Handcrafted Australian Raffia Beach Bags – Island Twist and Shout Your Style

Jeanny Oaks from Island Twist in Lord Howe Island

Coming from one of the most beautiful places on Earth, when did you come up with the idea of making raffia accessories?

It all came about when one of my oldest Island girlfriends Amy asked if I would be interested in creating a clutch style beach bag for her store, The Miles Away Company in Brisbane. I was heavily pregnant with our first Daughter at the time and so, after many crocheted and pulled apart designs later, the Cockleshell Clutch was created!

Cockleshell Clutch

Cockleshell Clutch

What is life like on the beautiful Lord Howe Island?

Island life is without a doubt the best life a person can live. I was born and raised on Lord Howe, and it wasn’t until I became older that I realised how lucky I was. To be able to run around in bare feet, snorkel off pristine beaches straight onto beautiful coral reefs, and go fishing for the best, fresh fish around, it is the most amazing place to live.
When our Daughter was born, she and her Great Grandmother Joyce were the oldest and youngest ladies on the Island, it made living there a little bit more special.

Jeannie Oaks from Island Twist

Jeannie Oaks from Island Twist

Tell us about the name of your label “Island Twist”

My Husband Nicholas actually came up with the name Island Twist!

When we were brainstorming names for the business he came up with Island Twist after watching me crocheting with the raffia. Using Raffia to work with is a bit different to wool, and I need to twist it in order to make it stronger and easier to crochet with.

After many years working on the Island’s freight ship the ‘Island Trader’, it reminded him of bringing in the lines on the ship and coiling them up when they weren’t in use. Originally we were going to have our logo as a ship’s anchor with coiled rope around it, but decided to go for the more Island tribal look of the spiralling Twist.


Please tell me about the fabrics you use in your creations – any specific fabrics and colours that you love to work with?

I love working with raffia as there are so many ways to make beautiful bags with it. I can use it to make smooth surfaces or I can use it to create textured looks. It also makes for a stronger bag with a natural look which a lot of people like. I only buy the highest quality raffia to make bags, and in doing so am able to source it in a multitude of colours which helps create pieces with a *Pop* of colour.
My lined bags are lined using my favourite fabric called Island ‘Savannah’ Print by Donna Wilder for Fabric Traditions . With it’s palm and blossom background it always reminds me of my Grandmother’s gardens with her Kentia Palms and bright red and pink Hibiscus.
I also love using bright fabrics to give my more natural looking bags a bright splash of colour. From the outside they look calm and natural, but on the inside they are a rainbow of colour! (check out the entire collection of straw beach bags )

Handbags Beach Bags

Handbags Beach Bags

Who or what inspired you to create this collection?

When I created the Cockleshell Clutch for The Miles Away Company, I was so happy with the way it came out that I decided to experiment with other handbags styles.

Not long after I started walking around the Island with one of my handmade creations, the Island Handbag, I started getting a lot of people asking me to make them one as well! Then I started getting special requests, Large Beach Bags, Tote Beach Bags and Beach Purses  and as they say, the rest is history!
What started by making bags for friends was quickly picked up by some of the Island’s store owners to stock in their stores. The Beach Boutique was the very first to stock my Cockleshell clutch after the owner Vicky saw one that I had made for my friend.

What are your target markets?

My products have a really broad range of end customers which is great. My bags and clutches can be used by ladies in their 20’s – 30’s, Mums, or even Nannas!
I did aim them towards an Island style of living as we don’t tend to use handbags as much at home, but we do need bags to pick up our mail, meet a friend for lunch, or pile the beach towels and swimmers into to take them to the beach.
The casual and natural look of my bags makes them easy to take pretty much anywhere, on the Island or anywhere in the world!

Can you describe your collection using 3 words?

Natural, Casual, and Unique!

What is your favourite piece of the collection?

My favourite piece is the Island Diamond Beach Bag. It fits everything in it and when I take my Daughter to the beach it comes every time.

large beach bag

Diamond Large Beach Bag

When did you launch?

In January 2014, a month before my Daughter’s birth. After finishing work to prepare for Mummyhood I realised I needed to do something else that could base me at home while I looked after her. This turned out to be the perfect job!

Jeannie little apprentice

Jeannie little apprentice

What is next for you?

I am looking forward to expanding my range into Homewares. I have many ideas in my head that haven’t made it to fruition yet, and I would love to design a range of Tablemats, Coasters and Utensil bags. I am currently working on a design for a Cutlery Bag to take on BBQ’s, an idea put to me by my cousin Amy, who is an Island Mum with a family of 4 who hates having loose cutlery in her BBQ basket!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business like yours?

When creating patterns using the crochet method, WRITE DOWN YOUR PATTERNS AS YOU GO! The biggest mistake I made starting out was not writing my patterns down and then trying to remember them in vain when I was asked to make the item again!
And experiment, a design that I might not be so keen on usually turns out to be a favourite on my Facebook blog amongst my followers!

Is there any big WOW that you would like to share with us?

My Wow moments are always when I hear the wonderful feedback from customers and end customers about my handmade bags.  When I hear how much they appreciate the time and effort it takes to make them all by hand, it makes all those hours crocheting, sewing and beading really worthwhile! Seeing a tourist walk past me with one of my bags in tow was certainly a great moment, but being asked to sell them through Aquazy.com certainly is up there as well!

Where is your favourite beach and why?

I am torn between two!

The Lagoon on Lord Howe has the most amazing views and was a place where my late Dad and I frequently went down too and sat with a beer watching the amazing sunsets we get in the Summer. With a Southerly view of our Mountains, Lidgbird and Gower, and the Northerly view of the North hills, it is a very special spot to sit and just unwind for a chat.
Ned’s Beach on the Western side of the Island will forever hold a special place in my heart as that is where my Husband and I had our Wedding day 2 years ago.

Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island

Jeannie Oaks Wedding in Lord Howe Island
Jeannie Oaks Wedding in Lord Howe Island

What is your favourite inspirational quote?

“Fred, If you get knocked down, put your head up and keep walking, there are better things yet to come your way” – Garry Petherick – Dad.
“Keep your head up, and keep your heart strong” – Ben Howard

What is your favourite colour?

Turquoise, the colour of our beautiful Island waters!


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Joanne Wadley

About Joanne Wadley

"Hi, I'm Joanne, I graduated top of my class at UCA and have since worked on a variety of Advertising and Branding projects. I am currently juggling copywriting with being a stay at home mother. I have a very creative mind and a passion for copywriting and branding. In my leisure time I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, playing games and partaking in sports and yoga. "

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