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Author: Karen Lane

Time for a new hobby

Time for a new hobby

For many of us going into lockdown meant we suddenly found ourselves with lots of free time. For the first month I carried on felting and stitching, working on a few projects I had planned for Summer exhibitions. By the time we got to the end of April reality had hit home and it was looking less and less likely that those exhibitions would be happening before the Autumn, if at all this year! For ages I’ve been wanting to take up dressmaking and it suddenly dawned on me that I’d now got the time for a new hobby.

I’d only tried this once before when I made my “duvet dress”, a tunic made from an old Ikea duvet cover. It was a very simple pattern, bought because I liked the style but also because it said “Yes, It’s easy” on the front of the packet! I was pleased with the result but never got around to doing any more.

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What I really wanted to do this time around was to make a pattern taking inspiration  from a Masai dress I particularly liked that was well worn, and accidentally splashed with bleach. I took it apart, laid each section onto lining paper and traced around, adding half an inch all round for seams. I found some 3/4″ elastic for the sides of the hem but didn’t know how to create the elasticated band across the back of the dress. In the end I figured, as it was such a loose fit, an elasticated back wasn’t really necessary. Instead I cut a pattern for a plain band, the same width and depth as the elastic panel, and gathered the excess fabric onto it. I didn’t have any dress fabric, and besides I wasn’t sure if the pattern would work, so used the old left over Ikea duvet cover to make a toile, or muslin.  

This was quickly followed by a couple of camisoles. The pattern was created by tracing over the top section of the See & Sew tunic pattern.  I took the bottom of the armhole and the centre fold as my base.  It didn’t want to be as loose as the tunic so the side seam was narrowed, the neckline lowered and the shoulders were shortened and narrowed. A quick search on YouTube provided techniques for adding facings and for making and inserting thin straps. Once I knew the pattern worked a Principles skirt was cut up and used for the second cami…..nothing will be safe in my wardrobe any more!

The next item was based on a favourite jacket. It’s had a lot of wear and become very pilled and bobbly but I was determined not to throw it out until I’d found a replacement. This was a bit trickier to trace around as it’s stretchy and I couldn’t bring myself to take it apart! There are lots of Youtube videos showing how to fold items to trace around them…..it’s easy enough as long as there are no darts involved…..nothing I’ve traced so far has had darts! One thing I learnt from drawing around the jacket sleeves though is that it isn’t enough to simply mark the fold line…..you need to allow a little more width when dealing with thicker, folded fabric. My first attempt resulted in the sleeve being a little too narrow. The other thing to bear in mind is your choice of fabric. It was quite a challenge searching the house for a fabric with similar properties to the original to make the toile. It needed to be thickish, stretchy and ideally something that wouldn’t need hemming. The nearest match I could find was an old fleece blanket with a pattern of enormous spots! I’d no intention of this being a finished item, it was just meant as a trial, but since the weathers cooled off I’ve worn it twice already!!

Another project has been this midi length dress, recycled from a charity shop buy. It was four sizes too large for me but I loved the fabric and knew it would come in useful sometime! After taking it apart the sleeves were used to made saddle bag pockets, the side seams were taken in and the hemline scalloped. I’m not normally a flowery type but it’s worn with a pair of wide leg linen trousers and I absolutely love it! 

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I’m loving my new hobby and getting a bit obsessive with it….these items are just a few of what’s been made so far from recycled fabrics.  Although our shops are not fully open yet, last weekend I did manage to pick up a couple of new dress fabrics, neither are quite right for the Masai dress but it will be fun making something from them! 

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Jewellery Challenge

Jewellery Challenge

It was great to see that “Jewellery” was the subject for the 2020 first quarter challenge. I love making felted jewellery, whether that’s pendants, bangles or brooches.

This choker style necklace is wet felted Superfine Merino.  It came about because I’d got some small offcuts of a very thin felt left over from a collar.  Rather than throw them out (perish the thought!) I had the idea of sewing each one down the long edge, to form tubes, and then use them as “beads”, threading them onto a felted cord.  To keep everything in place and avoid them slipping on the cord I attached small beads, sewing right through front to back.

The only problem is that when I try to wear it the cord slips around and ends up with the fastener at the front…..obviously the heaviest part finding its way to the lowest position!  Fortunately the cord is long enough for me to correct this so I’m going to have to cut the fastener off, slide another “bead” on and join the cord under it.

Another drawback with wet felted Necklace cords (or at least with mine!) is that, no matter how hard I full them, they do tend to go fluffy quite quickly.  To get around this I’ve started wrapping my cords with a machine zigzag stitch.  I’m finding that this makes them much more durable and also the stitching gives another dimension to the pendant/necklace.

This challenge also came at the same time as I was working on some ideas for quick and easy mixed media jewellery.  These next three pieces are a great way of using up small scraps of paper and fabrics plus any embellishments you might have lurking in the back of a drawer!

The rectangular pendant was made from heat distressed Tyvek which I’d first painted with metallic acrylics.  I’ve embellished it with pink, purple and mustard colonial knots and a few bronze seed beads and strung it onto a rubber cord.

The next pendant was made from tiny scraps of polyester velour fabric, backed with Bondaweb and ironed onto a painted, pelmet vilene background.  I’ve added beads, metal washers and a couple of “danglies” from a broken necklace.  The cords are two lengths of knitting wool which have been machine wrapped using the zigzag stitch.

This larger pendant is my favourite.  I’ve kept it very simple using a dark grey cotton velvet furnishing fabric on a pelmet vilene background. I’ve sewn on brown craft paper, scrunched and painted with black acrylic to give it a leathery look, and added a metal trim, wooden bead and two smaller metal beads.  The back is also covered in the leathery craft paper.  Again the cords are simply wrapped knitting yarn but these are much longer than they look in the photo so the pendant hangs below the bust line.

Although we are living in strange times with social distancing and having to isolate, as long as we can maintain our motivation and continue to feed our creativity we will be doing ok!  Stay safe and have fun!

Needle Felted Animals

Needle Felted Animals

Since I started running workshops in 2017 I’ve often been asked if I will teach needle felted animals, maybe how to make a hare or a fox, etc. and my answer was always the same….. “sorry no, but I can put you in touch with someone who will”. There are so many terrific needle felters out there and, not only that, I didn’t really fancy spending hours stabbing fibres when I could be wet felting.

That changed when I got an email last November from a guy who wanted to buy his wife a needle felting workshop as a Christmas present. It was time to change tack so I agreed to run the class and immediately went out and bought various grades of wire and pipe cleaners and started hand carding fibres to make my first hare.

I didn’t concern myself too much with realism or body part proportions! Harriet went through several stages, at one point looking like an otter, at another like a kangaroo, before blossoming into a hare.

By the time she was finished I was hooked!! Two more hares followed in quick succession, the last one being this simplified version to use as a one day workshop for anyone who hasn’t needle felted before.

Happy with the hares I turned my thoughts to making a squirrel. If you google “anatomy of a (whatever)” you will find lots of diagrams and images of skeletons which can be used to get the correct proportions and shaping for your animal armatures. I used one as a reference for making my red squirrel armature as I wanted this one to be as lifelike as possible. It’s also useful to save photos, taken from all angles, of whatever animal you are making and refer to them constantly. I know a lot of felters use glass eyes for their animals but I decided to stick with felting mine as I think you can achieve more character that way.

Each animal is made with Cheviot fibres for the core and then cladded with carded Bergschaf or Corriedale. I was very pleased with how this one turned out.

I recently made a frog and this turned out to be my favourite piece. He seemed to take the longest but you can place him in all sorts of different poses and I just love him! Again, a quick search on the internet produced a diagram that was used to get the proportions and create the armature.

I changed my mind about the colour scheme part way through so he ended up with pink feet and a green body which just looked wrong! I couldn’t face starting again with the feet so I simply dipped his toes in Inktense paint and cured his problem!

So as you can see, this reluctant needle felter has really got the bug! I’ve done my first two classes and I’ve four more lined up, which I’m really looking forward to. The Christmas present of a hare workshop was well received and that particular lady, Jo, has since been back and made a red squirrel and her daughter in law made the lovely mouse…..pretty impressive for first attempts!

Jo’s Hare

Jo’s Squirrel

Janes Mouse

My only problem now is deciding what to needle felt next!

Knitting & Stitching Show 2019

Knitting & Stitching Show 2019

One of the highlights of my calendar in November is always the Knitting & Stitching Show at Harrogate. I’ve never thought that the title does this show any justice as it’s so much more than knitting and stitching!

The event, held over several halls in the Harrogate Convention Centre, features a wide range of exhibitions, most of which have the artist in attendance so you get to meet and chat to them about their work. There are also a number of artists in action (literally), workshops, lectures, demonstrations and a huge variety of craft retailers as well as artists selling their handcrafted items.

I’m guessing there will be a lot of our readers who didn’t attend this event due to location so I thought I would show what to me were some of the highlights.

Marian Jazmik “Beyond the Surface”

Marian Jazmik is a mixed media textile artist who uses a wide variety of materials, often heat distressed, to create stunning highly textural pieces of art. I was particularly drawn to her work by the wonderful neutral colour pallet. Depending on which piece you are looking at, close inspection might reveal sisal, plastic straws, packaging, cotton buds, scrim, beads and free motion stitching. She often uses heat treated Dipryl, a spun-bond fabric similar to Lutradur.

Marian Jazmik “Beyond the Surface”

Catherine Kaufman aka the “Woolly Queen” is a Feltmaker working with locally sourced fleece which she needle felts to create life size sculptures celebrating the female form. It was the scale, and again the colour scheme, that made this exhibit stand out for me. Also hearing how the figures are worked on at home on her kitchen table! Catherine begins by making a wire armature which she then covers with fleece. I felt the most powerful figure was Rapunzel and, learning that the hair for this figure was Catherines first attempt at spinning, I’ve been inspired to have a go myself!

Rapunzel by Catherine Kaufman
Catherine Kaufman

Daisy Collingridge explores the potential of the human body and celebrates its physicality through her textile sculptures. The human form is so unbelievably varied, despite us all being built from the same components. Daisy has a strong fascination with human endeavour and the extremes the human form can take, dictated through genetics and choice.  These soft sculptures came from a desire to push the traditional craft of quilting to the extreme. The technique used is no longer recognisable as quilting in the traditional sense but the fundamental idea of sandwiching fabric is the same.

Daisy Collingridge

The figurative work has a grotesque element and body image and body transformation are obvious narratives through which to view her work. Each piece is a “body suit” and as part of the installation viewers can watch a film of the figures in action.

The Artists in Action area is always an interesting space with Textile artists and Feltmakers creating their work and demonstrating to the public. It was nice to meet Lizzie Houghton and watch how she creates her beautiful hats.

Artists in Action – Lizzie Houghton

Angie Hughes, one of my favourite Textile Artists, was also there demonstrating surrounded by samples of her beautiful work.

Artists in Action – Angie Huges
Vivienne Morpeth

In a different part of the hall I came across Vivienne Morpeth, a fellow Lincolnshire Feltmaker who specialises in fabulous Nuno felted garments.

Vivienne Morpeth – Nuno detail

CQ London, a subgroup of The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles, have been meeting since 2017 in Camden Town, London. It is an eclectic group, whose members possess a wide range of skills and interests. This was their debut exhibition and it consisted of two themes, London and Notan, a Japanese design technique featuring positive and negative shapes in a harmonious balance of light and dark. The following two quilts were standout pieces for me. The Southbank building was instantly recognisable and very dramatic in its simplicity. The fabric was painted with acrylics before bonding and stitching.

Southbank 14 by Sabi Westoby

City Textures by Connie Gilham was another favourite. Depicting St Paul’s, Roman walls and the Thames it was created using painted and dyed silks, cottons and sheers, again a very striking image.

City Textures by Connie Gilham

On a smaller scale, but equally beautiful, were these exhibits in the Embroiderers Guild area. Out on Tiles won the Beryl Dean Award for best hand stitching.

“Out on the tiles with a crumb of comfort” by Patricia Blinco

Alyssa Robinson won the Val Campbell-Harding prize for best machine stitching.

Alyssa Robinson

This piece by Jane Dexter titles Wood Grains was also one of my favourites.

“Wood Grains” by Jane Dexter

This is just a tiny snapshot of the show, there was so much more and I came away with my head full of inspiration and my bag full of goodies! If you live in the UK and haven’t been it’s well worth a visit if you get the chance.

Roots and Leaves

Roots and Leaves

In my last post, Work in Progress, I wrote about the A4 challenge I was working on with my local group at Waltham. I was well underway with my planning but, as often happens once I start on a piece, part of my plan changed. I decided not to use the felted backgrounds I’d originally made and instead I created the forest floor using painted and heat distressed Lutradur hand stitched to a cotton background. I used 70gsm Lutradur from Spunart and painted it with tones of green, yellow and grey Inktense. By applying the heat tool you can make wonderful lace effects which are very effective when they are layered.

Once all the elements were ready to be assembled, i.e. the pebbles, greenery and leaves, I positioned the roots in order to decide where everything else would fit. The easiest option for assembling would have been to use glue but, as Waltham is predominantly a “stitch” group, I went with the more time consuming method and hand stitched it all in place. The final stage was to attach it to a canvas to make it more robust for transporting and hanging.

Roots

I’m really pleased with the finished piece, which I’ve called Roots, and looking forward to showing it at The Big Textile Show at the end of this month.

I was hoping to show you Jacky and Caroles finished A4’s but unfortunately life’s got in the way for both of them! Neither ladies have managed to do anymore to their work as yet so instead here are some images from a recent workshop I attended with Textile Artist Jan Dowson.

Jan’s Workshop Sample

Jan was teaching a technique made popular by Susan Lenz. Susan layers polyester velvet onto polyester felt, free motion stitches with 100% cotton thread and then hits it with the heat gun……what’s not to like!! This was right up my street but rather than using square shapes as Susan does I used a leaf theme for my overall design. I’m now waiting for my order of polyester felt to arrive so I can make a larger piece…..

Adding free motion stitch to my leaf design.
The stitching is easier to see from the back
Ready for turning up the heat!
The finished piece.
Work in Progress.

Work in Progress.

Last year I joined a group of creative ladies who meet once a month at Waltham Windmill. As well as working on our own projects we have a number of set “challenges” requiring us to work to a certain theme. This week I began one those challenges which is to produces three A4 size pieces of work using just three colours. Each piece is to have one predominant colour, plus a small amount of the other two. The format can be landscape or portrait but all three will be displayed together. The design, techniques and materials are entirely up to the individual.

My first thought was that I wanted my 3 pieces to be joined together and initially I was thinking along the lines of a leaf motif, using the veins to span the gaps between the work. The first design was for a very simple “spear” shaped leaf.

The second idea was to simplify it even more and loose the outline of the leaf. The background would possibly be heavyweight interfacing or Lutradur and the veins would be free motion stitched, spanning the gaps by stitching onto dissolvable fabric.

In the meantime I happened to take my dog for a walk in the woods at Hubbard’s Hills in Louth when I had a lightbulb moment! There were some wonderful exposed tree roots at the top of the hill and I suddenly saw these as being the joining element of my 3 x A4’s. The design now was for a “forest floor”.

I realised that I would need a sturdy backing so I’ve wet felted these using Bergschaf fibres and they will be individually mounted onto stiff card…..at least that’s the plan so far! There will be little background showing on pieces two and three but far more on piece one so I included some thick cords under that sheet of felt to indicate buried roots.

The tree roots above ground have an aluminium wire as their core, wrapped with wadding and strips of medium weight Lutradur before being painted grey.

I’ve started making the weeds using free motion stitch on dissolvable fabric but I will look at alternative materials, possibly Lutradur, to introduce different textures, create more bulk and not least to speed up the weed making process!

The fallen leaves at the base of the roots will be FM stitched on Lutradur. Once they’ve been cut out using a soldering iron and heat distressed to make them curl they will be painted in varying shades of gold.

I’ve managed to get a couple of other group members to send me images of their work in progress…..

Jacky approached the challenge by choosing blue, green and gold as her colours and using the “stack and whack” method to cut them up. After selecting her fabrics they were cut up quite randomly and then machined together in strips. The three sets were then layed on top of each other and sliced through again. The yellow and green shapes in the resulting strips made her think of plant pots and this led to her theme of “neglected pots and plants”. In this piece Jacky has added an appliqué cactus and free motion stitched the neglected straggly plants on the left. This one isn’t far off being finished but Ive been told the other two are still piles of fabric on the workroom table!

Carole has chosen to use a combination of plain and patterned fabrics in her chosen colour scheme of red, blue and yellow. Each of her A4’s feature a different piecing technique i.e. strips, curves and crazy patchwork. Again this is a work in progress but already you can see how individual members are putting their own mark on their work and how different everyone’s finished work is going to be. I will post images of the completed challenges next time.

Towards the Wolds

Towards the Wolds

The first quarter challenge, Landscape, couldn’t have come at a better time for me. It coincided with a commission to make a Felted picture, which I’ve called Towards the Wolds, featuring a view of countryside just a few minutes from my home. The road, known as Shearman’s Wath, is a route I walk regularly with my dog and it passes the site of a late Neolithic or early Bronze Age Henge.

Shearman’s Wath

I’ve used a view from this road in a previous small textile piece which was commissioned by my local branch of the Walkers are Welcome group. On this occasion I was asked to come up with a design featuring a local view and include a nod to the old Start-right poster of the 1930’s. I used a cotton fabric for the background which I painted with Inktense blocks. The tree foliage was made from needle felted Corriedale fibre and the piece was hand and machine stitched. I loved the two kiddies in the original poster and decided to give them little 3D back packs.

The following images show how Towards the Wolds progressed….from selecting the appropriate colours of Merino fibres to adding needle felted detail, machine stitching and hand embroidery.

Laying out the sky and distant fields
Laying out the middle ground
The wet felting is done but it’s far from finished!

A little needle felting and stitch can totally transform a piece of work and I love building up the detail in this way once the wet felting has dried. Needle felting was used to define the edges of the fields and the roadside verge, add detail to the trees as well as adding lighter shades to areas of hedgerow.

One thing to be aware of when adding machine stitching is that it will “indent” the fibres and so it’s often a case of “less is more” where you don’t want this to happen. With this in mind I chose to machine stitch the field (middle right) which slopes towards the hedge/field but used hand stitching on the hedgerow in the foreground. I originally machine stitched the two tractor furrows in the first field but they didn’t look right. They looked too neat so they got taken out and I roughly hand stitched them, catching down a little bit of dark fibre under some of the stitches as I worked.

I’m now looking forward to starting the second challenge, Seascape. I’m thinking of making that one more abstract and maybe incorporating Lutradur and cocoon strippings in with Merino fibres, making it a mixed media piece. At least that’s what’s in my head at the moment but it might change before I get started!

British Quilt & Stitch Village

British Quilt & Stitch Village

Last Saturday I drove over to Uttoxeter to meet up with a felting friend for a visit to the British Quilt & Stitch Village Show. Although this show has been running for 7 years, and has been in my list of places to visit since I started crafting, this was my first time here.

The event is held at Uttoxeter Racecourse and spread over several buildings so, for anyone planning to go next year, I would recommend buying a programme to ensure you don’t miss any of the exhibits.

Most of the traders were geared for quilting and patchwork, naturally, with lots of fabrics and notions and familiar names including Monkey Buttons, Hannah’s Room and The Little Lavender Patch.

There was a good mix of traditional and contemporary quilts on display…..

This is a detail from “Hole Cloth” by Birgitta Scheuller which was overall winner…..

This one, Plastic Ocean by Kathy Unwin, was one of my favourites….

As well as the patchwork and quilting there were several groups of mixed media textile artists exhibiting and it was these ladies we had really gone to see.

This piece was created by Catherine Howard, a member of On The Surface. This garment has been torn seven times and stitched back together in a random, sometimes messy way. It celebrates the imperfections we all have, how life’s struggles leave their scars and shape who we are. On The Surface are a mixed media textile group who support, inspire and encourage each other to develop their own unique styles and preferred ways of working. The group consist of Anna Barrett, Catherine Howard, Deb Day, Jackie Harley, Judith Rowell, Nadine Tabberer, Vicki Townsend-Gee.

The following mixed media work, which we found particularly inspiring, was created by members of the group Un:Hinged…..

There was very little felting on display so it was good to round the corner and get to meet two of the members of Traverse who are feltmakers. Traverse is a group of textile and mixed media artists who came together in March 2017 after studying Experimental Textiles. They began exhibiting in 2018 and the members are Dia Martin, Deb Day, Cath Tyler, Bernice Hopper, Becca Birtles and Vicki Townsend-Gee. unfortunately the light wasn’t wonderful in this part of the building so apologies for the quality of the images…..

We spent a good three hours at the show and met some lovely people so I can certainly recommend it if ever you get the chance.

Sweet Nothings Retreat

Sweet Nothings Retreat

Sweet Nothings Retreat

I am thrilled to announce that I will be offering two wet felting workshops in France this coming July. The workshops will be held at Sweet Nothings Art and Crafts Retreat in the beautiful Charent region. The retreat is owned and run by husband and wife team Natalie and Lawrence, originally from the UK, and you can read how they came to be running a business in rural France by clicking here.

During each six day retreat there will be three workshop days and, with a maximum number of six students per class, there will be lots of opportunity for one to one time. A small class also allows for lots of flexibility so we can tailor each project to suit the individuals specific wishes/needs rather than all having to work on the same design or template. This also means we can accommodate absolute beginners alongside those of you who may have experience of Wet Felting but want to experiment or develop your technique further. 

15th – 20th July Nuno Scarf /Collar – In this workshop we will be working with Superfine Merino and silk fabrics, learning the basics of Nuno Felting, to create a beautiful, soft scarf/collar. Each student will work at their own pace and, once finished, you have the option of relaxing or putting your new found skills to practise on another item such as a Necklet or Bracelet. Being both practical and decorative, the beautifully soft, extremely lightweight Necklets bridge the gap between a scarf and a necklace and are ideal for wearing under a jacket on cool evenings. The bracelets introduce another technique, differential shrinkage, which allows us to create interesting, undulating surfaces on a flat plane. Once again, each of the additional projects will be totally unique and these can be further embellished with hand embroidery and beads. It’s your retreat…you decide!

Nuno Scarf/Collar
Nuno Necklets
Nuno Bracelets

22nd – 27th July Wet Felted Wallhanging – In this workshop we will be covering a variety of techniques including wet felting, needle felting, free motion stitch and hand embroidery to create our own unique wall hanging. It is suitable for any ability from absolute beginner to the more experienced felt maker as well as being a great introduction to free machine embroidery for those who haven’t yet tried it. 

Wet Felted Wallhanging

Using photographs or sketches as our source of inspiration we will begin by designing our layout and colour scheme. There will be examples to look at as we explore the different techniques we might use to create our pictures. The main body of our work will be wet felted, using loose fibres to “paint” our pictures. We will also explore the use of our own hand made pre felts, needle felting, hand and machine stitching to add areas of detail. Students can work to any size they wish, working on a large scale and concentrating on the one project, or working to a smaller scale and having the choice of an add-on felting project or simply enjoying more “free” time! 

Wet Felted Wallhanging

If you would like more information about the workshops I will be offering please use the contact form on my website to get in touch www.lincsinstitches.com  If you have any queries regarding the accommodation or would like to make a booking please do that via the Sweet Nothings Website.

Abstraction

Abstraction

Last weekend I took part in an exhibition at The Creative Craft Show held in Manchester’s EventCity. I attended as a member of Jeudis, a mixed media textile group who meet monthly in the village of Rothley, Leicestershire. The group work to a different theme each year and each member creates either a large piece of work, or a series of small pieces, in their preferred medium. The current theme is Abstraction and so far I’ve made three pieces, two framed pictures using Merino fibres, Lutradur and sheer fabrics and a wall hanging in Bergschaf. As they are all on the large side I had to select just one to exhibit and went for the Bergschaf “Rockpool”.

Abstraction – 72cm x 40cm mixed media
Abstraction II – 80cm x 40cm mixed media
Abstraction – Rockpool 53cm dia Bergschaf and found objects

This is the work created by the rest of the group…..

Sue also works in fibre and created these wonderful pictures enclosed in tree bark
Christine is a book maker and creates mixed media collagej
Gill created a large bowl incorporating fabric, paper and stitch
Cathy’s work is very geometric and often features architectural imagery
Linda used her interested in yoga and the various associated symbols to create this colourful quilt
Hazels hand coloured and embroidered scroll
Jeans mixed media with fabric, paper and stitch
Elaine’s piece is hand painted and stitched on pelmet vilene

We had a lot of visitors to our stand and some great feedback which was very encouraging. It also led to me designing more “rockpool” inspired items for the sales table…

These are just a few more photos from the show…..

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