Felt Cute

Berkshire Life - - BERKSHIRE TRAILBLAZE­RS -

Paloma Pizza, com­plete with a wood­fired oven in the gar­den and they are also right next to The Water­mill The­atre.”

Jenny ad­mits she is al­ways drawn to in­de­pen­dent shops, es­pe­cially B the Life­style in New­bury’s Bartholome­w Street

– a bou­tique sell­ing womenswear, jew­ellery and home­ware items. “It is my ab­so­lute favourite place to shop when I get time alone,” she says. “Emma, who owns it, has such an eye for de­tail and stocks re­ally in­ter­est­ing brands. I can’t leave empty-handed!”

Jenny orig­i­nally trained in the­atre and com­pleted a master’s de­gree at Gold­smiths Uni­ver­sity. “As well as work­ing on the­atre projects in my 20s I landed a job in the fash­ion in­dus­try and spent three years trav­el­ling across the world at­tend­ing trade shows to sell lux­ury hand­bags and shoes to whole­sale clients,” Jenny says. “I loved the travel and ex­cite­ment but to­wards the end of my 20s I wanted to work in­de­pen­dently.”

Jenny re­trained as a Pi­lates teacher and taught peo­ple pri­vately in their homes. She is now an up-and-com­ing

“I’ve al­ways en­joyed mak­ing my own gifts for friends and fam­ily; they are much more thought­ful and per­sonal,” says Rebecca Robin­son from Tile­hurst, Read­ing.

“When I had my son, Ru­fus, now two, I used to dress him up ev­ery Satur­day for the first year of his life and made his out­fits and props, which were of­ten out of felt. I was then asked to make a felt crown for a friend’s son and I had a lot of peo­ple telling me that it was some­thing I should share. One day, I de­cided to make my­self a flower hoop and the busi­ness idea spi­ralled. I now sell my felt flower hoops and home decor.

“I suf­fer from anx­i­ety and find sewing is the per­fect dis­trac­tion. I never ex­pected my hobby to be re­ceived so well but I’m grate­ful.”

Rebecca used to be a florist and says flow­ers are a mas­sive part of her felt cre­ations. “My most pop­u­lar prod­ucts are the pump­kin ce­ram­i­cist. Her sig­na­ture nest­ing bowls are her most pop­u­lar items and her aqua turquoise glaze sells out very quickly.

“I work on the pot­tery wheel with stoneware clay and I also cre­ate some forms that are sets and au­tum­nal flo­ral hoops,” she says. “I love gothic home decor, which comes from my love for Tim Bur­ton. In Novem­ber, Tile­hurst has a cel­e­bra­tion for Re­mem­brance Day called Turn Tile­hurst Red, so I have also been mak­ing poppy hoops with a char­ity do­na­tion from ev­ery sale go­ing to the Royal Bri­tish Le­gion.”

Rebecca feels lucky to live in Berkshire. “We have the loveli­est neigh­bours. Ev­ery­one looks out for each other,” she says. “The best bits about the Royal county are hand-built. Ev­ery­thing is then trimmed and dried in my stu­dio for a few days and fired in my kiln. Each piece is glazed and left to dry again be­fore be­ing fired for a sec­ond time. Pot­tery is a long process and it has taught me a great deal of pa­tience,” she says. “I also love the pho­tog­ra­phy and mar­ket­ing side of my work. In my pho­to­graphs I use a mix­ture of dried and fresh flow­ers along­side pro­duce from our cot­tage gar­den. The soul­ful mu­sic of Lianne La Havas is al­ways on in my stu­dio and her mu­sic is re­ally im­por­tant to my cre­ative process. I am al­ways in­spired by the work of artist Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe.

“It is strange how through trauma with our daugh­ter’s ill­ness we have found some­thing won­der­ful at the other end. We have all grown stronger as a fam­ily,” says Jenny.

When asked about her fu­ture goals, she says: “I would like to get a sec­ond kiln so I can in­crease pro­duc­tion in 2021. We don’t know what the fu­ture holds but we con­tinue to try to take each week as it comes.” jhoppspot­tery.com

‘Clay gave me some­thing tac­tile to fo­cus on’

all the beau­ti­ful places you can go for walk, like Din­ton Pas­tures and Vir­ginia Wa­ter. We live on the edge of Sul­ham Woods and have dis­cov­ered Wilder’s Folly, which my son loves to go to. It’s a brick tower with amaz­ing views.”

So what’s next for Rebecca? “I want to con­tinue cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful things that peo­ple will en­joy and make a happy home for my son to thrive in,” she says. “He’s so cre­ative al­ready and he’s my drive be­hind ev­ery­thing I do.” Find Rebecca on Etsy un­der the shop Felt Cute

“I am re­ally just a big kid and have never grown tired of soft toys,” says Amanda Berry, who lives in the cen­tre of Read­ing with her hus­band and a huge col­lec­tion of knit­ted toys. “I al­ways doo­dled car­toon an­i­mals, so when I re­dis­cov­ered knit­ting for plea­sure I de­cided to try com­bin­ing both, which was much more fun than knit­ting a scarf.

“A decade ago I left my ca­reer in ac­count­ing to pur­sue a cre­ative ca­reer and en­rolled at Lon­don Col­lege of Fash­ion. While com­plet­ing my de­gree I started to build my port­fo­lio and de­signed for sev­eral knit­ting mag­a­zines. Since grad­u­at­ing, de­sign­ing toys has be­come my full-time job.”

Now Amanda sells these beau­ti­fully de­signed knit­ted toys stuffed with fluff and fuzz and they’re go­ing down a storm.

“My de­signs are in­spired by an­i­mals and na­ture; I of­ten make sketches of things I see when I am in the coun­try­side to con­vert into a knit­ted toy later,” says Amanda. “I love the River Thames and take reg­u­lar walks on the Thames Path to Son­ning and Henley. Wind­sor is also a quick train ride away for a day out shop­ping and sight­see­ing. My hus­band and I also love to visit Caver­sham Court – it is per­fect for pic­nics, and oc­ca­sion­ally we spot

Mun­t­jac deer there too.”

Amanda’s lat­est cre­ation, Andy the Llama, has been a bit of a hit with her fans. “He is a lit­tle toy so he doesn’t use a lot of yarn, so it is a great way to use up any leftovers,” she says. “My most pop­u­lar de­signs are Moss the Sheep, who makes a sweet lit­tle or­na­ment, and my Great White Shark for the ad­ven­tur­ous knit­ter.”

For Hal­loween, Amanda has de­signed a few creepy pat­terns, in­clud­ing vam­pires, bats, witches and pump­kins. “My per­sonal favourite is a voodoo doll pin­cush­ion,” she says.

To keep knit­ters busy dur­ing lock­down ear­lier this year, Amanda de­signed a set of free knit­ting pat­terns for toy veg­eta­bles. “I pub­lished the first one, a baby beet­root, in May, then reg­u­larly added new cute veg­gies through­out the sum­mer. It kept me busy in lock­down and I hope it helped oth­ers pass the time cre­atively too,” she says. “Knit­ters have also been mak­ing pairs of my knit­ted hearts to share with their loved ones dur­ing this dif­fi­cult time. It is al­ways a joy when knit­ters share pho­tos of the toys they have made with their new own­ers, and that in­spires me to cre­ate more.”

Amanda ad­mits she is only a be­gin­ner in cro­chet, so she is learn­ing more in her spare time. “I would love to master cro­chet­ing so that I can add cro­chet pat­terns to my range,” she says.

“I would en­cour­age any­one who has never tried to knit be­fore to have a go as it can be very re­ward­ing for your men­tal health. YouTube has plenty of videos to help you get started, and my friends at Love­Crafts.com have plenty of tips and tu­to­ri­als too.” love­crafts.com/en-gb/c/ar­ti­cle/ learn-to-craft;

Find Amanda on Etsy un­der the shop Fluff and Fuzz and at fluffand­fuzz.wee­bly.com

‘I am re­ally just a big kid’

ABOVE: Rebecca with her son, Ru­fus

BE­LOW: Her felt cre­ations

ABOVE: Amanda loves to knit BE­LOW: Andy the Llama, her Hal­loween bat, a spooky pump­kin and cute veg­gies

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