What makes my bags unique?

Brown upcycled leather cross body bag with yellow stitching

When is a bag not a bag? Ok, that’s a silly question, but there are bags and there are BAGS. There are the ‘I just picked this up in tesco because I needed something a bit bigger to squeeze that extra tub of cheerios/bottle of vodka in’ kindof bags and there are the type of bags that you clandestinely show your BFF, talking about it in hushed tones because you can’t quite believe you own something so awesome.

It may not shock you to hear that at F+H I strive to make the second kind of bag. A supermarket/amazon/’insert other large scale bag manufacturer here’ bag is functional. It fits a purpose. But it doesn’t bring you joy. It doesn’t make your toes curl or give you a wee shiver when you put it on, anticipating the comments and questions you KNOW you are going to get about it. It is the chardonnay of handbags – you will buy it because it’s there but noone really enjoys it. Let me tell why a Freckle + Hide bag is Dom Perignon of handbags.

For a start, Freckle + Hide bags are handmade in Scotland. Not partially handmade in another country, imported and ‘finished’ here but designed, cut, stitched, burnished and polished in my home studio just outside Edinburgh. My bags are so Scottish they drink whisky and own a ‘see you Jimmy’ hat. Buying a bag from me means you are supporting the local economy and a kick-ass women led business in a oner! Win, win.

But it’s not about what it does for me that’s important, it’s what it does for YOU that matters. As independent women, we wear what makes us feel good. Our clothes, shoes and accessories show who we are to the world. They are like the blurb of a book giving people a wee summary of what they will find when they take a look inside. You want something that looks fabulous and makes you feel like a rockstar. And nothing will do that quite like having something that no one else has. My bags are as unique as you are.

There is no chance of Beryl from HR owning the same bag as you because my bags are made from OLD SOFAS!! The leather is reclaimed and upcycled. Moisturised and massaged and transformed as if by magic. As the leather matures, the uniform blandness it had when it left the factory transfigures and it develops a character all of its own so no two bags are ever the same. The added bonus is that by buying a F+H bag, you have helped save a sofa from ending up in landfill so not only do you have something more strokable than a basket of puppies, you are doing your bit for the environment too.

BUT ( I have saved the best bit for last!) one of the most spine tinglingly awesome bits about buying a bag handmade by me is that YOU can be part of the design stage. Want a bag with pink stitching? Done!! Want to use one of your little girl’s dresses as the lining so every time you open it you think of her? Of course! Want a tiny pocket to carry around your Grandma’s locket? It would be my honour <3

So, what kind of bag do you fancy?  Contact me for a chat.  I don’t bite (much)!

Where did Albert come from?

How did I end up with Albert? Let me tell you about a few things I have learned since I started doing this:

  1. Just like everything, there are trends in furniture. At the moment people are getting rid of large, bulky sofas and buying furniture with more of a mid century feel to them.
  2. Once they have bought their new sofa (or just decided to get rid of their old one) they put their old leather one up for sale thinking it will have held some of it’s value – it cost over £2000, surely someone will be willing to pay £500 for it? Invariably they don’t sell. The price is unrealistic because the second hand market is flooded with identical unwanted sofas and doesn’t include arranging for the (usually very heavy) sofa to be moved to it’s new home.
  3. The price of the unwanted sofa will get lower, and sometimes at this point they are bought, but more often than not even a free sofa isn’t enough to outweigh the hassle of getting it moved.
  4. At this point there is a realisation that instead of making money from their old sofa, they might have to pay someone to take it away. They phone charity shops to see if it could be donated. Unfortunately charity shops have become selective. For a start, every piece of furniture sold must have an attached fire safety label. Often these labels are in an inconvenient place and are cut off by the owner. Secondly, the charity shops don’t want to take on a piece of furniture that they can’t sell because it then costs them money to dispose of it. So even sofas with relatively little damage are rejected.
  5. After exhausting all the options there are only a few channels left. If they have bought a new sofa, a lot of companies will collect the old one for free. These will then (sometimes) be offered to charity (who are still being selective) or disposed of. If the owner has access to a van, they can take the sofa to the dump themselves or pay a man with a van to do that. Unfortunately, sometimes the sofas don’t even make it to the dump and are abandoned at the side of the road or in a field. The last option is to pay the council for a bulky item collection, which is a chargeable service that some people aren’t prepared to pay for.

Every year in the UK we throw out 1.6 million tonnes of ‘bulky waste’, 42% of which is furniture. A new sofa is the most purchased item of furniture (28% of people in the UK bought one in the last 3 years) and yet only 17% of old sofas are actually reused.

And so there are lots of sofas like Albert. He has had a good life and obviously a bad relationship with a cat at some point in time. With a bit of TLC he could have carried on as a sofa but there are so many other ‘Alberts’ out there no-one is interested in spending the time to get him looking his best again. The leather industry is so damaging, both to the environment and to the people who are exploited to work in it, that to let Albert just be dumped is abhorrent to me. But this story has a happy ending (and if you have made it to the end, well done!!) because Albert is going to have a new life as lots of little Alberts. Watch this space!!

p.s. – unfortunately, I don’t have picture of Albert before he was rescued so this is another unloved and unwanted sofa

Albert’s belt

Leather isn’t just ‘one skin fits all’ you know!!

The leather used in my products has generally come from unwanted and unloved sofas, and after many years of warm bottoms sitting on them, by the time they come to me the leather is soft and supple. So tactile you will find yourself petting your F+H bag under the table when you are out for dinner, or passing it round like a new baby so all your friends can ‘have a shot’ and be jealous of how cute it is.

However, there are some disadvantages to working with such a supple material. I have always shied away from making belts, worried that the leather I use just didn’t have the structural rigidity to hold a pair of trousers up. The consequences of the belt failing to do it’s duty, and the subsequent full moon, just don’t bear thinking of. I’m pretty sure that’s not covered in my public liability insurance. But I had a request just before Christmas from a woman who wanted a bit of Albert in belt form for her husband.

Belts are usually made from ‘veg tan’ leather, which is stiffer and more rigid than the ‘chrome tan’ used in sofas so creativity was required. When making bag handles, I sandwich 2 bits of leather together, stitch them, and sand and polish the cut edges and this was my starting point, but I was still concerned any belt made this way might suffer from erectile dysfunction. In the end, I added a firm core of interfacing material between the two layers of leather (dragon heartstring made the belt too heavy and I couldn’t get my hands on unicorn hair at this time of year) et voila. It was a lot more work than the standard method, but Albert thought being a belt was more distinguished and fitting for a sofa of his advancing years.

Let it go

Did you know the plastic bag tax was introduced in Scotland in 2014. 2014 Fraggles!!! The year that everyone was singing “Let it go, let it goooooooo’, Apple announced the Apple watch and Sharknado 2 was released.

I think 5p for a plastic bag is pretty fair. It acts as a deterrent but means you don’t have to raid your kids piggy bank if you have to buy a plastic bag when you are out.

But would you pay £35 for a plastic bag? What about £235?

Unfortunately, you might be doing that without realising it. Vegan leather bags seem like a great alternative to animal based leather products but most vegan leather is actually PU (polyurethane) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride), both plastic based materials. So even though you might be cutting out single use plastics, or taking your own cup when you stop into Starbucks by buying one of these ‘pleather’ bags you are purchasing something that is harmful to the planet before and after it’s useful life.

That’s all a bit depressing isn’t it? But I do have some good news for you. Firstly, you are here which means you have excellent taste!! And although most of my products are made from leather, it is leather which was destined for landfill. Buying a product from F+H means you are saving valuable resources from being dumped without supporting the leather industry which has dubious credentials.

If leather is just not your bag (did you see what I did there?), I totally get it. Please stick around and hang out with us anyway, because everyone who enjoys some general silliness and puerile humour is welcome here! If you’re in the market for a bag, give me a shout to see if I can rustle up a fabric alternative to what you are after.

Choose bags

Choose bags. Choose wallets. Choose handmade. Choose reclaimed leather. Choose a f@£$*&@ big tote that holds the half bottle of vodka you want to sneak into the pub. Choose bumbags and fanny packs, keyrings, wash bags and purses. Choose who you buy from.

Choose not to buy a cheap handbag that will end up in the bin in a couple of years. Choose to think of the future. Choose a rucksack for all the shit you carry around. Choose a shoulder bag that just holds your lipstick and phone. Choose rainbow stitching and crazy linings, multiple pockets and a comfy strap.

Choose to buy something that will make your best friend jealous and your sister drool.

Choose to have something unique.

Choose Freckle + Hide.

Plant Hangers

Until about a year ago the only plant I owned was a bonsai tree which which was so unaffected by my constant neglect, scientists are now studying it to see if it holds the key to immortality. Then I managed to grow an avocado plant from a stone and I was hooked.

I’m now an such an obsessive plant mummy that the kids think I prefer the plants to them (I haven’t the heart to point out that the plants always do as they are told, never answer back and when they grow they only require a new pot, not a whole new wardrobe). So I have been pottering around working on plant hangers designs-this one is reclaimed leather, ends of macrame string from my brief macrame foray last December (#serialcrafter), and an wooden curtain hooky thingy (the real name escapes me!!).

On trend and the perfect wee present for the plant lover in your life.

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