Historic Craft

During most of 2013, Whipup.net will be hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

The theme for this month is Make It Local :: with Alexandra Smith of Lola Nova.

Today, Alexandra introduces Annie of knitsofactoAnnie is a blogger, photographer, knitter, natural dyer, and country girl who lives with her husband, four children, and six dogs in rural north Wales, UK.  She spends her days wrangling yarn and whippets, and dreaming of owning a wool shop and a proper dye house.

Old Woollen Mill #1

There are ancient cottages here, slate roofed and built of local stone, that look to have grown from the soil. That they were once scaffolding and whistling workmen is almost beyond comprehension. They belong to this land, this place, and it is impossible to imagine them existing elsewhere. Much the same might be said of the old fulling mill at Trefriw.

The woollen industry has been economically significant here since Hywel the Good ruled Wales and included in the annual ‘tribute’ paid to the English “one hundred pounds of wool”. But woollen cloth, before it truly has value, must be scoured and fulled to wash away grease and dirt and to close the weave. This was the first part of the woollen production process to be mechanised and is the part that requires the most water.

In Trefriw that water comes from the fast flowing river Crafnant, which also powered the waterwheel that powered the mill’s fulling hammers, and which today powers its turbines. Crafnant, or ‘the valley of the wild garlic’ … even now, when the wild garlic flowers, Trefriw is suffused with its scent. And I can’t help but wonder if, centuries ago, the same pungent fragrance that I smelt while there to take these photographs tickled the nostrils of the village’s weavers as they carried their cloth from cottage to mill to be fulled.

Old Woollen Mill #2

Wild garlic, or ramsoms, and the ubiquitous yellow gorse both proliferate here, the first a food plant the juices of which act as a natural moth repellent, the second a coconut smelling godsend to the dyer (and the maker of country wines!). But where once the dye house at Trefriw might have been heaped with bundles of gorse, today the dyeing process is all about chemistry. The almost-alchemy of the past is consigned to the archived dyer’s ‘receipt’ books, yet the old stone sinks remain beside the modern stainless steel dye vats. And waiting to be coloured, the knitting yarn they still spin here. To knit with yarn from Trefriw, now that’s making it local!

The women of Wales have long been knitters. An 18th century traveller once remarked of them: “I cannot speak too highly of [their] industry … always knitting as they walk along even with heavy loads upon their heads, they must make a number of stockings which I suppose they sell, for they will go bar foot and bar skin as they themselves term it.” He was right, they were knitting stockings for the ‘stocking men’, who travelled from door to door buying the finished goods for a pitiful three pennies a pair and stringing them onto poles which they carried on their shoulders.

This was piece work and these women were poor, so of necessity they knitted as they went about the business of their day, often with a baby or a toddler slung in a nursing shawl at their waist. They knitted – our traveller again – “during the whole business” of taking a beast to market, “though many of them held a horse or a cow” throughout. They knitted without benefit of a pattern, having learnt all the design skills and stitch combinations they needed at their mothers’ knees. And they knitted at knitting evenings held in each other’s cottage homes, nosweithiau gwau, where they would gather together to be sociable and to save on fuel, to knit by firelight and to gossip. Clearly stitch ‘n’ bitch is nothing new!

Old Woollen Mill #3

Trefriw’s principal product in recent years has been woven Welsh blankets not so very different to the traditional wedding coverlets, orcarthenni, that were made hereabouts in the past. Visit when the mill is working and you can see and hear – you’ll need to shout to be heard above them – the carding engines, spinning mules, and looms in action. My paternal grandfather worked in just such a mill, his days measured by the clackety-clack, clackety-clack, clackety-clack, clackety-clack, of the machines at the mill’s heart. He belonged in that mill just as the mill in turn belonged in the valley that supplied the stone from which it had been constructed, the water that powered it, and the generations of skilled craftsmen that kept it working.

If my grandfather had been born and raised in a different Welsh valley he might have quarried roofing slate or mined silver. But he was born where he was and so he did what men raised there did. It was in his bones. And that connection he had to place is something I fear we are losing and something I do not want to lose. The old woollen mill at Trefriw connects me to those who came before me. Men and women who made things local, and with wool, just as I do. Folk who knew where the wild garlic grows.

Old Woollen Mill #4



Jennifer Forest is the author of Jane Austen’s Sewing Box, Behind Jane Austen’s Door and Crafty Girls Talk. When she is not making something, she is reading, looking for something to read or admiring vintage hats. travels in my sewing box.

I love going to a craft class, you meet so many wonderful crafty women, each one with a love of creating and a story to share.  Be it a knitting workshop or a quilting bee, it doesn’t take long for the stories to start. If you’ve ever been on a crafty workshop you will know that crafty girls talk! And that’s where the idea for my third book, Crafty girls talk started: that crafty girls have fascinating stories to share, and that we all craft for many different reasons. While many crafty girls turn their passion into a business, other crafty girls make for family, friends or those in need.

I interviewed 20 creative women from around the world: USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. And it was interesting the similar experiences we all share. Many crafty girls are looking for a way to create something new. Once the children are born, someone has to make a choice between pursuing a traditional career path or creating something different. It’s often the woman who takes control of her time and creates a business, while looking after her children.

I’m also a bit of a multi-crafter myself. I love learning a new craft and there’s so many fascinating skills to learn. I adore screen printing and felting, and spent many years sewing and embroidering. Right now I’m addicted to knitting, and have a few orders in from the family for things like blankets, scarves and purses. My daughter keeps checking on the progress of her blanket, worried that it is taking me some time! I have plans to learn spinning wool, which is all part of my current love affair with yarn.

For Crafty Girls Talk I was very keen to interview women from a range of crafts. I wanted to explore the many different and wonderful ways we create. Just to give you an idea of who I spoke to, there is: Lynne Sharp who creates these amazingly gorgeous felted vessels, as well as lots of other things she’s a true multi-crafter and Melissa Wastney and Fiona Clark who are both stunning designers, Melissa sews beautiful vintage inspired  pieces while I love Fiona’s mandala embroideries.

The front cover of the book has Morgan Wills’ apple pincushions. Morgan runs The Crafty Squirrel in my home town, which is a retro heaven. She stocks all wonders of vintage haberdashery and fabrics as well as designing her own ranges, including the divine apple pincushions. I also interviewed all sorts of other crafty girls: like Jan DiCintio, who is a fabric designer and Tamara Watts who makes lamps. There are also a few store owners who stock gorgeous supplies from ribbons and scrapbooking to fabrics, craft writers and editors, mums crafting for family and women who lead textile tours to France and China.

I turned the tables in Jennifer – and asked her a few questions about self publishing and her creative experiences.

How did you decide who to include in this book? What it is about these women that inspire you? Who are your crafty heroes?

I wanted Crafty Girls Talk to explore the range of ways we have taken our passion for crafting – into different skills, into business or for family and charity. So I went looking for crafty girls who added a different dimension to that question. Plus, of course,  some of the women I know personally, and I thought their work would add a new layer to my exploration. I particularly admire these women for a range of reasons: their desire to help people with their craft, putting their environmental beliefs into their work, their design talent, and their ability to create a business from their passions.

Can you tell us about your experiences with self publishing and going through the Kindle process? How would you compare the self publishing process to your experiences with traditional publishing?

I think it’s a really exciting time to be part of the book world. There are many opportunities opening up for both authors and readers, for authors to develop their content in line with their vision and for readers to access books in ways, and at prices, that best suit them. My first self-publishing experience was Behind Jane Austen’s Door which is an e-book on Kindle. The process of publishing it on Kindle was such a delight that I’ve decided that’s where I will take my many other book ideas. I will still put out a print book version but e-books are very much the way of the future for me, and for many others.

As a reader, and I read lots of books, I like the ease of access to e-books, the price and the immediate delivery. The key difference for me, as an author, between traditional publishing and self-publishing is that level of control. I usually have a very strong design vision for where I want my book(s) to be, in terms of both content and graphic design. The beauty of self-publishing for me is that, with my team, I can achieve that fairly quickly and easily compared to traditional publishing, which is a whole lot more layered and complicated.

I would also love to know about your best selling book Jane Austen’s Sewing Box and the more recent book Jane Austen’s Door – can you tell us a little about your fascination with Jane Austen – how did you research these books and what are your favourite crafts from this era?

I’m a long term Jane Austen fan! We never read Jane Austen at school, can you believe that? I discovered them myself and was delighted that my husband-to-be was also a huge fan!

One day, while I was working in a museum, I became curious about the crafty items Jane Austen has her female characters making, for example Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park makes a lot of knotting. With my museum background, I knew that museums around the world are very good at keeping original objects and recording useful information, things like the materials used to make them and their sizes.

I started researching just what all those things Jane Austen’s women were making, and from that grew Jane Austen’s Sewing Box. Each project is based on an original item made by a Regency woman, now housed in a museum somewhere. Behind Jane Austen’s Door then developed out of that first Austen book. I’m interested in the role of women and I think the home plays a huge part in the roles women play. But I didn’t want that concept to turn into a boring history book. So that second Austen book is really just a gentle (and short) exploration of Regency women’s lives in the house as a home.


November (and a little bit into December) is book month at Whipup.net

The Art-Full Tree; ornaments to make.  Jan Gilliam and Christina Westenberger.  The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2011.

If your thoughts are turning to decorating your tree this year, you might like to have a look at The Art-Full Tree, which is inspired by objects in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.

The book begins with a quick history of the museum, that was started by Abby Aldrich Rockerfeller who started collecting and exhibiting folk art in the 1920’s, at a time when common crafts and amateur arts were not highly valued.  She left her collection to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and this collection forms the core of the current Folk Art Museum in Willamsburg, Virginia.

The museum has had a long and treasured tradition of decorating a holiday tree every year with ornaments made by staff, volunteers and guests of the museum.  Some of these ornaments are inspired by items in the collection, and others are based on the skills of each contributor.

The Art-Full Tree presents 33 ornament projects that have been inspired by some of the most popular items in the museum collection.  The book is an interesting combination of museum catalogue, inspiration notebook, project instructions and stitch guide and template sections.

Each project features the original artwork, with a short history of the item and some information on the artist or style of art.  There is a very detailed materials list, and step by step instructions and photographs on making each ornament.

There is a wide range of crafting techniques used in the creation of the ornament projects, including needlepoint, paper craft, punch needle embroidery, foil work, metal punching, painting and collage.  My favourite ornaments are Recycled-Card star (inspired by a compass design quilt), Scherenscnitte Birds (inspired by a cutwork picture), and Aluminium Butterfly (inspired by a metal weathervane).

I really like the process of taking a formal artwork in a formal setting, that is meaningful to the people around it, and appropriating all or part of the work to inspire the creation of anther objet, in this case tree ornaments.  I feel that readers of The Art-Full Tree will be inspired to look around them, in their local museums, public spaces, or around their own treasured and meaningful objects, and to create ornaments for their own family trees that are small and perfect reminders of things that they love.

To win a copy of The Art-Full Tree, please leave a comment on this review.  The comments will be open for 72 hours, and a winner will be selected at random.  Good luck!  Congratulations to Becky!

About the reviewer: Kate is a busy mother of four with many craft projects on the go, including, but not limited to, crochet, knitting, sewing, dyeing, paper making, spinning, felting and bookbinding. Kate has challenges in the areas of finishing things, saying no and craft supplies storage. She also has a very very patient and tolerant husband.




Khadija loves to make creative things she is interested in recycling, DIY and Fashion based crafts. You can find her online at Creative Mind.

Pakistan is rich in an art and craft tradition. I am proud to be a Pakistani. My post today is amazing because today I will share a unique Pakistani art tradition which is mostly done by illiterate working class people such as truck drivers or their fellow mechanics and painters. You will definitely feel amazing after watching their creativity and art. I will try to write less and show you more!

I enjoy watching these awesome motives and paintings on trucks while driving on the highway but the other day when my car was stopped in traffic I saw a big colorful truck. I thought to take its picture, but the truck was so big I was unable to take the full picture of the whole of it from car window, then the traffic again started to flow – so when I returned home I looked up these images via google. How Creative!

Examples of Pakistani Truck Art

The artists use lots of materials besides the paints for embellishing like colorful tapes, mirrors, shining stickers, beads, glitter and sometimes fabric it is a lengthy procedure to design a truck…

Haider Ali, is one of Pakistan's finest Truck Artist - he has had his work displayed at the Smithsonian Museum, USA in the Silkroad Folk Festival. He started his work when he was just 12, working alongside his father after school.

Each brush stroke is done by a human, not any machine, not a single technology at work. Would you like to see some artists who are creating this art from a long time. Every Stroke is AWESOME by these workers, they don’t have professional training or education but their work speaks.

Truck artists at work

Many artists, designers and fashion designers are inspired by truck art.

Fashion designer Deepak Perwani whose latest collection was inspired by Pakistani Truck art.

Many objects are painted in this style.

Examples of truck art style on objects

And many people copy this style to paint their cars too.

Cars painted in the truck art style


New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology’s flickr account (FITNY) is full of images from their archives. I love the Jerry Miller collection and the Bonnie Cashin sketch collection. Thanks to where the lovely things are to pointing me there.

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