Jenni Shah’s love for yarn came about as a result of sitting at her Nan’s knitting machine as a child – and the absolute certainty that she needed a football scarf made by her own hand. A lot goes into her Wrapt Weaving creations: there is more than half a kilometre of yarn in a scarf or runner, a blanket has 800 metres, and a whole kilometre of yarn goes into one of her gorgeous wraps!
What do you make?
I make hand woven objects to wear and for the home. Everything from blankets and scarves to bags and table runners, pillows… you name it!
If it is made from a fabric then it has been woven. I use rigid heddle looms to weave on – a loom has the job of keeping a whole lot of long threads under tension, while the rigid heddle makes the job of going under-and-over those threads easier.
How did you get into your craft?
I started to weave when I lived in the Cook Islands, on a beautiful island called Aitutaki. We were living there with our three small children and I had some time on my hands. I wanted a floor mat as a souvenir, but none were available for sale, so I decided to learn.
I had help from a group of craft ladies, led by the formidable ‘Auntie’ Josie. She guided me through the process, and the best fun was learning the techniques and at the same time reintroducing them to the craft group as it was uncommon to see mat weaving.
After a few years in the tropics we moved to Melbourne where materials were scarce and the climate was very different. I thought about mat and basket weaving using plastics, but stumbled across rigid heddle weaving instead and got the tingle. Suddenly we were inundated with scarves and blankets and I had more ideas in my head than I knew what to do with!
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No. I have always taught myself, learning and discovering as I go. The internet is also full of teachers, with many different methods of doing things so it is like being a part of a giant world-wide cooperative group.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My first loom was made from a picture frame and some ice-block sticks! It was actually quite effective, but I caught the bug pretty badly and now I have two Ashford rigid heddle looms of different sizes. My newest toy is a yarn winder that my Nana has just given me.
What inspires you?
Yarn inspires me! Usually my project inspiration comes from seeing an amazing yarn online or in a store and thinking “I have to do something with that!” Having said that, working with a range of materials inspires me too. I have worked with jute twine and cotton, supermarket shopping bags, linen, wool, alpaca, silk, raw fleece, cashmere, possum… there are no limits to the materials that can be used in weaving and that is really exciting.
Texture and weight also inspires me – from super thick wool roving to gauze-like merino, coarse jute twine to super smooth silk.
Also, I am currently working on a range of wraps and scarves based on the colours and textures of New Zealand birds. I am fizzing about the possibilities with this.
Describe your workspace:
I would love to say that it is harmonious and peaceful but it is not! I have a corner of our dining room to weave in, do business in and run the family in. I try to stay neat and tidy but things regularly get out of control – sounds like a new year’s resolution!
Five words that describe your mind:
Overflowing, fizzing, bouncing, impatient, wistful.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
A customer that ordered a large custom set of linen napkins and described them as “such a treat.” I really liked that.
What are you currently listening to?
If I need calming and focusing, a brilliant piece by Arvo Part called Spiegel Im Spiegel. Search it up in YouTube if you want to see the most amazing, moving ballet. We were lucky enough to watch the Royal Australian Ballet perform it, to this music, on Hamilton Island as the sun set. It was an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime. On the other hand, if I want to get going I listen to OneRepublic – I love their song “I lived”
Recommend an album:
OneRepublic – Native and Emelie Sande – Our Version of Events.
What are you reading now?
I am re-reading (for the 20th time) the Diana Gabaldon Outlander series. I love historical fiction.
Who is your hero/heroine?
My mum is my heroine – she is indefatigable, ever moving forward, ever positive, ever focused on the next thing. My husband deserves a shout out too for supporting me as I go through the journey of being a small business owner (and for putting up with the mess!).
A favourite quote:
We have a fridge magnet that has lived with us in three countries now: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” I always feel reassured when I see it – it’s a bit of a talisman!
Do you have any pets?
Our handsome grey cat called Smudge came from Melbourne with us when we moved home. We adopted him from the RSPCA in Oz and couldn’t leave him behind. He is such a mummy’s boy.
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
I would be the Systemiser! My power would be to organise at the flick of an eyebrow, and find exactly what I want at a wink! And I would wear a hot red dress!
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I went on a handmade splurge in December and bought an apron from Rose Rouge for my mother-in-law, a vintage fabric bag from Oaktree Mama for my girlfriend’s 40th and a print from Varvar2076 of Mt Tongariro for my husband. In all cases it was the colours that grabbed me.
You can meet Jenni at the Devonport Craft Market (first Sunday of the month) and Parnell’s Craft Harvest Market (4th Saturday of the month) or check out her beautiful work anytime in her Felt shop.
Jenni has very kindly offered a prize for one lucky Felt blog reader: this clever and smart-looking tote bag worth $39, handwoven by her using supermarket shopping bags. To make these bags plastic supermarket bags are cut up and used as a yarn, which Jenni calls plarn (plastic yarn). Strong and stylish, they are fantastic recycling as twenty supermarket bags are used to weave the fabric for one tote. Great for a reusable shopping bag, at the beach or the pool, they will also be available soon at Wrapt Weaving.
To win this marvellous prize just leave a comment telling us what you like about Jenni’s story and her work. The draw will be made on Friday 27 February and is open to New Zealand residents only.