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19.09.19

Shopping local for unique chalk bags

At TCA we like to support people with a passion for climbing and an eye for quality. Finch Climbing was started by Sam Finch (24) and Sophie Mackaness (21) in 2018. Sophie’s parents met climbing so she has been on the wall from a young age – both indoors and out. Sam is a little newer to climbing, having been introduced by Sophie a few years ago. Both love to climb at TCA. We caught up with them recently to find out about their new enterprise – producing unique and funky chalk bags for modern climbers.

When did the idea for Finch chalk bags originate?

Sophie made our first chalk bag as a birthday present for Sam using fabric decorated with classic minis and fleece from an old project. This got us thinking – why aren’t chalk bags more unique and colourful while being made locally and out of reclaimed material? We made our first batch of 20 to sell online and had very positive reactions from customers. Since then we have made over 200 chalk bags!

What challenges have you faced along the way?

We love to use recycled fabric where appropriate, all of our linings are made from old fleeces or blankets and we collect (long-unclaimed) lost property from TCA to make into liners! It can be quite a challenge to find the high-quality fleece we need, and in colours which complement our designs. It’s also hard to match the low prices of the big brands – their bags are made overseas with cheaper labour costs we just can’t match. We can’t really reduce these costs with scaling up, as it is just the two of us making them by hand and our brand is all about limited edition products. We don’t buy our patterned fabric in bulk so most of the time when we sell out of a design, it won’t come back. We had one amazing fabric from Sophie’s collection which made really cool bags and sold amazingly but it was only produced for John Lewis in the 1980s and we haven’t been able to find more since. This is frustrating, but it means each bag is unique and our stock is constantly changing so keep checking regularly for new designs coming into the TCA shop.

Why should TCA climbers buy Finch chalk bags?

All of our bags are hand made in Edinburgh (and soon to be Glasgow) using recycled materials (often purchased from charity shops) where possible. We hand-deliver our boxes to TCA when we’re there for a climb or jump on the tube – minimising our carbon footprint with zero overseas shipping.

We hope you don’t, but if you have any problems with your chalk bag you can shoot either of us a message and we’ll do our best to solve it, no hold queues or complex customer care teams – it’s just us, and we’d love your feedback and to help where we can.

Local shopping has never been more important and it feels good to support a small business making bespoke equipment. We love making gear that reflects your personality, whether it’s a classy recycled corduroy patchwork, vintage coffee posters or a bold abstract pattern you can be sure nobody will turn up with the same design.

Do you have any plans for future diversification?

We would love to do more commissions in the future if you have a project idea. Got an old shirt, those favourite jeans with a hole in the crotch or piece of material that you’d like made into a chalk bag? Not a problem – as long as its big enough (14×8 inches) we would love to make your old fabrics into the bag of your dreams.

Contact Sam and Sophie.

You can check out Finch chalk bags in the Shop at The Newsroom. From £18.