Going Crafting?! Alpaca My Bags!

I’m afraid I’ve been a bit rubbish at writing blog posts lately.  I have been a little distracted as we’ve been going through the process of selling our house and are now trying to buy another one.  Despite this though I have still found a bit of time to sew so I have a few projects that I will hopefully get round to posting about soon!  But first I thought I’d write a post about a workshop I went on a few weeks ago…

A few weeks ago I attended the Fleece Craft Discovery workshop at Charnwood Forest Alpacas with 2 of my work friends, Jen & Johanna.  This was my third crafty workshop of the year so far, which I’m pretty pleased with!  We were very excited about this workshop and, of course, about meeting some alpacas…I’m sure they’ll have heard us coming as soon as we started down the drive as we were squealing at every alpaca in sight!

The Fleece Craft Discovery workshop is a full day workshop starting at 09:45 and running through until 16:00.  The workshop introduces you to the crafts of spinning, needle felting, wet felting, and weaving.

Fiona started the day by talking us through all the various types of natural fibre available from both plants and animals and handing around various samples for us to feel and guess where they came from.  Perhaps the most unusual that I hadn’t come across before was fibre from banana plants!  Apparently it has similar properties to silk, but is obviously produced in a more ethical way.

The first craft we got to try was spinning using a drop spindle.  Fiona gave us all some fibre and then talked us through the steps in stages starting with pre-drafting.  Pre-drafting is the process of thinning down your fibre so you don’t just end up spinning a super chunky yarn.  We split our fibres into 4 strips and then worked along each strip in turn with our hands roughly 4-6 inches apart and gently pulled so each strip became longer and thinner.  Once we’d prepped our fibre Fiona showed us how to get going on the drop spindle.  I struggled to get the hang of it to start with so didn’t think spinning was for me, but towards the end I did feel like I was starting to get it and that perhaps with more practice the penny might drop.  However, I’m not sure I could ever see myself starting completely from scratch and managing to spin enough yarn for me to actually make something…I’m too impatient and just want to get going with the main project!

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Spinning © 2016 Jennifer Richardson

The second craft we tackled was needle felting.  We used cookie cutters to create a needle felted shape and we had enough time to produce 2 items.  I went for a flower and a heart.  I’m looking forward to making use of the cookie cutters I have at home.

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Needle felting © 2016 Jennifer Richardson

We then stopped for a very tasty lunch of bake potatoes with salad, which was included in the workshop fee.  Before we got back to crafting Fiona took us to meet the alpacas!  There looked to be some real characters amongst them and I think they always look like they’re smiling!  We decided we’ll have to go back to do one of the alpaca walks some time.

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Alpacas! © 2016 Jennifer Richardson

After lunch we got going with the third craft of the day, wet felting.  This was the messiest of the 4 crafts and the one we had all be looking forward to trying most.  I did have a go at wet felting years a go back at college, but I couldn’t remember all the steps.  I have recently seen pieces of work people have done where they’ve made a piece of felt and then machine embroidered on top of it and would really like to give this a go.

For this session Fiona showed us how to make a flower and talked us through all the steps starting with layering up the fibres for the background and then adding any detail on top.  We then laid a piece of netting over our design and soaked it with water using a spray bottle before massaging a little bit of washing up liquid into the fibres to get them to fuse together.  After doing this to 1 side, we then flipped the design over and shaped it by folding the edges to the back.  We then put the netting back over the top and repeated the process of rubbing washing up liquid into the fibres.  Once we were happy the fibres were holding together, we removed the netting and sandwiched our design between bubble wrap.  We then used the rolling technique to squeeze water out of the design and in doing so making it shrink and become tougher.  We kept repeating this process, but turning our design in between in order to keep an even shape.  Finally, we rinsed our design off in a bowl of water to remove any remaining soap.  We had enough time to repeat the process to produce a leaf to go with our flower.

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Wet felting © 2016 Jennifer Richardson

The fourth and final craft of the day was weaving using a peg loom.  Fiona produced a big basket full of different yarns from which we could pick from.  This was quite a relaxing way to finish the day.  I incorporated the yarn I spun at the beginning of the day into my design as I thought it would be a good way to use it and it added a bit of variation.

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Weaving © 2016 Jennifer Richardson

At the end of the day we had the opportunity to buy some of the kits to get going at home.  I couldn’t resist buying the needle felting and wet felting kits at £15 each!  So I’m looking forward to getting stuck into those!

We had such a fun day on the workshop.  The course was really well structured giving us plenty of time to try each craft and produce something to take home.  Fiona was a great instructor who is very friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about wool crafts.  All materials were included in the workshop fee as well as lunch so you don’t have to take anything along.  I would highly recommend this workshop to anyone wanting to have a go at spinning, needle felting, wet felting, and weaving.  Fiona said that they are planning to run more workshops focusing on the individual crafts so hopefully I’ll get to go on one of them sometime.

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