Compassionate Friends learn craft together


This guest blog article was penned by Maggie Paton, member of The Compassionate Friends (TCF) and bereaved Mum. TCF is a charity which supports bereaved parents and siblings. My family lost my elder brother Sam following a climbing accident on New Year’s Eve 1999 and this organisation is very close to my heart… Thank you Maggie, Kate xxx

This weekend saw an informal group of bereaved Mothers who met via The Compassionate Friends (TCF) attend a felt making course run by artist Debra Esterhuizen. Please see Debra’s Felt Slipper making course details here. Details of Debra’s felting courses can be found here.

"We lost our youngest son Jamie, aged 20 in September 2014 and TCF has been a lifeline to me. Talking to other parents and realising they understood was so reassuring.

Maggie and Jamie

Five of us attended the workshop (children’s names in brackets): Lynn (Ruth), Diane (Anthony), Imelda (Will) and Gay (Eoghan).

The first session was free format play to get us in the mood. Imelda and I hadn’t done it before and Gay had only done a taster session.  After creating a base layer of alternating layers of wool, we then tried placing different colours and textures on top, then cover with net, wet and run in some olive soap and rub, rub, rub.  Then roll the whole lot up and roll it like you would pastry …. Unroll – wow! The whole thing had shrunk dramatically!

Over lunch we discussed options for the afternoon session. Gay & Lynn fancied making felt slippers, Dianne a scarf (nuno felting), Debra suggested Imelda and I “paint” a landscape. Eek! I am no artist, I was worried the end result would look more like a kid’s fuzzy felt than a painting.

Lynn had a picture for me to base it on, which certainly made it easier.  Same process as in the morning; chose a base colour, Hmmmm, was surprised when Debra suggested a bright orange layer of wool, naively I had thought it would be white. She explained the orange was in the picture and that it would “lift” the final piece. You could tell Debra is an artist as well as a crafter.

Debra explained that you “paint” with the wool so it effectively lays down as you would with a brush stroke. Care was needed with the net, water and soap, then rub it so as not to dislodge things too much.

On the final morning, Imelda and I made felt bowls, Lynn and Gay finished their slippers and Diane finished her scarf. Diane and Lynn then made a landscape picture together, whilst Debra showed Gay how to make a flower corsage.

This was brilliant. We were all together, each doing a task but able to watch and learn from each other’s activities.

Lots of chat round the table, some as you would expect about our deceased children, then the normal chatter about kids, Felt students workholidays, jobs, hobbies and hopes and dreams.

Debra was endlessly patient and has a very gentle spirit that enabled her to manage a group of bereaved Mum’s with sensitivity and love. Her enthusiasm quickly had the group buzzing and energised. I hadn’t met any of the ladies beforehand and as it's only one year since Jamie died, I was understandably nervous.

I have come back with very tired shoulders but my mind feels more relaxed and I feel more energised.  Two years ago I was given a felt making kit as a birthday present, so will be giving that a go now with some confidence."

If you have a story about how craft has affected your life, perhaps as a way of connecting with people or of coping with difficult life events, please do get in touch at

 Find out more about and/or join The Compassionate Friends.






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