Rat Bags

I recently discovered Rat Bags, a company making items out of sail canvas while on holiday on  the Scilly Islands. I love to visit countries like Italy where you still find small shops with the artist or maker working at the back, producing their handmade goods. It is rare however to find this in the UK so on this recent holiday to the Isles of Scilly I was really pleased to discover a shop called The Canvas Shop in Hugh Town, St Marys, where you can see the handmade items being made. The company is called Rat Bags and they make practical, colourful, bags, hats and clothes out of traditional canvas.

rat Bag bags and canvas dog bowls.
Rat Bag bags and canvas dog bowls.

The name comes from the small island where the items were first produced from scraps of canvas left over from sail making. Rat Island today has been joined to St Marys by the quay where the boats come in so it is not obvious that this was a small island. The original Rat Island Sail Loft is still in business repairing and making sails for the many boats that visit the Isles of Scilly.

St Marys harbour.

This is the view from the windows of The Canvas Shop where the Rat Bags are now made and sold. Its amazing to me that any work gets done as I would spend my days gazing out of the window.

Rat Bags being made.
Rat Bags being made.
Fabric and patterns ready to be made up.
Fabric and patterns ready to be made up.

I visited the shop on two different days as I found it very hard to decide on which of their colouful  items I would treat myself. I decide in the end to go for a practical knapsac to use on holidays when a smart handbag would not be appropriate. I love all the colour combinations but finally decided on red and blue. The staff were very helpful and offered to make a bag for me in a different colourway if there wasn’t one to my liking.

Rat Bag Knapsac size small.
Rat Bag Knapsac size small.

If you are not lucky enough to be able to visit the shop all their products can be ordered from this website www.schoonershotel.co.uk   Rat Bags also has a Facebook Page which gives more information on their story and products.

In the shop there is a box of fabric scraps which they encourage visitors to help themselves. I was told to take as much as I could carry and so this is what I came away with.

Canvas fabric scraps.
Canvas fabric scraps.

Since returning home (once the washing and ironing were finished) I started to play with some of the pieces and have made a small seaside canvas brooch to remind me of my holiday.

Canvas boat brooch.
Canvas boat brooch.
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5 thoughts on “Rat Bags”

  1. Hi
    I used to live on St. Martin’s and worked at Rat Bags during my school holidays back in the mid/late 1980’s. It was a very important part of my formative years – learnt so much from Keith & had so much fun working with Carol (we were at school together) and we are still in touch today although I now live in Germany.
    So pleased you loved their work – I have lost count how many Rat Bags my family have. You will treasure your bags for years to come!
    Love your brooch too!
    All the best from the Bodensee (Lake Constance, Southern Germany)
    Natalie

    1. thanks for your comment Natalie. We stayed on the Island of St Agnes and had a fantastic holiday. I had visited the islands in the 80s when my children were small and in those days did not discover Rat Bags but I am very glad I did this time.

  2. Hello there
    I am currently looking to open a gift shop in Truro in the lovely Lemon street market , I would be interested in stocking your items with exclusitivity for the Truro area .

  3. My mother recently visited ‘Rat Bags’ whilst on holiday on the Island. She commissioned a chisel roll for a present to me. Unfortunately, Rat Bags need to do more ‘homework’ before producing their products. I instantly realised the fault in design when it was handed to me, the ties are three times to short! Once you have placed chisel’s in the roll it will become two or three times larger in diameter, thus needing ties much longer in the first instance!

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