Events and classes

It’s great to get out and about to look at interesting things, meet like-minded folk, and maybe even learn a thing or too.

Since the last issue managed to find the time to attend a few exhibitions and classes.  Deirdre also managed to go to Unravel, but sadly missed The Edinburgh Yarn Festival after one of her dogs injured his leg.

Introduction to Medieval Textile Crafts

The National Heritage Park in Wexford was the location for a fibre fun packed day, hosted by Léine Medieval Crafters.

Léine Medieval Crafters are a voluntary, self-taught and self-funded group, interested in early medieval life, specifically the crafts, clothing and food. They research, explore, share and demonstrate the skills of the medieval homestead.  Located in Waterford in South-East Ireland where the Norsemen settled over a thousand years ago, they have a particular interest in Vikings.

Olann and out and about
Olann and out and about

Myself and five other attendees were greeted by four lovely ladies Shirley, Liz, Katherine and Marianna.  All four were dressed in traditional medieval costume (I’d wear it everyday myself), as were Hazel (Katherine’s daughter) and Lilla (Marianna’s daughter).

There was a lot to squeeze in to the day and after a quick cup of tea, Shirley launched straight into talking about her warp-weighted loom.  Shirley describes herself as a builder of looms, rather than a weaver as she prefers wood to cloth.  The loom she had made was magnificent, standing 7ft tall and 4ft 6” wide, so she can transport it to Living History events and demonstrations.  Traditional looms, would have been a foot taller, much, much wider and were not intended to be moved.  Used since the Neolithic era, warp weighted looms were still being used until the early 20th century for weaving blankets.

Olann and out and about

Shirley, ran through the different parts of the loom, its role and some necessary weaving terminology. She made the loom herself, using modern versions of the traditional tools that would have been available, and hard work.  Shirley demonstrated how cloth would have been woven on the loom.  The loom stands upright and because it’s weighted at the bottom, you have to work your cloth from the top down.  I weave a little myself and was staggered by how labour intensive weaving on such a large, upright loom was.  Making a length of cloth on the large warp weighted loom is one thing, but it’s difficult to comprehend the amount of work involved in weaving cloth to make sails.

Shirley’s interest in warp weighted looms transfers over into her knowledge of the equipment and she graciously shared her instructions on how to build our own looms.  An article written by Shirley was recently published in the magazine Archaeology Ireland, Autumn 2015 issue.

Olann and out and about
A large eyed plastic needle works fine
Olann and out and about
Olann and Out and about
That's a hat in the basket of samples

With no time to waste, we split up into two separate groups and one half of us moved on to have a go at Naalbinding, while the others tried their hand at spinning with a drop spindle.

I have to admit to having a genuine curiosity about Naalbinding and was thrilled to have the opportunity to give it a go.  I wrongly assumed there would be a limited number of different stitches and was completely unaware that there are some 60 different ones.  Using what is in effect a larger sewing needle and yarn to create knots, Naalbinding is more time consuming then knitting or crochet.  However, the resulting fabric/garment would be virtually indestructible because each stitch is individually knotted in place.  When cut, the fabric doesn’t really fray or run in the same way a knitted piece of cloth would.

Naalbinding (nålbinding, nålebinding nålbindning or naalebinding) is an ancient form of fabric production pre-dating both knitting and crochet.  The oldest known samples of Naalbinding include the colour-patterned sandal socks of the Coptic Christians of Egypt (4th century CE).  See here for more information.

Creating the stitches is quite therapeutic and the repetition falls into a kind of rhythm, allowing you to become quite quick with practice. Katherine showed us examples of hats, mittens and socks she had made using Naalbinding and sample swatches of some of the different stitches.  We spent the remainder of the morning before lunch learning two of the more basic stitches; the Oslo and then the York Stitch (please note names of stitches are not standardised and may be known by other terms too).

After several practice runs, I think I’d begun to get the hang of it a little and would love to expand my knowledge of the stitches and maybe eventually make a hat.  A quick break for lunch in the Heritage Centre and then we returned to our work, learning how to make increases and decreases for shaping.  Interestingly, the techniques are very similar to those you would use in crochet.

Switching over, we then tried our hand at drop-spinning, with Liz as our teacher.  As some of you will know, I am currently trying to learn to spin on my wheel Buttercup and can already see how much I’ve improved.  For some reason though, spinning on a drop spindle just isn’t working for me, so I was keen to have another go.

Olann and out and about
Olann and out and about
Olann and out and about

We used a wooden drop-spindle but the Vikings are more likely to have used a clay whorl and either a bone or wooden spindle stick.  Regardless of the type of spindle the technique is still the same and the type of spindle you use is a matter of personal preference.

Olann and out and about

I did manage to make a little yarn with Liz’s careful (and patient) teaching, but I’m definitely more competent on my wheel.  I seem to be ok for a little while, but as soon as there is any build up of spun yarn around the spindle, I start to get into a right tangle.

Unfortunately, I had to leave about an hour before the ladies finished up, which meant I missed the end of the session.  However, if you’ve even a passing interest in Medieval fibre crafts get in touch with the group at

There is a Léine Medieval Crafters Facebook Group. It’s public, but you have to request to be added to the group.  Find the page here

Love Knot Exhibition

In February, we managed to pop along to Bishopstown Library to catch the Cork Textiles Exhibition, Love Knot.  Fo the month that was in it, with love in the air it was collectively decided that an exhibition with a Valentine’s theme would be appropriate.

Olann and out and about
Olann and out and about

“Love Knot” became the title and members were asked to creatively interpret this theme and present their work in an 8”x8” format. These dimensions ensured a uniformity of presentation to tie in with the site specific nature of the location – upstairs in the library. There were 20 exhibits in total, which featured work by 15 members of the network.

Olann and Out and about

Sally Heweston

Love is a thing with flowers

Olann and Out and about

Lesley Stothers

Love Tokens – Love, adore, cherish

Olann and Out and about

Frances Crowe

Love Songs

Olann and Out and about

Sara O’Hara


Olann and Out and about

Dara Healy

Bound together

Olann and Out and about

Arlene Shawcross

Rose Melody

It was interesting to see how each of the members interpreted the brief and used different materials and techniques to complete their piece(s).  Each person’s work was very different to the next, with the maker’s individual style shining through.

There were no prizes awarded for this particular exhibition, as it was purely an opportunity for members to take part and showcase their work.

Felting ‘Basics & Beyond’ workshop with Feltmakers Ireland

We attended Feltmakers Ireland’s ‘Basic and Beyond’ felting workshop on Saturday, 23rd January in Lucan, Co Dublin. Both of us had a little experience with felting (we did one workshop a couple of years ago) and we were excited to take that experience to the next level.

The workshop took place in a wonderful, bright and airy church hall in Lucan Village. There were 24 people attending the workshop and we were divided into three groups of eight. Each group had a dedicated teacher, and we were lucky enough to have the fabulous Maureen Cromer guiding us on the day.

Isn’t Maureen’s dress fabulous?

She made it herself and assured us it didn’t take too long.  The fabric is light and as you can see in the photograph, it has a great drape to it.

Olann and out and about
Olann and out and about

It was a full-day workshop, running from 10am to 4:30pm.  We had been sent on a list of items to bring from home.

We were then provided with a nice little pack with felting essentials, including all the wool we would need, the roller, bubble wrap and the interfacing.

Our first task for the day was getting to grips with the basics – simply felting some undyed Blue Faced Leicester wool, and learning the different steps of the process. Maureen was a super instructor – patiently demonstrating the process and making sure we were on the right track…and cracking the whip a little when we started slowing down with the 100 rolls (phew!). It was amazing to see how the use of water, soap and friction can transform strands of wool into a solid piece of felt.

Next up, Maureen showed us how different types of fibre look when felted. We worked with Blue Faced Leicester, Wensyldale, Mohair and silk. We placed strands of each fibre in four corners with slight overlapping, creating one single piece of felt with four very different finishes. This was an interesting task that gave a great insight into different fibres’ reaction to being felted, and is good information to have when choosing fibres for future projects.

Olann and out and about
Olann and out and about

Our third project of the day was to create a 3D piece. We branched out a bit with colour in this task and also introduced other materials or embellishments into the felted piece. Lora created a needle case and Deirdre a small coin purse. To get the 3D effect we wrapped the fibre around the interfacing and felted both sides. Once felted we were able to make a cut and remove the interfacing; typically the cut will be the opening of your bag, purse, case, etc. This was a great project where we could experiment a little with colour combinations and embellishments. We were provided with a large jar of embellished goodies, from silk material to strands of gold fibre. The final projects at our table of eight were extremely varied.

Deirdre's coin purse
Lora's needle case

A quick break for lunch and we were back to our table and moving on to our final project of the day: a flower. At first glance the flower seemed very daunting but Maureen’s expert teaching made it seem easy. We first made the stem of the flower, which took a significant amount of rolling (felters are a strong bunch). Once that was finished we chose our colours for the flower itself, laid the fibre out and felted the stem onto the flower. It all seemed to happen so quickly and before we knew it we had created beautiful, realistic flowers.

Deirdre's felted flower
Lora's felted flower

Though it was a long day, it was extremely enjoyable. We left the workshop feeling very satisfied with our projects. It was great to have two finished projects, and we both felt confident that we are well equipped now to felt on our own and create some more pieces in the future (we just need to work on building up those arm muscles!).

Feltmakers Ireland run workshops and ‘play day’s throughout the year. Anyone with even a passing interest in felting should check out their courses. Information is available from their website.

Olann and out and about


We nearly forgot to mention all the lovely cakes that were provided by the group to accompany a cup of tea.