Sunday 21 June 2009

Woolfest Make a trip to the Lake District for a festival all about wool

Four years ago I went to Woolfest with my children Bryony & Dominic. That was summer 2005 and it was the first year of this now famous festival devoted, to wool. It was (and still is) held in Cockermouth sheep market. Stall holders each had a pitch with was in fact an empty sheep pen within the market. My dad and brother are farmers so I’m comfortable with that sort of setting. We met up with my friend Liz Brown and some other Scottish felters and had a wild time. I remember the frenzy of activity in the restaurant after the evening meal. Suddenly there were spinning wheels and fleeces everywhere! Liz and Co slept in her own cosy Yurt and we were sleeping in a little tent. The only thing was that there was barely any grass so we were pitched on a very narrow grass verge at the edge of the sheep market car park!

These are photos from 2005

Bryony experimenting with a really unusual weaving frame. Warp and weft are all one thread.

Bangles and scarves made by various talented Scottish Feltmakers

Jeanette Sendler's fantastic sculptural hats. Many with animal sculls and weathered bones incorporated.

Next weekend, Friday 26th and Saturday 27th June, we are off up to Cockermouth for the 5th Woolfest. I’m looking forward to seeing how the festival has developed. Now there are classes and demonstrations and you can bring your own fleeces to sell too. It will be very tempting for me as there will be lots of lovely fibres on sale for felting but meeting up with other felters, sharing ideas and being constantly amazed and inspired by what can be made from wool will be the best.

How about Yuli Somme and Anne Belgrave’s
“Bellacouche Leafshrouds” (felted burial shrouds)?

Friday 12 June 2009

In the beginning …there was a little girl who liked to sew.

I came across this photo of me at Forrest Mill Primary school in Clackmannanshire. (I'm on the back row, second from the right.)This was quite an unusual school; firstly it was a country school so a lot of children, like me, lived on surrounding farms and travelled to school by “taxi” every day. While I was there we had just 16 pupils in total ranging in age from 5 to 10 year olds. There was one teacher, Miss Cowan, and two classrooms (although we usually just used the one classroom). So imagine I was in a class of two; me and Kathleen Jackson. But all the children sat in the one room so we were quite close together and could see and be involved in each other’s work. I was good a helping, but I do feel that when I moved up to my next school I had some huge holes in my education.
BUT the positives! We did a lot of creative stuff; including baking scones and shortbread at the teacher’s house (it was actually adjoining) and we also did a lot of sewing and other handicrafts. Here we are in the classroom, sewing our first collages: mine is the orange one. I was eight when this picture was taken. We had a lot of freedom; we could choose our own colours, make our own design and were encouraged to try out stitches… no matter how complicated. When we needed help Miss Cowan was there or if she was too busy the dinner lady Mrs Downie (who lived across the road) was good at sewing too.
On the subject of dinner; one of the first projects for any new children at our school was to design and sew their own cross stitch table mat.
Yes I still have mine!

I have noticed that items which have been made by children on my workshops are usually treasured. In a day and age when there is less time available in the school curriculum craft and sewing projects are mostly made at holiday and after-school clubs. There are fewer opportunities to experiment with materials and to make. I have met children just a few years after a workshop, and they have proudly told me how they still have that special felted snake in their bedroom or how it lives on the mantle piece at their granny’s house. These little things that we have made while growing up are so important: they are the foundations of our creative lives.