Friday 6 March 2015

Crafty Ladies: Meet Gretel Parker

This fortnight's Crafty Lady is Gretel Parker, who makes the most amazing little felt creatures. I am always slightly in awe of needle-felters but especially of Gretel's magical work.

Gretel creates needle-felt sculptures, teaches needle-felting workshops and is the author of Little Needle-Felt Animals. She writes about her work and life in the countryside on her blog, Middle of Nowhere, and sells her sculptures and a range of needle-felting kits and supplies from her Etsy shop.

Hello! I'm Gretel; I've been a professional needle felter for seven years. Previously I was a freelance children's illustrator and designer, but needle felting took over my life. I live in a scruffy little cottage in the middle of the Shropshire countryside with my two cats.

Most of my time is spent working - at the moment I am expanding my design range, planning new needle felt kits to add to my existing stock and building up my supplies business, as well as organising workshops. When I'm not doing that, I like watching horror films and listening to pretty heavy music. Crashed on the sofa with my partner Joe and the cats is my favourite way to relax.

Recently I’ve been making...

I've recently been using alpaca wool to make little birds - this is a first for me, as I use merino wool exclusively.  I have a workshop coming up at the p-Lush Alpaca show in Coventry on Friday March 27th  and ought it would be nice to use the relevant wool. I've found it more difficult to get a smooth finish, but it's been interesting to work with something different and I kind of like the fuzzy effect, though it's not my usual style.

I’ve been working on…

I've just started my first teddy bear design - not the cute cuddly kind, but an old fashioned scruffy bear with a wonky head and slouchy tummy. I've never previously been drawn to teddy bears, but it's a challenge and I do love challenges. It's easy to get into repetitive habits when making is your full time job, so this is stretching me a bit. So far I've spent over ten hours on it, trying to get the right shape and I'm about halfway through. New designs always take longer, with quite a few false starts and ripping out.

My other new work this year is a little hare brooch - I wanted to do something a  bit different to the standard leaping hare and this crouched hare design looks lovely pinned to a jacket.

I’ve been blogging about…

Many people know that my world was shattered two years ago, when my long term partner died. I'm now in a wonderful  relationship with a great guy called Joe. As my blog isn't just about my work, but my real life too, I was really happy to announce the change in my circumstances as I know that people think of me and the support has beem amazing. That's what I love about blogging; it's a real community.

I've also posted about a visit to the historic Chetham's Library in Manchester, with lots of pictures of dusty old books - all very Harry Potter! And updating my readers on my latest work for sale and workshops that I'm doing this year.


I’ve been reading…

I don't have time to read much, but at the moment my bedtime book is The Lamplighter by Anthony O'Neill - it's a dark, Victorian crime novel, which is my favourite kind of fiction. And provides a nice break from the cuteness of the teddy bear I'm working on!


While I work, I’ve been watching…

Needle felting isn't the easiest of crafts to combine with watching anything; the danger is stabbing yourself when engrossed in a plot.  But I always have something on. I rarely watch scheduled TV, so have  been catching up with the new series of Father Brown on BBC1, Wolf Hall, Broadchurch and my guilty pleasure, Made in Chelsea. Otherwise I find a good horror film on Netflix.

Gretel’s 3 Top Tips for successful needle felting:

1. Try to draw out a design before beginning to construct it - you don't have to be a good artist and it doesn't have to be anything more than a doodle, but it will help fix the shape in your visual memory, especially if you can draw it from several angles.

2. Make things that you love - and pour your heart into them. It's a waste of time making things you feel you 'should' make, they never come out the same.

3. The question I am most often asked - how to get a super smooth finish. It's all about time and patience, there is no magic trick. Use a size 40 spiral needle to finish off with or a size 42 triangular needle and really pay attention to working down the tiny bumps and crevices.


Visit Gretel's blog to see more of what she's been making lately and check out her shop for finished pieces, kits and needlefelting supplies. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest.

Click here to read more posts in the Crafty Ladies series.

Please note: the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.


Soozcat said...

Gretel's work is amazing. Thank you for featuring her!