When we decide to launch more crafty classes in our new bigger studio, we realised we already had our very own “craft queen” on the staff. Marketing and communications co-ordinator Bronagh Miskelly is never knowingly without a piece of knitting or other project, so we asked her about her crafty activities and the new LJS classes she is developing with the tutors.
When/why did you start crafting?
I don’t remember when I started but I do remember when I was about six or seven I had a tiny pink hand-operated sewing machine that I made dolls clothes with. In my family it would have been odd if I didn’t make things.
My mum had learnt dressmaking from my grandmother who had done it professionally, and Mum made and sold soft toys when I was little. My dad was a filmmaker who worked with wood in his spare time – everything from model ships to full-sized staircases. There were also artists, a jeweller and lots of knitters in the family, so there was always someone to encourage me to be creative and learn new skills.
I love working with a range of materials and colours and being able to create something unique and special.
What sort of crafts do you do?
I sew – tapestry and dressmaking – and crochet. More recently I’ve become interested in jewellery including beading, pearl-knotting and wire wrapping plus metal clay when I’m feeling brave.
I always want to learn more. I’d love to try bobbin lace making and I am determined to master tatting despite several failed attempts. Plus I want to try every new LJS craft class from other tutors that we’re going to be launching over the coming months.
If I could only choose one craft for the rest of my life it would be knitting. It’s a very versatile craft. You can use the same techniques to make wire jewellery, fine wedding ring lace, a chunky jumper or a snuggly blanket and it allows me to work with different fibres and materials. Plus it’s relaxing and I’ve made some great friends in what is a worldwide knitting community.
But please don’t make me give anything up.
How did you start teaching craft?
Someone asked for my help learning to knit.
Then I was asked to help as a teacher at open knitting and sewing events. I discovered that I loved helping people discover new skills and the look they get on their faces as they master them.
I host a regular knitting group in Highgate and often help people get started or coach them through a new technique or stitch. I believe craft teaching should be something that tutor and student both really enjoy.
It helped that I’d trained as a trainer through my day job and was confident with thinking out how you introduce people to a new idea or activity.
What else has crafting meant to you?
It makes me happy and these days I’m lucky enough to combine my making with my day jobs. I was made redundant from a large publishing company a couple of years ago and as well as working for LJS a lot of my freelance writing and editing is connected to craft. I also edit knitting patterns for designers and magazines which can be very technical but satisfying.
Crafting has also brought me some unusual opportunities. I have created garments for a catwalk design show and last year my sewing skills meant I had a small involvement with the Olympic opening ceremony. I sewed wings and tails for the bicycling doves – their appearance was brief, but I was very proud.
I’m sometimes asked to knit for events and was once talked into creating a Brian Cox doll with knitted volcano for something at the Science Museum – I still get the occasional call from chat shows to see if they can borrow the doll or use the pictures.
What new classes are you introducing?
I’m not going to reveal all my secrets just yet but most of the first ones still have a connection to jewellery or accessories.
There are three classes already available for booking:
Beginners’ knitting evening class (well, of course)
Look out for a Leather Jewellery Day and a Fabric Jewellery Day – we’ll be announcing the details shortly.
And we’ll be adding to those over the next few months.