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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Last Few Shopping Opportunities Approaching

It’s a crazy, busy time of year for everyone in the run up to Christmas.  I am approaching the last few markets I’ll be attending in 2016…here they are:

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

Large Messenger Bag in Meadow
Large Messenger Bag in Meadow

I will have as many of my bags in as big a range of fabrics as I can muster at these events.  I’m delighted with the reception that you have all given to my own fabric design, Meadow. I have sold out of it at each event I have attended with Meadow bags, which is brilliant, although it does mean that I am facing into a big pile of Meadow bags to be cut and sewn this week.  If you’re desperate to get your paws on one before Christmas, by all means message me to pick one up at the markets I’ll be attending, or order online.  I’m now making large messenger bags in Meadow too – see the picture above – it’s looking a bit gorgeous don’t you think?

If you’re ordering online, bear in mind that the last posting dates for Ireland to the UK is 19 December, and to Ireland it is 21 December.  I wouldn’t want to risk being up to the wire on those dates if at all possible though, especially if I have to make to order, so please be kind and give me as much lead in time to any orders that you might have!

It’s a short but sweet blog post today, necessitated by a need to sew not type.

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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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Summer’s here – it must be, it’s raining!

Daisy Small Messenger Bag

As those of you who might read my blogs regularly (or as regularly as I publish them) will know, I tend to start my day with a walk up and down the road that I live on.  I’m normally accompanied by my dog, Daisy, who is a more or less willing companion, depending on the weather conditions.  On Fridays I go to the nearby town of Miltown Malbay, and this means Daisy and I get to walk by the sea, along the headland at the White Strand beach.  Whatever the time of year and weather, this is always a stunning walk.  For the first time in my life I saw a basking shark there a few weeks ago.

Wildflower Meadow
Wildflower Meadow

The picture of the wildflower meadow here was taken on this walk on Friday.  The meadow is generally ungrazed, and thankfully it is left late to be cut for hay.  The meadow is alive with skylarks and other rare birdlife, as well as unusual bumblebees and butterflies.  In fact I took a picture of a butterfly that I spotted on the headland a couple weeks ago and could not identify it. I sent it to the National Biodiversity Data Centre for their help in identifying the beautiful little butterfly, and I got a very rapid and excited response saying that it was a Marsh Fritillary, which is a rare and important species.  I was amazed! It goes to show how little we know about what surrounds us everyday.

Marsh Fritillery butterfly
Marsh Fritillery butterfly

Just a few weeks ago I blogged about the cuckoo returning to Coore, and how I could hear it calling.  All that has stopped now – the adult cuckoos have already started their long journey back to Africa, and the eggs they laid in the various host nests will have hatched into baby cuckoos, who have to make their way to West Africa without any help from adult birds in the next few weeks.

My walks in the morning often set the tone for the day, and on Friday, inspired by the beautiful wildflower meadow at White Strand, I decided it was time to get out my Daisy fabric and make a bag to suit the day.  So the beautiful Daisy Messenger Bag came into existence!

Daisy Small Messenger Bag
Daisy Small Messenger Bag

And of course sunshine always makes me think of holidays.  So I had to make the perfect travel bag then, a small messenger bag in my perennial favourite fabric, Old Map.  I took this picture of it on the road outside my sewing studio.  The view is almost directly West, so I was laughing to myself that if I just kept going along the road, over the Atlantic that you can just make out in the distance, the bag would actually reach the place shown on the front flap, North America!

Old Map Small Messenger Bag
Old Map Small Messenger Bag

I mentioned in my last blog that I’ve been selected to go to the urkult Festival in Sweden, and much of my time between now and then is devoted to making lots and lots of bags which I hope the discerning festival goers of Sweden will enjoy.  However, the organisation behind this opportunity, Creative Edge, also helped me to get involved with another scheme recently. Called Creative Steps, it involved pairing my business up with a craft business in northern Finland and a team of hugely enthusiastic business students from the University of Applied Sciences in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland.  The idea was to work with the team of students on a key aspect of my business, and that they would go away and study it and come back with proposals. The students were an international mix, representing Finland, Vietnam, Nigeria and Russia, so their perspectives were totally different to my own.  They were gripped by the challenge of working with a creative business rather than a more “normal” case study of well known consumer brand.

One of the challenges I asked them to look into for me was my desire to develop my own fabrics.  In fact it was through the creative business I was paired with for this project, Susivilla, that I learned of some textile designers.  So I am working away with them to try to start developing my own fabrics, which would be totally unique to Sallyann’s Handmade Bags, which will be AMAZING if it happens! Annika, the lady behind Susivilla, is a weaver.  She makes the most stunning rugs and scarves, inspired by the surrounding countryside and Lappish culture. Click on the link above and take a look.  Her stuff is beautiful.  She will also be at the urkult Festival, and the two of us are trying to work on the germ of an idea that we have for running a workshop whilst we’re at the festival.

These two projects that have spun out of my involvement with Creative Edge have been a real boost to my business – I feel like it is going in the right direction for me now. Developing my own range of bags using my own fabric has been a goal for a long time, but the mechanics of actually achieving it had eluded me until now.  It’s not going to be overnight, but I do feel it will now happen.

The other developments I have been working on are online too – I feel to have spent almost more time on the computer than at the sewing machine.  I have uploaded a lot of bags to my Etsy site and I have become a trader on Handmade at Amazon. My shop here on my own web site is still going strong, never fear, but these two websites give me a broader reach.  Especially for those of you with friends and family in the United States and Canada, do let them know about the Handmade at Amazon site, not just because of my bags, but also because of the range of crafts available on it.  It is very impressive.

As well as my visit to urkult Festival, there is a much larger festival happening much closer to home later in August.  The Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann arrives in Ennis from 14-22 August. It is the culmination of months and years of practice for traditional musicians from around Ireland and all over the world. They will come together in Ennis and compete to become All-Ireland Champion in their particular instrument.  The whole town and wider county of Clare will be alive with traditional music for the whole time.  It is HUGE for Ennis, and will be great fun as the musicians move into the town and take over.

Bodhrán Bag
Bodhrán Bag

In celebration of this massive traditional music event, I have worked with a local traditional bodhrán maker (a type of Irish drum), Ben March Bodhráns, to develop a new type of bag for Sallyann’s Bags – a bodhrán bag!  These are primarily made from recycled jeans, really highlighting how gorgeous recycled denim is as a fabric, with little highlights of oilcloth on the edges.  The bag is lined with soft, fleecy fabric for the bodhrán to snuggle into. These bags are totally unique – if you know someone seriously into his or her bodhrán playing, let them know!  These will be on sale during the Fleadh in Ennis.

For those of you hoping to catch up with me in the coming weeks, I will be at Chapel Lane Market in Ennis on 25 June and 2 July.  I’ll be at the Vandeleur Walled Gardens on 3 July and then at the Cong Summer Festival in Cong, Co. Galway on Saturday 9 July, followed by the Ennis Street Festival on 10 July. After that I will have two further Chapel Lane Markets before I pack up and head north to Sweden!

Primary schools break up here for the Summer next week, so the fun of juggling sewing and surfing will start, as my son is a mad keen surfer. If you’re facing into the Summer holidays too – enjoy them, and hopefully I’ll meet some of you along the way!

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Dusting off the Passport….

Small Cross Body Bags in Sky Blue & Teal

As ever, it has been busy at Bag Making HQ since I last wrote a blog post.  Time just seems to telescope away from me.  I was all excited last time about cuckoos and bumblebees. Now the latest summer migrants are American, Dutch, French, British and German tourists who come in to Chapel Lane Market in Ennis, smiling as they discover a place to buy REAL souvenirs of their time in Ireland.

It really is the start of the tourist season now.  I was fortunate to go on a trip to the Cliffs of Moher last weekend when the weather was unbelievably kind. The number of

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

languages being spoken in and around the visitor centre was bewildering and intriguing, and great news for the local tourism businesses. It was a brilliant day, with amazing blue skies and calm seas, which was a relief for me because we went on a cruise to the bottom of the cliffs with the Doolin Ferry Company, and I’m not the greatest sailor. For the first time in over 10 years of living in County Clare, I saw the Cliffs from a totally different angle, and we managed to get up close and personal with a load of nesting seabirds such as puffins, guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes.  If you’re ever thinking of a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way, my part of the West Clare coastline in not to be missed!

I think all those beautiful blues in the sky and sea last weekend inspired my sewing this week.  I was making some new fabrics up into bags in preparation for the Craft Festival held yesterday (22 May) at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire.

Small Cross Body Bags in Sky Blue & Teal

My two favourite small cross body bags from the week’s production were these two – a gorgeous sky blue and a dark teal colour – both colours much in evidence at the Cliffs of Moher.IMG_0401IMG_0353There was a dark teal messenger bag and a couple bag buddies in the new fabrics too.  I think I’ll be making a few more of them soon. The plain fabrics allow me the chance to riffle through my pile of cool pockets that have been unpicked from jeans, and I then get to match them to the lining denim and the outer fabrics when I’m making the cross body bags. I’ll be trying out a few small messengers in these fabrics too, but with a twist.  What this space.

The small messenger bags will be some of the bags I’ll be preparing to take to Sweden, to the urkult Festival in August.  I’m hoping to develop some new bags for that trip.  Part of the excitement about going to this festival is that I will get to meet crafters from all over northern Europe at the event.  In addition, with thanks to Creative Momentum and the Creative Steps programme who are arranging the trip to Sweden, I am already in touch with a Finnish weaver, whose business is called Susivilla. (Take a look – her scarves are AMAZING).  We’re working on a project with some students at the Lapland University of Applied Sciences right now, so I’m getting all these messages about ideas for urkult, for bags, for my business, for fabrics.  It’s very exciting.

Urkult Poster
Urkult Poster

I’ve posted a picture of the advertising poster for urkult so you can see a bit more about the festival.  I’m clearly a late bloomer as I’ve never been to a music festival before, so this is going to be quite something.

My Summer is shaping up quite well now.  Locally I will be going to Chapel Lane Market this Saturday 28th May, and again the Saturday of the June Bank Holiday Weekend, 4th June. On Sunday 5th June I will be at the Clare Crafts Association Summer Craft Fair, which is being held in the Community Centre in Doonbeg.  It is the Doonbeg Jazz Festival that weekend, so if ever there was a winning combination of fine jazz and finer craft, this is it.  The Jazz Festival is brilliant and there is music all over the village, so it is really worth coming along if you can. I love a bit of jazz on a sunny afternoon, creamy pint in hand….but of course I’ll be without the pint and in the Community Centre.  But if my stall is unattended, you’ll know where to look!

Finally, a little bit of advanced notice, especially for those of you who are based in the UK.  On the weekend of 16-18 September I shall be bringing the bags over to London, to Hampton Court Palace, where I will be one of the exhibitors at Kirstie Allsop’s Handmade Fair.

Handmade Fair

I will be able to offer discount codes for tickets and I may even get tickets that I can give to people, so if you would like to go on the special mailing list I’m creating to send out all these lovely goodies and special offers, email me at salshandmadebags@gmail.com and I’ll put you on the list.  It’d be great to see some of you at the event, which promises to be the biggest event I’ve done, and also really interesting, with a HUGE range of crafts going on. There’s a theatre with all manner of craft demonstrations throughout the day, which you can book when you book your tickets. It sounds fab.

It’s going to be a very busy Summer at Bag Making HQ getting ready for all these events!

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The Cuckoo is Back! Summer is almost here!

Turquoise & Blue Bags

I’m just in the door from my morning walk.  As I walked along the road a familiar sight greeted me.  Familiar, but I haven’t seen it since last June.  The cuckoo.  It’s a surprisingly big bird, and resembles a sparrow hawk in colour and shape, but its looping flight and unmistakeable call is the first real sign that Summer is here.  It calls for barely a month.  Its visit is fleeting. It comes all the way to Coore in West Clare from West Africa to call, mate and lay eggs.  It then returns to West Africa.  It is one of the last Summer migrants to arrive, and must be the first to leave, given that it subcontracts its child rearing to all the tiny warblers and pipits that live in the boggy land surrounding my home and studio.

Tough Dandelion
Tough Dandelion

It was just lovely to walk along the road with the cuckoo looping along in front of me, flying from perch to perch, calling like mad.  It is a haunting call that takes me back to childhood summers lying on the grass, surrounded by daisies and listening to bumblebees and cuckoos.  Cuckoos and bumblebees are both desperately in decline.  In the case of bees, it is becoming clear this is due to habitat loss, a determination by farmers and gardeners to eliminate weeds and the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.  The Bumblebee researchers at Biodiversity Ireland and the Irish Wildlife Trust are urging gardeners not to kill dandelions – often the first plentiful food source for bees in the Spring.  In celebration of this I took this picture this morning of a dandelion proudly growing slap bang in the middle of my road.  Dandelions are seriously tough, but their value as a food source is huge.

As for the decline in numbers of cuckoos, habitat loss is definitely a factor, with the loss of nesting sites for their host species in the bog lands and moors of Western Ireland.  Burning of bogs in April and May destroys the nests of their hosts  and the cuckoo eggs, eradicating a whole generation of cuckoos and other baby birds.  But given that the majority of the cuckoos’ life cycle is spent on the wing and in Africa, there are no doubt other causes in these countries too. Take a look at this website for some fascinating insights into the routes taken by these unique birds.

OK, I hear you say.  Enough about your wildlife.  What about the bags? Well, I’m sewing away.  I’m enjoying the fabrics I’ve recently sourced, like Funky Slate, the Paisleys and the French fabrics like Pink Leaf and Camellia. I’m attending a large Craft Festival in Dun Laoghaire at the Marine Hotel on Sunday May 22nd, so I want to have lots of choices for the people of South Dublin on my first visit to the Big City! It’ll be my first time at this event, so I’m really looking forward to my trip East.  It’ll be a test of my navigational skills, having never been to Dun Laoghaire before.

Red, Crimson & Cerise Bags
Red, Crimson & Cerise Bags

I’ve also had some AMAZING news!  I have been selected to be one of three Irish craft businesses from the western counties to attend a music festival in Sweden in early August.  The festival is called the urkult Festival and it celebrates the return of the darkness to the forests and lakes of this area of northern Europe as the period of 24 hour daylight comes to an end. The festival has music, arts, crafts and a very strong green ethos.  There is a Night of Fire which sounds completely breathtaking.  It is a part of the world I have never visited before, so I am hugely excited.  My bags will fit right in with their strong element of recycling, longevity and environmentally conscious acrylic coatings.

Messenger bag, Cross Body Bag, Green Messenger Bag, Daiper Bag
Green Paisley Messenger Bag

This Messenger Bag and its companions will be looking forward to travelling across Ireland and beyond this Summer. Here’s to sunshine and safe travels.

PS I’m in Chapel Lane Market in Ennis the next few Saturdays 7th, 14th and 21st May!

 

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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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Love it or hate it…..

Bag buddy in Pink Leaf
Marmite Easter Egg
Marmite Easter Egg

Happy Easter everyone! I had to show you this Easter (or Yeaster, as the Marmite people would have it) Egg. I am a Marmite lover, but I am finding the idea of Marmite and chocolate a bit challenging.  Recent “innovations” by confectionary companies such as milk chocolate and cheese and onion Tayto crisps have left me feeling somewhat nauseated, and the Cadbury’s Caramel and Vegemite bar brought back from Australia by some friends was an an acquired taste I wasn’t rushing to acquire.

This is necessarily a short post, for which I apologise, although you may be relieved.  Bag Making HQ is very busy at the moment, preparing for 2 markets this week, Chapel Lane Market in Ennis on Saturday from 10-5, and the very gorgeous Vandeleur Walled Gardens Easter Egg Hunt, Craft and Plant Sale on Sunday from 12-5.  New bags are being sewn, especially box bags and bag buddies, both of which are proving popular amongst my lovely discerning customers.

Did you meet the box bags?

Box bags
Box bags

The box bags are made out of oilcloths and coated cottons, and lined with denim.  They are perfect for use as wash bags, for shaving gear or make up, but have also found use as a holder for yarn and crochet hooks, and in my particular case I use one for the yarn and small needles I am using to knit a tiger.  They came into existence when I decided that I wanted to see if I could sew a cuboid shape.  Having proved that I could, and that they looked rather handsome, the box bag was born.  They retail for €30 each, and come in most of the colours of the fabrics I use.

Boxbags - perfect for shaving stuff, wash bags, make up, you name it...
Boxbags – perfect for shaving stuff, wash bags, make up, you name it…

 

The bag buddies too are acquiring their fans. They are handy little fellows.  Small enough to be held in one hand or to hang off the wrist join its soft denim wrist strap, the bag buddy can act as wallet, handbag and travel bag all rolled into one.  Inside are card slots for credit/debit cards, and enough room for a phone, keys, cash and a passport.  At the end of the wrist strap is a clip, and this clip can be used to fasten the bag buddy inside any one of my bags which also have clips sewn into their side seams now.  If you’re on holidays and want a little extra security for your purse, these are your solution.  But equally if you’re going out in the evening and don’t want to carry a full handbag, they can step up and be your evening bag with aplomb!

Bag Buddy in Kingfisher
Bag Buddy in Kingfisher
Bag buddy in Pink Leaf
Bag buddy in Pink Leaf
Bag buddies
Bag buddies

All of these will be available at both markets I’ll be attending this weekend, along with some old favourites like the zip top totes, and even the odd reversible open top tote, making a trip back to the Vandeleur Walled Gardens where it made its first ever appearance on the public stage.

 

Have a very happy Easter to you all, happy Spring Break to those of you in the States, and I hope that I will get the chance to meet with many of you in the coming weeks.

 

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The Wild Atlantic Way…

Bag buddies!
Rainbow
Rainbow

The Wild Atlantic Way is a route that you can take from the North to the South of Ireland (or the South to the North), all along the Western seaboard.  It is an amazing route, taking in the fabulous scenery of the West of Ireland.  I’m very fortunate to live on the Wild Atlantic Way in West Clare, and almost every morning I take a walk up the road with the dog to stretch my legs before I settle down in front of the sewing machine or computer. The picture above was taken as I made my way home.  It is a typical West Clare weather picture – bright sunshine, a dark shower cloud looming, and a beautiful rainbow.  It lasted a fleeting moment before the shower hit me.

Primroses
Primroses

In my garden the flowers are beginning to emerge, and I caught a picture of these primroses nervously poking their heads above the soil today.  Next we’ll see a few bumblebees emerge from hibernation. Last year I saw my first bumblebee on 15th March, so not long to wait now.

I’ve been sewing away like mad recently, having taken delivery of a huge roll of zips which make my life a lot more efficient.  Having mastered the tricky art of joining the slider to the zip, I am about to start making a few zip top tote bags.  It is a one of my original bag designs, and always a favourite amongst those who love a shoulder bag with plenty of room, and a zip top.  From now on they will also have a clip inside for keys, as with all my bags now.

Zip Top Totes
Zip Top Totes

And I’ve made a lot of Bag Buddies, my new wristlet design.  These work as a standalone bag, with card slots inside, and room for change, keys and a phone.  They have a denim wrist strap with a clip at the end.  The clever thing with a Bag Buddy is you can use it to keep your bag essentials in, and then move it from handbag to handbag. It means you’ll never find that you left home without your favourite lip gloss again (I know, a first world problem). The clip on the wrist strap means you can clip the Bag Buddy into your Sallyann Bag, for added security.

Bag buddies!
Bag buddies!

Finally, I cannot post without mentioning last Saturday’s Chapel Lane Market. It was the market’s 1st birthday, and to celebrate we had lots of cake, music, balloons, and three amazing stallholders shaved their heads to raise money for Shave or Dye – the campaign to raise money for Slainte an Chlair, a local cancer support group, and the Irish Cancer Society.

Shave or Dye
AMAZING WOMEN!

They were so brave to do this – losing your hair during cancer treatment is traumatic for most people, and to do it voluntarily meant there was barely a dry eye in the hall.  We’re all so proud of Clare Nihill, Colette Dinan and Sharon Peters Ball.  To date they have raised almost €3500, which is a phenomenal result.  Well done ladies.  Hats off to you (or on, as it’s quite chilly).

We’ll all be back at Chapel Lane Market on Saturday from 10am – 5pm – don’t forget to call in and see the amazing range of talent on display.  We have new and familiar stall holders – something for everyone.

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