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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Poppy Appeal….

Vandeleur Walled Gardens

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

Bags galore
Bags galore

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

Urkult Poster
Urkult Poster

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

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

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

Serge
Serge

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

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

Poppy
Poppy

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

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

 

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Taking Advantage of a Sunny Day

Jeans drying on the line
Jeans drying on the line
Jeans drying on the line

The start of the bag making process is the jeans.  I get the majority of these from charity shops across Clare and Limerick, but over Easter my parents arrived with over 70 pairs of jeans they had gleaned from various jumble sales in their village.  That’s a lot of washing!  So when the sun came out, which had been a rarity in County Clare until the middle of March, I took advantage.  Load after load went through the washing machine, until the line was full and the denim was snapping happily in the breeze.

And of course, whilst the sun was out, it was a great chance to go for a walk at White Strand, near Miltown Malbay.  The dog loves the freedom to charge around and sniff, generally do dog stuff.  And walking along the headland is fantastic to clear the head.  I love taking pictures on these walks, and occasionally I manage to catch a shot of a wave breaking, so I’m sharing that here, totally self-indulgently.

Every breaking wave
Every breaking wave

So once the jeans are dried, they have to be processed.  They are split hem to hem, then split to remove the zip.  The colours are sorted – the range of shades of denim is a spectrum all on its own.  Forget 50 Shades of Grey.  I have a Hundred Shades of Indigo.  The denim is cut into the basic shapes needed for each type of bag, and all ironed.  When I have the outer fabrics cut, I go to the cut denim to choose the best matching denim for each bag.  It is an enjoyable task.

The bags then need to be made.  All activity takes place under the close supervision and scrutiny of my Quality Controller, Coco.  Those of you who know me or have read earlier blog posts will know that Coco is one of the two cats in our family.  She is a large, cocoa coloured, very fluffy, very bossy feline who spends a lot of time checking up on what I am doing.

Coco the Bag Cat
Coco the Bag Cat

In this picture you can see I managed to catch a snap of her sleeping on the job. She was flat out and didn’t move even while I was turning the bag the right way out and stitching on the straps, the final parts of the bag-making process. Fear not – she later inspected the bag and it was up to her high standards and was passed for sale.

Box Bags Wash Bags Make Up Bags Crochet work Bag
Box Bags

I managed to get a few extra box bags made too.  These bags are proving popular with people, and are being put to a myriad of uses.  The more traditional ones are as wash bags, for shaving kits or make up.  But they are also being used to keep sewing or crochet bits and pieces together.

As we get into the Summer, do remember if you own a Sallyann bag to try to take a picture of it out and about on your travels.  I love to  see where the bags get to, and the best pictures will be posted up on my gallery on this site.

Finally, in a bit of market news, I will be at Chapel Lane Market on 9th & 16th April, then I will be making a return to the Milk Market in Limerick on 23rd April, before heading back to Chapel Lane Market on 30th April.  Further ahead I will be at the Vandeleur Walled Gardens again on May 1st, and on May 22nd I shall be taking a road trip to Dun Laoghaire in Dublin, to a Craft Fair in the Marine Hotel.  It’ll be exciting to be out on the road with the bags!  Hopefully I will see some of you there.  If not, you can always get your bag fix by shopping online at this site, or at my Etsy shop.

Enjoy the sunshine while it’s there….

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Hello & (Belated) Happy New 2016!

Special Clip

In fact, given that I am somewhat tardy in my good wishes, perhaps I should go for Gong Xi Fa Cai, or 恭禧發財, which is the Mandarin for Happy New Year.  Chinese New Year is fast approaching, and the new year is the Year of the Monkey.  I happen to have been born in the Year of the Monkey, so the coming year is supposed to be particularly exciting for me.

Chinese Zodiac
Chinese Zodiac

I can start this blog post with an important sighting of a Sallyann Bag, an Old Map Small Cross Body Bag to be precise, that was spotted with its owner in Central Park, New York City, over Christmas.  Lucky bag!  It looks to be having a good time, and was reported to have performed admirably whilst in the States.

Old Map Cross Body Bag spotted in Central Park, NYC
NYC!

Don’t forget, I love to see pictures of your Sallyann bags on their travels, so if you think of it next time you are out and about, take a quick snap of your bag and I will post it here on the blog.

January is a busy time for me here in Bag Making HQ.  Although I have no markets planned until mid-February (start dropping your hints soon for Valentine’s Day gift Sallyann bags, point your husbands, partners, beaus towards sallyannsbags.ie), it is a time when I can search out new fabrics and work on new design ideas.  As you can imagine, I get some great help from my trusty Bag Making HQ sidekick, Coco…

Coco the Design Assistant
Coco the Design Assistant

She would like to think that her paws are a great help in holding pieces in place, but actually they are so big and furry they simply obscure what I am trying to achieve.  She is great company though.

My plans for my new designs involve a revamped wristlet design, and a connector within the bags which will allow you to attach your keys, or the wristlet, inside your handbag. It has meant I have been sourcing all the new little bits and pieces needed. Trying to find out the names of the components, and then realising that they often have different names depending on the supplier, can mean many fruitless searches and blind alleys.  And then of course is the anticipation as I await the deliveries!  I’m also trialling some new fabrics, which come from an exclusive French supplier.  I have been desperately resurrecting my schoolgirl French in order to work my way through the web site terms and conditions.

Special Clip
Special Clip

I promise to post as soon as these components and fabrics arrive.  I can’t wait to get working on the new designs, now that they are firmly in my head.  In March I will receive a delivery of very special fabric.  It is from a former teacher of mine, and she has very kindly given me some of the fabrics her mother had in stock.  Her mother was a talented seamstress, and all the fabrics date from the 1940s, 50s and 60s, so I am very excited to see all of these.  They won’t be coated fabrics – they are mainly cottons – but I am sure they will encourage me to try out some new designs when I see them.  It’ll be a new departure for Sallyann’s Handmade Bags – using vintage fabrics that aren’t jeans!

Lots of purses
Lots of purses

Whilst I have been trying out the new ideas, I have also been replenishing my stocks after the Christmas rush.  As I mentioned above, I’m not due to take part in any markets until mid-February, but my bags are stocked in various shops around Ireland, and as a result I am re-stocking a number of these shops this month and next.  In particular demand this month are my purses, which are made using oilcloth and coated cottons and the zips that are cut out of the jeans I use to line the bags. They are the ultimate in upcycled chic, and the perfect little gift for yourself in January.  This Thursday, 21st January, I will be taking a supply to the Limerick Craft Hub.  Each month I do a day in the Craft Hub, and it is a fabulous excuse to be surrounded by lots of lovely crafted goodies.  I get to talk to the public and sell people’s crafts, which is a great experience. If you are in or around Limerick and haven’t yet visited the Limerick Craft Hub, next time you are in the city, call to their shop at 9, Lower Cecil Street (on the corner of Lower Cecil Street and Henry Street), and be prepared to be blown away by the quality of the crafts on sale there.

Frosty Morning Walk
Frosty Morning Walk

So you can see I am not hibernating up here in the wilds of West Clare.  When the weather isn’t inflicting incessant, relentless rain upon me, as it did for most of November, December and a fair chunk of January, each morning I try to get out and walk the dog.  Our dog is somewhat elderly so she often lags behind and I feel like I am taking her for a drag rather than a walk, but on Thursday last week, when I took this picture, I know why I love living here, and why I get out and walk.  I hope we all have many more sunny days in the coming months, and that you are have the best of fortune in 2016, and the Year of the Monkey.

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Sewing Made Difficult – Part 3

View from Bag Making HQ

And this time it doesn’t involve a cat!

Messenger bag, cross body bag
View from Bag Making HQ

Each morning, weather permitting, I take the dog out for a walk up and down the road before I start to sew.  This has two main functions – it gives me some exercise before I spend the rest of the day sat down behind a sewing machine, and it allows me time to plan what needs to be done that day/week/month.  The dog seems to appreciate it most days too.

Unfortunately, last Wednesday, due to an outbreak of clumsiness on my part, I fell whilst I was out walking.  Nothing extraordinary, just missed my footing.  But I tore the ligaments in my right ankle, which was surprisingly sore!  As I limped home I began to fear that sewing would be off the to do list – my right foot is the foot I use for the sewing machine pedal.

A rapid trip to the Doctor confirmed that the ankle wasn’t broken, so I was spared a trip to the hospital.  I was told to rest the ankle for a couple of days, then start to build up the ligaments again through short walks. Which would be fine if I wasn’t a self-employed bag maker with Galway Vegan Festival to attend on the Saturday, and bags to make in preparation. So I took Wednesday “off”, using the time wisely to hunt for new fabrics (more of that in a future post I am sure).

Messenger bag, cross body bag
Fuchsia
Dusky rose large messenger bag
Dusky rose large messenger bag

But by Thursday I was itching to get sewing again.  I strapped an icepack to my ankle using denim offcuts – I have quite a lot of them lying round the sewing room – and started to sew.  It was an unusual feeling – my right foot was FREEZING – but it worked and allowed me to get sewing.  I’ve been working on getting a few messenger bags ready, both large ones like the dusky rose one in the picture above, and my smaller messenger bags size like these:

Small messenger bags in apricot & pink marigold fabric
Small messenger bags in apricot & pink marigold fabric
Small messenger bag in pink paisley fabric
Small messenger bag in pink paisley fabric

It’s now almost a week since my fall and my walking is almost back to normal, with no limp.  I haven’t managed to walk the dog yet but that’s tomorrow’s task.

Small messenger bag in grey dandelion fabric
Small messenger bag in grey dandelion fabric

Bag making is going at full speed as I prepare for Chapel Lane Market this Saturday.  The hall is a Hallowe’en dream, with pumpkins and autumnal decorations galore.  You’ll have to call in to see what the decorating committee have achieved!  And of course, in just a couple of months’ time it is Christmas.  I know plenty of people are allergic to mention of Christmas until at least after Hallowe’en, but forgive me this small plug – Chapel Lane Market is having two weekend long Christmas markets the last weekend of November and first weekend of December.  The hall will be full to capacity with amazing crafts which make unique and different present ideas, and will be a winter wonderland with decorations and seasonal treats. You can find more details here

So you can see why I am sewing like a crazy bag woman in preparation for all these fantastic events.  I also hope that my online shop will be ready soon (delayed by my not being able to drive to see my e-commerce guru last week) – I’m grateful to you for your patience!

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Sewing Made Difficult – part 2

Coco

If you’ve had a look at previous posts, you’ll know that I share my sewing room with two cats.  One, Coco, is a large, very fluffy, dark brown cat, who tolerates my presence in her room.

I am expected to stop sewing on her entrance to the room, give her a therapeutic shoulder massage, fuss her fur, stroke her tail, and generally concentrate all my attention on her. She doesn’t appreciate having to share my attention with a sewing machine.

Sharing in any way doesn’t come naturally to cats, but Coco can be pretty outspoken on the subject.  Which is how I came to sew her tail to a bag.  Before you reach for the phone to call An Cat Dubh Sanctuary (our local AMAZING cat rescue charity), I did only sew through fur, not bone, and it only resulted in a loss of some of the beautiful plumy fur on Coco’s tail and some of her dignity as I had to hold her still while I cut her free from the bag.

I had made the mistake of making a big fuss of Coco as she sat next to me beside the sewing machine. Big mistake.

Coco
Coco attracting my attention away from the sewing machine

After I had paid her attention, what I thought was adequate clearly wasn’t enough, thus resulting in her getting grumpy.  So she swished her tail at precisely the moment that I sewed a seam, and there she was –   attached to the bag.

She swore, I swore, and the shears came out to free her.  I then had to unpick the seam to remove the fur, whilst she stalked off to soothe her dignity.

Cats HATE their dignity to be lost, and more than that, HATE to be laughed at. I did both, so for that day (or at least until I gave her some Dreamies), I was off her Favourite Human List.

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