crested the hill and looked in the direction of the coast, I could see a blurred line on the horizon below which I could begin to make out the coast.  The fog lifted by the time I was home, and as I turned into my driveway the sun broke through. And all that happened within 40 minutes.

Every day that I take this morning walk, I take pictures of the weather, the clouds, the flowers I see on the walk.  I tweet them at my Twitter account @sallyannsbags, and also post more photos on my Instagram account @sallyannshandmadebags. I use the hashtag #morningwalk on my pictures.  If any of you also take morning perambulation, please tweet me the pictures – I’m always curious about where people are and what their everyday walk is like.

A couple of days before it was bright sunshine, yet I could hear hail falling.  I looked to the field next to the house and could see the hail storm approaching across the field.  The hail stones were as big as large peas, and bounced more than 12 inches off the ground, such was the force they fell with.  Here’s a brief clip of video for you to show I genuinely am not exaggerating! Five minutes after the hail stopped, the sun was out again and the weather returned to calm sunshine.

Some days I have to go to the nearby town, Miltown Malbay, and on days like that, I put the dog in the car and head to the White Strand beach near Miltown.  There is a headland there which offers a fabulous walk out to the very edge of County Clare.  The waves can be crashing, the wind howling, and you feel your head clearing and exhilaration sets in.  It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, that walk will always send you home with a grin on your face.

Daisy in the Rockpool
Daisy in the Rockpool

Daisy the dog loves to swim in a large rockpool right near the furthest point of the headland.  It must be about 2-3m deep, and yesterday in bright sunshine it looked like a tropical pool.  The colours were amazing. And talking of colours, the rock pools were teeming with brightly coloured sea anemones and seaweeds.

Amazing colours in a rockpool
Amazing colours in a rockpool

All along the walk there are flowers – right now there is a profusion of dandelions and thrift, or sea pink as it is sometimes known. Thrift is one of the most amazing plants. It seems able to grow, and thrive, in rocky crevices where it is hard to imagine there is any soil or nourishment.  For a brief period in April and May, the thrift erupts in a riot of colour right down the edges of the cliffs in a  truly inspiring sight.  Close up, the plants are just as amazing…

Thrift
Thrift

As a type, today’s heavy showers, hill fog and low clouds are a thing of the past.  There is bright blue sky and strong April sunshine.  Truly a day of April showers.

On the bag making front, I am returning to the Milk Market in Limerick on Saturday for the first time in AGES. I’ll be in the craft section, sharing a stall with a couple of Limerick Craft Hub suppliers.  Since I stopped having a stall in Cruises Street I have missed the hustle and bustle of Limerick’s markets, so this will be a great chance to re-aquaint myself with new and old customers.  The stall is open from 8am until 2pm, so hopefully I will see a few of you there.  I’m back to Chapel Lane Market in Ennis on 30th April.

Enjoy the April showers, and as the old saying goes round here, if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.

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