About Pippa Sweeney Designs
How did PIPPA SWEENEY DESIGNS start?
It was the experience and knowledge I gained whilst engaging with customers in my own retail business that was the catalyst for the development of the Good Wishes and Felt Art gift ranges. With a background in illustration and with a love of problem solving and dabbling with words and rhyme - the Good Wishes framed poetry gifts first slowly emerged in 2015. Initially I created them to fill a gap in the gift selection I offered, but I soon realised how much I loved the product development side of the business and encouraged by my customers and wholesale stockists, poems celebrating other special family occasions soon followed.
The needle felt art was a wonderful counter balance to my poems and over the following years both ranges grew in tandem with the Twin Frames now combining these two types of prints.
These framed gifts now sell internationally.
How did you get into felting?
In 2010, with a love of combining word and illustration and having a feeling that I had a book in me, I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to take a year out to study full time for a Masters degree in Authorial Illustration at the University of Falmouth in the UK. It was during my studies and whilst searching for an illustrative medium for a children’s book on dyslexia, that I stumbled upon the technique of needle felting. This was a massive eureka moment as I had been researching the use of muddled wool as a visual metaphor to express word difficulties for children and suddenly I had found a medium and technique that was a perfect fit with the concept of my book. I set about learning how to needle felt and started creating wool characters. I also experimented with the use of spun wool to create text and the two worked beautifully together in combination on the pages. My book WORDS GET KNOTTED was on its way and went on to be published by A+C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury and won an educational award in the UK.
After I returned home to Ireland, my husband and I opened a craft gift shop and it just seemed natural to continue the journey with wool and felting while working on the premises and soon customers were asking if they could buy pieces that I was making – and it continued from there!
What is felting?
Very briefly, felting can be done using either the wet or dry methods. I usually use the wet felting process for creating my backgrounds. This is where fibres are laid between bubble wrap and using soapy water, agitation and pressure, tiny scales in the wool open to catch on each other and this meshes the fibres together creating a pre-felt fabric. I then use needle felting to add flat or threedimensional additions to embellish the pre felt. I also make felt characters. Needle felting again meshes, shapes and condenses fibres but uses small barbed needles to do so, hooking and locking the scales from different fibres together.