An upcycling man from Marlow will appear on the BBC’s Money For Nothing series as a resident “sewing artisan”.

Neil Wraggs runs a business called Ragsto Bags for which he creates bags and luggage by upcycling various, locally-discarded materials.

He explains how the opportunity came about: “I saw one of the programmes from the last series. They got somebody to make something out of an old leather cushion and she made something which didn’t sell by the end of the programme.

“So I tweeted and said this bag used to be a sofa and I sell plenty of them. So they got in touch and said do you want to be our sewing artisan and I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for but I gave it a go.

“I am in several episodes having been tasked with creating bespoke items from such materials as leather sofas, canvas tents and onion sacks which are then sold on and the profit passed back to the original owner who was about to chuck the items in the tip.

“It was a challenge because I didn’t know what they were going to bring and all of it was making things that I hadn’t made before. Hopefully it will open up new doors when the programmes come out.”

Neil lives in Marlow with his wife and two sons and got into sewing around 10 years ago. At 45 years old he is fairly new to sewing in comparison to other experts who may have been learning since they were children.

He explains where it all began: Continued on page 28.

“It started with camping and making bags and kit for camping, you might buy a bag or a tent and then reinforce it. Then I started making camping kit, it was all retro camping kit, that’s how I started, that’s what we do for holidays, and then people said you should sell those.

“I got a sewing machine maybe five years ago but that was a very cheap secondhand one that took longer to get working than to sew with. About three years ago I got a really good sewing machine and now I’ve got four sewing machines for different reasons.”

Neil finds materials and customers through social media and word of mouth, helped by the fact he has children in both primary and secondary school as well as being a local scout leader.

He can turn his hand to almost any old item: “Even clothing like an old jacket. A girl sent me her jacket that she used for her gap year twenty years back, she hasn’t worn it since but hasn’t thrown it away because it’s too sentimental. It’s only when she saw my website that she realised that actually I can make it of use once more. So I made her a jacket and now she’s wears it every day again.

“The materials are coming to me so sometimes the bag will only take shape once I’ve seen the fabric. For example the nice tan leathers, if it’s got a nice, very warm look, then it will maybe suit a bag for a man, like an old explorer’s type bag, the kind you put your laptop in when you’re on the tube, but actually the bag is saying tomorrow I could be in the Amazon. That kind of Indiana Jones look. Other fabrics I’ve got such as nice silks and tapestries for curtains and upholstery, they don’t make masculine, rugged bags - they would make better handbags.

“Almost everything I create is from locally unwanted sources such as sofas from Marlow, curtains from Thames riverside mansions, too old tents from Marlow Scouts.

"I save them from going into local landfill sites and, using an industrial sewing machine in my workshop in Marlow, the result are items that have the look and quality of something you would find in an expensive upmarket boutique, indeed it seems that the dozen bags I made for the programme will be on sale online and in Chelsea high street. The rest of the stock is available in Marlow High Street currently.”

If you have an old sofa you think could make a nice bag then get in touch with Neil at