Bags from the North Sea: Part I



North Ronaldsay, Orkney

The humble handbag takes on a new meaning when paired with the survival instincts of the primitive sheep that live on North Ronaldsay, home of my ancestors on my father's side. The sheep survive by eating seaweed found on the rocky shores that surround the island. Privately owned, but communally cared for, North Ronaldsay sheep outnumber people by roughly 50:1. Without the few islanders left to care for them, the breed is likely to go extinct. That is why for every bag purchased using North Ronaldsay wool, I am returning 15% of the price to the North Ronaldsay Trust, a charity that aims to preserve the built and natural heritage of the island for the benefit of the community and visitors. All Orkney wool is purchased from the island's small boutique mill: A Yarn from North Ronaldsay.

North Ronaldsay ewes. Photo credit: unknown.

The wee Beastie - one side


The wee Beastie - another side


What better way to protect your valuables than with a bag in which the guard hairs of North Ronaldsay's tough seaweed-eating sheep are deeply embedded in the wool! The wee Beastie is made with variegated chocolate and white roving. This tough little bag will follow you anywhere - unlike the sheep! Made with 100% North Ronaldsay wool. Dimensions: 8.5" (h) x 12" (w). Handles: 12" (l); $125 CDN



The Orkney Selkie

Close-up

Bag bottom

Other side

The Orkney Selkie is our newest addition to the small bags collection. Made with dark grey roving from North Ronaldsay's sheep, the Orkney Selkie pays tribute to the folklore of the Seal people or Selkie folk who were reputed to be able to remove their skins to reveal a human underneath. According to Tom Muir, it was the larger Atlantic grey seals that were the true Selkies. The story of their human side was linked to the myth that people who had drowned were transformed into seals (Orkney Folk Tales, 2014: 91-101). There are also Orkney stories of Human-Selkie "marriages" that produced beautiful children. In this bag, bronze and green hemp remind us of the weeds along the rocky, North Ronaldsay shore. Dimensions: 9.5" (h) x 12" (w). Handles: 13" (l); $125 CDN

Spring Equinox - one side


Spring Equinox - another side


The desire for light after the long, dark days of winter is the theme of this bag. Due to its high latitude, Orkney only enjoys a few hours of daylight each day in the Wintertime. Combined with cloudy weather, some days can pass without any sunlight at all. The Spring Equinox is therefore a big deal for folk living in these parts as it means a complete reversal of Winter conditions. Big deals make for big bags! This large bag measuring 18" (h) x 15" (w); handles: 16" (l), has been eco-printed with the skins of the humble red onion then rolled with a copper pipe and inserted into a hot plant bath. Ahhhhh... the happy result is a half dark - half light bag on one side, and a fully light bag mimicking the promise of summer on the other. Snippets from black and golden fleece as well as white cellulose have been added for texture and highlights. This bag features a strong, double-twisted handle. Base: 100% North Ronaldsay white wool fibres and snippets of fleece. $350 CDN


Midsummer Bag - one side


Midsummer Bag - another side


This Midsummer eco-printed bag is made with 100% North Ronaldsay white wool fibres. Light blue and white cellulose fibres (curly lines) were added before the bag was sprayed with an iron water solution. Botanicals including orange "ditch" lillies and perennial geranium leaves were layed out over the felted bag. The package was then rolled tightly and wrapped in aluminum foil before being steamed for 90 minutes. After washing, shaping and drying, I added embroidery and stitching using a steel grey floss. Instead of felted handles, leather straps from a no longer used bag were removed and hand-stitched onto the felt to complete the midsummer, breezy look. Although this bag is SOLD you can still commission a similar one by contacting me at ancumstudio@gmail.com.