With Christmas behind us and the new year full of promise, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your life and create the perfect opportunity to try something new. Whether you want to learn a language or get involved in a local drama group, now’s the time to sign yourself up for a new pursuit! So the Shire team have a few suggestions for hobbies that might inspire you to try something creative, crafty or choral. Don’t put it off any longer – make your new year’s resolution now and pick up a pastime!
These days people are rediscovering the joy and fulfilment of creating something with their own hands. And who better to give us insights into the hot trends and topics on the craft scene than Shire’s own resident craft columnist Janet Dallolio?
Craft and artistic pastimes are right on trend at the moment,’ says Janet. ‘Making something from scratch appeals to people because it gives them a different focus amid the busy lives we all lead. There’s also is a good market for buying handmade things – people love something that’s a one-off piece. Not everyone wants high-street goods; it’s good to show your style through individualistic decoration and furnishing choices.’Janet, who operates a range of workshops at Afonwen Craft & Antique Centre, welcomes a range of visiting artists to the centre daily. ‘We have all sorts of artists from jewellers to people doing stitch work, a lady who paints on silk, a man who hand-weaves and a wonderful illustrator. It’s great to see these skills being used and many of our visitors will come and chat about how to get into the craft or expand their knowledge.’
Followers of fashion
TV shows such as The Great British Sewing Bee and Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Britain and Fill Your House For Free have inspired the public to have a go at crafting. YouTube is also a hugely useful resource for researching anything and everything, especially if you are just starting out. But the best way to learn is an interactive lesson, which boosts both the enjoyment and the social side of crafting. ‘Many crafts and creative pursuits will take you away from your normal daily goings-on, and many of us need that escape,’ says Janet. ‘Others enjoy being creative to give them a direction and it allows people to fill many hours of time with enjoyment. It gives you a better balance in life.’
Janet believes everyone can enjoy some kind of creative pursuit. ‘We’re not all the same so it’s best to choose something that suits you. Maybe woodwork is your thing, or maybe it’s stitch work or making jewellery. Whatever it is, do a little research – find someone who is doing that craft and go and see their work, look up classes and search YouTube. You don’t need to start out in a big way but give it a go and I think you’ll enjoy yourself immensely.’
For more visit www.afonwen.co.uk
Winning when you’re singing
One hobby that has enjoyed a recent boost to numbers, possibly thanks to television series that have promoted the pastime, is singing. With everything from choral societies to rock choirs and traditional male voice groups available, 2019 could be the year you find your voice
It’s a commonly held belief that you simply can or can’t sing. But if recent television hits such as The Choir have shown us anything, it’s that we can all find our voice with the right instruction. Could it be time to try singing as your new hobby?
In our area, it is hard not to acknowledge the impact and heritage of male voice choirs. While some perform at Eisteddfod and other occasions, many simply sing for the enjoyment of it. One popular group with a 40-year history is the Flint Male Voice Choir, which has over 60 male members, mostly retired or semi-retired. According to committee member Les Lloyd, ‘you’d be hard pushed to find a friendlier bunch of fellas!’Les adds: ‘We have lost a few members in the past year unfortunately, so we’re looking for new recruits. We meet for rehearsals twice a week and as a charity we raise thousands of pounds every year for good causes. Our rehearsals teach all aspects of singing, so no experience is necessary, and you don’t have to speak Welsh or even be Welsh!’
The choir has a fully booked concert calendar for the next two years; they’ve made appearances in film and on TV and have even travelled internationally to perform. ‘Studies have shown the health benefits of signing,’ says Les. ‘It exercises your heart and lungs, and releases endorphins that make you feel good. If this is the kind of thing you think you would enjoy, please do come along.’
For more visit www.flintmalevoicechoir.co.uk
Bring out the brushes
Another pastime that is always a popular choice is art, whether that is traditional painting, drawing or other techniques. Whichever you choose to explore your creative side, there’s a method or a medium for everyone
Many of us like to draw or just doodle in our spare time. So, in 2019, why not take it further and embrace your creative talents? You may find that you have an inner artist just waiting to be released – could it even become a life-changing activity for you?
Are you a complete beginner? At Hadley Park in Whitchurch, tutor Adele Benoit welcomes novices and improvers alike to a range of classes from watercolour to etching, oil painting to screen printing. Some are one-day courses while others span three days and include camping in an on-site pod so the level of commitment is up to you. Mike Jenkinson-Deakin recently started learning to paint at Hadley Park and found it released a creative side he never even knew he had. He always liked the idea of painting, but didn’t know where to start. He signed up for three watercolour classes that he thoroughly enjoyed, and now he’s filled with confidence. ‘I’m doing lots of painting so it’s a fab new hobby for me. I’ve already had my first commission as well!’
For more information, visit www.hadleyparkwhitchurch.com/art-holidays.
Picking up a paintbrush can be practical as well as therapeutic, and many people have seen the appeal in upcycling their furniture with a fresh lick of paint. It’s an affordable and fun way to freshen up your home, but if you’re not sure where to start you could sign up for a course with an expert like Charlotte McAdams of Charlotte’s Country Commissions. ‘We run a Paint Your Own Piece furniture workshop for anyone who has ever fancied painting or upcycling their own furniture,’ Charlotte says. ‘It’s a fun-filled furniture painting course suitable for beginners to advanced.’ With many years’ experience of furniture painting and decorative techniques, she can help you transform an old piece of furniture into something new.
For more details, visit www.furniturepainting
A winter warmer
Knitting has been embraced by a new generation that has seen the benefits – both therapeutically and practically – of being able to produce clothing, blankets and decorations with their own two needles
Knitted clothing has been keeping us warm for hundreds of years. It may have drifted in and out of fashion, but knitting has always remained as an affordable way for families to keep the chill away in winter as well as an enjoyable hobby. Many of us will have spent happy childhood hours with our hands a very precise distance apart to help wind wool, and most of us will have been gifted a home-made scarf or jumper at some point. During the First World War, soldiers’ uniforms were supplemented by knitted hats and mittens from those back home, while the introduction of more colourful yarns in the 1960s saw a new fashion for knitted items. Following a dip in interest that saw many wool shops disappear in the 1980s and 1990s, a resurgence in the early 21st century has seen the number of knitters rise again.
Back in fashion
This resurgence has been influenced by the general ‘handmade revolution’, as well as the accessibility of skills and fabrics via the internet. The yarn industry has also started to make novelty wool, which can produce stunning results without years of knitting experience. The hobby has become an altogether more social pastime with ‘knit and natter’ groups cropping up everywhere. Knitting also gives people the chance to create things for other people – whether that’s extra clothes for the homeless, bonnets for babies or blankets for care home residents. The personal and comforting nature of the items made means they are always well received, and one community project that recently benefited from this is the Home-Start Wrexham project, which supports families with young children facing tragedy and hardship, improving confidence and building better lives for parents and children alike. Working with the National Trust team at Erdigg, Home-Start helped create a huge amount of comforting blankets for families across north Wales.
Wonder of wool
Home-Start and Erdigg’s project ‘A Throw For You’ encouraged people to make knitted or crocheted blankets for Home-Start Wrexham families as a Christmas gift. ‘We put a call out for 15cm knitted or crocheted squares (DK or aran wool), and hundreds of squares flooded in!’ says Erdigg’s Sue Jones. A community event was held at Erdigg to stitch the squares together into blankets to be handed out to families by Home-Start. ‘It was a great idea and helped us to offer a sign of friendship to families and give them something cosy to snuggle under,’ says Pam Hoyle, Home-Start scheme manager. ‘Thank you to everyone for getting involved.’
For more information visit home-start.org.uk/home-start-wrexham