Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice already?

Oh dear, suddenly its been three weeks since I last posted. Life has gotten busy, as it does this time of year. As usual, the busier my life, the more neglected the blog!

And it has been very busy, with builders digging up the entire garden...
...trying to get out for wintry walks and enjoy what little sunny patches there are...
...keeping watchful of snow and ice... (after last year's confinement the freezer and fridge are permanently well-stocked)
...posting out Etsy orders and doing a craft fair too...
...sampling cupcakes at aforementioned craft fair...mmmmm...
...and finally, getting a bit festive and decorating the house. And cat.
Well, I can imagine I won't get back here for a while, so happy solstice/christmas/hannukah/new year/whatever to you all!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wovember Giveaway Results

And the winner is...
Ivy Black! Do send me an email at ansnagbreac at gmail dot com and we can arrange delivery of the Sheep Kit.

Thank you all for your comments. It was really interesting to hear the different wools you all use and imagine beach-going sheep!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Photos from onlocation

As mentioned before, the brief behind this exhibition was to create a wearable object to do with place, be that an actual place or imaginary ones.

Erika Marks, a jeweller and silversmith, who curated the show, made this beautifully embroidered belt, pictured below.
I'm afraid the colours didn't come out too well - it is a rich blue and mossy green map of the world, with an orange embroidered line showing Erika's path around the world, places she's lived and travelled too. It made me want to map my own path.
Wendy Louise Knight, a milliner, made this sewn, knitted and crocheted baby-carrier, filled with memories of places she'd been with her family, holidays and trips to the beach in a camper van.
Jelena Fischer produced this delicate and beautiful necklace, which looked like a collection of driftwood and beach-combings. It was made of hemp twine and porcelain pieces, in response to "my personal geography, the tracks I make."

Daniele Vesque made these giant wings, which cast shadows like line-drawings on the wall behind, inspired by dreams of flying.
Naomi Draper, a glass artist, made this mesh of knitted wire and glass beads with lichen threaded through. It can be worn as a collar and took inspiration from the forest park at Lough Key.
This dress was made by fashion designer Eileen Abbott, inspired by ancient symbols of life.
Soraya Ricalde, another jeweller, made this copper and red silk neck-piece inspired by the colours and shapes of the river walk in Dromahair, Co. Leitrim.
And finally, my own piece was made as a bag with attached torch that viewers could look inside. There were two small leather eye-holes on the front - one for looking, the other to shine the torch through.
Inside was a miniature felted scene, made from Shetland wool (with a tiny bit of merino for the green.)

Here is what I had written about it:
When I was a young adult, myself and my father took up walking the way-marked trails of Ireland, carrying on our backs the provisions we needed for several days at a time and camping en route. We often got soaked and developed blisters from our sub-standard walking gear, but the places we visited were beautiful: high, open, wild places with incredible views, and quiet, secluded woods, mossy and dark with tricking streams. This piece is a tribute to that time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


onlocation is the name of the exhibition opening tomorrow in the Leitrim Design House, in which I have a piece. (Click here for more info)

Here is some info about the show:
Each maker was asked to consider their response to ideas of place, and the connections formed in their mind by these ideas. Each of them has produced a unique work, inspired by a location of importance to them. The resulting project has given rise to some very personal work, at times using materials and themes not usually considered when working within their traditional field of expertise. These themes range from childhood experiences, through the natural world in different forms, to concepts of freedom and belonging – and all arising from thoughts of place.
If you are about Carrick-on-Shannon tomorrow, the opening is from 7-8.30pm and all are welcome.
The piece I made uses felted sculpture made with wool from my neighbour's Shetland sheep. More info and pictures coming soon!

From sheep to yarn

I have been meaning to write this post for the last year or so and though this project is not quite finished (the yarn has not yet been knit with) with all this sheepy action in Wovember, it seemed an apt time to finally write it.
As a learning spinner I have mostly used commercially carded or combed top - I know some spinners feel this is not really spinning - but alas I am made of lazier stuff than they - the spinning itself is what I enjoy, the carding or combing much less so.

This project was my first adventure dealing with whole raw fleeces, straight from the sheep's back and into my hands.

The fleeces I got from my neighbour, finely grown by her lovely shetland sheep, (pictured above and below at lambing this year.) It was my first real chance to deal with a whole fleece and gave me a lot of respect for the process. The work involved was enormous. Below is the very sheep whose grey/white fleece I was given, pictured here with this year's lamb - I'm afraid I can't spell her Hungarian name...
Below is her fleece from last year. As you can see, its pretty dirty and required a lot of picking through. Much of it was matted also. (I wonder how you stop this happening - coats perhaps?) Some of the black fleeces were so matted they were almost felted into little rugs, and unusable for spinning.
Much picking through ensued, sorting out the usable fibre, then washing it with many many rinses and leaving it to dry. After that I had a selection of lovely locks. The fleece pictured above gave a small amount of white fleece, and a larger amount of grey - you can see the range below in the washed locks.
After that there were hours of combing the fleece - this may have been easier with a better fleece, but it was slow work, teasing out the locks. I combed it with two small hand-combs, making about 3 passes between each comb, then pulling off a roll of top from them.

Then it was spun into yarn - some of it fairly lumpy - the black in particular as it was a more matted fleece to begin with and I only have a certain amount of patience with combing...

I have yet to decide what to knit from it. I felt some stranded colourwork a la Shetland would be most fitting, but as I am not massively fond of colourwork I am waiting for the right pattern.

I used some of it for a felted artwork, of which more anon...

The whole process was definitely a labour of love. The huge majority of the time in processing the fleece was spent preparing it for spinning, and the littlest time to actually spin it. It gave me a whole new level of respect for the process, and made me realise that the preparation is where it's at.

I remember reading in Lilias Mitchell's Irish Spinning, Weaving and Dyeing about families in Ireland producing their own wool - the older people spun and the younger ones all carded. The spinners would be annoyed if the wool wasn't carded well by the younger and less experienced members of the family - I can really see why now. You cannot make up for insufficient carding or combing while spinning.

I cannot imagine preparing enough wool to spin your own yarn to make clothes for a whole family, and thankfully I don't have to, but it was really worth doing, if only to see the sheer (no pun intended!) work involved in something I thought of as relatively straightforward.

I continue to use a mixture of prepared tops and raw fleeces to spin with, but have to admit I love the spinning and not the preparation so will be known as one of those lazy spinners who gets a helping hand from mechanical carding and combing machines. Hooray for machines!

Wovember guest post

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wovember Giveaway!


In celebration of Wovember and all things woolly and sheepish, I am having a Wovember Giveaway here.
To be in with a chance to win your very own Needle Felt Sheep Kit, just leave a comment on this post saying which sheep's wool you most like to work with. (If you haven't worked with sheep's wool before then maybe there is a wool you would like to try... there are so many out there - Shetland, Wicklow Cheviot, Galway...)
Poor sheepy fell over....

At the end of the month, I shall pull a name out of a hat and send the winner a Needle Felt Sheep Kit from my Etsy store. Yay sheep!!!

Molotov Cocktail Knitting Pattern

The Molotov Cocktail pattern I made last June is finally up for sale on Ravelry, hooray!
It part of the weapons series, with others such as the Dynamite Bomb, Bomb and CCTV camera.

It is knit in separate pieces and then sewn together. The bottle is knit in the round as one piece and stuffed as you go. The rag is a small flat square, and the flames are knit individually in garter stitch, using wrap & turn short rows asymmetrically on either end to give them a fiery look.

The pattern calls for Lamb's Pride Worsted (the best bottle green I could find on a trip to Dublin) but any yarn could be used as gauge is not important.

It is suitable for an intermediate knitter.

You can buy it here - this link will take you to Paypal and then Ravelry will send you on the pattern:

...for the sum of three euro fifty.

Or just visit the Ravelry pattern page here.

Or you can buy it on Etsy too.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This is not about christmas....

...although this post appears quite christmasish.... is actually a post about wool.
Wovember - Kate and Felix's great project launched this month has inspired me to go one step further with my craft kits. I have just added these two sewing kits to my etsy shop - a robin and a set of trees. They were previously made with polyfil stuffing, which I was never happy with. One of the things I love most about my kits is that a large percentage of them is actually bio-degradable. So the stuffing was bothering me. After some head-scratching and number crunching I have decided to go for 100% wool stuffing in the kits. Yay!
There it is, in all its woolly grey glory!
I have just written a guest post for Wovember all about why I love wool (out sometime this week) and in reminding myself of why I choose wool and natural materials I found I had to make this change in the kits too.

Its been great to visit Wovember and see how many people there are out there who love wool too, and want to see more of it, want to see items labeled wool to be made of actual wool.

Its definitely been a difficult call for the craft kits. I spend more money on materials to buy what I feel are better materials - 100% wool felt, recycled bubble-wrap and compostable packaging. So its always nice to be inspired by something like Wovember to include even more wool and get rid of the synthetic rubbish just waiting to fill a landfill for the rest of its life.
The robin loves wool too!

Friday, November 11, 2011


In celebration of today's date, I felt I should again share this photo. Happy day of one-ness!
(Sorry about the dusty dashboard!)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Art Trail at Hunter's Moon

Here are the artists whose work was on display at the festival. Click on any photo to embiggen.

Above, Eva Walsh's installation of cast deer jaw-bones. Eva cast some in beeswax, which she painted gold and some in uranium glass. Under UV light, these glowed a bright green, casting an eerie fairy-tale light in the space.
Helen McBride's photographs. Helen took dark double exposure photographs of animals, the moon and other subjects.
An installation from my own selection of puppets and taxidermy. A graveside picnic of tortured souls.

Glyn Smyth of Scrawled Design's gig and band posters.

A spontaneous and mysterious exhibition which appeared in a shop window in the town... We were glad to see the mood of the festival inspired artists to get out there and show their wares!

Tim Kerr's vibrant and amazing paintings were on display in the Dock Coffee Shop. The top photo is rather dark, so I included this shot of one of the prints for sale in the box office too.
I also failed to get a good photo of Karen Constance's strange and surreal, cartoon-like paintings, but here is an example above.
Some pieces by Jane Lives, in pen and ink, print and lace.

Paintings by Elizabeth Archbold. A series of empty landscapes - dark and evocative.
Ciaran Coghlan's very popular bird paintings. A whole flock graced our walls.

The Deer Ladies, by Helen McDonnell, a Belfast-based tattooist, with sound installation by Hornby. Delicate sculptures made of sellotape and tissue paper, and embroidered with bold tattoo-like designs, each with autobiographical significance to Helen.
And finally Kit Fryatt, our wandering plague doctor poet, captivating some meat-related-articles.
We ended the shows on Sunday night with a Day of the Dead Procession, (fancy dress of course!) which visited all the artworks. Artists gave short talks on their work and answered questions, which gave people a lot of insight into the works.

All in all, it was hugely successful, with a lot of visitors over the weekend - both festival-goers and people living in the town. I was also happy to see work sold too. Lets hope we can do it again next year!