Leading Donegal quilter Gaye Grant says Ireland should be tapping into the national and international surge of interest in this traditional craft.   Gaye’s comments come ahead of Ireland’s leading craft and quilting event, the Knitting and Stitching Show at the RDS (10-13 November), which has seen a rise in attendance  by over 20% in the past 10 years. 

 “In countries like Holland, New Zealand, and the US, there is a patchwork or craft shop in nearly every small town,” says Gaye, who owns and runs her own quilting business – the Fennel Shed – in Buncrana.  

We need to create more awareness of the potential for growth in Ireland and also of the potential to develop quilt tourism, because quilters will travel the world to get to a quilt shop!  We ourselves have witnessed growth in turnover by 25%-50% each year for the last three years.”  

This trend seems to be backed up by RDS Show organisers, Twisted Thread, who say that as well as the bigger UK craft businesses, about 75 Irish companies now exhibit at the RDS – a rise of 25% in the past 5 years.   

To meet this growing interest, Gaye is holding the Dublin launch of her new book Square Play– Ireland’s first “how to” patchwork quilt book – at the RDS show on the 10th November, where she will take her biggest stand to date. 

“I’ve spent almost 40 years designing and making quilts, and have been running my own quilting and supply business for ten years. I know that many people would love to give it a try, but are intimidated by the apparently tricky details of getting started: finding the right fabrics, etc.  Square Play aims to answer those questions for first time quilters.”  The book has been launched at shows in England, Scotland and Belfast and is so popular it is already being used as a teaching text as far afield as Italy.  

Gaye also produces pre-cut packs for beginners, which hold everything they need to make their first quilt, and The Fennel Shed supplies patterns, fabrics, quilting sets, and other products to local and visiting quilters.  Gaye publishes the magazine “Irish Quilt and Craft” as well as running courses, workshops and demonstrations, and attending international quilting events. 

 In another indication of the growing demand for quilting skills, Gaye has been asked to formulate a training programme for those interested in teaching the skills of patchwork to others.   The plans are for a year-long course, which is due to start early in 2012.

 “We have a great opportunity next year to raise the profile of Irish quilting when the first International Quilt Festival of Ireland takes place in Galway in June 2012, and it would be great if the Government could help shine the spotlight on this sector at a time when the island’s economy needs growth industries.” 

The Fennel Shed is in Buncrana, Co Donegal and can be contacted at +353 87 9499070 or on www.thefennelshed.com.