From Rags To Bags was founded in 2008 by Alison Keeble, that's me by the way. It began, as many businesses do, with the seed of an idea which over the years has well and truly flourished.
I’ve always had a love of making things. To be honest, it’s in my genes. I come from a long line of needle women, from my Aunts back to a Great Grandmother who also sewed for a living. One of my earliest memories, when I was about four, is sitting on the sofa with my Granddad and asking him to thread a darning needle with some wool, as I was struggling to do it myself. I have no memory of what I was planning to do once the needle was threaded and looking back a four year old probably shouldn't have had a darning needle anyway!
At junior school, I made my first cushion, followed by a sun dress and a stuffed Peter the Rabbit toy. All of it was hand sewn, I didn't get my hands on an electric sewing machine until I went to senior school. My mother did have an old foot treadle Singer machine though which I used to love to play with.
The first item we had to make in our sewing class aged 11, was a fabric sampler. Not the type with lovely decorative stitching, ours was to learn different seams and bias binding techniques. I hated it! Funnily enough though, I still have that sampler and the seams I learned to machine then, I use now to stitch my peg bags. You just never know what lessons will come in useful, do you?
As a teenager, I had a Saturday job in a High Street department store. I worked for a number of years in the linens and soft furnishings department. That's probably where my real love of fabrics grew. I spent a fair amount of my earnings on fabric remnants and couldn't resist the soft velvets.
Through my twenties, I joined local craft fairs, selling jewellery I made, together with a few beanbag frogs and other small sewn items. Whilst fairly successful, this came to an abrupt end when I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in the nail bed of my thumb. Nerve damage following surgery meant that holding pins and a needle was difficult. I stopped sewing altogether and soon took up ceramics instead.
Despite cancer stopping me sewing, eight years later, it was the catalyst for me to start again. It was whilst recovering from further hand surgery at the end of 2006, that the seed of an idea popped into my head. I was sat on the sofa, feeling sorry for myself as I had just had half my thumb amputated, when I started to think about all of the fabric I had in the cupboard. I thought about my love of fabric handbags that were for sale on the High Street and I realised I could make my own. Within half an hour, I had a business name and was ordering business cards!
Having started out making cloth handbags, I soon broadened my horizons to include peg bags and lavender bags, followed by doorstops and cushions. Most recently laundry bags and toy bags were added to the collection. I am now so busy making homewares, I rarely get a chance to actually make a handbag.
I can’t quite believe that so many years have passed since that day moping on the sofa. I never would have imagined I would be selling my creations all over the world, to 22 countries over five continents. I’m truly amazed that I have made and sold over 3,500 items! Who knows what the next ten years will bring.