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Lisburn’s Agnes Clarke is a busy bee sewing beautiful bags for charity

Lisburn woman Agnes Clarke has been putting her sewing skills to good use, creating stunning bags to raise vital funds for four important charities.

Agnes Clarke
Agnes Clarke

Agnes, who has been sewing ever since she was a child, makes gorgeous shopping bags, handbags, and storage containers, fully lined with coordinating material.

The material for the bags is high end cutrain material, which is donated by Agnes’ niece Lesley. who runs her own cutrain making business.

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Agnes then sells them for just £5 or £10 but, proving that every little helps, last year she raised an amazing £10,000 for charity.

“I am named after my Aunt Agnes, who was a seamtress and always sewing.” explained Agnes.

“I always wanted to learn how to sew, I was fascinated.

“I made my own clothes when I was working.

“I just loved sewing and I never stop.”

About nine years ago Agnes taught he daughter-in-law how to sew and she suggested making a bag.

“I decided to look into it,” she continued. “I had some material at home so I gave it a go.

“If I am shopping I will look at the bags and see how they’re made and if I could do it.”

Encouraged by her late husband John, Agnes started selling the bags at local craft fairs and online through her Facebook page – John’s Girl Bags.

“People started buying them and I always put the money away for charity,” explained Agnes.

“It has really grown, they are selling like mad.”

Agnes donates all of the money to charity, paying for thread, labels and packaging herself.

However the material is kindly donated by her niece Lesley, who runs a curtain making business.

“When I started making the bags I asked my niece Lesley if she ever had any spare material and she said she did,” explained Agnes.

“It is all high quality material for curtains.

“When she has finished making the curtains she asks the customer if they want the off cuts and if not she tells them she will donate them to me for charity.

“When people first buy them I think for £5 they don’t expect too much but when they see the quality of the material they’re always impressed.

“It’s lovely that people are pleased with them and I’ve made so many friend over the yearss.”

When the pandemic hit, Agnes was concerned about how she would sell her makes.

However, the internet really came into its own and, with the help of a Facebook group called Made in Northern Ireland, run by Keith and Suzanne Livingstone, which brings together crafters and producers from across the country to share and sell their handmade products, Agnes’ sales skyrocketed.

Last year alone she donated £10,000 to four charities – Cystic Fibrosis Research, Diabetes Research, Air Ambulance NI and the RNLI.

“Last year there were no craft fairs but there was a site on Facebook called Made in Northern Ireland which I joined and it just took off,” Agnes continued.

“The bags have gone all around the world now.

“They go everywhere, Australia, America, Belgium.

“They have labels on them saying Made in Ireland and I think people like that.”

Agnes is very humble about her charity fundraising and insists she benefits just as much personally as the charities receive in money.

“I get so much out of it,” she admitted.

“I just love sewing and putting materials together.

“It is so rewarding to see it coming together.

“My husband John was always encouraging me.

“He died in March last year and if I didn’t have the bags to do I think depression could have set in. It’s like a therapy for me.

“There’s a lot of work in involved but I find it fun and it’s doing a bit of good.”

Agnes is grateful to all of the customers who have made purchases over the years and have helped to raise vital funds for the charities.

She is also grateful to her family and friends for all of their help and support.

“I would like to thank all my supporters and especially my niece Lesley for her continued support in donating the off cuts from her curtain business,” she added.

To purchase one of Agnes’ bags, visit her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Johnsgirl-Bags-575762985903393.

You can also join the Made in Northern Ireland Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/314915589501504