Beautiful silk arrived for nuno felting!

This morning my order arrived from Wollknoll containing a wide range of beautiful coloured silks that I am going to be using in some mosaic nuno wallhangings and hopefully some clothes!  This is the technique that Sigrid Bannier taught recently to Feltmakers Ireland members and friends, one workshop in Dublin the other in Kiltealy.  We laid out chopped up pieces of silk chiffon in random or organised designs on top of  light see through plastic, covered it with 2 layers of very fine merino, more light plastic, wet it down and felted.  We overlapped the silk pieces slightly where they met so that there were no gaps in the coverage and this made the resultant fabric beautifully tactile and supple.  The colours were wonderful all over but in some cases especially interesting where the neighbouring silks overlapped.  Sigrid explained to us how to create a long skirt in a tube form and then use a large button or brooch as a closure.  I think that I might try this as an exciting Christmas/New year project (it would be a talking point at openings!!) and commission a nice button from Hillary Jenkinson at the Demanse Yard, Castlecomer for the fastening.

The other thing that I am excited about today is that I met some very nice people today in Borris, they were planning to contact me at some stage as they are interested in some felting workshops.  It was quite by chance that the topic came up as I was actually representing my partner Alan (he is a Green Party County Councillor) at the opening and blessing of a new playground which serves children from all the neighbouring communities.  The young children staged a Nativity play, there were a few short speeches, we all went outside to the play area and then the longest serving member in the group cut the ribbon.  At that stage everyone was invited back inside for a warm spiced punch (non-alcoholic!) and a bit of networking and chat.  It turned out that the committee members had seen one of the recent newspaper articles profiling my change of career and had discussed contacting me re. demonstrating to the younger children, teaching some workshops at their summer school and also doing some workshops with the leaders and teachers in the play school.  It was great to hear this as one of my intentions in the New Year had been to put some proposals together to present to local community groups so here I am already on my way!

Craft in the Classroom is  going to be stepping up a gear after Christmas as well, my HSE Child Protection Training takes place on 13th and 14th January and at the beginning of February I get to meet my teacher in Leitrim and learn all about the class that I will be working with.  Mehmet Girgic is arriving on 15th January and staying until 23rd so all in all January will be a very busy month.  Don’t forget for those of you living in the vicinity of Wicklow that I am also teaching felting workshops on 31st January in the Old Courthouse, Tinahely, we actually have a day lined up with tasters in felting, knitting, spinning and crochet, book your space by clicking here!


Felting flops

It’s twent past four now as I write this post and today has been a bit hit and miss so far.  Carmen was meant to be coming over at lunchtime for an afternoon felting but has been delayed by several hours.  In the morning I finished one of her Christmas presents, a nuno felted neck wrap in (as I thought!) a beautiful black silk with a light grey merino.  The silk was one of the fabulous sari loom ends that I get from Susan at Essential Textile Art but for some reason the black lost quite a bit of colour during the felting process and now it is a combination of inky black, inky blue and a sort of purply grey, a bit strange to say the least!  Anyway, Carmen likes subtle colours so possibly (a big possibly) she will think that I always intended the colours to be this way, whatever the intention I think that she will use the wrap.

My next creation this morning was a fresh squid stew, always a challenge when cooking for any Spanish friends!  This turned out very well even if I say so myself, fresh squid, red onions, red pepper, garlic, chopped tomatos, oozo, red wine and fresh thyme, a great combination.  The only problem is that now the rice and baked potatos (to go with roast rabbit, nothing by halves here) are well overdone but I guess Carmen will just be happy to get any food at all!

On to my next disaster.  Sigrid Bannier had a beautiful punched cord necklace and I had decided to try and make a variation on her theme.  My first problem was that although I am now quite competent at making cords after my very shaky beginnings I still have somewhat of a mental block in this department.  Because the cord will be punched with the Draper hollow punches that I have recently bought it needs to be both round, firm and tough.  What you are looking for is a big thick cord, not the easiest to get really hard.  Anyway, I managed to make the cord, punched it and was not a bit happy with the result.  Did I mention that when rolling it I used the car mat for a minute and actually gave it rubber skid marks, not the best on a lime, white and grey cord?!  It lies dejected on my felting table waiting for inspiration to transform it into something other than a sad holey cord.

Felt, ceramic, cookies and frustration!

Yesterday morning I started the day by showing a friend Leonie how to make three dimensional stars using 1.5m strips of coloured paper!  These are great strung as a garland or hung individually from the tree as Christmas ornaments.  We chatted over a cup of coffee and before Leoine left she gave me a lovely present of some home make star cookies (very appropriate!) which her girls had make.  They are all eaten now, thanks Esme and Nessa! 

I  spent a happy afternoon  felting a stripy ‘man’ scarf for a friend’s Christmas present and followed this by stringing some simple necklaces with commissioned ceramic buttons as the centre piece.  Because I wanted the scarf to be very soft and warm I used both merino and a merino and silk mixture which I had carded myself in the stripes.  I laid out the fibres crossways practically the whole length of my big table and proceeded to felt.  Never having made a striped scarf before (amazing that when I think about it!) I possibly should have laid some of the fibres in the opposite direction as well.  Everything felted perfectly but the scarf got longer instead of shorter, much longer in fact!!  Anyway, Martin is tall and the scarf feels wonderful wrapped a couple of times around the neck, I hope that he likes it.

All the naturals necklace

All the naturals necklace

The buttons that I used for the necklaces (initally intended for felt necklaces and bags!) were commissioned from Hillary Jenkinson, a talented maker working from a studio in the Demanse Yard at Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny.  It is well worth a trip to Castlecomer to visit this yard, in addition to the craftspeople’s studios and workshops there is a well stocked restaurant, a history of coal museum, beautiful parkland to walk in and a brilliant kid’s playground.  Each of the buttons is a one off and I think that they look great with the crocheted cream cotton beads that I made  ‘a la Sigrid Bannier’ and some simple wooden or glass beads.   You can check them out on my Flickr photostream and the necklace above is actually on sale through my Etsy shop.  This is where the frustration sets in …. I had intended to put loads of felted items and these new necklaces  on my shop this morning but the battery on my camera just limits how many things I can upload in one session.  I had thought that they would make lovely pressies and was pricing everything between E10 and E20 but after 4 hours I have only managed to get 4 items up,  aghhhhhhhh.  Anyway, here is a picture of one of the necklaces and it is priced at $20 which equals E14.16 if anyone is interested!

Enjoyable afternoon socialising and selling felt at ‘home exhibition’!

Yesterday afternoon was a great success. Following on from the dreadful experiences of craft fairs over the last weeks it was very refreshing to have an enjoyable and profitable event! Alan and I had a massive tidy up and clean of the house which only barely got sorted in time for me to create a display of my felted items. I decided to use my upstairs dining room to lay everything out in as the space is quite generous for an old farmhouse and the light is good. For those of you who have never been to my house it is a very old simple farmhouse which I bought about 4 years ago now. It had not been lived in since 1928 and had never had any services installed like water, sewage or electricity. I stripped it out myself with a hammer and chisel back to the stone and then I employed some conservationist builders and craftsmen to make good any timbers, install timber sash windows, insulate throughout, re-lay stone floors and lime plaster inside and out. I also built a modern extension to look exactly like the older houses in my region and everyone who has visited to date can’t tell the old from the new. My dining room is the largest of the original rooms and the ceiling goes right up to the roof and has an exposed crossbeam. I laid out all my finished felt (needless to say I have a pile of things just awaiting the perfect handle or closure sitting in the studio!) and initally was afraid that I had not enough variety of items. It appeared that I had quite a few scarves, vessels and neck wraps but not enough wall hangings or jewellery. Anyway, everything went well because after a slow start several groups of friends arrived almost at the same time. For anyone wanting a really nice warming drink to serve at something like this I definitely recommend my warm apple punch! Just bring pure apple juice, sliced oranges and lemons, cinnamon stick and cloves to a simmer and serve, how simple is that? For those of us wanting an acholic drink you just add a shot of spirits to the glass before pouring in the hot apple, I especially like brandy, calvados or whiskey but really any spirit along those lines would do. Sometimes people are not quite sure if they are going to like the punch but as soon as they taste it they are hooked! The apple juice has enough natural sugar not to need any extra and it is a great winter party drink for those people who are the desiginated driver or just don’t like drinking alcohol . Sales were good and I picked up a couple of commissions so all in all I was delighted with the afternoon. An added bonus is that my house (or at least several of the rooms) are beautifully clean and somewhat tidy just in time for the festive season!

Craft fairs, felting, open house this weekend…….

Wow, how the time flies!  It seems that I have been continuously on the road over the last two weeks and coupled with that have been having internet connection problems, hence the lask of posts for which I would like to apologise.  Anyway, here goes with a bit of an update (including a caution!) and things should be back on track from now on.

Last weekend I had a stand at a small rural craft fair which Carmen organised, this was to raise funds locally for the community development project in Raheen, Co. Wexford that she is involved with.  Stands cost only E20 (luckily!!) and some bright wit from another Christmas event kindly removed all Carmen’s road signs.  The roads were absolutely treacherous when I set out, my intention was to reach the venue a couple of hours in advance but unfortunately, signs lacking, I actually arrived to the parish centre about 15 minutes after the proposed opening time of 10am.  Carmen will never know how close I was to turning around and just going home when I couldn’t find the venue, she had left her phone in the car and I was trying to contact her continuously once I had got lost but eventually I found a man who gave me directions and all was well again.  Some of the teenage members of the Youth Club that Carmen works with were on hand to help everything run smoothly and to man the tea and coffee stand.  Attendance was dreadful, 37 people work in the centre, Carmen herself was the ONLY worker who actually attended and she was running the show!  Anyway, the public were definitely conspicuous in their absence and by about 3pm I had only sold one scarf.  I wanted to stick things out for Carmen’s sake (other exhibitors had gone home) and thankfully a couple of people arrived who really related to the felt and I sold several items in quick succession.  I definitely picked up a few new people to teach, covered my costs and went home with a couple of extra Euro in my pocket so the day turned out to be a much more positive experience that I had at first expected.  Not so the 2 day house event that I attended on Monday and Tuesday.  This took place at Ballyhealy House, a comfortable old guest house a couple of miles outside Kilmore Quay in Wexford.  My friend Betty owns the house and for the last 4 or 5 years has been running a Christmas Gift Fair at home so we were expecting a big croud.  I felt sorry for Betty because she had put a lot of effort into inviting people, advertising and promotion on the radio.  All I can say after 2 disasterous days is that it is definitely apparant to me people are affected badly by the current economic situation.  On the Monday afternoon/evening a friend and I counted only 23 actual customers (none of whom bought any of my items!) and the following day not 1 person came when they had dropped their children to school (this was a busy time previous years) but about 38 customers did come sporadically during the day.  I met a few  nice people who were very much into hand crafted products and by the end of the day had made sales to customers who really appreciated the felt.  Again I made contacts interested in lessons after the New Year so from that point of view it was worthwhile but in this instance the stand cost E150 and I definitely didn’t cover my costs when you put travel expenses etc.  into the equation.  LESSON LEARNT  I will not participate at craft fairs ever again unless the space costs E20 – E50 and it is really to support a cause that I believe in and/or the current economic climate takes a turn for the better.  It is really soul destroying to sit hour after hour when no customers are even in the building!  Felt is a very definite niche market and I had no problems selling my work whenever interested customers came to my stand, the problem was a lack of customers through the door and this is something that I had no control over.  I hope that this summation does not sound too depressing but I really want anyone else thinking of going down this route to plan their participation carefully and learn from my experience.

On to happier days, or should I say difficult but happier days!!  I returned home from Ballyhealy House late on Tuesday evening and was due to set out for a Feltmakers Ireland get together and Crafts Council training in Dublin at 7am the next morning.  The weather was so cold that night and the roads so covered by ice that I took the decision to leave a bit later than planned.  My vehicle is a long wheel base pick up truck and it is not the best in icy conditions being only 2 wheel drive and very light unless fully loaded.  Anyway, it took me an hour and 25 minutes to drive a distance that usually takes less than half an hour so I did not arrive to Dublin until after 11am, a total travel time of over 3 hours.  What a nerve wracking journey but it was great to finally arrive, grab a Starbucks coffee and head into Blanchardstown Library to meet the other feltmakers.  There was a big pile of work on display and instead of actually making Christmas Ornaments as I thought we were going to do everyone discussed the items that they had made recently and on the recent Sigrid Bannier workshops.  I was wearing the necklace that Sigrid gave me as a present and the ring which I made with Ingrid to match it, these got many admiring glances!  We all went next door to the Driocht cafe for a light lunch (very tasty!) and then were joined by some other crafts people for an afternoon session with a Crafts Council sponsored mentor.  This session was dealing with sales and I must say following on from the previous 3 days was quite an interesting experience.  It reinforced my belief that unless you get the foot fall past your stand you will not have a good show but if you were in any way unsure how to get a sale with a LIVE customer this was the afternoon for you!  When we had networked and said our goodbyes it was almost 6 o’clock but I wanted to take a quick run into Inspiring Ideas, a craft shop in the Blanchard Centre before setting out for Clasheen once more.  A heavy fog was blanketing everywhere so I tried not to delay, some beads and cord later I have to confess that I then grabbed a large Big Mac meal to set me up for the journey ahead!  Lucky I did this, my trip home took 2 hours and 45 minutes, usually I can do it in approx 2 but the fog was just like pea soup.

Yesterday morning Carmen called over and we got stuck in for a very enjoyable morning’s felting.  I made some more punched beads ‘a la’ Sigrid and then strung them in the evening with some nice lime green beads that I have, Carmen made a beautiful felt and linen necklace.  I then had the pleasure of watching Carmen prepare the most devine paella (anyone who knows me knows that I just LOVE good home prepared food) complete with fresh squid, monkfish and huge prawns.  We had a glass of sherry, very refined and then got stuck into the paella, not so refined!  It was fantastic, a great combination of tastes and textures.

This Sunday I am opening my house between 2 and 5pm sharp for a display and sale of my felt and hand made Christmas ornaments.  Quite a few friends were asking me about buying felt as presents so this seemed an ideal opportunity to gather everyone together at the one time and have a bit of a social event at the same time.  We are going to enjoy a glass of spiced apple punch and some canapes and I would love for any of you within striking distance to come along if you would like to attend and please tell your friends!  If anyone needs directions please just email me and I will forward them on.

Exciting introductory day to wet felting, knitting, crochet or spinning!

Would you like to learn the basics of felting, knitting, crochet or spinning or possibly just refresh your skills?  Come and join us (a mad group  of passionate fibre artists!) between 10am and 5pm in Tinahely Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely, Co Wicklow on Saturday January 31st for an action packed 1 day workshop.  This is an excellent opportunity to try out a new fibre craft for the amazing price of just E50 to include tea, coffee and all materials needed.

Wet Felting: This course is ideal for people wishing to learn the basics of wet felting. A variety of materials will be provided and participants will complete a project such as a simple bowl or a felt necklace.
Tutor: ME!

Knitting: Learn to cast on, knit, purl, increase, decrease, cast off.  The class is aimed at beginners and those who are refreshing their skills.
Tutor:  Stephanie Kennedy

Crochet: Learn simple chain stitch, double crochet, increase, decrease and crochet embellishment. The class is aimed at beginners and those who are refreshing their skills.
Tutor: Irene Lundgaard

Spin Your Own Yarn: Participants will be given the opportunity to create their own unique yarn which they can knit or crochet.
Tutor: TBC

Places may be booked online from Stephanie at the Yarn Room, hurry to grab your spot!

New design of felt rings and swap update

Funky felt ring

Funky felt ring

Here is an image of a felt ring that I made using the technique that Ingrid Bannier generously showed me last weekend, I am also going to load a few more images of rings and a spiky brooch in the same theme up to my Flickr account.  Obviously yesterday I must have been having a brain storm when I said that I would post today about the nuno workshop, I have another opening of an exhibition later on and I have to load the truck for the next 3 day’s craft fairs!  The nuno post will happen later in the week, sorry.

CLASHEEN CRAFTY SWAP Just a quick reminder to say that all swap packages should be in the post!  Please contact your swap buddy directly if for any reason you have not posted yours yet.  Thanks.