20th Anniversary Address from Elizabeth Bonnar

On Sunday, the 7th of May 2023, the founder and president of Feltmakers Ireland, Elizabeth Bonnar, gave an address at our AGM. Below is an excerpt of her speech. Underneath this, there is a selection of felted creations that Elizabeth shared during the meeting.

Elizabeth Bonnar at the AGM

It is a great pleasure for me to be with you all today to give this address to Feltmakers Ireland in the new venue here in Inchicore. This is an auspicious day for us. We are celebrating the upcoming launch of the book on our Guild’s Wool Project and the 20th anniversary of the founding of Feltmakers Ireland, which took place on the 3rd of May 2003, 20 years ago almost to the day.

I have been asked to talk about our Guild’s beginnings, but first, I will tell you a little bit about the history of feltmaking, how I became aware of this amazing craft, and how that set me on the path to setting up Feltmakers Ireland.

It would be good to start by precisely defining what felt is:

Felt is the world’s oldest textile structure. Felting converts fibre – usually wool – into fabric without spinning or weaving. When wool fibres are subjected to a combination of moisture and friction, with the addition of heat and a little alkali, the resulting fabric is felt. Wool fibres are covered with overlapping scales, which open up and interlock when rubbed together. The longer the rubbing, the more entangled and firmer the felt becomes. Shrinkage is involved, and this, of course, must be allowed for.

~~ Elizabeth Bonnar ~~

The history of feltmaking tells us that it is an ancient craft dating back over four thousand years, which had its cradle in central Asia. From the late 1960s, in the UK, a revival of feltmaking occurred mainly due to the British artist Mary Burkett. During a trip to Iran in 1962, she stopped her car for a closer look at a group of people rolling a bundle of something in a bed of leaves. It turned out to be felt. She recognised the antiquity of the designs and the unusual but simple nature of the process and wondered why such an ancient craft seemed to be close to extinction. She spent the next 16 years researching felt in the East, research which had far-reaching effects. Her exhibition “The Art of the Feltmaker” in Cumbria in 1979, followed by a book of the same name, was a revelation to the public. Artists and crafts persons alike were amazed and delighted. The book and the exhibition acted as catalysts for the rebirth of feltmaking and the setting up in 1984 of the International Feltmakers Association, based in the UK and covering the British Isles.

How I discovered feltmaking
In 1996, planning to retire a few years early and exploring new horizons, I joined the Irish Guild of Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers. Having been an inveterate knitter all my life, I thought I knew everything about wool, but at one of their workshops, I discovered to my amazement, that apart from knitted and woven articles and carpets, it was possible to make fabric from unspun wool, using water, friction, and soap, giving myriads of possibilities in colour, texture, shape and design. I was immediately hooked. Having learned about the International Feltmakers Association, known as the IFA for short, I enrolled as a member. I was allocated to Region 15, the Republic of Ireland, which had six other members at that time, one of them being the area coordinator.

Just after I retired, I was able to attend a five-day international conference held by the IFA at a college in Manchester. The top feltmakers worldwide were teaching there, with spectacular exhibitions of their work on display. A large hall filled with stands showed felting supplies from the UK and abroad. It was like an Aladdin’s cave of colour and texture, like nothing I had ever seen. I was fortunate to see the world’s best at the beginning of my felting journey. In addition, I was able to attend some of the workshops, one of them being Nuno feltmaking, felting into the fabric, taught by Sheila Smith. Nuno is the Japanese word for cloth. Nuno later became my favourite felting technique. Sheila and I formed an immediate and lasting friendship. As fellow Scots, we had both been trained in Glasgow. I came away from the conference realising that there existed a very active worldwide network of felting organisations which anyone could tap into – or contribute to. This international element we used to the full, later in our Guild.

At the annual Knit and Stitch Show in the RDS in Dublin in November 1996, I had my first experience of helping to handle a stand for the IFA. It was up on the balcony, in the crafts gallery between the Lacemakers Guild and the Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers. Our stand was staffed by two members from the UK and our team from Ireland. The UK members were Pamela Dunbar from Lisburn and Joan Braganza from Surrey. They became great mentors to me, not only in feltmaking and running the stand but also in how to organise meetings and workshops, sourcing and ordering supplies, record keeping, networking and financial matters. Later, I became the coordinator for Area 15 and took over the running of our stand at the Knit and Stitch Show.

At The Knit and Stitch
At the show, we feltmakers were the relatively new kids on the block, as the craft of feltmaking was virtually unheard of. There was huge interest in our stand. Three of us would stand in a row demonstrating how to make samples. We used coloured and natural wool tops, adding in yarns, silk fibre, fragments of materials and lace, showing how pieces of fabric could be produced like magic within minutes using wisps of wool. We hung them up along the edge of our table to be touched and admired. The effect was electrifying to the public, and throngs surrounded our table. Naturally, water was involved in the process, and much plastic sheeting had to be manipulated to keep the table and floor dry. One of my most challenging experiences occurred when clearing up after the show ended. I was carrying a heavy bucket of water away when the handle came off, and the water cascaded down through the gaps in the decking onto the floor below. It caused great laughter upstairs but not so underneath. Somehow it got blamed on Joan Braganza, who, luckily for me, had already left the country for home.

In the beginning
Under the auspices of IFA Region 15, we started running feltmaking courses in Castleknock in the lovely new parish centre of Our Lady Mother of the Church, with its beautiful facilities. We began with the Basic and Beyond, a one-day course held in January, which we advertised at the Knit and Stitch in November. This worked very well as people booked places in advance for themselves and as Christmas gifts. The Basic and Beyond was a great success over the years. We often had 36 participants, filling the hall with three sets of pupils, teachers, and much-needed helpers. After that, we held regular workshops, often with international tutors, including hat making, Nuno felting, silk papermaking, and sampling fibre from different sheep breeds. Our workshop in February 2003, entitled “Felt Fragmented”, was given by Sheila Smith, now immediate past chairperson of the IFA and a superb teacher.

The Birth of Feltmakers Ireland
Our membership grew to 40, and in February of 2003, because of the surging interest in feltmaking, we realised it was time to set up an autonomous group in Ireland to be known as Feltmakers Ireland. A steering committee was set up, and with advice from the Crafts Council, who provided a facilitator, we organised an Open Day in our hall in Castleknock. At this event, the Guild would be formally established and inaugurated. From the beginning, at the Knit and Stitch, we had noted down the names and contact details of everyone interested in felting who visited our stand. Over the years, we ended up with about 240 names. We circulated these names and those of all other guilds, notifying them of our intention to set up a feltmaking guild at the Open Day, held on the 3rd of May 2003, in Castleknock. We invited them to attend. On the day, there was a great turnout. We had set up an exhibition of work, feltmaking demonstrations, and stands selling materials used in feltmaking, fibre from different sheep, silk fibre, yarns and fabrics. Afterwards, there were refreshments.

Twenty-eight of the many attendees stayed on for the formal setting up of the Guild. Then the facilitator from the Crafts Council took us through the whole process, which entailed telling our story so far, group discussions to decide our aims and objectives, and question time. After consensus was reached, officers and committee members were elected. All went smoothly, and by 3 pm on the 3rd of May 2003, Feltmakers Ireland had come into being.

Then the hard work began, registering with the Crafts Council, setting up bank accounts, getting insurance, organising workshops, and so much more. Over the years, Feltmakers Ireland has thrived despite some ups and downs, the sort any guild would have. The worst was Covid, but the committee saw us through this with great stamina and perseverance. The good news is that there has been renewed interest in feltmaking since Covid and that a second felt renaissance may well be on the way. Our committee is ready for it!

In conclusion
I want to finish by thanking all those who helped set up our organisation, all previous members and all those who have followed in our footsteps. Long may Feltmakers Ireland continue to give us creative joy, enriching fellowship, and fun!

A Selection of Elizabeth Bonnar’s felted creations


GANS Opportunity to collaborate with a fashion designer – deadline extended to 12/03/2022

This exciting opportunity is still available for the next week. Carmen Garcia has kindly offered to share her experience in just such a collaboration to give us an idea on how it may work. Her report can be found below.

This scheme will run from the end of March to August.

It has come to our notice that the form to apply for this collaboration has to be filled out by our GANS representative, so if you want to apply, please send an email to Annika Berglund, one of our two reps, and she will facilitate the application. Her email is annika@annikaberglund.com.

This is Carmen’s report and a photo of the beautiful result of their cooperation:

In 2019 I took part in a cooperation project between The Council of Irish Fashion Designers and The Design and Crafts Council of Ireland. 

The idea of these cooperation projects is to randomly pair a designer and a craft maker to produce a design working together. I was paired with the talented designer Charlotte Lucas.

We designed a wedding dress with hat inspired by Balenciaga. We mixed the fluidity of Charlotte’s style with the rigidity of the felt.

We found our common ground, what we shared in our approach to design, and we both moved towards the other. It was a very interesting experience. 

We felt stretched in our approach to the design, and found the limitations in the process were stimulating for the creative process and both were very happy with the result. 

I totally recommend the experience to any Feltmaker that might be considering it. 

Feltmakers Ireland @ Irish Showcase 2022

The guild of Feltmakers Ireland was invited to take part in SHOWCASE IRELAND 2022 to demonstrate the craft of feltmaking.

Showcase Ireland, Ireland’s Creative Expo ® is one of the country’s largest international trade shows. Over 4,000 buyers visit the event from across the world,

This year we were asked to participate with only a week’s notice, which was pretty tight but we managed to rise to the challenge of showing what felting is about over the 4 days of this event.

It was a great opportunity to tell people about the guild of Feltmakers Ireland and we hope that we have opened the door to future opportunities for those in our guild who sell their work in larger quantities to participate in this event in the future.

There were many interested people who stopped and enquired about our guild, about the felt making process  and the felt pieces that were on display. Each day our stand changed what pieces were shown depending on what maker was demonstrating.

Our contact in DCCI was very happy that we managed to pull this off with so very little preparation. Given the positive feedback our stand generated she was hopeful  that we can do this again in future years, hopefully with more advance notice.

Feltmakers Ireland would welcome the opportunity to do this again. With more notice we would be able to  have  time to advertise beforehand on social media  and on our blog.

We would also open the space, and the manning of the stand, to all our members, hoping that as many as possible of our members who sell their work could take part and be able to share their creations with the retail sector.

We think this could be a great showcase of the talents of our members and the possibilities of making quality products using felt.

GANS meeting 8/12/2021

In brief:

GANS (Guilds, Associations, Networks and societies) welcomed four new members to the board. Annika and Deirdre new reps from Feltmakers Ireland.

Brian Mc Gee said they are organising, Showcase for the RDS 27th Feb 2022 for 4 days.

Sarah Daly gave a presentation on” Creative Spark”, Dundalk, Co. Louth. A facility for artists of all skills facilitating 40 businesses.  If anyone is interested in a two or three month residency, they have facilities for print, ceramics and glass fusing.

Frances Crowe from Roscommon was explaining about the International Fibre Festival going ahead 28th April – May 2022.

Maeve Murphy was talking about an international project linked with Turkey. euproject@turkiyetasarimvakfi.org  Open call for designers of all disciplines 24/01/2022 deadline.

The National Museum was looking for artists of all disciplines to show an interest in an interactive 

Display for children 3-12 years of craft in the museum.  hbeaumont@mymuseum.ie or adunne@mymuseum.ie

Suzy O’Keefe congratulated everyone on the Made Local campaign.

Collar Project

News of a collar project : Think it sounds really exciting and I LOVE projects that don’t need more space than my kitchen table.

Link to Application Form below where all the details are explained as well as lovely stories about 2 crafters from the past! Just reading it inspired me to root out a collar my grandmother made in 1925 … probably by oil lamp/candleI also like the suggestion that you can collaborate with another crafter!!!!

As part of the Government’s “Keep Well” campaign, DCCI has developed an online exhibition. Switch off Be creative.
Design a Collar, Ruff or Cuffs. Collars, ruffs, cuffs, lunula & torcs are universal forms of adornment that have been worn for generations.

Your entry must be wearable, creative, innovative & contemporary in design, it can be made in any material i.e. silk, wool, linen, paper, wire, metal etc. or combined materials and can be created in any discipline utilising any techniques, be handcrafted or created using digital technologies. Collaborations will be accepted i.e. a glass artist working with a lace maker; a basket maker with a milliner; a metalsmith with a feltmaker… the possibilities are endless. All entries will feature in an online exhibition, on DCCI’s social channels and on www.dcci.ie/learners/keep-well. Collars must be photographed on a plain black background and submitted with the completed application form. Apply here https://www.cognitoforms.com/DesignCraftsCouncilOfIreland1/DesignACollarRuffOrCuffs   #KeepWell. gov.ie/healthyireland

Breda- GANS and DCCI link committee member

GANS MEETING- report update

Hi Folks

Breda Fay here reporting on February GANS Meeting ( Wednesday 17th Feb, via Zoom). I’ve decided that I will do a short report rather than linking you to DCCI page. You can always follow DCCI web page for more info.

Meeting started with condolences being offered on death of David Shaw Smith – not sure how many of you are as old as I am … but I remember his series of programmes on Telly about crafts in Ireland and actually bought the book HANDS which was published about the series. His work was certainly a catalyst in protecting as well encouraging the native crafts of Ireland. If any of you have memories of it, Hillary @making.ie would love you to pen a few lines.

Congratulations to all the guilds who are participating in “Getting Creative during Covid” Mental Health projects – Feltmakers Ireland are one of the guilds who have received funding for a project “Keep Well and Felt with Us” being organized by Niki Collier (in conjunction with Caoilfionn Murphy O’Hanlon and Liadain de Buitleir). You’ve probably seen it advertised and interest has been amazing …. So much so that instead of a session with each of the feltmakers … there will now be three with each. Good luck Niki. I got my pack today!

There were a number of presentations which all emphasized that despite all the difficulties of isolation, it is really important for each guild to maintain our presence. Many are doing projects which encourage members to work at home with a particular focus…. maybe putting all the pieces together to form one collaborative piece, some are organizing online exhibitions….. Presentations this morning:

  • Showcase Ireland’s first virtual event
  • The Glass Society of Ireland on it newly published book (only 5 left)
  • The Irish Guild of Embroiderers on their recently published (and still available) book “Twenty Twenty”. The cover design is by Colleen Prenderville (known to many of us) 
  • Borris Lace Group’s partnership with South Armagh Lace Collective in “Laces Across the Borders”

Some things you might be interested in:

  1. The Quilters Guild of Ireland are looking for 10 inch submissions from members/non-members on the theme HOME for quilts (they’re planning 10) which will be sold/auctioned to support women’s shelters (quiltersguildireland.com)
  2. DCCI are going to make a callout for COLLARS for an online exhibition – watch this space!
  3. Society of Cork Potters are calling out for items themed “ON HOME GROUND” for an exhibition which will be run in conjunctions with  A Taste of West Cork in September (www.corkpotters.com)
  4. Any members down around the Cork area, watch out for Bench Space, an organisation that is making an equipped workshop available for crafts people. Currently it has mainly woodworking tools but hope soon to have equipment for textile, iron, glass work


I think it is really important that there be a FELTMAKING presence in the August Craft Month Project. Let’s use it as a way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of DCCI AND we might be in the park again by then! Think small but maybe collaboratively??? Get back to me with ideas and offers of help!!!

I’m really missing our Sunday Sessions. Have done a few online courses – see previous blog of recommendations by Annika. It was great to see so many participating in Feltmakers Ireland first online course with Gabi McGrath – hugely successful, nationally and internationally. I’m not sure if there are spaces on Niki’s course. You might have some ideas for online activities or courses????? Let us know hellofeltmakersireland@gmail.com

Also keep in mind our draw for paid up members which will take place beginning of March.

Cheers for now – Breda

Felt with Us and Keep Well

Felt with Us and Keep Well-

Workshops are being offered by 3 experienced Feltmakers- made possible by funding received from DCCI under the keep well initiative.

Classes will be taught by Caoilfionn Murphy O’Hanlon, Niki Collier & Liadain De Buitlear

Have you tried the Stained Glass technique in felting?
Join your tutors for three online classes to try felting, spark your passion for fibres and discover a fun
technique for making colourful pictures in felt.

All materials included.

This project was made possible with funding from DCCI under the Keep Well initiative.
See details here:

28th Feb 11am -12 noon Making a Felt Picture with Caóilfíonn Murphy O’Hanlon

7th Mar 11am – 12 noon Patchwork Felt Niki Collier

14th Mar 11am – 12 noon Making a Stained Glass Finish on a Felt Picture Liadain de Buitlear

To book classes, go here https://www.nikicollier.com/keep-well-campaign

After the workshops you will be able to submit your piece for an exhibition called Evie and Us.
Deadline for submission 1 st September. Exhibition will launch 1 st October 2021.

GANS meeting update

Hi felting followers…

Breda Fay here – the money minder – an easy job in the present climate as we have no expenses.

I attended monthly meet of GANS this lunchtime. Usually I just send a link to GANS but decided today to be more personal and share some news that might be of interest to you. Some of it has time constraints so if you’re interested link to relevant sites quickly.

  1. The POSTAGE SCHEME is going very well – €4.95 (inc VAT) for labels from An Post. The first consignment is almost gone so get your orders in quickly – A second consignment planned for before Christmas- this is a scheme for Guilds that can apply for postage rates from anpost.
  2. The Irish Business Design Challenge has been receiving lots of applications (final date 28th October). Many of the 250+ applications are still in draft form so you still have time. It’s aimed at micro, small and medium businesses with a prize fund of €50,000. Check out the website as it might be of interest to many of our members: https://www.dcci.ie/irish-business-design-challenge
  3. Business to Arts Fund is another scheme that might interest some of you. Will bring up an application of behalf of Feltmakers Ireland at next committee meeting. But some members might like to make their own submission for funding. Closing date is November 4th at 5pm and the project must take place between February and December 2021. Consult website for more details: https://www.businesstoarts.ie/artsfund/bank-of-ireland/
  4. Phase 1 of “MADE LOCAL” has been a great success – with very positive reports from artists and makers. Phase 2 is to be launched in early November – the theme “Gifting for Christmas” will be in time for the Christmas market. Brian Magee (DCCI) urges all makers to register. The form is available on DCCI site or you can contact Brian at brian@dcci.ie. This campaign offers great support to makers with a wide range of publicity on radio, Nationwide on TV, social media, etc: https://www.dcci.ie/made-local
  5. For the first time ever (or in a very long time) DCCI are putting out an open call to makers who create pieces of exceptional merit. I went to make coffee while this was being talked about – so will be in touch with Mary Whelan for relevant information!
  6. Many of the Guilds and Societies are in the same boat as ourselves. There was particular concern about the absence of the RDS Christmas Fair. BUT there might be some good news, covid conscious of course –
  7. Dublin Live have a market planned for the Smithfield area:  https://www.dublinlive.ie/whats-on/family-kids-news/christmas-mistletown-smithfield-markets-dublin-19030974
  8. Galway Christmas Markets 8pm November 13th
  9. Belfast Christmas Market Nov 16th
  10. Glow Cork Nov 29th
  11. Waterford Winterval Nov 23rd
  12. Wicklow Christmas Market Nov 23rd
  13. GOOGLE for others or changes
  14. MADE LOCAL hope that its forum will provide an online platform for craft work.

Thats it for now folks- stay safe and well.

CIFD and GANS Collaboration.

Report by Breda Fay- GANS rep (edited by Tamzen Lundy)

Breda Fay/ Michelle Kearns
GANS & CIFD collaboration

Since the beginning of April, some members from Felt makers Ireland have been working with designers from the fashion world on a collaborative project linking craft persons and designers.

Today – August 29th– was the culmination of our work, when our projects were modeled as part of the CIFD Fashion Show/ Media Day. The fashion show itself was amazing and one could only be inspired by the address and commentary of Eddie Shanahan, chair of CIFD, a truly enthusiastic and inspiring speaker.

For the last few months, Carmen Garcia, Niki Collier and Breda Fay have been engaging with our partner designers from the council of Irish fashion design. We had been randomly matched to “accentuate learning and ensure innovative engagement”.

I worked with Michelle Kearns, a milliner from Tuam.

Michelle and I shared stories of our likes and dislikes, dreams and history to come up with a theme for the design. We also discussed different textures and shades of felt. Samples and photographs went back and forth until we finally decided on a very fine and feathery black Merino and Silk with embellishments of cerise Tussah silk that Michelle would incorporate into a wire structure. The finished work would illustrate overcoming adversity (thick and gnarled branches) growing into more open structure with birds and blooms of hope and resilience.

In all, 15 pairs brought their projects to completion and the resulting hats, baskets, dresses, scarves, etc were amazing. The crafts of calligraphy, metal smith, lace making, felt making, basket making, crochet, textile art and embroidery were all represented.

Carmen Garcia's collaborative work
GANS & CIFD collaboration

This is the second year of the collaboration and I would urge members to watch the GANS page of the website and read the blog posts for notice of next year’s event, when we will once again advertise this opportunity. For those that managed to get along this year and became involved it was certainly and enriching and lasting experience.

See a word from Eddie in thanks below.


The below was received from the Council of Irish Fashion Designers

Ladies & Gentlemen,

On behalf of all of us in CIFD I wish to express our gratitude to you for the skill, inspiration, dedication and creativity you brought to our collaboration project.

It is not often that one of Ireland’s most eminent journalists declares an event as ‘Triumphant and emotional’ – but those were her first words at the end of our presentation on Thursday.

My colleagues and I have enjoyed the process, our respect and admiration for your skills is difficult to put into words. Design and Craft came together last week in an engaging evocation of Irish culture, proving beyond doubt that our heritage crafts can be extremely engaging in a contemporary context.

I hope you too enjoyed the project and the presentation.

I know Mary has exciting plans to give the work further exposure and I will also be seeking extra opportunities in the coming months.

We can expect some newspaper and magazine publicity in the coming weeks. In the meantime I am sending you a hi res image of your contribution by WeTranfer. I hope to have some video clips of the pieces in the next short while and will also forward those in due course.

I look forward to the possibility of working with you again in the near future.

Best regards,


Creative Livelihoods, DCCoI seminar & AGM

agriculture-animal-animal-photography-459215Hi All,

Feltmakers Ireland is a member of DCCoI. We try to forward on to our members events that may be of interest. See the links below for booking for 11th June AGM and seminar of DCCoI.

Join us on June 11th at the National Museum of Ireland for the ‘Creative Livelihoods’ – The Value of Craft in Communities seminar. We have an exciting line-up of speakers that will highlight the value and

opportunities of living and working in rural regions while connecting to a global marketplace. Highlights include Lorna McAuley from the Harris Tweed Authority who will bring us on a journey that maps the

highs and lows of the Harris Tweed industry and what it means to the Isle of Harris. Colin McCallion of eBay will share insights on the potential for online trade and eBays role in opening

the global market place for craft and Chupi Sweetman will share how she grew her brand to operate in 64 countries around the world.

 More Info and how to book

The DCCoI AGM is also on on the same date-

To Book AGM https://dccoi.doodle.com/poll/zspw84fcu29wx5s7