Felting – What’s it all about?

It was a sultry evening in mid July, when fourteen ladies gathered in Crafty Birds to learn about the art of dry felting. Our tutor for the evening was the lovely Maxine, who guided us felting virgins expertly through our first attempts at creating a landscape picture with sheep.

Personally, I knew almost nothing about felting; I knew that there were two types, wet and dry and that all the felted objects I had seen, and sold in the shop, were beautifully coloured and felt incredibly lovely to hold. But how one got from a piece of unbleached wool, some needles and something that looked like a large scrubbing brush (the items each student was presented with when they sat down), to our target piece of art was a complete mystery.

Turns out that the scrubbing brush was the base on which the piece of unbleached wool was battered with needles until it was affixed to a piece of canvas. This initial stage was surprisingly satisfying and, judging by the amount of enthusiasm shown by my fellow students, I wasn’t the only one who thought this!

Fay and Marie getting in the swing of things!!!

The next stage was to build up a landscape with pieces of coloured wool, layered carefully and artfully over the neutral. Most of the people in our group, (those with a good idea for colour) soon had a credible looking sky and were able to move onto the hilly bit of the landscape. After a quick look around, I realised that my (I thought) pretty colour scheme, rather than resembling a summer afternoon or spectacular sunset, either of which I would have been happy with, was rather more towards the fantasy end of the pastoral spectrum . Luckily, felting is very forgiving and with a bit of unpicking and some advice from Maxine, it was salvaged enough for me to attempt some rather Martian looking hills.

So many colours to choose!

Once the background was (more or less) in place, we had a break, with cake (of course) and compared our efforts so far. “It always amazes me,” said Maxine, “that you give people the same material and the same instructions and you end up with such variety.”

The next stage was to build up the shade and tonal quality of the hills, choose different types of flora and make a decision about how many sheep we were going to add. I went with two sheep, because at the layering of threads to create flowers stage, I had added quite a large tree, which took up a large chunk of the foreground, but there were quite a few people who went for three. For these tertiary stages, we used fluffy pieces of wool for depth, battered satisfyingly down and then refined with a single needle around the edges .

Suddenly it all seemed to come together like a magic trick and Maxine collected the pieces as they were finished and framed each one, so that it could put on a wall forever.

All the ladies who came, from 9 year old Sophie to the 79 year old great grandmother took home a framed picture. Mine will be going up in my newly decorated sewing room. (more about that in another post!).

We have had some lovely feedback on the evening with many of the attendees keen to do another session and the lovely Maxine whetting appetites with promises of a seascape and seagulls next time!

With that in mind, we are planning to host two more felting evenings in the early autumn. Details of dates and times for these and our complete autumn programme of courses and event will be posted on Facebook and on the shop door in the next week. Don’t forget to sign up early to avoid disappointment.

Thanks for reading and…keep crafting!

The Crafty Birds xxx

The Crafty Birds Interview – Gardener Jan

Hello again Crafters! We know that you all love an interview and this time we are talking to the incredibly talented Jan Partingham aka Florielle Crafts. Jan (aka Florielle Crafts) displays wooden objects and beautiful hand made flowers in the shop, but she has a second career as a grower of live flowers – doubly talented!

This is Jan’s current display in the shop –

Me – So Jan, thanks for taking the time today to answer some questions about you and what you do. Let’s start with the obvious question, how did you first get into crafting?

Jan – Well, I had been making greetings cards for a while and I was just feeling a bit bored, so I decided to do something else. I wasn’t sure what to do at first and then I saw a scrollsaw in a Christmas Sale and my hubby asked if I’d like it for Christmas! I bought myself a pyrography iron at the same time. Note to readers – A  pyrography iron is a pen-like wood burning tool with a metal end through which heat is transferred to a removable tip. Isn’t it amazing, the things you learn!

And here is Jan, hard at it in her workshop at home!

Me – Was there any one person that influenced your craftiness?

Jan – I didn’t have anybody who influenced me, so no idea where the need to craft came from!

Me – So when the need to create something that wasn’t a greetings card came over you, why did you choose wood instead of something like crochet? It seems like an unusual medium for someone, who has no experience or influence, to pick.

Jan – (laughing). I didn’t really choose wood – I had a huge stock of Birch faced plywood given to me for firewood which I thought was too good to burn. I decided to cut it into useful items. It escalated from there.

Me – What was your first crafting/wood project?

Jan – My first wood project was a set of coasters, which were very badly made because I didn’t have all the equipment needed to do a good job! Lots of sanding by hand, resulting in not-very-round coasters!

Me – You’ve come a long way since then! The work you display in the shop in beautifully made. When did you decide to start selling your stuff?

Jan – I started selling my stuff when I was happy  with the finished product and got lots of nice compliments! I started noticing ads for Craft Fairs and thought I’d give it a try.  I have now sold in several galleries around Shropshire, and, of course, in the lovely Crafty Birds! 

Me – Do you have a favourite thing ever that you have made?

Jan – I think my wildlife coasters are probably my favourite, especially the bee ones. 

Here are some of those coasters in progress!

Me – Me too! And as you know, I bought some of those for my Mum for Christmas.

Here are some of Jan’s coaters as works in progress

Jan – I love making the flowers too, I find it very relaxing.

Me – Your flowers are my second fav! Would you say that they are your favourite of your current  lines?

Jan – Not sure… out of my current lines, I think my favourite my rustic hanging wildlife slices. I love the wild animals paper I use on them. Also, I like to make something special and personal for each of my granddaughters on their birthdays. I have 5 beautiful granddaughters

Me – Was the name of your crafting company inspired by any of their names?

Jan – (Laughing again). That would be a beautiful name, wouldn’t it? But no, the name Florielle Crafts came from a particularly pretty Pilkington glass we had fitted in our back door! It was a floral design and flowers have always been a passion of mine.

Me – But crafting isn’t your only job is it? I am calling this blog post Jan the Gardener for a reason. I hope I’ve got that right?

Jan – Yes, absolutely! My ‘day job’ is as a Nurseryman . We specialising in Nursery Stock Production. I’ve been growing plants since I was 3 years old!

Me – So you really are a busy lady! Ok, Jan, you’ve read our interviews, are you ready for the quick fire questions?

Jan – Ready!

Me – What is your favourite food?

Jan -Ooow – dunno!

Me – I have to push you…

Jan – If I’m pushed, I’d have to go for cheese and Marmite!

Me – Yum! Good Choice. What colour eyes do you have?

Jan – Green

Me – Star Sign?

Jan – Libra

Me – What colour is your car?

Jan – I drive a white van with pesto green vinyl on the side, which will soon sport a lot of colourful vinyl flowers, when the weather warms up enough to apply them. 

Me – That could also be your fun fact! But I’m going to ask you for another please…

Jan – I’d love to live in an Ironage Roundhouse. Hubby won’t hear of it though. 

Me – Interesting! Are your pets as interesting?

Jan – I have 6 stick insects which I bred myself. They’re fascinating.  We are also dog-less for the first time in 40 years and are looking forward to getting another, when the time is right.

Me – You did mention that when you came in the shop last week. You also said that you were looking forward to some holidays for the first time in a while.

Jan – Oh yes! All our commitments have always made it difficult to go away, really excited about doing a bit of travelling

Me – I hope you have lots of fun! Thanks you so much for answering all my questions, I have one more – who was your teenage idol?

Jan – David Cassidy

Me – Another good choice!!! Thanks again for your time Jan and for letting us get to know you a little better!

And in case you missed it, Jan’s amazing work is on display in Crafty Birds, in Whitchurch. Come in and have a look!

Speak soon,

The Crafty Birds!

The Crafty Birds Interview – The Lovely Laura

Welcome back to the Crafty Birds blog and the second in a series of postings focussing on those talented people who occupy the left hand side of the shop – The Crafters.

This time, we are talking to The Lovely Laura, who runs our crochet classes. Now, I am ashamed to admit that, at the time we opened the shop, all I knew about crocheting was that you only used one needle, the patterns were different from sewing and knitting patterns and that, in the bankrupt stock that we bought, there was a lot of ‘crochet cotton’, which I vaguely remember my mother using to crochet and which I assumed was the stuff one used. Now, I know that the crochet ‘hook’, comes, in the manner of knitting needles, in various sizes, that you don’t necessarily need a pattern to start crocheting and that any yarn that you can use to knit with can also be used for crochet. However, the act of crocheting is still a mystery to me (I should probably take a class rather than watch bits and pieces in between serving customers), so, having watched people come in complete novices and leave proudly and happily clutching a square of work and then return the following week, totally enthused, for more yarn and to book on the Basic Plus course, I am totally in awe of Laura and her cleverness.

Here she is (the one with the pointy thing, I mean crochet hook), with some of her excited students. All the people in this picture went home with a piece of crochet that they had completed themselves (all except Laura, obviously) and the light of knowledge and enthusiasm for more in their eyes.

So onto the questions:

Me – So why did you start crafting Laura?

Laura – Well, I actually started crocheting, back in 2014. I was a primary school teacher at the time and I needed something to help me de stress.

Me – and did it help?

Laura – Oh hugely! I could only do hats at the time and I was churning them out at such a rate that I soon had a huge boxful and no idea what to do with it.

Me – So what did you do with it?

Laura – Well nothing at first. I just stopped making hats and started on toys instead. But then I realised I had an even larger box full of stuff I had made.

Me – So, you started selling it then?

Laura – That’s right. It was my husband who suggested that I get a craft stall at a local fair. He said to me, “wouldn’t it be funny if you ended up doing it as a business?”

Me – Did you take him seriously?

Laura – Not at first, but then I started making a bit of money from the fairs that I was doing and joined some craft groups, which were very supportive.

Me – So what was it that made you go into full time crafting then?

Laura – Well, after my husband retired last year, we decided to buy an industrial embroidery machine and to go into business. As well as the stuff I make for craft fairs and here (indicates the shop), we do customised towels and workwear.

Me – Which of what you make do you enjoy the most?

Laura – Oh the really crafty stuff – that’s my passion!

Me – So much less stressy than primary school teaching?

Laura – Oh much! Although I do supply work now, which is fine, easier to enjoy without having all the admin!

Me – and it is obvious that your background in teaching helps with your crochet classes.

Laura – I’m sure it does, although grown ups tend to be better behaved most of the time!

Me – Well thank you Laura, for your time today, would you mind if I just asked you some quick fire questions, to finish off?

Laura – Of course not!

Me – Great! – so give me a fun fact about you.

Laura – my glasses changed my life!

Me – Ok, not so quick fact – you’re going to need to expand on that…

Laura – Well they were a bit different, but I loved them and made the decision to have them, because I feel that I am just becoming the real me and they reflect that. I am so happy that I made the decision to have them.

This is a close up of Laura, looking happy, in the aforementioned glasses.

Me – Ok, next question – any more fun facts?

Laura – My name was engraved on a space craft that is now on Mars.

Me – Wow! Most dangerous thing you have ever done?

Laura – Camped in the wilds in Botswana – really scary!

Me – What makes you happy?

Laura – Being creative

Me – Favourite food

Laura – Cheese

Me – Any pets?

Laura – Four chickens, and a cat called Mungo

Me – Good cat name! What is your star sign?

Laura – Gemini

Me – Favourite colour?

Laura – Turquoise

Me – What colour is your car?

Laura – Dirty. But I think it’s meant to be black.

So – my thanks to Laura for being our subject today. Here are some pictures of the gorgeous goodies that she displays in Crafty Birds.

The Crafty Birds Interview – Niki the Knitter

We kicked off our ‘Learn to Knit’ course of classes on Saturday, starting, as the song says, at the very beginning – with the basics.

Here are the first two excited students to arrive.


…and here is Niki the incredible ( she’s incredible because I know how to knit and am fully aware how hard it is!) with some of her gorgeous work.

Niki had some time before the class started, so I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions and find out a little more about one of our crafters.

Me – So, Niki, you have obviously been knitting for ages, how did you start and who taught you?

Niki – My Grandmother taught me to knit and my Mum taught me sewing, when I was a very small child, but I really can’t remember a time when I couldn’t do either. I can crochet too – a very kind lady taught me about five years ago.

Me – And what aspect of your crafting life would you say you enjoy the most?

Niki – The socialising. It’s so great to share stuff with others and see what they have made. I’m a member of Wem Crafters and everyone there is really friendly and supportive. Crafting can be lonely and it’s lovely to have such a great support network.

Me – Have you always crafted?

Niki – I stopped for a while when my children were small.

Me – Do you have a big family then?

Niki – Well I have a son and a daughter of my own as well as two step daughter. We also fostered children for six years

Me – Wow – that’s quite a time and energy commitment! So there was no time for a quiet sit down with your knitting in those years then?

Niki – Not much! We really enjoyed the years when the family was small and then the time we spent as foster parents, but it is nice to be doing other things now. We still have family commitments of course, including our little Granddaughter, Ella, but they’re not so 24/7 anymore!

Me – Did you name your business, ‘Ella’s Boutique’ after your grandaughter?

Niki – I did! She is a such a treasure!

Me – So now our readers know you a little better, I am going to ask you some quick fire questions, just for fun. Is that ok?

Niki – Fine, go ahead!

Me – Ok, What makes you happy?

Niki – Crafting, socialising, family and friends

Me – Where do you do your crafting at home?

Niki – In the kitchen mainly!

Me – Fav food?

Niki – Cheese

Me – Fav colour?

Niki – Pink

Me – Colour of your car?

Niki – Blue

Me – Star sign?

Niki – Virgo

Me – Fav teenage poster?

Niki – Howard Jones

So – thank you to Niki for letting me have five minutes before the knitting course. As you may have noticed, from the pic above, Niki has some shelves of knitted goodies in Crafty Birds. Here are some more in-depth photos of her lovely stuff –

We are running another knitting course – Basic Plus on 27th April. This is intended as a follow on from the basic course, but would be suitable for anyone who knows how to knit, but maybe gets a bit knotted up with the complicated bits from time to time (like me!). There are spaces still available on this course and we will be running another Starter (Basic) knitting course too, date to be confirmed, for anyone who missed out on this one.

So, don’t forget where we are when you need a zip or a ball of wool, or a unique gift for a loved one, or just a chat! Hope to see you soon!

Keep Crafting!

The Crafty Birds XXX

Gifts and More

Welcome to March – our second month and a belated Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant (Happy St David’s Day) for the 1st of March, to all our readers, customers and crafters. The daffodils are out in my garden and, for a brief moment, it felt like spring was on the way. Of course, with spring our thoughts turn to three things (or at least they do at Crafty Birds) – Mothers’ Day, Easter and most importantly, new crafting courses!

Needless to say, we are accommodating all three – our current window is displaying beautiful gifts for the mother in your life and inside we have more amazing ideas too. Caroline Ball, one of our crafters has come up with a unique idea, an enchanting wooden plaque of a child’s artwork:

Just bring along a drawing and she will wire burn and seal it onto wood for you to treasure forever.

Of course, a great gift for Mum would be a place on one of our crafting courses. Courses start from £15 for a two hour session. We are really excited to have just confirmed the date for our first felting course on 11th May and we still have some places left on both knitting and crocheting workshops for next month. To secure a place, email us at crafty.birds@yahoo.com, message us on Facebook, or just pop in for a chat.

We will be doing some close up and personal interviews with the ladies that run our courses over the next few months, starting with the lovely Laura in the next blog posting. So watch this space fort live insights into the minds of crafters!

Speaking of live insights, we held our second Knit and Natter in the shop this morning, hosted by Gill, and I popped along to get some feedback.

Interestingly, none of our ladies have been regulars at a Knit and Natter before, but have enjoyed both of the Friday mornings they have spent with us. There was lots of laughing going on when I arrived out of the rain (obviously, spring has not yet sprung, after all!). Lashings of cake and tea were helping the party along, but there was a fair bit of knitting happening too.

We feel that these sessions, as well as giving experienced knitters a chance to meet, would be great for less confident beginners or people (like me!) who haven’t knitted for a while. Everyone is friendly and you get a cuppa too!

So, as it is my day off, I’m going to head for my craft room and turn on my sewing machine. Don’t forget to watch for The Interview with Laura next time!

Speak Soon and Keep Crafting!

The Crafty Birds 🙂

Crochet – The Whole Story

So our first workshop has been, well, workshopped.

All the basic crocheters worked really hard for what proved to be quite an intense first hour. Then, after a pause for a cuppa and a some cake (There seems to be theme emerging here – we don’t eat cake ALL the time – honestly), it was back to it. By 2pm we were all chatting like old friends and all the students had mastered the basic stitches and left smiling with their own piece of hand made crochet, a crochet hook, written instructions and a thirst for more! (Watch this space for news of our intermediate courses, later in the year!)

We had such a good time, in fact, that I clean forgot to take any photos of the class. However, here is the table where it happened –


…and all the cake that was left

Many thanks to the Lovely Laura for doing her stuff so wonderfully and for helping us to eat the cake!

Laura’s independent crafts are on sale in the shop. Please feel free to pop in and have a look.

And by popular demand, and due to our second Basic Crochet Class filling as soon as it was announced, Laura will be running a THIRD, on Saturday 23rd April. There are still a few spaces left for all you would be crocheters out there, who have missed out so far – but hurry as this one is filling up fast.

If you are not quick enough for the crochet, or would rather learn how do something different, or something extra, our first basic knitting course will be on Saturday 23rd March. Again, don’t think about it for too long if you don’t want to miss out!

Also, don’t forget about our knit and natter which starts on Friday 1st March at 10 30. Psst – you can bring your crochet if you like – we have only not called it a knit and crochet natter as that would have spoiled the alliterative integrity, and how awful would that have been???

By the way, every time you come on one of our courses (or attend the knit and natter), you are eligible for a stamp on your loyalty card. Five stamps and you get 10% off your next purchase in the shop.

Watch our Facebook page for more details of all our courses, workshops and get togethers, or call into the shop and have a chat.

Speak soon – and keep crafting!

The Crafty Birds xxx

The First Week

We have been open for one week! We are not sure what the word is for that – week – versary? One weekary? first week – versify? Whatever…

Last Saturday was an unbelievably magical day for us. We would like to thank everyone who came and supported us and celebrated our opening with a glass and a slice. And an especial thanks to those of you who came, and then came back again to buy what you had wanted on Saturday, but hadn’t been able to because there were too many people in the shop, I’ll just say that again – BECAUSE THERE WERE TOO MANY PEOPLE IN THE SHOP!!!! (I would insert a smiley emoji here, but I haven’t actually found them yet on this blog software, so please just imagine there is one).

As well as enjoying our first full week of trading we have also been busy behind the scenes. We suspect that most of the crafting community in Whitchurch probably knows by now that we have bought the stock from the closed down wool and craft shop two doors up from ours. Part of the agreement was that we would not only move the stock, but clear the unit, ready for the new tenant that the landlord hopes he will soon have.

Half way through the week, we had begun to wonder if we had bitten off more than we could chew as we took turns spending an hour shifting stock, clearing stuff that we couldn’t use and dismantling fixtures and fittings. On Wednesday, my daughter’s boyfriend did a couple of tip runs and on Saturday the muscle, in the form of our husbands turned up and spent most of the day helping us to move the bits that were bigger than one woman could manage on her own. At close of play, ie when the men buggered off, the floor and the walls were visible for first time for what felt like a very long time.

The downside of having so much stock of course is that we have nowhere to store it in the shop. So we have had to be a little imaginative and for a couple of days I drove around with a car that was so full of wool that I couldn’t see out of the back window or find a place on the passenger seat for my handbag, until we were able to decant it into either Gill’s shed or my dining room.

Next Saturday, we will be holding our first workshop, Basic Crochet, conducted by the lovely Laura. It has proved so popular that we are running a second one in March for the overflow! There are still a couple of places left on the March course, so if you can’t crochet, but wish you could, why not sign up? It will be happening on Saturday 16th March between 12pm and 2pm.

So as we set sail into our second week, please pop and see us if you are in the area (or make a special trip!), we would love to see you!

Speak soon

The Crafty Birds

xxx

It’s Tomorrow!

So – all you lovely people, here we go! At 10 am tomorrow morning we will be opening for business! We would love you to come along and support us.

The Mayor will be joining the party to cut the (pink) ribbon and after that we will be celebrating the return of the Wonderful World of Crafting (in shop form) to Whitchurch with some bucks fizz (currently chillin’ in the fridge) – or just some bucks if it’s a little early – and some amazing cake, both home made and from the Watergate Bakery (if you haven’t tried their cake, then you haven’t lived and their bread is pretty amazing too).

We have had an exhausting, but amazing couple of days, filled with too much coffee and cake (well we had to taste it) and lots of laughter. Our crafters have done a wonderful job of displaying their beautiful handmade crafts and we feel our bit of the shop looks pretty good as well!


So having spent the last three weeks painting, building display cases, arranging haberdashery, fabric and wool, pricing stock, completing our window display and lots and lots of other stuff, our to do list for tomorrow morning is as follows:

  1. Wake up
  2. Drink coffee
  3. Get to shop at around 8 30
  4. Drink coffee and maybe have a little taste of the cake to get us going
  5. Tweak bits and pieces in the shop
  6. Vacuum
  7. Put out glasses and plates
  8. Cut cake
  9. Sample cake
  10. Drink coffee (to go with the cake)
  11. Tweak bits and pieces in the shop
  12. Stand around nervously hoping someone will turn up and eat the rest of the cake

So please come along, because we can’t eat it all and also because we would love to see you and for you to see our shop and love it as much as we do!

See you soon

The Crafty Birds XXX

THE BEGINNING

Hi there crafty people, I thought I would start our journey blog on this cold frosty morning with an insight as to how Crafty Birds came about. Crafty Birds is myself, Gill and my business partner Sarah who approached me on opening a crafty shop in town. A few business meetings later, a few brain storming sessions on the name and “Crafty Birds” was born.

Well, I’m writing this with only two days to go to opening day and there is still so much to do and not enough hours in the day, but hey, it will be worthwhile when we open the doors at 10.00 am on Saturday 2nd February, well, that’s what I keep telling myself!

The shop also showcases some local talented artisans with their handcrafted gifts and bespoke items so please make sure you keep up to date with whats in store.

This blog will bring lots of news, meet the maker, tutorials and much more over the coming months. We will be holding regular workshops, socials and knit and natter so I’m sure we will be kept busy.

I think that’s it for now folks, stay warm and happy crafting !!