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Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Crafting, South African style

Wherever I go in the world, I can't help but poke my nose into the local craft scene. This time around I did a little more Googling than usual before heading off to Knysna, mainly in an attempt to find out if there were any interesting creative classes to get stuck into.

It seemed as though classes were in short supply (Knysna is a small place after all) but I did stumble upon the super-cute Peg & Thread website which piqued my interest. Having spotted a gap in the market for craft kits which would appeal to both children and adults, the two founders launched a variety of packages which include everything needed to get creative and make a specific item. They also offer a range of haberdasheries from ribbons and buttons to locally-produced linen and Liberty bits and bobs.

I was initially concerned that the whole operation was entirely online, but a quick email query to Nicola set me straight and got me heading in the seemingly unglamorous direction of Knysna's 'industrial area'. I was prepared for factory units and concrete, but was met with this:

Rather charming for being 'industrial' don't you think? Nestled between a salvaged furniture store, rusk bakery and interior design shop lay Peg & Thread.

I was met by the lovely Svelka who positively bubbled with creative enthusiasm and from whom I had to tear myself away amidst chatting about the London craft scene in order to explore the little studio.

Pretty display units housed the different craft kits:

Here are some they made earlier:

The other side of the studio displayed various haberdashery items such a ribbons, Liberty fabric buttons and other knick-knacks. The guy in the background was furiously packing craft kits for a bulk order. Having roots in the advertising and design industry, Svelka had mentioned Peg & Thread to a friend who passed on the idea on to a key influencer within a large advertising company. Suddenly Peg & Thread had an order of several hundred kits on their hands which were to be mailed out as special client gifts!

It's clear that there is a growing hunger for all things crafty on a global scale. As London now has it's fair share of craft workshops from Make Lounge to small independent designers, it's hard as a Londoner to remember a time when your every craft-related whim was not catered for!

Of course for some, having to research and individually source each project component is part of the joy of creation. However, even within a sprawling metropolis this can sometimes be a challenge. How often have I succumbed to the temptation of either buying a kit, or going to a class where everything is provided for me? Let's just say on more than one occasion..

In any case, I wish the ladies the very best of luck with their operation. It seems to have gotten off to a flying start, and there are rumours that there might soon be classes going on at a local cafe.. Very exciting indeed.

In my search for Knysna craft classes, Google did assist me in finding the Knysna Pottery House. I was actually looking for somewhere to learn how to 'throw' i.e. use a potter's wheel within a small group, but was open to suggestions on other clay-related activity.

Having spoken to Craig from Knysna Pottery House on the phone, he urged us to simply 'come over and have a look' one afternoon - very relaxed and bohemian. Once again heading over to the 'industrial' part of town (surely it should be called the 'quirky quarter'?) we tracked them down:

They did offer various classes such as ceramics painting and mosaics, as well as one-to-one 'throwing' classes. As we had just picked up my niece from school, it was a little late in the day to get started on anything except a little ceramics painting, but that could be fun too.

We began by picking out a plain ceramic item:

I chose a small bowl and got sketching. Hm, a Koi Carp perhaps?

Sadly I forgot to take a photo of the pre-fired piece, but here's how it looked when we picked up all the items a couple of days later:

Not too bad for a bit of spontaneous ceramic art, although I annoyingly forgot to paint on Mr Koi's feelers.. Anyway, here is the rest of the collection by my mum, niece, brother's girlfriend and her mother. Very enjoyable and extremely good value!

While passing through Oudtshoorn (about an hour and a half from Knysna) for a roadtrip, I happened upon a rather quaint looking textiles shop. As we had a little time to spare, I decided to explore. M told me that the sign in the window saying 'krapwinkel' generally means 'rubbish corner' in German, which of course only spurred on my curiosity even more!

Initially it seemed pretty dull: lots of rolls of tacky animal prints for the tourists...but right at the back of the store, something more colourful caught my eye:

Look at the pretty colours!!

To me, theses fabrics embodied Africa much more than the unimaginative leopard and zebra prints. And they were 16 Rand per metre (that's just over £1). Of course chaos and indecisiveness ensured.

In the end I got a metre of the following:

Erm, there *may* have been another visit to this charming krapwinkel on the way back to Cape Town a few weeks later. Just to complete the collection you understand.
In my mind it was exactly this combination of mad colours which held the appeal, rather than just one or two standalone prints. Gosh, will this be the year when I start quilting for the first time?!

Back in Knysna I also fell in love with this print from a local restaurant interior:

Thankfully Knsyna is a small place, and the local (i.e. *only*) local interior design shop was able to order a couple of metres for me. Exciting!! Sadly the fabric didn't arrive before I left, but my mum has promised to deliver it to me in a couple of months when they are back in the UK. To be honest I have plenty of fabric to keep me amused until then anyway!

My final craft stop was also a surprise. A tiny yarn store in the tiny town of Montagu, about two hours drive from Cape Town. With this crochet fellow sitting outside, how could I not go in?

As with many yarn stores in South Africa, acrylic prevailed although there were also some nice balls of cotton and bamboo. There was a small stash of 100% wool, which the owner insisted 'never sold'.

Admittedly I didn't see anything which I particularly fancied, although ended up picking up a couple of stitch holders which I have been meaning to buy for ages. I nattered with the owner for about half an hour, and attempted to introduce Ravelry into the conversation but she told me that she had long given up on trying to get an internet connection. No wonder she had so much time to create the huge and colourful crochet blankets casually draped around the shop!

I left her to arrange a myriad of squares for her next blanket project, feeling just a twinge of sadness that she would only get to share her creations with the small number of locals as well as the odd passer-by like myself. Crafting is often about self-expression and personal satisfaction, but at least for me there is also a joy in sharing tips and projects with anyone who is willing to listen.

In any case I am quite satisfied with how the creative juices flowing already this year and look forward to further discoveries and inspiration to come!