Santa Sacks from Witley designer Caroline Quinn
PUBLISHED: 13:20 18 December 2013 | UPDATED: 09:13 14 October 2014
Christmas comes just once a year for most of us, but for Santa Sacks designer CAROLINE QUINN it's always the festive season. Janet Donin pays a visit to her charming studio in Witley...
Where did the idea for Santa Sacks come from?
Christmas has always been a magical time for me but it became especially so when my four children were little. It was then that I made my first sacks for them. I’d put a lot of effort into buying and wrapping their presents and wanted something traditional and more festive to capture the magic of Christmas, rather than the old pillowcases I had as a child.
How did it end up becoming a business?
Friends would come around at Christmas and see my home-made sacks under the tree and ask if I would make some for their children. Previously, I was involved in property and interior design, but thought creating the sacks would be a nice little business to run from home. They became such a big hit that I had to relocate to a bigger space this year. The business continues to grow and we now post around the country and to America and Australia.
So tell us more about the sacks…
They are roughly the size of a pillowcase (45 x 65cm), fully lined, and with a ribbon gathering at the top. The applique designs vary. Rudolf has a cheeky smile with a soft velvet nose, his antlers are suede and he has button and felt eyes. The robin is similar but has a red breast and suede feet and the pudding is topped with felt ‘cream’ and a sprig of felt holly. The stockings are also appliqued with these designs but the range is evolving all the time.
What materials do you use?
Mostly upholstery fabrics because they are plush and come in a variety of natural and deep colours. Brushed cotton is a favourite for the basic sack and stocking, as it’s soft to the touch but durable. The appliqued patterns can be in anything from gingham to paisley, with trimmings in felt, wool or ribbon. This year, I’ve introduced hessian for a traditional rustic look, and red and white patterned fabrics for an Alpine range.
And they are personalised too?
Yes, each piece comes with a wooden, hand-carved heart, which is personalised with the customer’s name using our traditional printing method. It’s a time consuming task but it’s worth it, adding that extra unique touch to make our sacks so special.
Tell us about the design process?
I’m very much a visionary. I have lots of ideas which I’m passionate about and am constantly making drawings or working up prototypes. I’m not a trained artist, so I have a team of art students and seamstresses who cleverly turn my ideas into creations. My real skill is sourcing the right materials for each individual design, finding the craftspeople to make up the sacks and add the finishing touches. Everything is hand-made in Britain; something of which I am very proud.
Where do you find your helpers?
Job forums are a great place to advertise; however, this year it has been mainly word of mouth and many local people have come back again to work for us. We have makers, knitters and sewers as far away as Scotland.
Where are the sacks made up?
The sacks are made up by our seamstresses then in the run-up to Christmas we’re all like little elves putting the finishing touches to the sacks and stockings. The appliques are hand-stitched, backed with lining then sewn to the sacks and stockings. One of our designs also has a knitted cuff, which we also hand-stitch in place.
Do you have any other products?
Well, the wooden hearts are also available to buy separately and can be printed with a name or message up to 10 characters – that way, they can be used as tree decorations or for any other occasion. We also have blackboard tags that come with chalk for a personalised message, which can be wiped and reused.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I’m always coming up with new ideas to extend the Santa Sacks range. Just last week, I was playing about with snowmen prototypes and I would really like to add a penguin and maybe a gingerbread man as well. We’ve also been working on a pony collection featuring woolly tails and manes. Something a little different for us, which I recently finished, is a new printed range of sacks featuring a fun looking Santa, elf and Rudolf characters.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The build-up to Christmas morning, knowing my Santa Sacks and Stockings are being opened all around the world by excited children. I’m also able to enjoy Christmas all year round, with a great excuse for carols in October, and the great team that work with us are all such creative, talented and dynamic people whose help and input I couldn’t be without.
Do you have any future plans for the business?
We are in the process of designing a range for a large high street retailer which will be available next year. That’s very exciting.
How do you spend Christmas?
My husband hails from Scotland, so on Christmas Eve, when the last of the sacks have been sent out, we all pile into the car together and head for a family Christmas in the highlands.
What’s the best thing about living in Surrey?
We have the best of all worlds in Surrey. It’s such a friendly and safe place to live. I love going up to London but equally love it when I catch the train home. Living in Haslemere, we’re always walking the dogs on the Devil’s Punch Bowl. I consider myself and my family lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.
For more information on Santa Sacks, call 01428 685623 or visit their website at santasacks.co.uk