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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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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From the Cutting Table to the Catwalk!

Large Cross Body Bags in Green Meadow

After the excitement of my unique print arriving, it was straight to the cutting table. There is a joy in an untouched roll of fabric, but an even greater joy cutting the fabric to make the bags.

Meadow fabric on the roll
Meadow fabric on the roll

I cut a selection of small and large cross body bags and some small messenger bags.

Small Cross Body Bag in Meadow
Small Cross Body Bag in Meadow
Large Cross Body Bags in Meadow
Large Cross Body Bags in Meadow
Small Messenger Bag in Meadow
Small Messenger Bag in Meadow

These made their debut at a fashion show in Ennis, with one small messenger bag actually hitting the catwalk! It was amazing to see my bags on the catwalk, on the arms of models, looking fabulous. I was like a proud parent as I stood by the stage, taking photographs as the models strolled by showing the bags’ best sides.

Catwalk

The first big outing for the bags was in Chapel Lane Market on Saturday, when the lovely people of Ennis and Clare came over to inspect my new fabric, which I’ve called Meadow.

Meadow bags on the stall
Meadow bags on the stall

The first two bags in the Meadow fabric have long journeys ahead because both their new owners live in the United States.Ballymaloe Craft Fair_DL BROCHURE

The next stop for the bags is Ballymaloe in County Cork. I’m taking the bags to the Ballymaloe Christmas Craft Fair, where I hope to introduce the bags to a whole new audience

this Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November.

For those of you who like to plan your Christmas craft shopping, here is the list of where I will be in the run up to Christmas this year:

19&20 November Ballymaloe Craft Fair, Ballymaloe, Co Cork

Saturday 26 November 10am – 5pm Chapel Lane Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Sunday 27 November 11am – 5pm Clare Crafts Association Christmas Craft Fair, Bunratty Castle Hotel, Bunratty, Co Clare

Friday 2 December 6-9pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Saturday 3 December 10am – 5pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Sunday 4 December 11am – 4pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Tuesday 6 December Shannon Group Charity Fashion Show, Shannon Airport, Co Clare

Friday 9 December 6-9pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Saturday 10 December 10am – 5pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Sunday 11 December 11am – 4pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Friday 16 December 5-10pm Corofin Christmas Night Market, Corofin, Co Clare

Saturday 17 December 10am – 5pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

Sunday 18 December 11am – 5pm Clare Crafts Association Christmas Craft Fair, Old Ground Hotel, Ennis, Co Clare

Monday 19 – Friday 23 December 12-7pm Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis, Co Clare

And don’t forget, ifs you can’t get to any of these events, you can order online at this site by following the links to “Shop”.

Have a safe and happy run up to the festive season, and please try to shop locally when and where you can – it helps small businesses like mine to grow and create opportunities and employment!

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A little bit of publicity!

Small Messenger Bag in Funky Slate & Funky Red

It’s been a very exciting few days! The bags have had their first taste of the national media, with an article in the Irish Examiner, which you can read here.

A friend of mine and fellow stallholder, Aine Purcell, of Green Little Fingers very kindly recorded the moment I was able to show some of the Chapel Lane Market Stallholders the article, and I think you can probably tell I am a little bit excited!

And just incase that isn’t exciting enough, I’ve revamped my Etsy shop, so for those of you who prefer to shop on Etsy, take a look just here!

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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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New Destinations and an Empty Desk (temporarily)!

messenger bag, cross body bag

October is upon us and the bags are spreading their wings and migrating to new destinations.

Four new shops have recently started to stock Sallyann’s Handmade Bags, which means that they are now available in Dublin, Charleville, Shannon Airport and Doolin.  Should you be caught out by a bag-related emergency, you will now be able to find a Sallyann Bag that little bit more easily.

In Dublin, the bags are residing at the rather lovely Artists Gift Gallery at 43 Dawson Street in Dublin 2.  It is a gorgeous shop in a fantastic location, so if you are in our fair Capital City, do call in to see the bags and say hello. In Charleville, the bags are to be found in the Design & Craft Studio on the Main Street.  The shop is run by batik designer Judy Reardon, and is a goldmine of local crafts.  In Doolin, the Irish Crafts shop (and online at www.irishcraftsonline.com from 26 October) have been stocking my bags for a couple of weeks, and they look very happy in amongst the genuine Irish craft goodies stocked by the shop.

Messenger bag, cross body bag, Shannon Airport Duty Free
GlenAran’s Shop in Shannon Airport’s Duty Free area

Finally, GlenAran Irish Markets have started to stock my bags in their store in the Duty Free shop at Shannon Airport.  It has been an amazing few months working with GlenAran, to get to this stage.  Those early morning shifts in the Duty Free area talking to the customers and staff really helped to get the message out there that there are alternatives to the big brand bags on offer. Next time you’re flying through Shannon Airport, be sure to call to the GlenAran shop to see their display.

Cross Body Bags, Messenger Bags, Tote Bags
Cross Body Bags, Messenger Bags, Tote Bags

And why an empty desk? I had to have my sewing machine serviced.  I’ve had my amazing, fabulous, wonderful machine for a year now, and it desperately needed a service.  But time without my machine?  I got separation anxiety even thinking about it.  And if I sent it away by courier it might have been away for days!  I love my sewing machine very much – it has revolutionised the way I sew and the bags that I can make.  I have even been known to talk to it and stroke it.  My long-suffering husband could sense my stress levels rising about the impending separation, and volunteered to get up ridiculously early yesterday morning to make the 3 hour drive to Waterford, to the shop where the machine came from, the Singer Sewing Machine Centre in Newgate Street. He was there to see John, the owner and all round sewing machine genius, opening up the shop, and by 12pm my main machine and back up machine were both serviced and tickety-boo (that’s a technical sewing machine term, you know).  So now I can breathe again, and get sewing when I finish these blog ramblings.

Small Messenger Bag in Red Funky Fabric
Small Messenger Bag in Red Funky Fabric

And if you are ever in Waterford, and like your sewing, get yourself to the Singer Sewing Machine Shop.  Not only are the staff encyclopaedic in their knowledge, they are friendly, helpful and provide an almost bespoke fitting service of stitcher to sewing machine. They also have a giddiness-inducing array of haberdashery and sewing notions to lighten the wallet still further.

Finally, for those of you who are regular visitors to my web site, I apologise for the somewhat “work in progress” appearance that it has right now.  The online shop is hopefully going to be up and running very soon, but it is taking slightly longer than anticipated.  Your patience will be rewarded with a rather clever little online shop by the end of the month, I hope.

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Happy 1st Birthday, Sallyann’s Handmade Bags!

handbag, messenger bag, birthday treat
handbag, messenger bag, birthday treat
Birthday Cake for the bags

Happy Birthday to me…

Happy Birthday to me…

Happy Birthday, Sallyann’s Handmade Bags…

Happy Birthday to me!

handbag, messenger bag, birthday treat
Birthday Cake!

It has been a busy start to September for the bags and I.  One whole year officially in business.  Wow.  And so much has happened. For a start, I’m still going.  My range of bags has developed, and the fabrics I use have changed and increased.  Using coated cottons and linens as well as oilcloths has lead to a broadening of my range of fabrics, whilst still ensuring that the bags all remain practical, useful and showerproof.  After the Summer we have had here in the West of Ireland, showerproof is a necessity.  And always lined with recycled jeans. the purses made with the zips from the jeans have grown in popularity.

Purses, handmade, handbags, oilcoth purse, upcycled jeans
Lots of purses

I’ve had huge support from fellow craftspeople I have met along the way, which has been the most unexpected bonus of starting up my own business.  I had been concerned it would be a bit lonely, sewing away in my house in the boonies, just turning up to the odd market.  But I didn’t factor in how friendly and helpful my fellow crafters and stallholders would be.  I’ve made great friends, and have had more laughter at work in the last year than I reckon I had in the previous 10 years.  The development of Chapel Lane Market in Ennis by Clare Nihill of Crafty Nugz and Cllr Mary Howard of Clare County Council has been a turning point for my business. I like to think I was a certain push factor for Clare in the development of the market – in the run up to last Christmas we spent many cold Saturdays in a gazebo on Cruises Street in Limerick, hopping from foot to foot to keep warm, with Clare muttering “There has to be a warmer place to have a stall”. And so she and Mary worked tirelessly to start Chapel Lane Market, which has just celebrated its first 6 months in business.  I’ve been at almost every market, and the atmosphere and range of handcrafted goodies on display each week just gets better and better.  Stallholders work tirelessly to develop their range of products and the quality is very high high.  Each and everything on sale is made within a 30 mile radius of Ennis.  So many times you visit a craft fair, and instead of hand made products you see cheap imported stuff which is not in the least handcrafted.  There is none of that at Chapel Lane, which is why I think the discerning shoppers of Ennis and County Clare have taken it to their hearts quite so willingly – they can see it is a genuine craft market.

There are fantastic plans afoot in Chapel Lane Market for Hallowe’en and Christmas – watch this space and the market’s Facebook page for more details!

The chance to trade at Shannon Airport has been a huge boost to my business, and to my personal confidence in my products.  Selling Sallyann Bags alongside such established bag brands as Orla Kiely, Fiorucci, Guess and Lisa Ryder was a big test for me, and I think I can safely say I passed that test! Taking this big leap of faith was GlenAran Irish Market, who supported myself, Crafty Nugz, Orinoco Creative Glass and LuciLu Jewellery over the Summer at their airport shops.  It was a huge opportunity, and one that has had a significant impact on my business.  One of the benefits of being in Shannon Airport was getting to meet so many people from so many different countries.  I met people from Germany, France, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Spain and the US.  One lady I met, Ina Steiner, happened to be a journalist and editor of an online magazine called ecommercebytes.com, and she subsequently wrote up her conversation with me for her website.  Take a look at the article here.  Now that was serendipity!

There have been some fantastic shops who have supported me through my first year too.  Terry and Lisa of Cottage Garden Centre Gift Shop at the Hand near Miltown Malbay were the first ones who encouraged me to be brave and make some bags for them to sell in their fabulous gift shop. Kilbaha Gallery & Crafts, on the Loop Head Peninsula and run by the phenomenally enthusiastic Liz and Ailish, have tirelessly supported and promoted my bags at their gallery on the Wild Atlantic Way.  The Limerick Craft Hub has been a fantastic base for my bags in Limerick – so much so that I have decided to stop having a stall in Cruises Street in Limerick, because the Limerick Craft Hub are able to sell them six days a week, and I could only do a Saturday every two weeks at the market!

Now I’ve entered my second year of business, I’m looking forward to expanding steadily into a few more shops, and keeping my regular slot at Chapel Lane Market in Ennis.  There are new designs to work on, new fabrics to explore, and always new customers to meet and talk to. How exciting is that?

handbag, messenger bag, birthday treat, Fely Bag, Cross body bag, cat fabric, showerproof,
Cat & Mouse Fely Bag

Finally, I wanted to show you the bag I made for the person who had the winning bid in my auction of a cat & mouse bag in aid of An Cat Dubh Cat Sanctuary. Susi had asked for a Fely bag, my slightly larger handbag which is a cross body design. The fabric worked brilliantly for it, with the cheeky cat print really standing out. And the good news is that Sasha, the little kitten for whom I was trying to raise money, is beginning to put on weight and her health is improving. All in all you helped raise €100 for An Cat Dubh, so thank you for your support.

handbag, messenger bag, birthday treat, Fely Bag, Cross body bag, cat fabric, showerproof,
Cat & Mouse Fely Bag

So here’s to a busy second year of business! Thank you to all my customers for their encouragement and custom, and I hope to see many of you over the coming months. And please keep sending in the pictures of your bags on their travels – recent bags have been spotted in Lisbon, Tenerife, Seville, New York City and Las Vegas.

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Taking Stock

Cat & Mouse Fabric Zip Top Tote

It is hard to believe, but the end of August is approaching.  It has been a busy few weeks, as you can probably tell by the absence of posts recently. I was at the Limerick Show this past weekend.  I haven’t been to a county show for years, and had forgotten the fun they can be.

Calf in the stable block
A prize-winning calf is led proudly through the retail area at Limerick Show

I attended the show with Ger Guilfoyle, the jewellery genius behind LuciLu Jewellery. The retail stalls were mainly in the stable block, which meant that we had shelter in case the weather turned on us.  We set up with a display outside and our tables inside.  We then took turns to lure people inside the Stable to our web of temptations!

Stable 82
Stable 82, where my stall and that of LuciLu Jewellery were set up
My stall and that of LuciLu Jewellery
My stall and that of LuciLu Jewellery at Limerick Show

After the excitement of the Limerick Show, I am back to preparing for my final session at Shannon Airport.  This Saturday I’ll be at the GlenAran shop which is just before you go through Security, so even if you’re not flying you can come along and see me!  I made a couple of special zip top totes in the bright fabrics, so I will be bringing them, amongst others, on Saturday.  After I finish in the Airport I shall be zooming (within the speed limit, obviously) up to Chapel Lane Market in Ennis, for my first time there since the beginning of August.  It’ll be nice to be back at Chapel Lane, which is always buzzing.

Funky Red and Blue Paisley Zip Top Totes
Funky Red and Blue Paisley Zip Top Totes

Finally, I have a request to make from you all.  Driving back from Miltown Malbay yesterday I saw a white thing out the corner of my eye.  Driving back slowly to check out what it was, it turned out to be a kitten.  Now, I know I’m a sucker for cats, but I couldn’t drive by and leave her at the side of the road.  So I jumped out of the car, scooped her up, pushed her into the sleeve of my coat to keep her warm and still, and drove on.  Realising she needed more help that I could immediately offer, I rang the redoubtable Rhona, who runs An Cat Dubh cat sanctuary, near The Hand crossroads.  She immediately prepared a crate for the newly named Sasha, complete with warm bedding, food, drink and a litter tray.  On arrival Sasha was gently removed from my sleeve to be greeted by cuddles from Rhona, and a promise to help her out.  She has congested lungs, will probably lose an eye and is carrying a lot of worms.  All treatable with care, time, skill and a huge amount of tenderness. And a vet.

Sasha, just after she was found on the road
Sasha, just after she was found on the road
Please help Sasha
Sasha needs help to recover from her tough start in life

I’m auctioning off one of my bags, specially made for the winner of the auction, to raise money for Sasha’s vet bills.  All the money raised through the auction will go to An Cat Dubh.

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

The lucky auction winner can choose to have a unique bag made: cross the body, Fely, Goldilocks or Zip Top Tote – whichever they would prefer.  Bids started last night on my Facebook page, and we have reached the dizzy heights of almost €50 so far.  But I am sure that such a unique bag will be worth more to the right generous person, so please visit the page, make a bid, and share the post to get as many people to see the auction as possible.  Bids close at 8pm on Monday 31st August. Thank you!!

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Heard at the Craft Fair….

Coore cows

Craft Fairs are generally good fun.  You arrive about an hour before they are due to open to the public, set up your stall, wander around annoying the other stall holders by disturbing them whilst they are setting up, then you return to your stall in readiness for opening.There’s a bit of a buzz, excitement in the air as you get ready.  Yesterday I took the bags to the Clare Crafts Association Summer Craft Fair at the Armada Hotel in Spanish Point.  It was one of those Summer days where within an hour you got rain, sea fog and bright sunshine.  A few hardy souls were swimming and two people took a rowing boat out for a spin.  Spanish Point is my local beach where I could happily spend a few hours walking up and down the beach, swimming or surfing.  But yesterday I was grateful to be inside the hotel – the weather wasn’t my idea of beach weather.  So I was hopeful that the good people of West Clare and the many holidaymakers around at the moment would support  the event.

Spanish Point Beach
Spanish Point Beach

Which they did! We had a steady flow of visitors, who meandered happily around the 23 stalls, enjoying the huge range of crafts on display, from paintings, sculptures and ceramics to quilted items and jewellery.  What I like the most about craft fairs and markets is the immediate feedback and chat you get from people about the bags.  Some people say the most fantastic things, which make you smile for the rest of the day.  Yesterday I spoke to a lady who was sounding off about the huge prices some designers charge for handbags. She had seen some in a shop and was outraged at the high prices being charged, “so high – you’d have to sell two bullocks to pay for them!”.

Coore cows
How many Sallyann Bags for these cattle?

I’m no farmer, and don’t know the going price for a bullock, but I don’t think you’d have to sell any cattle to get your hands on one of my bags.  After all, they are just simple, well designed, useful, practical bags.  I’m not going to try to sell you a lifestyle next week.  You don’t need me to tell you what your duvet cover or your sugar bowl should look like!!

And then a lady and her daughter came over to talk to me and to look at the bags.  They liked their craft, and had clearly already bought a couple of pieces from others in the room. I was completely taken aback when she picked out a funky red Fely bag, turned to her daughter and said “That’s not a bag, that’s a work of art!”.  What an AMAZING thing to say! I was hugely flattered, and duly got all tongue-tied.  But I’m still floating 6 inches off the ground after that compliment.

Funky red & grey dandelion
Two favourite fabrics, funky red & grey dandelion

This is going to be a busy week for markets, fairs, festivals and duty free! I’m back in Shannon Airport, at the GlenAran Shop in Duty Free, on Friday 31 July from 7am, so look out for me if  you’re flying through Shannon on Friday.  On Saturday I’m at my very favourite community market, Chapel Lane Market in Ennis from 10am – 5pm. Sunday sees me return to the beautiful Vandeleur Walled Gardens in Kilrush for their  August Craft and Plant Sale, from 12-5pm.  Finally on Bank Holiday Monday I will be amongst the crowds at the amazing Kilmihil Festival of Fun. There is a craft fair in the Community Centre on there main street of this village.  For those of you yet to sample Kilmihil Festival of Fun, make this the year that you do.  The whole village lets its hair down for the weekend, with all manner of events, from tractor runs, walks, pig racing, vintage cars, sheaf throwing, turf stacking.  Then on Bank Holiday Monday there is a big parade which can be quite eye-popping.  I hope that I’ll see you at one or other of these great events this weekend, but whether I do or not, have a great Bank Holiday Weekend!

Chapel Lane
The welcome on the mat at Chapel Lane Market
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