Meadow Fabric’s New Colours

Large Cross Body Zip Top Meadow Collection

So I’m back on the ferry, heading over to Hampton Court Palace for Kirstie Allsopp’s The Handmade Fair. So much has happened since I was travelling over last year.

One of the biggest differences for me is that this year I am travelling over to England with stock boxes full of bags made from my own unique print, Meadow. In September last year, the public’s reaction to my bags at The Handmade Fair was the final spur to encourage me to be brave and get my own print, unique to me.
I took delivery of the first rolls of Meadow fabric in its gorgeous green, turquoise and red colours in November. And thanks to you lovely people, this fabric has outsold all other fabrics I use ever since.

Encouraged still further, I have now developed two additional colour ways of Meadow fabric, so now I have The Meadow Collection. I have the original Green Meadow, and now it is joined by Blue Meadow and Grey Meadow.

To say I am pleased by the reaction from people who have seen these new fabrics is an understatement.  I can’t wait to see what the lovely people who attend The Handmade Fair will think. I wonder if they will realise how their enthusiasm last year has led me to this point, where I will be stocking the shelves of my stand (E127 in case you’re visiting the Fair) with three different versions of my own fabric design.

And of course, this feels like just the beginning. With this new found confidence, I’m wanting to develop new fabric designs too. This is just the beginning of developing unique Sallyann’s Handmade Bags fabrics.
I hope that I’ll see plenty of you at The Handmade Fair from 15-17 September, but I’ll be back in Ireland from 20 September, and back at Chapel Lane Market in Ennis on 23 & 30 September.

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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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Off to The Handmade Fair at Ragley Hall

Sallyann Bags in the Sunshine

It’s been a very busy few weeks, as I increase my stock levels in preparation for attending The Handmade Fair at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire in England. Trying to get the balance right of which bags to take in what fabric and which bag style has been challenging.  Just at the point when I was feeling a little frazzled, I looked up from my trimming of a large messenger bag to see that a thread had become stitched into the seam of the denim lining of the bag, in the shape of a perfect heart. It’s like the messenger bag was sending me a message.

A subtle message
A subtle message

So I breathed, thought calm thoughts, and got the bags made just in time. I’ve even had to book my sewing machine in for a service after its exertions at the wonderful sewing machine spa that is John O’Donnell’s Singer Sewing Centre in Waterford. Whilst I am away it can put its foot up and get its machine parts oiled, whilst I drum up more work for it in England! As a quick aside, John is a fabulous help to my business, always at the end of the phone to advise me as I push my sewing machines sometimes to the limits of what they are capable of. I’m sure my machines count the days until they go for their annual service.

The bags getting ready to head to England
The bags getting ready to head to England

So the bags are packed (I have John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” playing on repeat in my head, despite the fact that I’ll be leaving in a small overloaded car to catch the ferry to Holyhead, which is somewhat more humdrum), and I’m almost ready to leave. I was at The Handmade Fair in Hampton Court Palace Gardens last September, and had an amazing time.  This Spring event in Ragley Hall in Warwickshire is a new event, so it’s a first for everyone.  Like the September event there are loads of classes and sessions where you can try out new crafts or learn new techniques in crafts that you are already passionate about.  There are seriously delicious food wagons parked strategically around the site, tempting you with everything from paella to artisan coffees. And then there is the Shopping Village, where I will be at Stall 34.

The Shopping Village is an array of temptation, with huge displays of fabric and yarn stalls, all manner of craft kit suppliers, and then handpicked suppliers of genuinely handmade items, like my bags.

Meadow Small Messenger Bag
Meadow Small Messenger Bag
Funky Red & Slate Large Cross Body Bags
Funky Red & Slate Large Cross Body Bags

There are some TV personalities who are involved with the Handmade Fair too, most notably Kirstie Allsopp who is a big supporter of handmade crafts and has been central to The Handmade Fair since its inception. For viewers of The Great British Sewing Bee, the judge Patrick Grant will be there this weekend, as well as Keith Brymer-Jones, the judge from The Great British Pottery Throwdown. So a little bit of stardust is being sprinkled amongst us all.

I’ve made a load of little purses for the Handmade Fair too – they are always popular with people wanting a little extra with their bags, or as a snap purchase as they finally find the small purse they’ve been looking for.

Meadow Large Messenger Bag
Meadow Large Messenger Bag

For those of you in the UK, if you’d like free tickets to The Handmade Fair for this weekend 12-14 May, email me as soon as possible and I will send you a link by return that you can follow to get your free entry pass. It’ll be lovely to see you at my stall! At the time of writing it is wonderfully warm and sunny here in West Clare, and has been dry for almost a month now, which is quite uncanny. I don’t know if this gorgeous Spring weather will last into the weekend, but whatever the weather, I hope that you have a wonderful few days, and with luck I will see a few of you in Ragley Hall this weekend. I’ll be back at Chapel Lane Market in Ennis on Saturday 20th May, for those of you planning your holidays and realising that a light, easily packed Sallyann Bag is just the thing for your next trip!

 

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How the bags get made

Meadow Messenger Bag

I was fortunate recently to be visited by a photographer, Julia Dunin, who was tasked by My Creative Edge to photograph the creative process that results in my bags. Julia made it an enjoyable process, and I’m delighted with the photographs.

I thought I’d share the results in this blog, but first I’ve also added in a short video of my über patient husband hanging out the umpteenth load of washed recycled jeans on our washing line, which is one of the first things that has to happen before the jeans can be cut to shape and size and the zips removed.

Once the jeans are dry, they are “filletted”. they are cut into two halves, right and left legs, and the zips are removed.

Creative Process
Jeans – washed and cut

The zips are removed from the denim and readied for use in purses. the rest of the denim is sorted by thickness – certain bags need certain thicknesses of denim, some are not so fussy.

Creative Process
Fabric

The fabrics then need to be selected from my store – this is some of my fabric waiting to be cut.  The fabrics are cut to size, and then I can move on to the component parts, like the zips for the zip top small and large cross body bags.

Creative Process
Zips for Small Cross Body Bags

And then I start to sew…

Creative Process
This is a Fiona Bag – a Small Messenger Bag
Creative Process
Trimming the ends
Creative Process
Making the base of the bag
Creative Process
Sewing the base
Creative Process
Attaching the straps
Creative Process
Closing the strap on the finished bag
Creative Process
Ta da!

And then for fun, Julia suggested a short photoshoot with a bag…

Meadow Messenger Bag
Meadow Messenger Bag

I just love this photo – it perfectly describes how practical and useful, and still beautiful, my bags are.  They’re as happy when you’re in wellies walking the dog as they are attending a meeting with the Bank Manager or an evening out with the girls.

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Zip it up!

Naked zips

Sometimes I have the chance to make little coin purses. These deceptively simple little purses are made from the recycled jeans zips and little pieces of my bag fabrics.

But how do I make them? Well, here’s a step by step guide.  Parental Guidance Statement: Gratuitous video footage of a man putting jeans on a washing line

It all starts with the jeans, like with all my bags.  They arrive from the charity shops, get sorted by size and usability and then washed.  And that means an awful lot of this goes on:

 

My husband Mike, who is tremendously supportive of all my bag making adventures, is often the person who gets tasked to hang out the jeans. Not all the jeans are usable for bag making, but all of them have a zip, so the zip is cut from the jeans and washed separately. They end up on the line too.

Zips for purses drying in the sunshine
Zips for purses drying in the sunshine

Once dried, all the zips need cutting out of the jeans.  This is a messy task. My sewing room becomes covered in threads and shards of denim, but at the end of the process I have a whole heap of wonderfully usable zips from which to make purses….

Naked zips
Naked zips

And then the fun can begin.  As you can see, although most zips have a basic navy fabric outer, some come in fun reds, yellows or turquoises.  I hunt out my fabrics, and then sew away to make some of the purses. At the moment these are available only from my Handmade at Amazon.com shop, on Etsy and at my stall wherever I happen to be (Chapel Lane Market this Saturday, in case you were wondering). I hope to add a few to my shop here on my site very soon.

My favourite fabrics right now are Funky Chicken and Cheeky Cat

Cheeky Cat Purse
Cheeky Cat Purse
Funky Chicken Purse
Cat Purse Zip
Cat Purse Zip

It’s a fun way to use up every possible bit of the jeans that I can. They came into being because I had a whole heap of the zips sitting on my desk, and I couldn’t bear to throw them out.  Jeans zips are made from metal, and become better with age. They also get a little burnished with age (don’t we all?), so they wear particularly attractively.

The purses are a great little gift for children to get for their Mammies, Mums, Moms, Mothers, Mamaí and Madres this Mother’s Day, which is this coming Sunday 26th March here in Ireland and Sunday 14 May in the States.

As I said earlier, I’m at Chapel Lane Market this Saturday in Ennis from 10-5 with all my crafty companions providing you with an array of locally produced gorgeousness unparalleled in the West of Ireland, so be sure to call in to guarantee that you get something really lovely and handmade this Mother’s Day!

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Divided by a Common Language

Zips for purses drying in the sunshine
Zips for purses drying in the sunshine
Zips for purses drying in the sunshine

I have to start with this picture of zips from jeans drying in the sunshine yesterday.  This is the start of the purse making process.  The zips are cut from the jeans, washed and then stripped out of their denim.  The zips are divided by size, then I cut the fabrics to match up with each size of zip.  Just recently, I have been making lots of funky chicken purses for customers in the United States, so this batch of zips are going to be converted into these cute little purses very soon!

Funky Chicken Purse
Funky Chicken Purse

Last week was a whirlwind of sewing, packing and training courses. It was Enterprise Week in County Clare, and our Local Enterprise Office was running lots of events to help small businesses like mine.

One of the events was devoted to the dark art of search engine optimisation. Even the phrase, and its more commonly used three letter abbreviation, SEO, gave me the chills.

The lady who was illuminating the topic gave us all pointers about how to get our websites to hit the dizzy heights of Page One on a Google Search Results page.

Keywords are the thing. We were tasked with talking to our neighbours about what keywords were most likely to be used by someone searching for our products. But as is ever the way at these events, if you put 10 small business owners at one table, they’ll start talking about everything except the task at hand.

So keywords are consigned to my homework. And this is where I started to realise how I need to work in at least two languages….American English and Irish/English English.

Why divided by a common language? Take this gorgeous large messenger bag. Is it a messenger bag, a satchel, a cross body bag, a laptop bag, a travel bag, a purse, a pocketbook or a work bag? Is it a shoulder bag? Could someone class it as a tote bag? If it goes to the beach, could it be a beach bag?

Old Map Large Messenger Bag

I need to lie down now! You can see my dilemma. As a “help”, I thought I would Google images of pocketbooks, so I could see what a pocketbook looks like. But Google helpfully presented me with the luridly graphic front cover of that number one bestseller “The Pocket Book of Oral Diseases”. Not for the fainthearted.

So I’ve drawn up a list of keywords, and like Santa, I’ll check it twice, but I may also ask visitors to my stall at Chapel Lane Market and other events what they would call my bags. Especially if they are from the United States or Canada. You can’t beat face to face conversation yet!

Which brings me to my favourite topic to blog about, markets! Chapel Lane Market in Ennis continues to be my main weekly shop window every Saturday. We’re open from 10-5 every Saturday, and the hall is full to the rafters with gorgeousness.

I’m back in the UK for the two Handmade Fairs. The first is at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire May 12-14, the second is at Hampton Court Palace in London from 15-17 September. These are fantastic events so I’m really looking forward to heading over for these. I’ll have some free entry passes, so watch this space, I’ll be publicising those as soon as I have them.

One final thought – have you seen the social media campaign by Margaret Molloy in New York’s City, who for the month of March is wearing Irish designed clothes and accessories?  Under the hashtag #WearingIrish, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, she and now a growing band of others, are promoting all that is fantastic about Irish designed and Irish made fashion and accessories.  And of course I’m more that happy to promote this campaign, by encouraging more and more people to start #WearingIrish by carrying one of my bags, designed and handmade in County Clare!  And because it is nearly St Patrick’s Day, what better than a green Sallyann Bag, one of my own Meadow fabric bags…?

Small Messenger Bag in Meadow
Small Messenger Bag in Meadow

All that remains for me to say is sona Lá Fhéile Pádraig for Friday. Happy St Patrick’s Day!

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A quick (and I mean quick) video

Mixed Messenger Bags

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

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

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Back behind the Sewing Machine

And breathe…! It’s been a very busy few days since I last posted a blog.  Last time I wrote I was about to head off to Showcase Ireland 2017. It was  a huge experience for me and the bags.  We headed off to the RDS in Dublin’s

Bags at Showcase
Stall F77 at Showcase

leafy Ballsbridge on Saturday 21st January to set up.  Walking into the hall was somewhat bewildering. On arrival I parked and headed towards where my stall was up on the balcony, but somehow contrived to return to my car by a different route, despite thinking that I had taken the same exit.  I found myself in a totally different car park, on a totally different side of the RDS.  Retracing my steps, I located the Tipperary Crystal stand which I had noticed on my first entrance to the hall, and left by the door nearest to that stall.  From that point on, Tipperary Crystal was my beacon to steer me in the right direction.

It took me four runs to bring in all the bits and pieces for my stall, and I spent the next four hours up and down ladders, screwing hooks to walls and setting up the bags.  I was hugely fortunate to be visited by a visual merchandiser who came to look at my products and to help me to maximise my display potential. The picture here shows my stall following her advice.  I have a tendency to organise the bags in very ordered straight lines, and I was encouraged to be a little more “playful” with the way I arranged the bags, with some at angles or lying on their sides.  It felt a little unnatural at first, but the more I looked at the stall, I could see it did make a difference to the display.

For the next four days I was at my stall, F77, on the Balcony.  It’s a very friendly place to be, with fellow stallholders keeping you company and willing to go find a cup of tea at the precise moment you feel you are flagging.  The visitors to the show come from across the world.  There were Japanese, Americans, Canadians, Australians, French, Spanish, Italians and British as well as lots and lots of Irish companies.  My stall was next to the International Buyers Lounge where the buyers go to get a coffee and a moment’s rest from the hurly burly of Showcase – it was like standing near the United Nations! This meant that I could employ some degree of cheek and have a chat with the international visitors when they were re-fuelled and raring to go, and I am delighted to say that I now have stockists of my bags in Italy, the UK and Spain.

I also met with buyers from George and Milly  in Castledermot in County Kildare, Above and Beyond the Warehouse in Derry and the Ballymaloe Shop  in Shanagary, County Cork, and I can report  that they too will be stocking my bags from later in February. More stockists will be coming on stream during March, so I will be updating my stockists page to keep you all updated.

Admirers at Showcase
Admirers at Showcase

One of the best visits to my stall was made by fellow Chapel Lane Market stallholders, who came en masse to experience Showcase.  At one point I had four Sallyann Bags admiring my stall, as you can see from the photo – it was great fun. I felt a real glow of pride.  Hopefully one or two of the stallholders (at least) will consider coming to Showcase next year. It has certainly been a great experience for me.

Misty morning
Misty morning

So now I am back to my sewing room in West Clare, and enjoying being back to my routine of a brisk walk up and down the hill next to my home before starting work. This morning was particularly gorgeous, as the mist was lifting as I walked Poppy the dog along the road.  By the time I headed home there was bright blue sky and bright sunshine, which was a big bonus after the mist and rain of the previous day.

Cobweb
Cobweb

The cobwebs were covered in tiny droplets of rain and glittered in the sunshine.  The birdsong was fantastic – it felt very Spring-like.  Which seems appropriate given that tomorrow, 1st February, is the pagan festival of Imbolc, which celebrates the beginning of Spring.  Certainly the daffodils are flowering and the frogs and newts are out of hibernation, so it seems Spring has sprung around West Clare.

And the best thing about February (apart from my birthday)? St Valentine’s Day do I hear you shout? Close. Shrove Tuesday? Almost, but not quite.

It’s the return of Chapel Lane Market! Hoorah! We’re back on 11 February, bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready to astound you with our array of gorgeousness. Lots of new ideas, goodies and perfect gifts for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and of course birthdays and sneaky treats for yourselves! Since we closed before Christmas we’ve all been recharging our crafting batteries, and everyone is fired up and looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones as we start back in the Community Centre in Chapel Lane in Ennis.

I will be debuting my new Mixed Messenger Bags, as well as Meadow bags, up to and including a Carolina bag in Meadow fabric! And the bags will be displayed with perhaps a little more flair than before, thanks to my lessons learnt from the visual merchandiser.

Mixed Messenger Bags
Mixed Messenger Bags

Enjoy the sights and sounds of Spring – it is such a fabulous time of year, so full of the promise of good things to come in 2017.

 

 

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Fly me to the moon, let me play amongst the stars…

Plane & Moon

View

Those of you who take the time to read my blog posts will know that most days I start out by walking the dog.  The weather is irrelevant – the dog needs to go out, so come rain, hail, sleet or (too rarely) sunshine, I am out walking Poppy first thing.  This morning the walk was a pure pleasure, with a cloudless blue sky and bright sunrise.  I looked up and saw an aeroplane seemingly heading towards the moon, and the song in the blog post title came into my head.

I live slap bang on the west coast of Ireland, and we’re on the flight path for most of northern Europe and beyond to the United States and Canada, so seeing the contrails in the sky is a regular thing.  But to see them so clearly in a cloudless sky is a treat.

And these aeroplanes got me thinking about travelling, and the fact that I have to pack all my bags and my displays up when I got home to prepare for Showcase, which starts on Sunday 22nd January. And then I remembered that people I know who have bought bags had sent me pictures of the bags on their travels recently.

 

Blue Paisley going on a trip
Blue Paisley going on a trip

So here we have a large messenger bag in Blue Paisley, alongside a purse in the same fabric, about to head off on its travels.  Apparently the trip closely mirrored several scenes from the film “Planes Trains and Automobiles” in the number of travel variations unexpectedly taken by its owner in order to try to get to her destination. And here’s a Meadow Bag on a trip across the Irish Sea recently, having been on a visit to the UK.

Meadow Bag on board
Meadow Bag on board

Why am I telling you this?  I suppose because I love to hear from people who have my bags and finding out where they have gone to.  By selling online, I have sent bags and purses all over the world.  My list of states within the US where there is now a Sallyann Bag is growing, with Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, New York State, Minnesota and Kentucky leading the charts!

 

Old Map Large Messenger Bag
Old Map Large Messenger Bag

The bags have also headed off the Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK to live. The range of destinations the bags have visited on holidays is long and eclectic. Sunny favourites such as the Canary Islands, Spain, Greece, Italy and France top the list, but they have headed further afield to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sweden, Denmark, Hong Kong, Belize, India, Indonesia, Thailand and South Africa.

Mixed Messenger Bags
Mixed Messenger Bags

Please do send me pictures of your bag when you’re away, if you think of it.  I love to see where the bags have got to – I am always amazed how far they get.  The bags are designed to be good travelling companions, but I’m always interested to hear your feedback too, so if you think of a little tweak which might make the bags even better, please let me know, and I’ll see if I can incorporate the improvements into future bags.

Blue Star Small Messenger Bag
Blue Star Small Messenger Bag

For now, my next trip with my own handbags, together with a raft of display bags is to the RDS in Dublin, to Showcase 2017.  I’m hopeful that by exhibiting at Showcase, I will be able to work with shops across Ireland, to increase the number of outlets where my bags are stocked. I appreciate that not all of you want to buy online, and you most certainly don’t all live within easy reach of Chapel Lane Market in Ennis (but do try to visit Chapel Lane Market – it is FAB!), so more outlets around Ireland would be fantastic.  In addition, buyers from across the world also attend  Showcase, so who knows where my bags might end up being stocked in 2017?

And the good news is that Chapel Lane Market will be reopening for 2017 on Saturday 11 February at 10am! If you want to nudge someone in my direction with regards to a Valentine’s Day gift that you’d actually appreciate, let me know what you’d like and I can ensure it will be on the stall on the 11th.

See you after Showcase, when I will report back with all on my adventures in the big smoke, Dublin!

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New Year, Preparing for Showcase 2017

Mixed Messenger Bag

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

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

LEO Showcase Exhibitors

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

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

Eh voilà! The Mixed Messenger Bag was born!

Mixed Bag
Mixed Messenger Bag – Front

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

Mixed Messenger Bag
Mixed Messenger Bag – Back

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

Mixed Messenger Bag
Mixed Messenger Bag – Side

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

Primroses
Primroses

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

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

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

14 February St Valentine’s Day

26 March Mother’s Day

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

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

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

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

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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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Christmas Craft Festival Ahoy!

Phew!

It has been a busy few days!  The weekend before last I was in the inspiring surroundings of Ballymaloe House in East Cork.  What a location! The Craft Fair covered the whole Grainstore area, plus the well-named Big Shed, which contained still more craft stalls, delectable food stalls and a stage for music.

The Grainstore, Ballymaloe
The Grainstore, Ballymaloe

I was fortunate to be in the Grainstore, surrounded by craft stalls selling gorgeous jewellery, felt, leather goods, fairy doors and seaweed baths.  A few Christmas presents were bought and stashed away in advance.

Meadow Bags at Ballymaloe
Meadow Bags at Ballymaloe

We were helped by glorious late Autumn weather, with crisp, frosty mornings and sunshine all day.  This compares well with the weather we got last year at this time, when we were pounded week after week by Atlantic storms. Several times my route home from Chapel Lane Market in Ennis was blocked by flooding, and I was fortunate to have a friend who could put me up overnight at short notice. The forecast for the coming week shows that the still, cold weather is due to continue for at least 7 more days, so that’s fantastic news.

This weekend I’m back to Ennis and the Chapel Lane Market Christmas Craft Extravaganza Part 1 (Part 2 is the following weekend, 9-11 December!). Our venue, the Community Centre, has been freshly painted and has beautiful Christmas decorations all around the hall. We will have music provided by Aisling Lyons, who is a harpist and concertina player, which will make the atmosphere even more magical.  There are over 30 stalls booked in, so come prepared to spend a bit of time strolling around, soaking up the atmosphere and really checking out the range of crafts on offer!  There really will be something for everyone.

CLM Christmas Market
CLM Christmas Market
Purses
Purses

In preparation I have made a batch of purses in fabrics old and new, and I am awaiting a delivery of meadow fabric, so I hope to have a full range of bags in my new fabric as well. I’m really pleased that my new fabric is proving to be popular, so as soon as my latest batch of fabric arrives it will barely have time to adjust to life outside of the wrappings before it is cut and sewn into bags.

Finally, my last bit of news is advanced warning for those of you based in the UK….I will be attending a new event in May 2017, at the National Trust property in Baddesley Clinton near Solihull.  More details to follow as I have them!

Here’s an updated list of where to find me in the coming few weeks in the run up to Christmas – and don’t forget you can always order online at my site here if you can’t catch me at a market.  Just don’t forget that final posting dates are fast approaching!

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

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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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It’s here! Sallyann’s New Fabric!

Green Meadow fabric on the roll

Back in January I had a list of things I wanted to achieve for Sallyann’s Handmade Bags in 2016.  Amongst the obvious “Increase Sales”, “Attend Larger Markets” there was the short sentence…”I need my own fabric”.

I take a lot of time to choose the fabrics that I use for my bags.  I source them from suppliers across Europe, and pay a great deal of attention to the environmental credentials of the manufacturers.  After all, there’s no point placing recycled jeans into a fabric outer that has helped to destroy the ecosystem surrounding the factory where it is produced, is there? But the designs have never been mine.  Several times I have found fabrics that really work for me, only to have them withdrawn by the manufacturers.  Anyone remember the cute camper van fabric that I used to have?

Wildflowers

Not having my own designs meant I have to stock up on fabrics in case they are withdrawn.  But if I had my own design, then I can get it printed for me when I need it, and none else can possibly have it. But how on earth to go about this? I was asked to leave Art classes at school because I couldn’t draw and was a somewhat disruptive element in class.  I admit, falling off my stall laughing at a drawing I had done and cracking my head so badly I had to be sent to hospital for an X-ray was never going to endear me to my art teacher. So how how does someone who cannot draw get a design?

So the idea had to go on the back burner, I had to leave it while I worked on the “Increase Sales” and “Attend Larger Markets”. And then along came My Creative Edge, an EU funded project to try to develop the creative industries on the northern and Arctic periphery of the European Union.  I admit it sounds obscure, but it is an amazing project.  I joined in April, having heard about a project they were running to send some creative companies to a festival in northern Sweden.  But then I saw they were running a project to work with creative craft companies by linking them with students studying business at the University of Applied Sciences in Lapland and partnering participants with similar companies in Lapland. It was called Creative Steps 2.0.

Wildflowers

Creative Steps 2.0 linked me with weaver and textile artist Annika Konttaniemi of Susivilla, which is based in Rovaniemi. As part of the project I explained why I wanted to have my own fabrics, and got talking to Annika through the meetings set up online as part of Creative Steps 2.0.  She could see my difficulty.  I love the landscapes that surround me, and most days I photograph what I see on my morning walk and post it on my Instagram and Twitter feeds. Almost without fail these are of flowers or the bog lands near my home. Yet I couldn’t translate what I loved into a workable design.  Annika helped by putting me in touch with Piirre Collective, a group of designers in Rovaniemi, just on the Arctic Circle in Finland. Suddenly I was able to see how I could develop the ideas stuck firmly in my synapses, and begin to draw them out by looking at the work of this talented collective of Finnish designers.

Annika and I met at Urkult Festival last August, and we talked a lot about what we want to do with our businesses.  There are similarities between us, particularly in our mutual desire to be environmentally conscious and sensitive with our work. I have discovered since setting up this business on my own that in fact I am never alone, and one of the joys of working in the craft “industry” is that I am surrounded by an array of startlingly talented, creative and friendly people who are happy to share experience, knowledge, contacts and information.  This is not cut throat business, it is co-operatrive and inclusive working together.  And this willingness to co-operate and help crosses boundaries and borders, which as I have been working on creating this design have been rendered invisible.

So, the fabric has finally been produced.  It has felt like gestating an elephant, so long has this taken from the initial thought, to receiving the fabric in the post last Thursday.  But here is the roll of fabric – and look – it says “Sallyann’s Bags” on the bottom – it really is MY fabric design. For the moment I am calling it Meadow, but this may change.  It reflects the amazing colours and scenery I see around me in West Clare as much as the colours and landscape of Lapland, and I love that it pulls the two together.  Next thing I need to do is visit Rovaniemi – I’d love to meet face-to-face with the people at Piirre Collective, and to meet again with Annika to see where she weaves her glorious scarves and throws. Inspiration is an amazing thing.

Meadow fabric on the roll
Meadow fabric on the roll

So now I need to get sewing to produce a range of differing styles in the new fabric in time for all the Christmas Craft Markets and Fairs that are fast approaching.  I will be launching my new fabric on Saturday 12 November at Chapel Lane Market, with a sneaky preview for those of you who are going to be at the Ennis National School Fashion Show on the evening of Friday 11 November.  I hope to have each style of bag that I make in the new fabric, including my new Carolina Bag, which is the largest, and most roomy, and most slouchy, cross body bag I have made to date.  More on that bag for another blog post!

Small Cross Body Bag in Meadow
Small Cross Body Bag in Meadow

As a taster for you all, here is the first bag made from Sallyann’s New Fabric, so you can whet your appetite for everything that will be rolling off my production line in the coming days. I’m testing the bag for durability and resistance to everything I throw at a bag – it is my equivalent of the wash and wear tests I used to have to carry out on shirts and dresses I was involved in manufacturing for a well known high street store in another lifetime.

Small Cross Body Bag in Meadow
Small Cross Body Bag in Meadow

In my next post I’ll list all the markets I am due to be attending in the coming weeks, but for now, I can tell you I am in Chapel Lane Market on Saturday 5 November, at the fashion show in Ennis National School on Friday 11 November, launching Sallyann’s New Fabric on Saturday 12 November at Chapel Lane Market and will be at the Ballymaloe Christmas Craft Fair in County Cork on 19 & 20 November.  Do take the time to come and see the new fabric if you possibly can.

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Back to the Sewing Room

The Bar!

So I’m back from my Summer travels.  Urkult Festival, Sweden – tick! The Handmade Fair, Hampton Court Palace, London – tick! Both events were great.  The Handmade Fair was a huge event, and getting my head round everything I needed to take, up to and including electric drills, screwdrivers and shelving units was a major task.

#Serge&Arno
#Serge&Arno

Leaving early, I made it to the port at Dublin just in time to enable Serge & Arno, petrol heads both, to admire the three supercars that were also in the queue for the ferry. They particularly liked the fact that we followed a bright yellow Lamborghini onto the ship.

The Handmade Fair
The Handmade Fair

The picture above shows a small proportion of the Handmade Fair site.  My stall was in the marquee on the left, and the grassy area in the foreground was surrounded by the most fantastic array of food stalls, selling everything from pulled pork to vegetarian paella.  I barely got to look round my own marquee, let alone the West Marquee across the central food area.  What I can report is that if you have any interest at all in any imaginable craft, The Handmade Fair is nirvana.  There were stalls selling bolts and bolts of glorious fabrics, yarn stalls to make anyone want to take up crochet and knitting, and a vast array of stalls selling kits to enable you to try out something new.  And then there were the stalls like mine, selling finished goods.  Jewellers, fabric art, fused glass, ceramics, felt, paper crafts… And then of course there were all the workshops for people to try out new crafts and techniques.  One lady passing my stall proudly showed me the embroidery she had just learnt how to do in a craft tent.  It was gorgeous – a bunch of cone flowers sewn in jewel bright sewing silks.

The Bar!
The Bar!

There was even a bar in the central area.  Now, on the Saturday evening the exhibitors were invited to have a cheeky glass of Prosecco and some food, so in the interests of this blog I went along to investigate and sample.  I had Serge & Arno with me because they couldn’t be left overnight in the marquees, and next thing I knew they were posing for photos with internet stars Brian & Philippe, tweed mice from The Silver Shed.  There was a serious bromance going on, and trying to convince the lads that it was time to head back to our digs was not well received.  They had hoped to hit the nightclubs in Kingston!

#Serge&Arno
#Serge&Arno #Brian&Philippe

After three intense days I packed up and headed home.  Since then I have been catching up on all the administration and internet shop updating that has been somewhat sidelined over the Summer.  Whilst you’re here reading the blog – take a look at the online shop!  I’ve added a lot more photographs of the bags, and tried to make the ordering process a bit more straightforward.

Grey Dandelion Cross Body Bags
Grey Dandelion Cross Body Bags
Grey Dandelion Large Cross Body Bag
Grey Dandelion Large Cross Body Bag

But a bag maker can  only cope with just so much time away from the sewing machine.  My fingers were itching to get back to sewing.  And then my grey dandelion fabric order arrived, so it would have been rude not to cut it and make a few bags, wouldn’t it? So here are a couple of pictures of my latest grey dandelion bags – they’re always gorgeous.  The front and back of the bags are always different, because of the way the fabric cuts. The fabric is so amazing – Teflon coated linen, so amazingly resistant to water and dirt – and gorgeous.  Each bag is lined with a different black denim, and they have black webbing straps.

If you’re wanting to take a look at the grey dandelion or any other bag, I’ll be at Chapel Lane Market on Saturday from 10am – 5pm.  It’s a bumper market this week, with loads of stalls of loveliness, so don’t miss it!  On Sunday I’m heading to Limerick’s Strand Hotel for the Style Closet Pop Up Rail Sale. This is a new event for me, and I’ll have a mix of new bags (like the grey dandelions) and some ends of lines which will be on offer.  There will be style bloggers, milliners, clothes designers, knitwear designers….you name it.  It’s open from 12pm, and there will be a fashion show and make up demonstrations – it’s a fantastic “treat yourself” day out.

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Off to London!

Funky Red Small Messenger Bags
Funky Red Small Messenger Bags

You may have gathered from my silence that I have been a little pre-occupied.  Since getting back from Sweden at the beginning of August, I went straight into a week of markets at the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann that was held  in Ennis this year. Following that, it was all hands to the sewing machine to produce enough bags for my next big adventure.

Kirstie Allsop’s The Handmade Fair in Hampton Court Palace Gardens.

Handmade Fair

So I have cut, and sewed, cut again, and sewed again, and finally I have stopped sewing, and counted.  All my bags are now sorted and stored in their new travel boxes.

Funky Slate Cross Body Bags
Funky Slate Cross Body Bags

I have tried to include as many favourites in as many styles as I can.  I don’t know quite what the discerning clientele of The Handmade Fair will make of my bags, or which fabrics they might prefer. So I have a few of pretty much everything.

It was about time, for instance, that I got a few small cross body bags made in the Paisley fabrics that I have in shades of blue, green and pink.

Cross Body Bags in Paisley fabrics
Cross Body Bags in Paisley fabrics

My fantastically supportive Chapel Lane Market pals, Clare from Crafty Nugz and Clare from Orinoco Creative Glass, have even booked to come to the Handmade Fair to see me.  Now I suspect the hundreds of stalls selling amazing hand made goodies in every shape and size, plus the promise of extensive freebies, high quality coffee, macarons and prosecco might have something to do with their decision to visit, but I like to think they might want to see my stall too.

Cross Body Bags in Large Blue Flower fabric
Cross Body Bags in Large Blue Flower fabric

The very talented Dave from Celtic Laser Crafts has been a huge help to me with regards to my display.  I was looking for hooks to hang some of my bags from the walls of my stand. He came up with the fantastic idea of making hooks in the shape of an S. I now have 10 of these laser cut beauties, ready to be fixed to the wall next Thursday when I travel down to Hampton Court to set up. I shall post plenty of pictures here and on my Facebook page. I also have two new banners, one of which will make its debut at Chapel Lane Market on Saturday.  I’m also at Vandeleur Walled Gardens in Kilrush on Sunday – your last two chances to get your Sallyann Bag before I head over to England to see if those streets really are paved with gold….

Serge & Arno
Serge & Arno

My trusty travelling companions Serge & Arno already have their passports and bags packed, and are looking forward to helping me out on the stall.

I hope that I will see a few of you at the Handmade Fair – please come and say hello if you do get there – I am in the East Marquee, at Stand E127. I’ll be the one with the cheesy grin on my face.

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Belated News from Sollefteå & Urkult!

Urkult Festival

 

Urkult
Urkult

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

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

Urkult Festival
Urkult Festival

sdr

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

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

Urkult
Urkult

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

Urkult
Urkult

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

Urkult
Urkult
Urkult
Urkult

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

Handmade Bags At Urkult
Handmade Bags At Urkult

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

Urkult
Urkult

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

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

All too soon it was our last day in Sollefteå.

Urkult
Arno & Serge go Ski-Jumping

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

Stockholm
Stockholm

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

sdr
Off home for Arno & Serge

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

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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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Livet är Kort – Köp Väskan!

Life is Short - Buy the Bag

Well, I am up to my tonsils here in Bag Making HQ getting ready for my trip to the Urkult Festival in Sweden next month.  As you can see, I have started by getting some signs made – they were made by one of my fellow Chapel Lane Market stallholders, Colette of Colly’s Hobby House.  In case your Swedish is a little rusty, they say “Life is Short – Buy the Bag”.  I love them.

Life is Short - Buy the Bag
Life is Short – Buy the Bag

Fabrics orders have been made, straps and fasteners delivered, it is the final push to get bags made in time for shipping out to the festival site in Nämforsen.  The delivery drivers don’t even need to phone for directions anymore!

In the run up to Urkult I will still be doing a few local markets, if you want to get a bag for your holidays as a little treat for yourself.  I’ll be at Chapel Lane Market for the next 3 Saturdays, the 16, 23 and 30 July. On Sunday 24 July I will be at the Clare Crafts Association Summer Craft Fair at the Falls Hotel, Ennistymon, and on Bank Holiday Monday 1 August I will be at the Vandeleur Walled Gardens in Kilrush. For any of you who have not yet made it to Chapel Lane Market, take a look at this video of the market last Saturday to get a flavour of the variety of stalls that are at the market each Saturday.

Summer Bags
Summer Bags

I’m also getting ready for The Handmade Fair in London in September, and I was interviewed by a lovely lady by the name of Annie B for her blog, Mrs Crafty B’s Blog.  Take a look at the results here.

I normally regale you with tales of my daily morning walk in this blog.

Bumblebee in flight
Bumblebee in flight

The picture above is one I took this morning of a bumblebee just coming into land on a large thistle.  Unfortunately I haven’t been walking as much recently, due to the sad and untimely death of my walking companion, Daisy the Dog.  She was my constant companion in the sewing room and on my walk, and is much missed around Bag Making HQ.

Off now to make a start on the vast pile of bags in my “to sew” pile.  Lots and lots of bags to be ready very soon for shipping!  It’s all very exciting.

 

 

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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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April Showers

Thrift

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

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

Threatening clouds
Threatening clouds

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

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

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

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

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

Daisy in the Rockpool
Daisy in the Rockpool

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

Amazing colours in a rockpool
Amazing colours in a rockpool

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

Thrift
Thrift

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

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

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

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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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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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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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Blue Skies and Sunshine

The weather here at Bag Making HQ has not been kind for the last few months. Relentless, incessant rain probably best describes what it has been like.  With the odd storm thrown in.  Met Eireann have started naming the storms, and this Winter we’re already up to Storm Imogen (which was very damaging indeed). That’s 9 storms and a HUGE amount of rain.

But for the last 3 days it has been cold, clear and we’ve had blue skies. This morning I looked out to see the moon setting over the Atlantic.

Moon setting over the Atlantic
Moon setting over the Atlantic
Moon Set
Moon Set

As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I try to have a morning walk before settling down behind the sewing machine.  Today was perfect – crisp, frosty air and bright sunshine.

#MorningWalk
#MorningWalk

The birdsong was really loud, with Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits keeping me company as I walked Daisy up the hill.

Frosty
Frosty

As I was walking back to Bag Making HQ, looking South I could see right down to County Kerry, and make out Carrantuohill, the Kerry Mountains and Mt Brandon, as well as down to Loop Head.  I tried to photograph it, but I don’t think this photo does much justice to the view.

Kerry mountains in the distance
Kerry mountains

I have been working too, honestly! I’ve been working on a few special orders for the first half of this week.  I was asked to make a baby changing mat to go with a zip top tote, as a present for a new mother. Here’s the result

Baby changing mat in Old Map
Baby changing mat

It has slip pockets on one side and a zip pocket on the other, both of which fold inside the mat which closes with a magnetic snap.  Handy for when you’re out and about.

Small Messenger Bag in Large Blue Flower fabric
Small Messenger Bag
Zip Top Tote in Grey Dandelion - special order
Zip Top Tote in Grey Dandelion

These were my two other special orders. A Small Messenger bag in Large Blue Flower fabric, and a zip top tote in Grey Dandelion.  Both will be heading to their new homes shortly. Don’t forget that I have an online shop on this web site.  I posted off an order to the States earlier this week – I can ship worldwide. And I’ll be back in Chapel Lane Market in Ennis on Saturday.  We’re open 10-2 this Saturday, so make sure to come early!

 

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Back to Life, Back to Reality

Online Shopping!

Yes, I’m showing my age.  I’m quoting from Soul II Soul’s song, but it seems entirely appropriate this week.

Chapel Lane Market
Chapel Lane Market

Chapel Lane Market in Ennis has opened it’s doors for the 2016 season! Whoop Whoop! The Community Hall was alive with chatter and buzz as people arrived with their carriers full to the brim with new designs, ideas, fabrics, beads, glass and yarns. And in spite of the rain, people came in to see us all, and many commented on how pleased they were to see Chapel Lane Market was back. It is great to know that we are beginning to make a name for ourselves in Ennis and County Clare, and that people appreciate having a source of locally made crafts and baking in the town.

After a wobbly start to the week, involving the rather urgent repair of one sewing machine and the purchase of a back up machine from the genius that is John O’Donnell of Sewing Machines Ireland, I was straight onto the task in hand – working on a new design and some new fabrics.

Vosges Collection - Elegant Flower
Vosges Collection – Elegant Flower

First off the sewing machine were the bags made out of fabrics I’ve sourced from France.  They are gorgeous, elegant, high quality coated fabrics produces in the Vosges mountains in France.  I have called them the Vosges Collection after the source of the fabrics.  I have to say, I am delighted with the way they have turned out.  Always you think you can see how a fabric will translate into a bag, but until you actually have the bag in front of you, there is a lingering doubt.As well as the Vosges fabrics, I have managed to source a favourite fabric, Funky Red, in another colourway, which I call Funky Slate.

Small messenger bags, funky fabrics
Small messenger bags, funky fabrics

As soon as I saw the Funky Slate, I knew I had to make small messenger bags straightaway, because the flaps look so brilliant in this fabric.  There was a whole lot of admiration for this fabric on Saturday, which was great.

Once I’d done playing with my new fabrics, I had my new design to work on.  I’ve called it the Bag Buddy.  As I have mentioned in a previous blog, I have taken delivery of some clips.  I’m sewing these into all new bags, so that you can clip your keys or purse to the inside of your bag, for security (and ease of finding them in the bag).  The Bag Buddy is a small wristlet design which has credit card slots and enough room to take a set of keys, a phone and some change.  It will work as an evening clutch bag, and it has a useful wrist strap.  At the end of the wrist strap is a clip, so you can fasten this into your Sallyann Bag.  The Bag Buddy means that you can have the essential bits you need in one small bag, which can then be moved seamlessly from handbag to handbag, for those of you with more than one handbag (I know you’re out there).

The Bag Buddy - a wristlet with a clip
The Bag Buddy – a wristlet with a clip

Feedback on Saturday was very positive about both clips and the Bag Buddy, so my task this week is to make a few more in a greater range of fabric designs, so people can choose to have either matching or contrasting fabrics if they buy a bag and bag buddy together. I also need to upload the pictures and details to the online shop part of this site so those of you who prefer to shop online, or who aren’t near Ennis, can purchase these little beauties.

Online Shopping!
Online Shopping!

And whilst we’re on the subject of online shopping, don’t forget that it is Mother’s Day on March 6th, so if you have a certain someone who you’d like to treat with a bag, let me know and I can send it out.  I will wrap the bag and can include a personalised message if you include that in the instructions. I’m back to Chapel Lane Market on Saturday 20th – see you there if not online!

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It’s the First Day of Spring! Brrrr…….!

Morning Walk
Daffodils
Daffodils

Happy Bríd’s Day!  Today is the first day of Spring according to the Celtic calendar.  Given that Storm Henry is currently rattling the windows and shaking the roof, it feels a long way off Spring right now here at Bag Making HQ, but daffodils have bravely started to flower in the garden, so the Celts must know something. It’s definitely a day for the indoors.  As regular readers of this blog will know, any morning I can get out, I walk Daisy the dog before I settle to my sewing machine.  I love these walks – no walk is ever the same, and the scenery is always beautiful.  Today I was propelled by the force 9-10 gales as I walked up the road, then turning around I had to fight my way back as the wind kept buffeting me backwards.

Morning Walk
Morning Walk

I often take pictures on my walks, and post them on Twitter @sallyannsbags or my Instagram site, depending on how the mood takes me.  Today wasn’t as easy as normal because I got caught in a big squall of rain, and my phone does not like to get wet.  I chanced a couple of snaps before the rain really pelted down.

Doo Lough
Doo Lough

This second picture, of Doo Lough, is pretty much the view from my sewing room as I look South.  Normally it looks a lot more friendly, but you can see the squall approaching. In the foreground of the photo are huge mounds of logs from a recently cleared stand of forestry.  It’ll be interesting to see what plants emerge from the ground now there is light reaching the soil again.

Since my last blog post, my various orders for the bits of metalwork that I need for my new wristlet design and key holders have arrived, as has some new fabric. There’s even some printed ribbon.  This always results in me itching to get cutting and sewing, but I’ve had to wait until the very last order arrived so that I could have all the components in one place.  And patience isn’t my middle name, so my family will be pleased to know that I will finally stop complaining about slow postal systems around the world and get sewing.

New Fabric & Clips
New Fabric & Clips

Here’s a little teaser with two new fabrics and some of the clips I’ll be using in the bags.  You’ll just have a wait a little longer until I have some bags made up for pictures of all the new fabrics and new designs.  With luck, I shall have a good array of my new designs ready for the re-opening of Chapel Lane Market on 13th February at 10am.  All around County Clare there are crafters working away at their desks, getting ready for the market.  There will be old favourites and new ideas – Ennis Community Centre will be brim full of excitement and abuzz with enthusiastic people and their creations.  I can’t wait, not least because I haven’t seen some of my market friends since before Christmas.  It’s another sign that Spring is in the air.

One bonus for the household whilst I have been awaiting my parcels is that I managed to track down a supply of Seville oranges.  This may not seem a huge achievement to most people, but to me it was huge.

Marmalade oranges
Marmalade oranges

I love to make marmalade, and finally with 3kg of the gorgeous orange fruits, I was able to produce a load of jars of golden nectar.  When my father next visits he will no longer have to bring his own marmalade that my mother makes, because the second rate brew I had come up with using grapefruit, oranges and lemons was a pale substitute for the real thing. Whether it can compare to my mother’s marmalade, which reaches almost legendary levels of yumminess, has yet to be seen. But breakfast at Bag Making HQ is a darn sight more tasty now.

By the time I write my next blog, I will have been back at Chapel Lane Market for our first Saturday.  I shall report back on the all the comings, goings and new stallholders when I write my next post.  However, in case you are looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for someone close to you (or you need to hint heavily to someone close to you about a perfect bag-shaped Valentine’s Day gift), don’t forget that you can order online from this very website. I’ve uploaded a lot more photos of the various designs and fabrics to help you to choose the perfect bag.

Have a great Bríd’s day and here’s to the start of Spring!

 

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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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Wow! What a year 2015 has been!

Flowers
Flowers
Flowers

Every post should begin with a bright picture of gorgeous flowers!  I was presented with this beautiful bunch of flowers after I helped out at the last Local Enterprise Office Women in Business networking event last week, entitled “A Celebration of Success”, which was organised by the force of nature that is Theresa Mulvihill of Smart Marketing.  Along with Hannah Arnup from Ballymorris Pottery and Orla Meere from Meere’s Pork Products, I took part in a panel discussion about my eventful 2015, and my plans for 2016. How to sum up 2015 in the 5 minutes I was given? Crikey!

A plethora of purses
A plethora of purses

It has been a mad year, so exciting and busy, and as 2015 comes to a close, I am still scurrying around making bags and purses for my final market of 2015, Chapel Lane Market in Ennis, on Saturday 19th December, from 10am – 5pm. Chapel Lane is looking so gorgeous and festive, it’ll be lovely to have one last market before Christmas in the company of my stallholder pals and the friendly folk of Ennis and Clare who have been such great supporters of the market since we started in March this year. The starting up of Chapel Lane Market is definitely a highlight of 2015.

Another highlight has to have been taking my bags to GlenAran’s Duty Free shop at Shannon Airport over the Summer, and then in October they were formally stocked by GlenAran in that shop.  It’s so exciting when friends or family fly through the airport and tell me they have seen my bags in the shop.  It’s a huge vote of confidence in Sallyann’s Handmade Bags, and I’m so chuffed about it.

And then I won the Silver Award in the Bank of Ireland Start Up Awards! Wow! How did that happen?  And how did I manage to break my ankle just as I was about to go to the awards ceremony? Without my fellow finalist Shoeniversity live tweeting the event, I wouldn’t have known I’d won silver until the morning after. It was such fun to take part, and lovely to get the silver award.

Now it is time to get planning for 2016.

Coco helping with the sewing (not)
Coco helping with the sewing (not)

If I can get Coco to move out of the way and let me get sewing, there will be new bags in 2016.  January is a time for me to plan and experiment with new fabrics and new ideas.  I’ll still be making the large and small messenger bags, the large and small cross body bags and the perennial favourite, the zip top tote, but I love a challenge.  So I have a few things buzzing in my head that I need to get out of my head and onto the sewing machine.  One of these couldn’t wait until January – it was the box bag.  I wanted to see could I make a smallish make up/washbag that would suit both men and women.  It had to be lined with denim (of course).  And it had to look nice.  So I have made a few and trialled them at Chapel Lane and the Clare Crafts Association Xmas Fair, and they seem to be a popular addition to my range.  Here are a few of them stacked up at a market:

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

The box bags will soon be appearing alongside all of my bags in the online shop part of this website.  The shop is now fully operational.  Woo hoo! I can now take purchases online, payments securely through PayPal, and send out the bags anywhere in the world. Hooray!

I hope to secure some more outlets across Ireland in 2016, and maybe to branch out internationally as well.  I’ll still be a regular at Chapel Lane Market in 2016, and I would like to take the bags to other markets elsewhere in Ireland.  I reckon the odd festival could be fun – who’s up for Electric Picnic next September?

Daisy and Lucy on a cold, wet day
Daisy and Lucy looking cosy

So all that remains for me to say in this post is thank you to all of you who have supported me in 2015, by reading this blog, coming to the various markets I have attended, purchased from me or one of my retailers, bought online, or simply liked a picture on my Facebook page. Thank you.  I hope that your Christmas and New Year are as cosy as Lucy and Daisy in this photo, and that I see you or hear from you all early in 2016.

Happy Christmas!
Happy Christmas!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Sallyann’s Handmade Bags!

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Stepping into a Whirlwind, on Crutches

Large Messenger Bag - Grey Dandelion fabric
Bank of Ireland Start Up Awards 2015 Silver Award Winner
I’m a Bank of Ireland Start Up Awards 2015 Silver Award Winner!

Wow! It has been a while since I wrote a blog post, and a lot has happened in the interim.  At the time of writing my last blog, I had just found out I had been successfully shortlisted for the Bank of Ireland Start Up Awards 2015, in the Craft based industry category.  As a result of this I was invited to Dublin to have an interview with three of the judging panel, including Gavin Duffy, he of Dragon’s Den! It was a little intimidating talking to three men about my bags, but they must have been won over by my enthusiasm because I won a silver award on 12th November at the awards ceremony in Croke Park. However, I didn’t make it to the awards ceremony.  My posh frock remained in the wardrobe.  I broke my ankle and spent the day in the Fracture Clinic at Limerick Regional Hospital instead.

Thank you to all of you who have supported my fledgling business over the past year and a bit – this award is real boost, and encouragement to me to keep growing the business and getting Sallyann Bags into shops and markets across Ireland and even beyond.

So I’m now on crutches at least until the beginning of December.  This means that if you are coming to any craft fairs in the coming few days I’m easy to spot as I hobble and lurch around unsteadily. I’ve had to learn to sew with my left foot on the pedal, which has been interesting.  I can safely say that the message “Stop” does not travel to my left foot as quickly as it does to my right foot, so sewing is taking longer and at a more sedate pace.  The cats have moved out of the sewing room as I keep knocking over my crutches and the clattering noise disturbs their slumber.

Grey Dandelion bag family
Grey Dandelion bag family

I’m delighted that I’ve been able to make a few bags in spite of my best efforts.  I cut some of my favourite subtle fabrics recently, grey dandelion and grey star, and have created a few bags with each fabric. The grey dandelion fabric is so elegant, and goes with everything.  Each bag is different because it depends where in the fabric it is cut from.  They are unique pieces – you get to own a one off!

 Grey Star fabric with red straps
Grey Star fabric family with red straps

I love the chance to play with little bursts of colour, so the grey star bags have bright scarlet straps which just lifts the bag from ordinary to extraordinary.

And the whirlwind? Well, it shows no sign of abating.  I’m straight into the Christmas market season now, starting tonight at the Shannon Christmas Market at St Senan’s National School, on Corrib Drive in Shannon from 4.30pm.  If you’re looking for me over the coming weeks, here’s a list of the events I’ll be attending…

Thursday 26 November: Shannon Christmas Market, St Senan’s National School, Corrib Drive, Shannon from 4.30-9.30pm

Friday 27, Saturday 28 & Sunday 29 November: Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis. Friday 5-9pm, Saturday 10-5, Sunday 11-4

Friday 4, Saturday 5 & Sunday 6 December: Chapel Lane Christmas Market, Ennis. Friday 5-9pm, Saturday 10-5, Sunday 11-4

Friday 11 December: Mullagh Christmas Market, Mullagh Community Centre, Co Clare 5-9pm

Saturday 12 December: Chapel Lane Market, Ennis, 10am – 5pm

Sunday 13 December: Clare Crafts Association Christmas Market, Old Ground Hotel, Ennis 11am – 5pm

Saturday 19 December: Chapel Lane Market, Ennis, 10am – 5pm

If you’re not able to get to a market, my bags are available at Kilbaha Gallery & Crafts who will be attending Doonbeg Christmas Market this coming weekend and are open every weekend at their gallery until Christmas.  They are available in Limerick Craft Hub which is in Lower Cecil Street and is open 7 days a week until Christmas, in Dublin from the Artists Gift Gallery in Dawson Street, in Charleville at the Design & Craft Studio, Irish Craft Outlet in Doolin and Poppies Gift Shop, The Hand, Miltown Malbay. And the Flower Shop in Kilrush! If you’re flying anywhere over the coming weeks, the bags are also available from GlenAran in Shannon Airport Duty Free.

You can also order using the online shop which is working if not perfect.  If you would like a specific bag that you have seen on my Facebook page or on this site and it doesn’t appear in the shop, let me know and I can let you know if it is available.

Enjoy the Christmas season whirlwind!

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An Unexpected Trip To Dublin

There are many benefits to working from home.  My commute is minimal – 5 steps if I meander, and I have made it from the kitchen to my sewing room. I don’t have to worry about dodgy sandwiches for lunch. I don’t concern myself with getting the fussy one in accounts for the Chriscringle lunch.

It does mean, however, that I don’t get out much.  I have my lovely Saturdays in Ennis at Chapel Lane Market, but apart from that there can be weeks where the furthest I get is the end of the road when I walk the dog in the morning.

So being shortlisted for the Bank of Ireland Start Up Awards 2015 last week was more than a bit exciting, especially as it means I have to make a trip to Grafton Street in Dublin for an interview with some of Ireland’s pre-eminent business people.  Yikes.

I'm on the Bank of Ireland Start Up Awards 2015 National Shortlist!

 

As a result, bag manufacturing is slowing down rather dramatically as I try to get my head around the idea of a presentation. I’m wrestling with time limits, what to say, possibly more importantly, what NOT to say, and how to say it.  And I’ve been trying to work out which bags to take.  It’s a hard call.  I may end up being a tad overloaded as I walk into my presentation, and I don’t want that. How many to take? And then there are the purses, and a pair of jeans to show how I go about manufacturing the bags. What do I hear you say? Less is more? Probably wise advice.

I even got interviewed about the Start Up Awards on Clare FM, and The Clare Herald wrote a piece about the awards too. It’s all very exciting.

Wish me luck!  The Bank of Ireland Awards Ceremony is on November 12th – another trip to Dublin! I’ll let you know how I got on after that.  But meanwhile, I’m just delighted to have made the national shortlist, and when my knees stop knocking, I might even get to enjoy my unexpected trip to Dublin.

 

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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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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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Lucy is on guard duty……

Coco, our slightly overfed cat, whose presence in my sewing room is always followed by some sort of catastrophe, is in constant competition with Lucy our ginger slinky cat.  Lucy has that annoying trait that she can out-sleep and out-eat all the other members of our household and still has the physique of a racing snake.  During a brief break in both the weather and sewing, we decided to have a walk round of the garden to see what was growing. It appears that the raspberries are doing very well and this is in no doubt as a result of them being closely guarded by Lucy.

Raspberry guard
Guarding raspberries
However, if you look closely, you can see a slug marching in unchallenged by our fierce guard cat. Slugs are the enemy in my garden,  They can munch through an entire veg bed of young seedlings in less than a night, and seem to be as partial to purple sprouting and broad beans as I am.  So the battle of wits commences every Summer.  This year I have been assisted by my American Sister-in-Law who tells me that slugs don’t like  pine needles.  We have a pine forest behind the house, so no shortage of pine needles.  My purple sprouting seedlings, (grown from seed kindly provided by Lisa at the Cottage Garden Centre at The Hand, who took pity on me when I was too late to find any purple sprouting plants at her lovely garden centre) and my broad beans (seed from Irish Seed Savers) are now growing under a duvet of spiky pine needles, which I hope will be better at deterring a slug invasion than Lucy clearly is.

 

Machine
Hard at work behind the machine

Red fuchsia
Gorgeous red fuchsia
As it is the School holidays, my son is around, and this week he has been taking lots of photos.  All the pictures in today’s blog have been taken by him. He thought you, as followers of news from Bag Making HQ, might like a sneaky peak at the surroundings of the sewing room. The picture of me hard at work was sneakily taken though the window.  You’ll know from my bags, especially the bright ones, of my love of colour.  I can’t really see the point of having a dull black or brown bag when you can have a funky red one, or a blue one with stars on it. The garden around the house reflects this view.  We live on a hill overlooking the Atlantic.  Which is lovely, but a really harsh place for plants.  The wind and rain bring salt which burns leaves and flowers, and all the trees are growing at 45 degree angles.  Plants that grow are all either from Cottage Garden Centre, where the plants have shown they can withstand our climate, or from cuttings around the local roads.  Red and white fuchsias flourish.  And I have my pride and joy, my herb garden, which right now is a riot of colours.

Herbs
Herb garden in full flower
Finally, it is probably time introduce you to the most tolerant member of the bag making family, Daisy.

Gorgeous Daisy
Daisy looking beautiful
Daisy is a rescue dog of uncertain heritage. Our vet thinks she might be the rather exciting sounding Terverun Belgian Shepherd, but whatever mix of genes she has, she is rather lovely.  She puts up with the cats’ shenanigans, Lucy sleeping on her, and Coco boxing her nose if she intrudes on Coco’s sleeping spots.

It’s a busy week for the bags and I as I head to Vandeleur Walled Gardens in Kilrush on Thursday for a craft fair, I’m back in GlenAran Irish Market in Duty Free at Shannon Airport on Friday from 7am – 12.30pm, and then back to Chapel Lane Market on Saturday from 10am – 5pm.  Come and say hello, and let me know if you have any foolproof slug repellants that don’t involve pellets!!

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Zips & Festivals

Red & Grey

It’s festival season here in County Clare. From the beginning of June until the end of September, there is a festival almost every weekend, and some last for a whole week or more.  The festivals often revolve around a person who hails from the particular village or town, and whose achievements are celebrated annually, but sometimes are simply set up to bring people together to celebrate fun and laughter.  As an example of the latter, Ennis Street Festival was on from 2-5 July this year, and brought crowds onto the street to celebrate art, music, dance and laughter. I was at Chapel Lane Market on Saturday and the crowds of people flowing through our hall all had smiles on the their faces, and in the case of many children, gorgeous face paint enhancing the smiles still further.

As an example of the former, Saturday July 4th not only was US Independence Day, more importantly for the resident and many thousands of visitors to the small town of Miltown Malbay, it is the 43rd Willie Clancy Summer School.  This is HUGE in the area where I live.  Every B&B, guest house, hostel and hotel is booked up often a year in advance for “Willie Week”, as it is affectionately called. Tent cities suddenly emerge at Spanish Point and White Strand beaches. And all to celebrate the life of a hugely talented piper called Willie Clancy.  Thousands of adults and children turn up to classes in their chosen traditional instruments: flute, concertina, fiddle, tin whistle, but most importantly uilleann pipes, for which Willie Clancy was most renowned.  The classes are mostly in the morning, and then from about 2pm onwards eager players emerge wanting to join in the music seisúns on every street corner, shop front and pub. Music fills the air along the street – if I have to drive through Miltown during Willie Week it is always with the windows down so that I can hear the music.  As well as the traditional music in all its forms, there are ceilís and set dancing – truly the week is when Miltown lets its hair down and has a great time.

As I live so close to Miltown Malbay, I am fortunate to be a member of the Miltown Malbay Farmers Market, which once a month promotes local crafts enabling craftspeople to join the food producers.  We trade in the foyer of SuperValu supermarket in Miltown, and during Willie Week we come in most days.  I will be at the market from 12-4pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week.  Which is where I come to the other half of the title of this post.  The zips.

Purse zips
Zips ready for making into purses

I have an embarrassing shortage of purses currently.  I make the purses by unpicking the zips from the jeans that I use to make the linings for my bags.  Zips from jeans are fabulous quality metal zips, often made with brass teeth, so they last for ages and don’t wear down or start jamming.

All ready for purses
More zips!

I then cut bits of oilcloth to fit the zips.  The purses as a result are totally random sizes as I fit each zip specifically to its bits of oilcloth.

Fabric for zips
Fabric waiting to find its zip

It’s always fun as I try to make a load in one sitting – they are fiddly to sew and nearly always result in figures full of pinpricks and broken sewing machine needles.  But the final result is pleasing as I fill up my basket of purses.  I always encourage customers to have a good search through the purse basket because the small ones always slip away to the bottom, and sometimes the one in the particular fabric they are searching for is hiding. The purses are the perfect size for all manner of uses: change, foreign currency, digital cameras, phone covers, glasses, rosary beads – you name the use, these purses are up to the job!  A lot of my fellow stallholders have a Sallyann Purse for their takings for the day – they are light and slip int the pocket easily.

Red & Grey
Ready for purse making

So that’s my task for this afternoon, as well as preparing more bags for orders and getting ready for the fun and frolics of Willie Clancy Week and Chapel Lane Market on Saturday.

Purses
Purses ready to go

Better get cutting!

 

 

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Going to Shannon Airport – and NOT flying!

Shannon pic

Every now and again, something happens which is unexpected and exciting. Such a thing happened to myself and four other craft traders from Chapel Lane Market in Ennis when we met Cheryl Acheson from GlenAran, which sells Irish crafts at stores in Killarney, Kenmare , Inishmore and Shannon Airport. They have two stores in Shannon Airport, one just before you go through Security, and one within the Duty Free Shop itself.

Shannon pic
Crafters visiting Shannon Airport

We have been given the opportunity to promote our craft directly to the public at their Shannon Airport store in Duty Free. Each Friday and Saturday one of the five of us will be at the GlenAran shop to promote our crafts, as well as demonstrating to visitors in the Duty Free area how we make our particular crafts.

The five of us taking part in this innovative and exciting event are:

Geraldine Guilfoyle – Lucilu Jewellery 
Clare Nihill – Crafty Nugz paper craft
Clare Beck – Orinoco Creative Glass
Tatjana Merzvinska – Golden Fleece felt clothing & accessories
Sallyann Marron – Sallyann’s Handmade Bags

It’s a massive vote of confidence by GlenAran in the quality of our crafts, and a hugely generous move by the company. It is a good example of a local business helping small start up businesses to gain experience in a larger market for their products.

Goldilocks
Goldilocks bags in blue paisley and funky red fabrics

GlenAran has a reputation for sourcing skilled craftspeople to supply authentic, handmade products for their stores. Their staff in stores are highly trained and many have visited the workshops of the craftspeople so that they can talk knowledgeably about the items they are selling. In preparation for our time in Shannon, GlenAran have been mentoring us through advice about display, packaging and sales techniques, which has been invaluable to all of us as recent start up businesses.

The craft promotions will start on Friday 3rd July at 7am in Shannon Airport Duty Free, and continue every Friday and Saturday throughout July and August. I’m first up (literally!) on Friday 3rd July, and will be hopefully bright eyed and bushy tailed as I set up my stall in Duty Free.  I’ve been working on a range of bags in bright, Summery colours, and I’m hoping that these will catch the air passengers’ eyes as they walk through the shopping area on the way to the departure gates. If you’re flying through Shannon Airport over the Summer on Fridays or Saturdays, be sure to call to our stalls to say hello!

This is a busy week all round, with markets on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  As well as Shannon Airport on Friday, my bags will be making their regular monthly appearance at Miltown Malbay Farmers Market, hosted by SuperValu. My husband Mike will be manning the stall on Friday, so here’s hoping he gets a generous welcome from all the customers and stallholders! It is the start of the world famous Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay on Saturday 4th July, and the Farmers Market will be running most days next week in SuperValu – my bags and I will be there on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 8-10 July, from about 11am.

Summery bags
Bright Cross The Body Bags

Also this weekend it is the Ennis Street Festival, so there is a HUGE amount going on all over Ennis.  Chapel Lane Market is very much part of this and will be running both Saturday and Sunday.  I will be there on the Saturday, from 10am – 5pm as normal.  I really hope the weather is kind because there is so much going on around town – it is not to be missed.

Finally, on Sunday, I shall be at the very lovely Vandeleur Walled Gardens in Kilrush from 12 – 5pm.  It is their July Summer Craft Fair and Plant Sale.  The gardens are quite magical, set within high stone walls and surrounded by the wonderful Kilrush Woods.  The gardens happen to possess a coffee shop which does amazing cakes, scones, and snacks.  If you’re in West Clare and looking for a place to go, the Vandeleur Walled Gardens are the best spot. Even better, children love the space and freedom to explore the gardens, maze and super-sized chess set, follow the butterfly trail and generally tear around, and you can bring your dog in, where water bowls are provided! Who could ask for more??

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The Joy of New Fabric

Pink paisley

This week I have had not one, but two, deliveries of fabric.  From a work perspective, there is nothing more exciting than the call from the delivery company to say that they have a parcel and am I around to take the delivery. (My bugbears about “not being on the delivery guys’ route” I shall save for a future post).

A few minutes or hours later, a big roll of plastic emerges from the van, I heft it on to my shoulder (you have to take your exercise where you can when you work from home in the middle of nowhere) and sprint inside to unwrap and revel in the new colours, textures and smells.  Yes, smells.  Each type of oilcloth has a different smell, so my fabric room is a cacophony of olfactory delights.  Some smells slightly like cling film, some like crisply ironed white cotton shirts, some like hot cooking oil.

Red funky print
Mad red print

As a rule, the fabric comes all rolled onto one long cardboard tube.

I have accumulated a few spare cardboard tubes, and if my son hasn’t removed one to use as a didgeridoo, I start the process of rolling each fabric from the main roll onto its own separate roll.  This week’s delivery from Europe contained a dazzling array of colours, and with the sun shining it was an enjoyable job to roll out the bright paisleys and funky patterns I had found.  Suddenly the room was full of colour, and I was itching to start making some bags with the fabrics.

Where to start? Which do I choose? The red had me the moment I unrolled it and was taken in by the fabulous patterns. And then the blue paisley was just begging to be made into a bag.

So I got sewing… and made goldilocks and Fely bags from the red and the blue…

Bright bags
Jolly Goldilocks Bags!

But I wanted to try out more fabrics, so I tried out the amazingly vibrant kingfisher blue coated cotton fabric.  It is hard to see in this photograph, but the fabric has a slight sheen – it is as close as I can get to the magical moment when you walk along a river bank and out of the corner of your eye you see the flash of blue that can only be a kingfisher.  It is electrifying, and you instantly want to see the bird again, but it has already flown upstream, and even if you walk that same path every day for month, you won’t be rewarded with another glimpse until you stop looking.

Bright blue X Bag
Bright kingfisher blue Cross the Body Bag

Much as I loved my colours, I also had some more subtle fabrics arrive this week too.  I have a beautiful and rare coated linen fabric, in a cloudy grey with a dandelion clock print, which lends itself to elegant bags that will go with anything you wear.

Yummy bags
Fely & Cross The Body Bags in Grey Dandelion

These had their first day out to Cruises Street Market in Limerick on Saturday, and proved to be just the ticket with the discerning people of the city for their Summer bag about town.

Once I finish up here at the computer, I’m back to cutting the pink paisley, the pretty dove grey with white stars, and maybe making up a few more Fely, Cross The Body and Goldilocks bags.  But if you want to get one of the bags, snap them up shortly – I only have a couple of metres of each fabric, and they are shaping up to be the absolute must have bag for the Summer.  Who wouldn’t want to be taking this cute Fely bag for a stroll before dinner in Seville, or Marbella, or Rhodes, or Majorca, or Vilamoura, or Kilkee, or Lahinch……?

Fely in Blue Paisley
Blue Paisley Fely Bag
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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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New Market this Week!

I’m off exploring this week. It could be said that I don’t get out much these days.  And that is probably not far from the truth – I spend an inordinate amount of time behind the sewing machine, making bags.

Stall at Bunratty
My Market Stall

However, weekends mean markets, and this weekend I am heading down to Cork, to The Fair Alternative on Princes Street, right in the city centre.  I found out about this market last Christmas, but was too tied up with markets in Clare and Limerick to venture down to try it out. This Saturday I will finally get to take part.

I’m hoping that the good people of Cork will be out and about on Saturday, and that they will call into what appears to be a thriving hub of artisan goodies, with original artworks, jewellery, children’s clothes, paper goods and now, my bags!

I confess I’m also hoping that I can steal 10 minutes from the stall to head into the English Market, although that is always a dangerous place to visit.

I’ll take a few pictures and report back next week….

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Bank Holiday Monday

Yum

A day off! Whoop whoop! After Miltown Malbay Farmers Market on Friday, Chapel Lane Market on Saturday and Bunratty Sunday Market yesterday I was ready for a day off. 

And what does a bag maker do on her day off? 

 
Bake bread! I’m working my way through Valerie O’Connor’s book “Bread on the Table” which I came across  during my monthly volunteer shift at the Limerick Craft Hub. 

I have tried to persuade my husband and son that we should eat the bread NOW! but they are unmoved. Breakfast will be yummy. 

 
And then I wanted cake, so I made a Norwegian kardamummerkaka (cardamom cake to you & I). The recipe is from The Hairy Bakers. It’s divine – according to Si & Dave it is the perfect cake to have with a coffee. 

So tomorrow when I’m back behind my sewing machine (making messenger bags in case you’re interested), I’ll be fuelled by my bread and looking forward to a mid morning coffee break spiced up with a dash of cardamom. 

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Sewing made difficult 

Sewing made difficultMaking a bag is not always easy. Sometimes the oilcloth slips, slides or sticks to the sewing machine foot. Or the denim is so thick the needle breaks. But mostly those are easily overcome.
But strap making with a large, playful cat following your every move is a different matter. Big black paws pat the straps, stamp on the scissors and tangle the reels. Metal clasps are sent rattling to the floor, and magnetic snap fasteners become fixed to the bell on her collar. 

 

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