‘Two new crafts I’ve tried and loved – and Hull families can enjoy a free taster too’

Deborah Hall, left, and Hull Training and Adult Education crafts tutor Abigail Watkins
-Credit: (Image: Katie Pugh/HTAE)

When a working day calls for having a dabble at crafting, you will always find me first in the queue.

I’ve loved anything creative since I was a child, and I enjoy having something new to learn. On this occasion it was as a guest of Hull Training and Adult Education (HTAE), for a couple of taster workshops with a crafts tutor at The Avenues Adult Education Centre, in Park Avenue, Hull.

Abigail Watkins is a fibre artist, who spins and dyes wool to use in her art. She was pleased to introduce me to the craft of needle felting, something I’ve never tried before, and it is something that requires little in the way of materials and more in the way of concentration, as I was about to discover.


Abigail first showed me a delightful selection of small needled-felted creations, from miniature dinosaurs, frogs and rabbits to Christmas puddings, that she had made, as inspiration. I settled on a felted fungus (I called it a mushroom but it was more toadstool) as Abigail said it was an achievable project in the time we had.

I selected the colours I liked for my “mushroom” cap, stem and spots, from a gorgeous collection of soft and fluffy merino wool rovings, as they are called, and was handed a car-washing sponge and a longish, very sharp felting needle to work with. Abigail showed me how to separate a length of roving, roughly shape it into a round and then, holding it place on the sponge (“they cost about 50p each as opposed to a special needle felting sponge that can be around £15”), I proceeded to stab the wool that would form my mushroom top, over and over again.

Learning about the stabbing action needed in needle felting
Learning about the stabbing action needed in needle felting -Credit:Katie Pugh/HTAE

Tiny barbs on the end of the needle help to matt the fibres and as you work around the piece, it becomes more compact and shrinks down as you shape it. “Don’t take your eyes off it while you’re stabbing,” urged Abigail, who added that she teaches this craft to youngsters from about nine-years-old, when they have the necessary dexterity and focus.

What did I do? I looked up at her, and at the photographer for HTAE who was capturing my class, while talking - and still stabbing - and caught my finger with the needle. Not enough to draw blood, however; that came later when I stupidly did the same thing and stuck the needle in the side of my thumb. It wasn’t much; I was more concerned about bloodying my little mushroom.

Spots were created by using tiny amounts of the contrast roving, and a stem, made by repeatedly stabbing a sausage-shaped piece of roving, was attached to the top with a few wisps of roving and even more stabbing action. My little mushroom was complete.

We moved away from wool and on to paper, for my next taster. I was certainly curious about the purple balloon, balanced on a plastic food container and weighted down by being tied to a glue stick.

Deborah Hall with completed 'mushroom'
Deborah Hall with completed 'mushroom' -Credit:Katie Pugh/HTAE

This was to help me form a paper lantern, by pasting on torn pieces of wet-strength tissue paper (don’t try ordinary tissue paper, it will disintegrate!) with a brush and a half-and-half mix of PVA glue and water. This was wonderfully messy (I ended up spilling my paste-pot at one point) and reminded me of primary school days and learning the rudiments of papier mache.

My paper lantern needed three layers of overlapping tissue pieces, trying to ensure I was shiny-side up with each strip torn from a sheet, and working down as close to the neck of the balloon (which was upside down) as I could. It was a case of taking home the coated balloon and leaving it to dry before finishing the decorating of it.

Abigail’s examples for the workshop were beautiful, delicate-looking but pretty robust creations, that you pop a battery-operated, it must be stated, tealight inside. She suggested that, once dry, I should pop the balloon, if it hadn’t already deflated, and could then glue anything I wanted to the lantern – some dried leaves, perhaps, or some shapes cut from more coloured wet-strength tissue.

Making a paper lantern is a messy but fun business!
Making a paper lantern is a messy but fun business! -Credit:Katie Pugh/HTAE

Abigail said I could cut a wavy pattern along the top edge, or add a row of blanket stitch to it – anything I fancied. I've not got round to that part just yet but when it's finished, I'm looking forward to my home-made lantern glowing on my hearth.

Sian Ward, community lead at Hull City Council, said: "HTAE offers a range of tailored learning opportunities with the primary purpose of supporting learners’ journeys into employment or progression to further learning, as well as improving health and wellbeing; equipping parents/carers to support their child’s learning and to develop stronger and more integrated communities."

Here is what some previous students have had to say:

  • “The workshop was fantastic; it gave me the confidence to use my overlocker which had been sat unused in its box for eight years!” – Sewing learner

  • “Feeling part of an amazing group of learners, supporting each other has been so rewarding and good for my wellbeing” – Pottery learner

  • “I have gained a deeper knowledge surrounding specific topics in relation to children’s behaviours.” Learning about children’s behaviours learner

  • “I have learnt a wide range of skills which I can take and use in my own artwork” – Craft learner

Sian Ward, community lead at Hull City Council, at The Avenues Adult Education Centre, Park Avenue, Hull
Sian Ward, community lead at Hull City Council, at The Avenues Adult Education Centre, Park Avenue, Hull -Credit:Katie Pugh/HTAE

HTAE is providing free engaging workshops, through August 2024, funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency. There are opportunities for all to come along and have a go at a craft or skill that they may have never tried before.

Hanging bird bath

Thursday, August 1, 9.30am to noon, The Avenues Adult Education Centre (AVES)

Confidence building

Wednesday, August 7, 10am to noon, AVES

Family crafts

Wednesdays, August 14 and 21, 10am to noon, AVES

Family rules

Thursday, August 15, 1pm to 3pm, AVES

Family pottery – Under The Sea

Monday, August 19, 1pm to 3.30pm, AVES and on Thursday, August 29, 9.30am to noon, Preston Road Adult Education Centre (PRAE)

Green Man pottery workshop

Thursday, August 22, 9.30am to noon, PRAE

Raku-Obvara workshop

Wednesday, August 28, 9.30am to 2.30pm, AVES

Family vegetable printing workshop

Wednesday, August 29, 10am to 12.30pm, AVES