Leading Donegal quilter Gaye Grant says Ireland should be tapping into the international surge of interest in this traditional craft.   “This is particularly true for the North West, with its textiles history,” says Gaye, who owns and runs her own quilting business – The Fennel Shed – in Buncrana.  

Gaye has just returned from the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, the biggest quilt show in Europe, which was attended by over 30,000 enthusiasts.  “While the riots may have affected some people’s travel plans, there were visitors there from every part of the world.”

  “There is an enormous appetite for traditional Irish quilting, and we were overwhelmed by the demand for our Irish patterns and for our fabrics.  In countries like New Zealand, Holland and the US, there is a patchwork or craft shop in nearly every small town.  There is the potential in Ireland to develop this industry and also to develop quilt tourism, because quilters will travel the world to get to a quilt shop!”

 Gaye Grant set up The Fennel Shed ten years ago, and supplies patterns, fabrics, quilting sets, and other products to local and visiting quilters.  She publishes her own magazine “Irish Quilt and Craft” as well as running courses, workshops and demonstrations, and attending international quilting events.

 “Based on the experience of countries like New Zealand, we can further revive interest in this craft, and at The Fennel Shed we have taken up this challenge by developing a variety of packs for beginners.” 

 “There is a general view that these kinds of domestic traditional skills are dying but it’s not hard to learn and our experience is that even people who think they can’t sew will pick it up quickly.  I myself hated sewing at school, but made my first quilt at the tender age of twelve, on a machine borrowed from my older sister. As a self- taught piecer, I had to work out my own patterns, quantities and techniques, skills that have stood me in good stead as my hobby became a passion, and ultimately a career.”

 Gaye launched her first book of patterns “Square Play” at the festival, which got a very positive response from those attending.  “The book contains step-by-step instructions for quilts, bags and cushions, suitable for anyone who wants to take up this rewarding pastime.”

 “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 to see the industry reaching its full potential at a time when our economy needs growth industries.”

The Fennel Shed is opposite Lough View in Buncrana and can be contacted at +353 87 9499070 or on www.thefennelshed.com.