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Fely Medium Zip Top Handbag in Grey Poppy

Christmas Gifts for Her

It’s that Christmas Present buying time of year again!

Are you looking for a Christmas gift for that special woman in your life, your wife, partner, mother, mother in law, sister, auntie, best friend? Do you want to get them a Christmas present that is quirky, handmade and made in Ireland?  Sallyann’s Handmade Bags can help!

How to buy a handbag for a woman in your life and get it right…

Bringing the jeans in when you've forgotten the washing basket
Feeling confused??


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

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

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

Step 1 – Do your homework

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

Different sizes, shapes and fastenings
Different sizes, shapes and fastenings

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

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

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

Me at Ballymaloe House
So many choices!

Step 2 – How does the handbag get worn?

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

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

Amy Small Cross Body Zip Top in Blue Meadow
Amy Small Cross Body Zip Top in Blue Meadow, worn across the body


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

Grey Meadow Fely Bag being worn over the shoulder
Grey Meadow Fely Bag being worn over the shoulder

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

A Backpack – worn on the back using either both of one shoulder straps, which are normally adjustable.

Marie Backpack in Red Fuchsia
Marie Backpack in Red Fuchsia

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

Step 3 – What is the handbag going to do?

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

But what stuff? Does she always have a file, a book? A notebook? A make up bag? Does she take her lunch to work each day? Then look at my Clare Large Messenger Handbag, Tara bag or the Fely Bag. My new Viv Shoulder Bag might work for the lunch and water bottle if not the A4 file.

Clare Large Messenger Handbag in Grey Poppy Fabric
Clare Large Messenger Handbag in Grey Poppy Fabric

Is it for use on your next trip to Lanzarote? Is your wife the staple that holds the family paperwork together when you fly anywhere? If so, a bag with room for iPads, books, games AND a slip pocket for passports and boarding passes might be an idea…see my Clare Large Messenger Bag or Tara Larger Zip Top for details. Of course whilst there, you’re possibly going to want my Kate Reversible Beach Bag too….

Is the handbag going to hang near the front door to have keys, lipstick, phone and purse fired into it for the school run or to take the dog out? Will it need to put up with being trampled in the foot well of the car by husbands and children? If so, my bestselling Amy Small Cross Body Zip Top or Fiona Small Messenger Bags will suit.

Amy Small Zip Top Handbag in Orange Daisy
Amy Small Zip Top Handbag in Orange Daisy
Fiona Small Messenger Handbag in Blue Burren
Fiona Small Messenger Handbag in Blue Burren

Does your partner have a baby or babies and need a lot of room for spare clothes, nappies and bottles? Consider a Clare Large Messenger Bag or a Tara Large Cross Body Zip Top Bag. Capacious but not over large bags designed to cope with the rough and tumble of young children.


Step 4 – How does the handbag fasten?

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

Clare Large Messenger - Showing magnetic snap closure on the flap
Clare Large Messenger – Showing magnetic snap closure on the flap

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


Step 5 – Be shameless. Deploy spies.

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

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

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

Tara Large Zip Top Bag in Green Meadow
Tara Large Zip Top Bag in Green Meadow

Step 6 – Little Extras

I’ve branched out a little in recent years and I’ve started to make a few accessories to go alongside my handbags.

I now make neckbands and eco fleece neck warmers which are printed with my own flowery fabric designs, and I can make matching coin purses for the handbags which I create using the zips I recycle from the pairs of jeans I use to line the handbags.

Neckband in Green Meadow
Neckband in Green Meadow
Neckband in Blue Fuchsia
Neckband in Blue Fuchsia
Eco Fleece Neckwarmer in Blue Burren fabric
Eco Fleece Neckwarmer in Blue Burren fabric

These can be a lovely addition to a handbag to make a real splash, and as a result I have produced some “Bundles” on my website which combine some of my bestselling handbags with matching neckbands at a special “Bundle” price.  If you an’t see a bundle int he fabric or handbag design of your choice contact me and I’ll sort it out – I’m adding them as I can.

The neckbands and neck warmers in particular make lovely stocking fillers on their own, and for those of you who really are not sure about going the whole hog with one of my handbags, why not start with a neck warmer? You can choose from any one of my fabric designs for the neckbands and a selection of these designs for my neckbands, so you can wither match or contrast – whatever your preference.

The coin purses I make are a lovely addition to a handbag purchase, and can be made in any one of my fabric designs.

Eco Fleece Neckwarmer in Blue Poppy fabric
Eco Fleece Neckwarmer in Blue Poppy fabric

Step 7 – Talk to Me

Please. Talk to me. I will not judge you if you don’t know the answer to all the questions I have listed above.  It’s in yours and my interest to find the perfect handbag for your partner, and I am more than happy to talk about their handbag habits so that we can ensure that you get ALL the credit for buying the perfect handmade, unique Sallyann Bag.  If you can’t meet me at a market, call me on 0872253155 or email me at I will answer!

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


Step 8 – Where to Find Me

The very easiest thing is to shop online with me – you can click here and this will take you directly to my online shop.  The best thing about buying from my website is that you can customise the handbags with additional inside zip pockets or in some cases dividers and top zips.  I giftwrap all the orders I receive online, and I don’t enclose a receipt or put the name of my business on the envelope.

Over the coming months I will be at the following markets and craft fairs:

October 29 – Chapel Lane Market in Ennis

November 5,12 & 26 – Chapel Lane Market, Ennis

November 18, 19 & 20 – Ballymaloe Craft Fair, Ballymaloe Grainstore, Co Cork

December 3, 10 & 17 – Chapel Lane Market, Ennis

And if you can’t see what you’re looking for, email me or call me and I’ll try to help.

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