Category Archives: Travel

The Rambling Crafter; WWOOF Hawaii

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The Rambling Crafter series is back and this time I’m talking about my experience with WOOFF Hawaii back in January, 2008.  For those of you loyal readers, you may remember that I recently eluded to this trip in my DIY Dress Redo post earlier this month.

What is WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)?

The mission of WWOOF is to help educate the world about how to live sustainably and organically within a community of like-minded individuals.

WWOOF is a way to broaden your education and practical experience, learn about organic gardening and farming, and meet new people.  It is also a great way to travel in Hawaii on 5 main Islands at over 200 farm hosts (and a vast array of different places). You help 4-6 hours a day, 5 – 5 1/2 days per week and receive accommodations, meals and a very interesting experience.

WWOOF Aims*

  • to get firsthand experience of organic farming & gardening and to lend a helping hand wherever needed
  • to get into the countryside of Hawaii and Hawaiian culture.
  • to help the organic movement, which is often labour intensive and does not rely on artificial fertilizers & pesticides.
  • to make contact with other people in the organic movement.
  • to have a wonderful enriching experience.
  • to enable people from all over the world to have a cultural exchange.

*Taken directly from the WWOOF Hawai’i website.

During the process of researching WWOOF we learned that it is a program for all levels of experience.  We had no experience at all with farming or even gardening.  While some farms do require prior experience for working on their farms, others don’t require any, so it was just a matter of contacting those farms and feeling out which one we thought we’d like to work with, and which ones could accommodate our schedule for when we could travel.

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We eventually found Josanna’s Garden in Kapoho on the Big Island.

Garden is a good name for this place, as it is only about 3 acres.  Though small in size, it produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including; lilikoi (passion fruit), papaya, bananas (silk fig, Mexican apple, lady finger, ice cream), avocado, ruby red grapefruit, sweet white grapefruit, pommelo, breadfruit, Mountain apples, star apples, meyers lemons, bumpy lemons, sour sop, rombuton, navel oranges, rollinia, tangerines, tahitian limes, guava, egg fruit, mamey sapote, coconuts, french green beans, yellow ginger, turmeric, white or greater galangal, red galangal, starfruit, jackfruit, and more!!

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Breadfruit (above) looks prickily on the outside, but is actually very squishy and delicate.  To harvest it, one person cuts the stem from the tree with a saw attached to a very long stick while two other people wait below with a stretched out bed sheet.  The bed sheet cushions it’s fall and prevents it from splaterring on the ground.  The conssistancy of this fruit is like pudding.

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While most of the produced grown on Josanna’s Garden was available for sale only at the farms’ small road-side stand (below), the various types of ginger were shipped to the other Hawaiian islands, and maybe even the main land.

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Here’s a good view of the farm from a gently sloped field of freshly planted galangal.

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And here is another small plot of ginger that was recently weeded.  Though galangal takes about 13 weeks to mature, the farm has many small plots of it  that are planted at different time so that it may be harvested year round.  Though our stay on the farm was just three weeks we were able to participate in each stage of galangal production; planting, maintaining (weeding/mulching/fertilizing with organic compost), and harvesting.

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Below, Jon stands in front of large piles of cut veggitation which will be used in composting.  Piles of compost that are farther along can be seen in the distance next to the banana plants.  Ironically, Jon’s shirt says, “I dig dirt.”  Composting is a large and important part of organic farming.

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In addition to the ginger and many exotic fruits sold by the farm, there was also a plot of land reserved for growing vegetables specifically for the WWOOF volunteers.   Below is the fenced in WWOOF garden and its handmade sign.

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When you become a WWOOFer and volunteer on a farm you are given accommodations by your hosts.  These accommodations vary from farm to farm.  Most hosts provide a spare bedroom, some a separate cabin, some their RV or a trailer/camper, while some can only offer tenting sites.  In the case of Josanna’s Garden, each volunteer or volunteer couple, were given a separate cabin.  Some of these cabins were newer and nicer, while others were a bit more shabby.  The basic rule at this farm was that new volunteers were given whatever space was available at the time they arrived and as volunteers left you could switch if you’d like, so if you stay for a long time you could pretty much get the pick of where you want to stay.  Below is the room that Jon and I shared.  Though you can’t really tell from this picture, it is actually connected to the barn, but since it has its own entrance felt very much like a separate cabin.  Most of the cabins on Josanna’s Garden were not wired for electricity (which was solar-powered), but since our room connected with the barn we did actually have a light bulb which was pretty nice.

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Directly to the right of our door was an over hang that protected an array of hand tools used daily by us volunteers.

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This volunteer had been on the farm for a long time when we arrived and didn’t have any plans of when he would be leaving so he asked the hosts if they would allow him to build himself a tree house. He started the project right around the time we arrived and as you can see from the picture below he got pretty far along after three weeks.
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We traveled very light for our trip so everyday after work we would take off our work cloths and hang them up in the porch area of our room.  We didn’t bother to wash them while we were there because it was so humid that they wouldn’t have dried in time for us to wear them again.  Now that I look back on the experience, it was a good preparation in some ways to the way we would live in Peace Corps.  DSCN6251.JPG

It wasn’t all work on Hawaii either.  We did get two days off a week which we used to explore as much as possible.  This was a bit difficult because the farm was a bit secluded and away from any town.  There was a free public bus that we utilized a few times, but in this part of the country hitch hiking is still common and for the most part safe (though I would never recommend hitch hiking alone), which is how we usually got around.  One time we hitched all the way to Hilo and back (60 mile round trip).  We never just stood at corners waiting for a ride, but would instead walk along the busy highway with our thumbs out.  Below is a picture of me walking along with my new ukulele in hand and thumb out.

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The farm is located near the eastern coast of the Big Island, where jagged lava rocks meet the ocean and create tide pools.

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At the very end of our trip we rented a car for a couple of days so that we could see more of the Big Island, including Volcano National Park.  It was very awesome to see active volcano’s, though there weren’t any lava flows while we were there.  We learned that volcano’s can be pretty toxic, and stinky to

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Though I haven’t talked about everything concerning our trip to Hawaii and our experience as WWOOF volunteers, I hope that this post has given you a better understanding of the WWOOF program.  If you have been wanting to learn more about organic farming I strongly encourage you to look into this program.  The WWOOF program in Hawaii is nice because you get to see Hawaii while you learn, but remember that WWOOF stands for world wide opportunities on organic farms, so if you can’t travel all the way to Hawaii there are other options.

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Suitcase restoration project

I love old suitcases. They may be antiquated luggage, but they have so many other things going for them. I’m not the only one that feels this way. People like old stuff, they like objects that tell a story and have a history. But the connotations of travel bring another level of excitement to these already awesome objects. When you think of travel, you think; adventure, exotic sights, and the unknown.

I think that’s what drew me to start my collection of old suitcases in high school. At the time, my best friends were traveling throughout Europe and it made me start to day dream of what it would be like to go to a place so different from the small town where I grew up (which I eventually did, but that’s another story).

Most of my collection came from my Grandma White. You might call her a hoarder. Well, she has a lot of stuff, but she’ll also give you any of it if you ask, so maybe that’s not really hording.

She gave me this suitcase probably 10 or 12 years ago, and it’s in pretty much the same condition now as it was then.

I’ve always really liked it. I could tell that it was a diamond in the rough. It has good bones.

Recently I was scavenging in the attic looking for something when I came across my suitcase collection and decided that I was finally going to tap into its potential.

But how?

Though a little rough around the edges (literally), I didn’t want to really change the outside; it was the inside that was making this beautiful and interesting piece unusable. I didn’t want to use it for storage or anything else in the condition that it was in. The fabric was musty, ripped, heavily stained, and pulling away from the exterior (exposing old, sharp, hand-forged nails. Ouch!).

It had to go.

With the lining removed, the case already looked a lot better. I even liked that the lid was lined with an old newspaper. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a date anywhere on it.

It was at this point that I decided that this case could make a nice display/carrying case for my artwork when I go to shows. Since I would be using the case in the open position at shows, it was important that the inside be lined and clean-looking, despite the shabbiness of the exterior.

I had the perfect fabric for this project.  A gold, velvety material that I inherited during college, and I had just enough! The fabric and the case combined remind me of my old cornet case.

To line the suitcase I first cut out three pieces of book-binding board, to fit into the bottom of the case. This was a little tricky, but I eventually got the pieces to fit into the case nice and snugly.

Next, I covered the boards with the fabric. I used an iron-on adhesive to adhere it to the boards.

The covered boards fit very tightly in the base of the suitcase, so I didn’t bother gluing them down.  I want them to be easily removed in the future if needed.

For the lid of the suitcase, I cut down a piece of thickest piece of cork board I could find and covered it with the same fabric.  Then I tacked it to the lid using small nails, both original and new. The cork board is a way to easily attach products to the lid for display at craft fairs.

To keep the lid at a 90 degree angle, I attached some grossgrain ribbon in a contrasting chocolate brown.

I get a really deep satisfaction of a well executed DIY project, which I consider this to be. I got something that I needed (a display), used materials that I already had and treasured but wasn’t really using (the suitcase and fabric), and kept the integrity of the original piece while adding a bit of my own story to it.

Do you have a DIY project that you are especially proud of? I’d love to hear about it! Tell us about it in the comments below, or better yet, post a picture of it on zween’s facebook page.

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The Rambling Crafter; Public Art

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Above; Stencil on sidewalk, Liverpool, England.  July, 2010.

As creative people, we tend to find art and beauty wherever we go.  That old, run down barn or factory; leafless trees on an overcast day; a pile of trash.

But sometimes we come across things that are meant to be art in public spaces.  These murals, stencils, and sculptures are put in public areas (both legally and illegally) by people or groups who, for whatever reason, want us to experience this art without going through the trouble of visiting a museum or gallery.

Today I am sharing with you just some of the public art that I’ve come across in the last year or so where I was lucky enough to have my camera ready.  Enjoy!

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Above; Superlambanana, Liverpool, England.
“An ironic comment on the dangers of genetic engineering, it was developed with the city specifically in mind as both the banana and lamb were once a common cargo in Liverpool’s bustling docks.”-Wikipedia

Above; what seemed to be a two-story tall pooping Santa Claus in the middle of a mall in Barcelona, Spain, turned out to be a traditional nativity figure called a caganer.

“The caganer is a particular and highly popular feature of modern Catalan nativity scenes. It is believed to have entered the nativity scene by the late 17th-early 18th century, during the Baroque period…the caganer is often tucked away in a corner of the model, typically nowhere near the manger scene. A tradition in the Catalan Countries is to have children find the hidden figure, a task which they seem to relish. One explanation for the figure is that it represents the equality of all people: regardless of status, race, or gender, everyone defecates.” – Wikipidia

Above two; The mosaics in Park Guell by Antoni Gaudi (also in Barcelona, Spain) are at once amazing works of public art as well as a popular tourist attraction.

Above; my husband, Jon (left) and our friend, Colin, pose with a large replica of a Lego pirate in front of a toy store in Malta. Is it art or just clever advertising? Who cares! I love Legos and I LOVE pirates and I had to have a picture of this guy.

Above two; Statue of War in Cartagena, Spain.

And, just to bring things full circle, above is a mustache man sticker in Cartagena, Spain.

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A Crochet Tale…

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This is a story about how crochet not only influenced my work with the Al Falah Woman’s Cooperative in Oulmes, Morocco, but how it became the driving force behind it.

First, a little background.  When I arrived in Morocco as a Peace Corps volunteer in the fall of 2008, I thought I knew the basics of crochet.  I knew how to crochet in the round and back and forth, and I could do so in single crochet (not double, half double, or triple; just single crochet).  I knew how to increase and decrease (incorrectly).  I had made hats, fingerless mittens, and a granny square blanket in yarn, market bags from plastic grocery bags, and a giant copper wire installation that was my thesis project for graduating college.

I took up crocheting in Morocco near the end of our three-month Peace Corps volunteer training period (where we learned about Moroccan culture and customs, as well as how to speak Moroccan Arabic).  Other volunteers started to take an interest in what I was doing and asked me to lead an introductory crochet class.  It was my first time teaching crochet and when I look back on it today I laugh because it was truly the blind leading the blind.

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Soon afterwords, in November of 2008, we swore in as volunteers.  Next, it was time to get settled into our permanent sites where we lived for the next two years.

When  I first arrived in Oulmes the women of the cooperative that I was assigned to work with weren’t even coming to work.  Eventually a couple of girls did show up (usually one or two) and I’d sit with them for however long they stayed at the Artisana, usually just a couple of hours.  Sitting there was uncomfortable.  It was cold and damp (it rained nearly every day and there is no indoor heating) and the silence was deafening.  I wasn’t very confident in my speaking abilities yet and it was so difficult to communicate anything.

The first few months were the hardest.  I had received almost no background information about this woman’s group from Peace Corps, so it was up to me to try to figure out what was going on.  It wasn’t easy.  Mostly I asked very simple questions and relied on my observation skills.

The variety of products that the cooperative had on display were so different it was striking.  They had rugs woven long ago from people who were no longer involved with the co-op; ugly, heavy macromé “decor” monstrosities; large, intricately embroidered table cloths; and crochet doilies and water bottle cozies.  And the projects that they would usually bring with them to work on were hand knit gloves made with the most awful acrylic yarn.  Yicks!  I didn’t know much, but I knew that they were in desperate need of some product development.

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It didn’t take me long to start bringing crochet projects with me to work on while I sat with the girls, and it quickly became my best mode of communication with them.  I started with something familiar, a granny square blanket.  It was an easy project that took a long time, about 2 months.  Finding materials was interesting.  I used this terrible wool yarn, usually used for weaving carpets.  It was itchy and the colors bled, but it was also a conversation starter at the co-op, mostly because of my strange yarn choice I’m sure.

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Soon I decided that I needed to expand my knowledge of crochet, so I burrowed a book on needle craft (circa 1984) from the Peace Corps library.  I learned three very important things from that book;

  • How to make all of the crochet stitches
  • How to read a pattern (and thus make motifs that were featured in the book)
  • How to do tapestry crochet

The crochet flower motifs were a big hit.  Fatima, the woman in the cooperative best at crochet, wanted to learn how to make each motif as fast as I could explain them.  By this time it was spring and the three co-op members (Hafida, Fatima, and Achora) had recruited several girls (ages 16-22) to come to the Artisana to apprentice under them for a year, at which time they would receive their diplomas and become members themselves if they wished.  After I taught Fatima how to make a motif she would then teach the younger girls.  The Peace Corps calls this “Training of Trainers” (TOT) and it made me feel like I was finally doing something useful, though small as it was.

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When I brought my first tapestry crochet piece to work, a round coin purse made with the same yucky acrylic yarn they use to make gloves, the ladies became very interested in what I was doing, especially Fatima.  Below is Fatima’s very first coin purse.

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News about my tapestry crochet teaching abilities spread to other volunteers.  In July, 2009, I was invited to go to Ain Chaib, down in Southern Morocco where my friend and fellow volunteer, Joy Chen,  lived and worked with another woman’s cooperative.  There I taught two woman the technique.  I also found a different type of acrylic yarn that was more suitable for making coin purses.  It was a smoother and with more of a luster.  When I returned, I was delighted to learn that the same yarn was available right in Oulmes!

I really wanted the women to make more of the coin purses for the upcoming Marché Maroc Craft Fair (a craft fair organized by Peace Corps volunteers) in October, 2009.  This was the first craft fair that the women participated in since I came to Oulmes.  However, the women only made a few coin purses, and brought mostly the hodge podge of stuff that they had since before I arrived, nearly one year prior.

Sales-wise, The craft fair was a huge disappointment.  Though their prices were well below other vendors at the fair, they hardly sold a thing.  But sales aren’t everything, and it wasn’t a total loss.  As single women from a small town, Fatima and Hafida (the ones attending the fair) had the opportunity to visit a big city on their own for the first time and network with other Artisans from across Morocco, most of whom where women.  As part of the event, the volunteers who organized the show brought in Moroccan consultants to talk with the Artisans about their products and teach them how to better manage their cooperatives.  Below, Fatima watches over the co-op’s booth at that first Marché Maroc in Fes.

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Another good thing about the women participating in the event was that they were able to see for themselves which co-ops were doing well.  They realized that for them, smaller, more transportable products were the way to go.  They learned that a cohesive booth was much more attractive, and about the importance of having products that appealed to tourists as well as Moroccans.

After the fair I encouraged them to make some purses for me to test out with volunteers and Peace Corps staff in the capital (Rabat) during our mid-service medical exams in December.  My fellow Small Business Development volunteers critiqued the products and I was able to sell several of the purses for the co-op.  A week later when I returned I gave them the feedback from the other volunteers as well as their money.  It was almost twice as much as they had made at the two-day craft fair in Fes!  Below are a few change purses that the women made with the nicer yarns.

Now that the ladies had a product that was small and marketable, they went to work making more for the next Marché Maroc in April, this time in Marrakesh.  In addition to making the round change purses, I introduced the idea of making rectangular ones for cell phones, but it was their idea to incorporate the Amazigh letter “Z.”  Not only are they visually interesting, but they have an extra layer of cultural meaning.

The women were always so excited about new ideas and they liked being introduced to new techniques.  Whenever I suggested new products, like the i-pod Nano and i-pod Touch pouches they were always willing to give them a try.  Though I would make prototypes for all of the products I introduced to them, they always took ownership of what they made, coming up with their own unique patterns and color combinations.  Below are some of the Nano and Touch cases that the women made.

When I came up with a prototype for earrings that looked like blga (pointy Moroccan shoes), I knew that it was time to start teaching the girls how to read crochet patterns so that they wouldn’t forget how to make all of these new designs [prototype for the shoe may be seen at the top of this post].  For patterns such as the shoes and flower motifs, I drew them out in diagram form, then taught Fatima and Achora (the two main crocheters) what each symbol meant.  The women didn’t have names for slip stitch and half double crochet, so we decided on what we would call them, then I made a key so that they would remember what the symbols stood for.  Luckily, all the coop members are literate.  Below, Achora studies a diagram for the textured coin purse pictured below.

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Once I developed a way for them to record their tapestry crochet designs, using mainly Roman letters in conjunction with numbers, I compiled several designs, along with samples, in a book for them.  Knowing how empowered I felt after learning how to write in Arabic script well enough to get by if I needed to jot something down for the girls (which came in handy in several instances), teaching them to be crochet literate was pretty cool.

In April, 2010 they participated in the Marrakesh Marché Maroc craft fair and did very well.  Again, the best part of the experience was leaving town and visiting with their growing network of crafty friends, but this time the benefits were also monetary.

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Shortly following the Marrakesh craft fair was yet another Marché Maroc in Rabat (May, 2010). Now the women were starting to pick up momentum in a major way. I could see how much they enjoyed getting out of town to meet up with their new friends, who they kept in contact with between fairs via phone. They also liked the idea of being successful and finacialy independent.

In July, 2010, I had another opportunity to teach tapestry crochet to another group of women in southern Morocco.  This time I traveled to the very remote village of Oulad L’Arbia and the site of fellow volunteer and friend, April Koury.  This time I taught two sisters over the course of three highly intensive days.  Though the days were long and hot, the woman were determand to learn the tapestry crochet technique.

This area of Morocco is much more conserve than Oulmes.  Here, woman and girls don’t even go to the weekly market, let alone travel alone to the major urban areas where craft fairs take place.  The education of girls in Oulad L’Arbia is also not what it is in Oulmes.  One of the sisters didn’t even know how to count.  I’m really proud of the progress they both made over those three days.  Not only did they learn the technique (which involves counting), but they learned how to read and write tapestry crochet patterns (like the ones shown above) as well!

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There was another Marché Maroc scheduled for October, 2010 again in Fes, but unfortunately the event was cancelled.  Luckily, the Oulmes ladies would be able to go to the second Marrakesh Marché in early December, 2010, shortly after I finished my Peace Corps Service.  I was helping them prepare for the fair right up until I left the country.

Though crochet was just one of many projects that occupied my time as a volunteer, it was probably the most important because it was what helped me to feel accepted and respected among this amazing group of women.

Believe it or not, there are some people who actually think that knowing how to do traditional crafts such as crochet, knitting, embroidery, etc. is a waste of time and a step in the wrong direction for the female sex.  But to all those nay sayers I say that you can’t judge a woman until you’ve crocheted a mile of yarn with her hook.

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Above three; prototypes and motif samples by Emily Lindberg

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The Rambling Crafter; Avoca, Ireland

Today I’m introducing a new series to my blog called “The Rambling Crafter.”  As you may have guessed, this will be a series in which I share with you my travels specifically related to fibers, art, and craft.

Though I have a back log of many interesting places that I’ve visited that would fit the above description, I have chosen to share my photos  from Avoca, Ireland in County Wicklow, because it is March and I am celebrating all things Irish.

I visited the Avoca Handweavers studio on a rainy July afternoon in 2010 along with my parents and husband, Jon.  We didn’t have much time to look around the studio where a single man was weaving because he was about to close up shop for his lunch break.

I was in awe by all the color, looms, and basic machinery crammed into the relatively small space. Since I had studied weaving in college, I am familiar not only with how one operates a loom like the one this man was using, but how one prepares the loom, before the weaving begins.  Those of you who are also familiar with this process know that it is indeed a tedious one.

This was my first time visiting a functioning commercial weaving studio, and it seems as though I picked a rather good one, though by accident. From later research of the Avoca Handweavers I learned that;

“It is the oldest working woollen mill in Ireland and one of the world’s oldest manufacturing companies. It is also Ireland’s oldest surviving business.” -Wikipidia

From the official Avoca site, I learned that the mill began in 1723 as a co-operative where farmers could spin and weave their uncolored wool into blankets and tweeds.  Later, vivid colors began to be incorporated into their designs by the use of natural vegetable dyes.  Today, beautiful apparel and home products are being produced in 100% pure lambswool, mohair, cashmere, angora, cotton and linen.  Though powerlooms are now used to keep up with demand, skilled weavers are still needed to prep the yarns and set up the looms.

Though our time in Avoca was short, I throughly enjoyed my visit and hope that if you are interested in weaving and ever visit Ireland you too will visit the Avoca Handweavers.

If you would like to read my other posts about Ireland check out Irish Flowers and Signs; The Cliffs of Moher.

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Irish Flowers

It’s March, but unfortunately, Spring is not in the air.

This past weekend I was on overdrive getting ready for the Cleveland Craft Coalition Art and Craft Bazaar coming up this Saturday.  Since the theme is loosely based on St. Patrick’s Day and all things green, I’ve had Ireland on the brain as of late.

That’s why I’ve decided to share some photos I took last August of some pretty amazing plants, flowers, and fields that cover the landscape of Ireland.  Enjoy!

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Signs; The Cliffs of Moher

Signs are everywhere and lately I’ve been paying more attention to them.

I believe I started seriously collecting sign imagery during my trip to the UK in late July/early August, 2010.

I can’t put my finger on the exact reason I decided to start my collection, but I think it had to do with the fact that I was in a different culture, had a brand-new toy to play with (my SLR camera), and am generally attracted to interesting graphics.

The specific signs featured in this post are from a single afternoon in August when my parents, husband, and I visited the cliffs of Moher on the West coast of Ireland. The view was breathtaking to say the least, but the signs, the signs were so much fun!

I’m playing around with some ideas as to how to incorporate my sign collection into a project in the future, so keep your eyes open!

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