Out and About

We get out and about visiting events, exhibitions and crafty workshops around the country or sampling them from the comfort of our own homes

Cruinniú na Cásca Youghal

The Collegiate Church of St. Mary’s in Youghal hosted the Cruinniú na Cásca celebrations on Easter Monday. As part of the All-of-Government-Creative-Ireland Programme local authorities around the country hosted their own free, family-friendly Cruinniú na Cásca initiatives.

In Youghal, the festivities began at the Collegiate Church, before moving on to the Mall Arts Centre for the evening.  The day promised exhibitions, music, history and prose and we’d heard that a selection of Youghal Lace would be on show at the church, along with The Horgan Photographic Collection.

I joined a good friend and we made our way to the church, which is a beautiful building, very worthy of a separate visit itself.  The beamed roof is incredible, while the stained glass windows throw a rainbow of colours around the nave. Once through the door, it seemed rude not to sit a while and listen to some of the music and history, but eager to get to the lace, we slipped away and chatted to two of the lacemakers.

Youghal Lace has been a part of the town’s history since the 1800s.  Made entirely by needle with extremely fine cotton, hours and hours can be spent just making the smallest piece of fabric and the detail produced is fascinating. Keeping this craft alive, a small group of ladies meet up every Wednesday in the public library.

Pat O’Connor who had several pieces in the exhibition, has been making Youghal Lace for many years now and talked me through several of the items on show. Marjorie MacDonald is a complete wealth of information and her passion for Youghal Lace is infectious. Marjorie showed me photocopies of the original price lists to have something made and pictures of the shawl presented to the Princess of Wales in 1863 for her marriage to the Future King Edward VII.

One of the highlights of the event was the lace collar, an original piece of Youghal Lace from the Convent Lace School.

The small exhibition was delightful and has sparked our curiosity and we hope to revisit Youghal Lace in more detail in a future issue.

If you’re interested in joining the group, we have contact details that we can pass on if you email us.

Willow Sweet Pea Obelisk with Cathy Hayden

Bright and early, a good friend and I drove to Tramore for a morning of basketry with Cathy Hayden. Having previously attended a workshop with Cathy, Nora my friend has been eager to return to make a willow obelisk for her Sweet Peas. Ever on the lookout for something different to try, I was more than happy to join her.

Cathy learnt her craft 25 years ago from Joe Shanahan, who was the last in a long family line of traditional basketweavers. Many of you may be familiar with Cathy as she was one of the mentors on RTE’s Craftmaster programme.

Cathy’s workshop was the perfect setting – bright, spacious and super cosy with heat provided by the newly installed Rocket Stove. This in itself kept me intrigued for some while and I am guilty of having asked Cathy many questions about it (sorry Cathy).

Cathy grows all her own willow and once harvested it is left to dry before being used. I was surprised to learn that baskets aren’t made with green wood, instead the softer more pliable rods have been soaked in water before being used.

We were given the choice of two different sized obelisks to make and we set about choosing the branches from a bundle of unsoaked willow to create a strong, sturdy frame.  Once we had the right number of uprights, we were able to stand them into the helpful template Cathy has to stabilise the frame while you’re working.

The soaked willow that we used to weave around the uprights was much more flexible, although a good amount of physical work is involved in weaving the willow over and under, while keeping everything tightly held together.

As with anything new, getting started was a little awkward to begin with, but Cathy is a great teacher and before long, both Nora and I had some sort of a rhythm going. A half-time break for tea and chocolate biscuits was much welcomed, and my tired hands certainly benefited from a good flex and stretch under a cool running tap.

Straight back to work after, things did get a little tougher the higher up the frame you went. I’m not sure if that’s because my hands were getting tired, or because the spaces between the uprights was getting smaller. Maybe it was a combination of both. Cathy did say that making an obelisk, which needs to be woven tightly, is a very different experience to weaving a basket. So I guess I’ll have to book into one of Cathy’s basketmaking classes to see for myself (wink).

Like all crafters, the pleasure we get is in the making and the transformation that happens when you take a basic material, in this case willow, and watch as it becomes something completely different. The speed at which a few lengths of willow became a recognisable frame was amazing and if my hands were up to it, I could see myself becoming totally addicted to basket weaving.

Not only have I made something functional, but it’s really quite lovely, or at least I think so anyway. I can’t wait for my Sweet Peas to climb up and over the branches, although I’m not sure I’d like them to cover my lovely willow knots.

Bag Making Basics: Drawstring Bag and Bucket Bag, with Kristin Link

A few Saturdays ago I was due to attend a creative workshop that I had been looking forward to for some time.  Sadly, the class was cancelled due to a lack of numbers and I found myself at a bit of a loose end.

Rather than continue with one of my many works in progress, I thought I’d try one of the free classes available on Craftsy. I’m a big fan of the Craftsy platform as a way to learn and have taken several of the classes myself, but wanted to try something new to include here.

Kristin Link, the founder of Sew Mama Sew, an online fabric shop, blog and sewing forum, has two free bag making classes on Craftsy.  Both look interesting and after some deliberation I chose to go with the Bag Making Basics: Drawstring Bag and Bucket Bag option with a view to making the drawstring bag.

I downloaded the project notes and printed off the ones relevant to my project. Having rummaged through my fabric stash, I chose two brightly coloured fat quarters, one for the outside of the bag and another for the inside.  I watched the first four lessons of the workshop while ironing my fabric and gathering the bits and pieces listed.

Being able to watch what someone is doing, whether it’s in person or by means of a video, while having the written instructions to follow is a great way of learning.  This combination of methods ensures you understand what is being taught and Kristin is a great tutor, who you can tell is an experienced sewer. I have made plenty drawstring bags but deliberately followed the class to the letter, which meant I took full advantage of being able to pause, rewind and repeat.

Having read through everything and watched sections one to four of the class, I began cutting my material out.  It was at this point that I realised one was a little smaller than I needed and a little ‘fudging’ became necessary. Crisis averted, I completed my bag and am thrilled with how it turned out.

The drawstring part of the video runs for 45 minutes in total at an easy-to-follow pace. Kristin takes the time to explain each step of the process, while each step is filmed in detail. It makes a great little project bag, ideal for my latest sock WIP.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Sheep’s Head Yarn Festival

On Saturday 21st May, we made our way down to the beautiful West Cork peninsula of Sheep’s Head for the annual yarn festival. We’d visited the festival last year and had enjoyed ourselves so were keen to make the trip again.

Set in the small village of Kilcrohane, the event is a small festival focused on local indie yarn dyers and crafty makers. In attendance at this year’s festival were: Green Elephant Yarns, Strand Designs, Irish Fairytale Yarns, Eve and Apple Yarns, Seamrog Knits, Black Kat Designs, Time A Craft, and local felting artist XXXX.

All the exhibitors had clearly been busy and we were faced with wonderfully stocked stalls of colourful yarn and crafty designs. We chatted with all the exhibitors, who were all keen to talk about their wares. It’s a lovely informal event where the exhibitors support each other and create a nice community vibe.

After a couple of hours perusing the stalls, we headed to the Old Creamery cafe for a spot of lunch. Just like we found last year, the cafe is a lovely place for taking a break: it’s bright and open, with fabulous food and yummy cakes! We whiled away a couple of hours here ooing our purchases and chatting about the day so far.

Stomachs full, we headed back to the yarn market for one last look (just to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything!). The festival, which typically runs over two days, also hosts a range of workshops and a group get together on the Saturday evening.