Customs, Challenges and Creativity

Customs, Challenges and Creativity

Happy holidays everyone!  I hope you are all getting some well deserved R & R following the hectic run up to the holiday season.


Here in Ireland, today (December 26th) is known as St Stephen’s day but in certain rural areas, traditionally it is Wren day,  a festival day when Mummers  take to the streets in their disguises.  In my area, the Mummers perform their play every St. Stephen’s day in pubs and clubs in the county.  This tradition originated within three local families and numbers participating have increased down through the years.

The costumes are generally a mix of rags together with woven straw.  The head pieces can be very intricate and beautiful.  Here is an example of a mummer’s headpiece. (Photo: Courtesy Museum of Ireland)


I checked the mumming origins for this time of year and it appears to be an ancient European tradition.  If you would like to find out more it is worth checking out these links  or, local to my area,found%20in%20European%20carnival%20tradition.


Project No: 1:

I want to extend a big thank you to Lyn and Annie whose current challenge has spurred me on to complete three unfinished projects in time for this post.  The first project is a crochet throw.  I have made a number of these, principally for family, and feedback is that they are really cosy.  So I thought it was time to make one for myself.  The problem was, that because it had no timeline for finish, it stayed on the hook!  So when I saw the challenge, the timeline materialized and I got it finished before the year end.  Happy days!

Please forgive the angle of the photograph, I was up on the ladder trying to get it!

The throw comprises of one very large granny square made with six large balls of fibre.  It fits on top of a kind sized bed and I think it will be staying there for the current cold spell!  Its making is pretty mindless and once I get into rhythm it can be made watching foreign crime series (complete with subtitles).  My favourite at the moment which has just finished is the French series Astrid.

Project No: 2:

My next  project was planted in my consciousness following a blog post by Ann in November 2021. Here is the link to her post .  This international project, which was titled “Fate, Destiny and Self-determination” intrigued me but it took me a while for the seeds to bear fruit.  I contacted the Artist/Co-ordinator, Line Dufour,  last September and she confirmed that she was still accepting pieces for the on-going exhibition.  She did mention any piece should not be a regular geometric shape (square, rectangle, circle etc).

So I got to work on my piece.  I started off by making a piece of pre-felt over a rectangular resist.  Then I started randomly stitching and gathering the prefelt, my idea here was to lose total control over the shape of the piece and let the random stitches determine this.  Finally I felted it up.  The final shape was anything but regular.  I hated it because while the shape was ‘interesting’ the colour was boring and it would be lost against a white backdrop.  So it sat there, and it waited patiently for Lyn and Annie to spur me into action with the challenge. It was time to start hand-stitching!

I decided that I wanted the piece to reflect my Irish origins and what it means to be Irish in contemporary society.  To paraphrase the actor Michael Caine,  not many people know this but Ireland is one of the largest countries in Europe when our seabed territory is taken into account.  People perceive Ireland as being that little quaint island off the west of Europe but our marine territory is ten times the size of the land mass and I decided to reflect this in the piece (bottom section).  Secondly, Ireland is renowned for its agriculture and food production which it exports worldwide; this is represented by the abstract depiction of a tree to the left of the piece.  Then, there are its people, their tolerance and acceptance; the central section celebrates the fact that in 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalize same sex marriage by popular vote. (I could have included many other aspects of what it means to be Irish but it is a small piece at 12cm x 13cm.)  I purposely left a section to the right of the piece empty – this represents the future, the unknown.  I will post (mail) this off to Line in the New Year.


Project No: 3:

I love rummaging in haberdashery departments when I am away on holidays (I also love fabric stores but that is another story!).  It is a real treat because it can be a challenge to find interesting ‘stuff’ locally.  I came across a small square weaving loom when I was in Paris a few years ago and it has been sitting at the back of my cupboard since then.  2022 was to be the year when I rediscovered it and started the project.  All the yarns were from my stash and and I rescued the boucle from my late mother in law’s house when we were clearing it.  The small piece of weaving has been waiting for me to get my act together and finish it off.  So, no time like the present challenge to make that happen!  The finished piece measures 9cm x 9cm.  I think I might just frame it.  Has anyone any other suggestions?




Before I sign off for 2022 I would like to share with you some of my friends’ beautiful handmade items which they have gifted to me for my tree over the years.  I cherish them not only because they are beautiful items but because they were made with love – nothing will ever come close to handmade, especially when made by gifted friends.

Here is my friend Annelien’s work.  Annelien, who is from The Netherlands, and I first met during a week long textile recycling workshop in Finland back in 2013 and we have been firm friends since then (we have even managed to meet up in person twice since then).  (Apologies, I think the felted Angel is blurred.)


Next, Sara’s work.  Sara started crocheting a little while ago and recently gifted me one of her angels.  I love her! (actually I love both of them!)

Next up is Kate.  Kate loves working in glass and gifted me the trees many years ago (I have taken a photo of three of them).  More recently, she made me the little houses.  They are so delicate and pretty.



Thanks for reading this post and for reading and commenting on my various posts throughout the year!

Wishing you good health, happiness and peace during 2023.  Not forgetting a whole lot of creative spurs and fun!





21 thoughts on “Customs, Challenges and Creativity

  1. How nice to get a post today. I was glumping around after doing too much yesterday (still in post covid mode) and I didn’t expect there to be a post at all, let alone such an interesting one. You’ve inspired me to have another look at some of my UFOs – at least once I’ve finished my Panto costume, which is about halfway there.
    I’ve decided on a New Year’s Resolution – finish (at least) one UFO each month.

    1. Delighted to have spurred you on Ann and I do hope you are feeling a lot better as every day passes. So many people told me to take extra care of myself during the recovery period as that is when it can really hit home.

      Looking forward to seeing your Panto costume – they are always such an inspiration. Which character is it for and when will it get a chance to tread the boards.

      There is a lot of satisfaction in finishing the UFOs (just discovered it this month!). Best of luck with yours.

    2. You’re quite right about the recovery period – I still keep running out of oomph half way through doing something “normal”.
      The Panto will be in February. It is Red Riding Hood and the 3 Pigs which is being set in the Dickensian era. I just have a cameo part – I am the sexy bit of stuff being chased across the stage by a man in a “fat” suit. I’m 76 and never was a sexy bit of stuff even in my youth so I will be veiled and will reveal my face – with accentuated wrinkles and blacked out teeth – just before I exit stage right! I will add some pictures of the costume to a post about more up to date theatrical costumes soon.

  2. A wonderful post. That is a huge granny square, well done on finishing it. I think I would get part way and find it to daunting.
    The piece tor Line is fabulous. Her exhibit is never the same twice.
    I think framing the weaving is a great idea. No glass, it would hide it to much, I think. What does the loom look like?
    hand made ornaments are always the best. I think I like the round angel best and the glass trees. I keep looking at the craft and telling my self no.
    I hope you have a great holiday especially since the most stressful day is over.

    1. I finally got access to my laptop today Ann. My workroom became the official dumping ground for all things out of place in the rest of the house – lest our visitors realised that we are quite a normal household who DON’T have a place for everything! Finding a pathway through to the computer is my reward for finding homes for all the stuff so that’s a good start – and it’s not even the New Year yet!

      Thank you for your lovely comments Ann. The one advantage of the Granny Square or GS for short is that is kept me nice and warm as I worked it and of course my mind could wander as the stitches became automatic.

      I was really taken by Line’s concept for the exhibition – I love the fact that each showing is unique and that it keeps on growing. Abandoning regular shapes was quite a challenge my mathematical brain but doing it really freed up personal (artistic) boundaries.

      I’m glad you like the woven piece, it’s my first attempt and I’m quite pleased with it especially given that I currently only have one ‘good eye’ (cataract in the other one that needs work on). I can’t upload a photo of the loom but here is a link to what it looks like:
      It’s identical to mine but a lot cheaper than I paid.

      Isn’t it always tempting to try a new craft. I regularly have to stop myself. I reckon my room will burst at the seams one of these days!

      Many happy returns to you and your family Ann!

  3. Congratulations on completing these UFO’s! It’s always hard to finish an abandoned project. All of them turned out great. I think framing the weaving would probably be your best option. Beautiful ornaments! Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks Ruth. I think I will opt for the framing. Thank goodness we have a rather large IKEA close by. Something for after the holidays.

      Happy new year to you and yours Ruth.

  4. Such a lovely read Helene.
    I remember this day being called St Stephen’s Day too from when I lived in Ireland,and called wren Day also. I remember the Mummers too (I’m from Co Wexford), the outfits seemed less colourful than Morris men here in the UK I think. but their sticks appeared more dangerous!
    I love the gifts from your friends for your Christmas tree, I find that I really cherish such gifts for the tree also.

    1. Thanks Marie,
      I suspect we could trace the equivalent of the Wren Boys throughout Europe and even further afield. These ancient traditions mean more personally the older I get.

      I now have two Christmas trees, one for all the handmade gifts (whether made by friends or gifted from friends who have sourced handmade). My second tree holds decorations collected over the years and include some from my childhood. All are treasured and full of memories.

      Happy new year to you and your family Marie.

  5. Well done on completing the Fourth Quarter Challenge Helene – and in a spectacular way! The crochet throw is not only pretty but very warm (if anyone has any tips on photographing large pieces we’d be very interested to know as we’ve spent time on ladders too). The hand stitching really has completed the felt (your explanation is illuminating and interesting) and the weaving deserves to be framed and admired.

    The gifts of angels are beautiful and the glass trees must really sparkle as they turn on their ribbons.

    1. Thanks so much to you both!
      And thank you for spurring me on to completion Lyn and Annie. The throw is now on our bed and it is rather funny. Every time our little dog gets up on the bed (I know, it shouldn’t happen but he has had a tough year losing his litter brother) he uses it as a scratching post. I come back into the room to find him either wriggling around on his back or the throw has mysteriously become a mound in the centre of the bed and he is comfortably lying beside it. All rather funny.

      Consensus has won the day and I will be framing the weaving in the new year.

      You are right! The glass catches the tree lights. They always look pretty and warm.

      Happy new year to all the family.

  6. Way to go on finishing projects, instead of starting new ones as many of us do, especially in December. I did finish all that I started in December, but don’t ask me about November. Lol!

    Your granny square blanket is lovely, and now that it’s finished, someone can snuggle underneath it. We have our woolies out here in the US right now, blizzards are affecting many areas. What a nice looking weaving piece! I agree with Ann’s idea about framing it. I find there’s something about weaving in the round that really appeals to me.

    Your felting piece representing Ireland, and description is new information for me. I’m itching to see Ireland, along with many other European countries. My husband and I are retired, and have an ever growing bucket list of places and people we would like to see. I think we are going to have to be there quite a while. We tend to like “off the beaten path” places. I hope we can find special moments, and memories, as I am thinking this will be a onetime event. I’ve heard nice stories from everyone that’s been to Ireland. My cousin was on his honeymoon, went in a pub, and randomly met this guy who looked just like him. Come to find out this man was from the family name “Little.” My cousin’s grandfather was adopted, (one of the Irish children who came to the United States during wartime and famine) His grandfather’s Irish surname was Little!

    Isn’t it special to meet strangers, at fiber events who become fast friends? It’s a special reward when the friendships continue over time. The ornaments are lovely!


    1. Thanks Capi and well done on completing your December projects. I decided to focus purely on all my UFO’s and try to clear the decks on that front. It helped clear the mind a bit too which, even at the best of times is waaaay too cluttered (and a spring clean is a long way away lol).

      We have been following the weather in the US and Canada – It’s hard to get my head around the concept that a weather front could be so large as to impact so adversely on a whole continent. Keep safe. The blanket is on our bed – we have yet to work out whether the dog loves or hates it when we let him up on it. I will definitely frame the woven piece. You are right about weaving on the round, very relaxing. I think I might try another one soon.

      You should do a ‘grand tour’ and get working on ticking some travelling off your bucket list. If you want any advice on planning ‘off the beaten track’ Irish style, let me know. If you or your cousin have an idea of locality (where your families came from in Ireland) you might find the census material interesting. Unfortunately a lot of the records relating to the 1800’s (famine time etc) were destroyed during the Civil War but it is possible to access the 1901 and 1911 census material. I found it fascinating when I discovered my mother’s family as her father’s signature was on the census form (the writing was identical to what I remember my mother’s to be (I lost her when I was very young)). Access is free and here is the link:

      You are so right about meeting strangers who become such great friends. We both laughed so much when we were sat opposite at these two huge looms – not knowing what to do. Remember too that English was not her first language but it was a million times better than my Dutch. I think what cemented our friendship (along with our similar sense of weird humour) was the fact that we discovered that both our sons were born on leap year day in 1996 which was most unusual and quite a chance occurrence. I am so delighted to have her as such a good friend.

      Happy new year to you and yours Capi!

  7. Good to see you were spurred on by the challenge and got those ufo’s finished Helene. The blanket is beautiful and I agree with the idea of framing your weaving, although I would do it without glass.
    Those hand made decorations are lovely and seeing them on your tree each year is a nice way to remember the gift giver.
    I hadn’t heard the term “Mummer” before so had to look it up which made interesting reading so thanks for that introduction!
    Happy New Year to you and your family!

    1. Thanks Karen,
      I think nearly every European country has some version of the mummers. It goes back to pagan times. In parts of Ireland they used to spear a wren (probably because it wouldn’t shut up during winter and the locals wanted to sleep on – just my interpretation). I thought this might be a bit too gruesome for the 26th.

      Delighted to be finished the blanket etc. It can make way for some more UFO’s to fill their spots lol.

      Happy New year to you and yours Karen.

  8. Dear Helene, how lovely and surprising that you showed my angels. Really to much honor. I treasure your gifts too, the felted bracelet, the warm gloves…
    Your wonderful spiral workshop is still work in progress but one day it will hang! Its wonderful we met each other in 2013 at Finland. Next year it will be a decade, we have to celebrate our special friendship. Love you, Annelien

    1. We are sharing many happy memories my dear friend. We will make 2023 very special. love and hugs Helene

  9. Your post has been very inspiring. I liked to learn about your local traditions, and the Mummer’s hat is fascinating.
    Well done on your finishing those projects!! I especially loved the woven piece: a thumbs up for framing it from me!
    Your Christmas decorations are truly special, and they are all unique: I bet you feel warm and happy each time you see them. Hand made decorations from your friends are the best!

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