How long have you been needle felting?
About four years ago I was visiting a friend of mine who had just started needle felting, and she hooked me in! I made a turtle who kept me company for a few years before swimming off to a new home. Shortly after this I put on a craft stall at the Advent Fair in Edinburgh Steiner School, I was in a wild rush to get enough stock made and was needle felting donkeys, birds, sheep, and lambs left right and centre. I would needle felt anywhere and everywhere, I did get some funny looks making donkeys on the train!
What led you to try it for the first time?
Perhaps because of my early education in a Steiner school I have a deep love of making things, and enjoy learning new crafts, methods and techniques. My pal showed me the basics and I have been self-taught since then. If I’m struggling with a particular technique I might look it up on YouTube, but mostly it’s trial and error.
Catriona in her studio
What do you love about it as a craft and art form? And what other textile arts do you enjoy?
Needle felting is versatile and allows you to create the creatures and designs in your head. You don’t necessarily need a plan, pattern or design, I find it quite intuitive. I also really enjoy Fair Isle knitting (but certainly do use patterns for this!). Textiles run in the family – my mother is a fantastic knitter and one of my aunts makes beautiful geometric quilts.
Are there any aspects of the process of creating a needle felting piece which are uniquely satisfying?
Unlike some other crafts there’s no waste with needle felting, everything gets used. Unfinished or rejected makes can always be readjusted, recreated and redesigned into new projects. It’s a zero waste craft, which is an important factor these days.
Practising the zero-waste craft
What drew you to needle felt birds? How do you decide what to work on next?
Ah, well, the basic answer is that I love birds! I’m also a watercolour painter, and mostly paint birds. I love being outside, just watching. This year I’ve been working as a ranger on the Isle of Canna and the bird life is incredible – corncrakes, golden and sea eagles, seabirds like gannets, puffins, razorbills and guillemots and woodland birds like wrens, bluetits, thrushes and goldfinches. Everything I make and paint is informed by what I see, and how I’ve seen it.
How long have you been selling our work on Etsy and what is your best-selling work?
Since 2019. After the Advent Fair I had some stock left over, my partner suggested the name Patience Creations and I listed some of the stock on Etsy. I know some people struggle to make Etsy work for them, but I think if you have decent photos, enough listings and are responsive to messages and custom requests you can build the momentum needed to get your listings seen. The bird brooches are my best selling item, especially puffins, wrens and robins.
Catriona's popular puffin brooch
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Any advice for someone who hasn’t tried needle felting before?
Give it a go! Buy beautiful wool in your favourite colours, experiment and make things you love!
Where do you work - do you have your own studio?
I have a wee studio at the back of the house, looking out into the garden and sometimes I’ll work outside. As well as needle felting I also do a lot of watercolours, illustrations, photography and cyanotypes so there’s a lot going on a small space. I am never, never bored!
Catriona's small space
What is the stitching scene like where you live?
I sell in a shop called The Leith Collective in Edinburgh, over 100 local artists and crafters supply the shop. It’s plastic-free and focuses on recycling and upcycling, the suppliers have an amazing array of skills and ingenuity and it’s an inspiration to see huge issues like marine waste, plastic waste and food waste being tackled on a local, personal level.
What are you working on next?
Living on working on the Isle of Canna this summer I think it’s time to make some more seabirds – gannets and oystercatchers are definitely on the horizon!
Catriona's needle felted art
Find out more about Catriona at www.catrionapatience.co.uk
Use Catriona’s tutorial in issue 139 of Stitch to make her beautiful robin and dove decorations for your Christmas tree.
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