A Man’s Guide to Buying a Handbag

Lots of Handbags

How to buy a handbag for your wife or girlfriend and get it right!

It’s that time of year again. You can try to ignore Christmas, but once they’re playing carols on repeat in the supermarket and there are reindeer in every shop window, the annual task of buying a gift for the leading lady in your life is approaching. I’d like to help the men out there who are struggling to think of a unique gift for their partner. What could be better than a handmade handbag, lovingly handcrafted in my studio in deepest West Clare?

Each Christmas I have been selling my handmade bags I have been confronted by harrassed, stressed men wanting a thoughtful gift but not knowing where to start.

Let me be so presumptuous as to assume you might like to buy a handmade handbag as that thoughtful gift, and here is my step by step guide for men to buy a handbag.

Step 1 – Do your homework

Sorry, but this is a necessity. Familiarise yourself with your partner’s current bag or bags, no matter how daunting this task might seem.

Lots of Handbags
A whole pile of handbags!

What size are they? If you’re not likely to remember measurements, think what she carries. Does she always carry a book, a notebook, a bottle of water, a bottle of wine (!)? Size IS important. Does your partner complain that they always have too much in their bag and they should carry less?  You might consider getting a SLIGHTLY smaller bag for her. Don’t present her with a postage stamp sized bag though if she normally carries a bag that can take an A4 file. It won’t get used.

Different Handbag Sizes
What Size Handbag?

A word to the wise. When my brother and I were small, our mother carried a large handbag. She was often found rooting in it to find what she needed, and we suspected she never actually mined right to the bottom of the bag. So we hid a house brick in her bag. Two weeks later, searching for her purse at the supermarket checkout, to her surprise, and probably to the greater surprise of the checkout operator, she pulled out the house brick. My brother and I were in serious trouble. But the moral of the story is this – don’t buy a bag that is so big that your partner won’t notice she’s carrying a house brick for two weeks.

What colour are most of her bags? Is there a favourite colour or range of colours? Check out your wife/partner’s  coats – does she have a clearly defined preference for, say, navy coats?

 

Step 2 – How does the handbag get worn?

You never noticed there were different ways to wear a handbag? Oh dear. Let’s start from the basics. Handbags can be worn in a multiplicity of ways, but the most common are:

Cross body handbags – worn, as the name suggests, with the strap at it’s longest extent, and worn, say, from left shoulder to right hip across the body. This is very popular, and most common amongst people who don’t want to carry their handbag, and want their hands free to hold shopping bags, children, dogs etc. Ladies with shoulder pain ofter prefer a cross body bag.

Shoulder Bags – similar to cross body bags but with a shorter strap. The strap may be adjustable, so there is flexibility to interchange between cross body and shoulder styles of wearing, or they have have fixed, unadjustable straps.

A clutch bag – normally a small bag “clutched” in the hand or under the arm. More often used in the evening, or by a member of the Royal family who has hot and cold running flunkeys who carry the actual stuff needed in a handbag that won’t fit in a clutch bag.

Tara Bag in Grey Meadow
Tara Bag in Grey Meadow showing the long, adjustable cross body or shoulder strap

Take a look at the bags that your wife/girlfriend/partner uses. Subtly ask if she has a preference for one type or another. Or ask her best friend.

Step 3 – What is the handbag going to do?

I hear you in the back. Yes, it’s going to carry your beloved’s “stuff”. Well spotted.

But what stuff? Does she always have a file, a book? A notebook? A make up bag? Does she take her lunch to work each day? Then look at my Tara bag or the Fely Bag.

Is it for use on your next trip to Lanzarote? Is your wife the staple that holds the family paperwork together when you fly anywhere? If so, a bag with room for iPads, books, games AND a slip pocket for passports and boarding passes might be an idea…see my Large Messenger Bag for details.

Is the handbag going to hang near the front door to have keys, lipstick, phone and purse fired into it for the school run or to take the dog out? Will it need to put up with being trampled in the foot well of the car by husbands and children? If so, my small cross body zip top or small messenger bags (the Fiona – my bestseller) will suit.

Does your partner have a baby or babies and need a lot of room for spare clothes, nappies and bottles? Consider a Carolina Bag or a Tara Bag. Zip top, capacious but not over large bags designed to cope with the rough and tumble of young children.

 

Step 4 – How does the handbag fasten?

This is so crucial. Take a look at the handbags in your partner’s life. Do they have zip tops? Do they have a flap? A drawstring? Are they open to the elements or just have a magnetic snap closure?  Most women want to have a bag that closes, for the obvious security that that brings. But whether that closure is a flap or a zip is a matter of personal taste. All my bags have either a zip top or a flap closure, and each type of bag has its fans and champions for the most secure type of closure.  All I would say is that if the handbag is likely to be thrown to the ground or on to the floor of the car, a (closed) zip top bag is more likely to hold its contents in than a (closed) flap top bag. This does of course depend on closing the zip top or fastening the magnetic snap on the flap top. Full disclosure – I have learnt this the hard way.

A note for the uninitiated. A “Messenger” bag has a flap. It is so called because it is based on the style of bag used by bike couriers with a secured flap closure. These can also be called a satchel style, although these can signify being closed by buckles, like the old school satchels of your youth. Well, my youth anyway. But if you hear a handbag-related term you don’t understand – Ask. there is no such thing as a silly handbag related question. Although if I do get some, they may form the basis of a future blog post.

 

Step 5 – Be shameless. Deploy spies.

If you have children and they go shopping with their Mum, ask them to try to remember which bag she looks at (not the one THEY like – especially important to stress if you have teenagers).

In the absence of children, deploy best friends, mothers, sisters, grandparents. Make sure they get detailed descriptions. This is an age of technology – get photographs!

If you’re a couple who work on the Hansel & Gretel principle of laying breadcrumb-like trails of clues for presents, I have a Wish Book. This is where ladies can give me their name and what bag they want, and all their partner has to do is turn up and give me their partner’s name, and the bag of their dreams is sorted and under the Christmas tree before you can say, “Rudolf with your nose so bright, can you guide my sleigh tonight?”

Handbag Wish Book
Christmas Handbag Wish Book

 

Step 6 – Talk to Me

Please. Talk to me. I will not judge you if you don’t know the answer to all the questions I have listed above.  It’s in yours and my interest to find the perfect handbag for your partner, and I am more than happy to talk about their handbag habits so that we can ensure that you get ALL the credit for buying the perfect handmade, unique Sallyann Bag.  If you can’t meet me at a market, call me or email me. I will answer!

And if you get started now, there is no sense of panic and rush. You can buy the handbag, stash it away, and sit back smugly knowing you have put some time and thought into the Christmas present for the most important person in your life, and that will be hugely appreciated.

 

Step 7 – Where to Find Me

I’m at Ballymaloe Craft Fair this coming weekend 18 & 19 November.

I will be at Chapel Lane Market in Ennis on 25th November, 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 & 17 December.

I will be at the Night Market at Ennistymon Courthouse Gallery on Friday 15 December.

On my site here you can find a list of all my stockists in and around Ireland, the UK and Italy, and of course, you can buy your bags here in my own web shop at this website. And if you can’t see what you’re looking for, email me or call me and I’ll try to help.

Have a wonderful festive season, and I hope that you gain enormous brownie points by following this simple step by step guide to buying the perfect handbag.

 

PS I do have gift vouchers if you lose your nerve!

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How the Tara Bag got its name….

Tara Bag in Blue Meadow

Most of my more recent bags have got names, and a number of people have asked me how they end up with these seemingly random choices: Fiona, Fely, Carolina and now Tara.

Why did the small cross body bag not get a name and is known in my studio as the X Bag? And the Large Messenger Bags are known as Large Messenger Bags, or Lg Mssngr if I’m in a hurry. Not terribly exciting names. But that’s because they were designs I developed myself. I always meant to give the X Bag a better name, but it just became X and the name stuck.

New bag designs tend to come from conversations I have with customers either at my stall or via email. Some ideas are more possible than others. For every “Can you make it a little smaller/larger?” which is often possible, there can be a “Can you make a wheelie bag to fit Ryanair’s bag specification” which is beyond me and my sewing machines!

But every now and then someone suggests an idea for a bag, and the seed of a new design is sown.

Take the X Bag for instance. A relative of mine, the lovely Fely, asked me if I could make a bag a bit wider for her. She wanted room for a book and a bit more “stuff”. And so the Fely Bag was born.

Large Cross Body Zip Top Meadow Collection
Fely Bags – Meadow Collection

A fellow market stallholder loved the Large Messenger Bag, but wanted a small one, preferably with denim on the outside. What started as  a one off special for Fiona became one of my bestselling designs when I reversed it so the denim was the lining, as normal, and the showerproof fabric was on the outside. The Fiona Bag had arrived.

Blue Star Small Messenger
Blue Star Fiona Bag

The Carolina Bag was a supersized X Bag designed initially to provide room in a bag for the medication required by a busy mum for her son who had complex medical needs. With a bit of tweaking it became the largest bag in my range, and a very useful overnight bag or baby bag too!

Old Map Carolina
Old Map Carolina

 

And now there is the Tara bag. Tara is another fellow stallholder at Chapel Lane Market, and she makes very pretty beaded jewellery (check out Tara’s Trinkets). Tara has been a loyal customer of mine, and she has a few of my bags. She has tried and tested them.

So when she asked me about a bag that was deeper than a Fely, but not as big as a Carolina, I was intrigued. I roughed out a protoype.

Prototype Tara Bag
Prototype Tara Bag

I then put it through the rigorous testing I always employ before a bag design is introduced. It has to live with me (a test in itself some might say), get thrown around the floor of the car, take a plane journey, deal with airport security, be loaded up with shopping AND do several markets before it can be considered part of my range.

"Testing" the Prototype Tara Bag
“Testing” the Prototype Tara Bag
Tara Bag in Grey Meadow
Tara Bag in Grey Meadow

I showed the prototype to Tara, and it passed her test too. So, as with the other bags, I asked Tara if I could name the bag after her, given that she was the origin of the idea. And that’s how the Tara Bag got its name.

Tara Bag in Blue Meadow

 

Tara Bag in Green Meadow
Tara Bag in Green Meadow

What’s next I hear you ask? In response to many requests, I am working on a backpack design. I have the basic idea clarified in my head now, but I need to source the metal fixings for the design, and these take time to get right. But 2018 will see a backpack design. And its name? That’s a secret, for now.

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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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