In September 2018 my husband and I (along with our springer spaniel Basil) packed our converted camper van and headed northwards from our home on the South East coast of Cornwall towards Gartmore House (located close to Aberfolye in the Scottish Trossachs) for a Felting Course. I had discovered Gartmore House and it’s residential courses/workshops quite by chance having sought out one of its resident tutors Ewa Kuniczak a (passionate felt maker/tutor of over 40 years experience and co-founder of The International Feltmakers Association).
Planning for the visit to Gartmore House had begun some twelve months prior to our visit and involved convincing my husband (who is not a Feltmaker) to accompany me. Thankfully he was easy persuaded based on the stunning location of the House, the availability of good fishing/walking close by and Tripadvisor reviews which gave Gartmore House good ratings for both their food and hospitality. An added benefit was that the local pub was within walking distance, was dog friendly and served a good whisky (he’s a “single malt kind of guy”, with a love of the peaty Islay whiskys).
We arrived at Gartmore House on a wet and rainy Sunday afternoon after a long drive from home. After walking the dog, unloading the car and settling into a very spacious bedroom with grand views across the surrounding countryside, we joined fellow students (and their partners) for an afternoon tea and a brief from the tutors in the grand old sitting room. Two courses were being run the week of our stay; the felting course on which I had booked and a watercolour painting course.
The next morning began with a hearty breakfast and a leisurely 10am start to our workshop. Having chosen/dyed the base fabric upon which we were going to create a large piece of Nuno felted material, we worked on the process of laying down our wool fibres ready for felting the next day. I had previously made Nuno felted jackets and coats however these had always been constructed using a template and a carefully considered approach. Ewa’s approach on this workshop however was more organic and intuitive with the focus on designing length of Nuno felted fabric first and only once this was completed then considering the drape/construction of the final finished garment. Initially I found this approach challenging as it took me out of my comfort zone however with Ewa’s encouragement and expertise as a teacher I started to engage with the process and my work quickly started to take shape in terms of design. By the end of day three I had successfully overcome my initial concerns and had constructed a piece of fabric which, when fully felted, became the reversible top seen here.
Days four and five allowed myself and another student on the workshop to develop our confidence and skills further as we focused on making a spiral scarf or a piece of neckwear. In designing/making this piece I tried to draw upon some of the influences/designs within the architecture of the house ie: stunning Mackintosh style windows/staircases and work in a bold colour palate of strong reds/blues to reflect the Scottish heritage. The results of applying Ewa’s intuitive approach in designing a garment from a single sheet of Nuno felted fabric were remarkable, and by the end of the five day workshop we were all proud owners of two quite individual and unique garments of which we were immensely proud.
I fully intend to return to a Gartmore House again soon to attend another of Ewa’s workshops for not only is she a passionate tutor but one who is incredibly generous in sharing her wealth of knowledge and skills. As for the staff at Gartmore House – all I can deliver is praise for their warmth and hospitality. If you are looking for 5 star accommodation then Gartmore House is perhaps not the place for you. If however if you are looking for a site with history, warmth and which is “good value for money” then step through the grand entrance of this lovely building…stay a few days and experience true Scottish hospitality.
Feltmaker (SE Cornwall)
To find out more about our Felting Courses at Gartmore House, visit our Felting course webpage, call us on 01877 382991 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org