Gasyard’s getting crafty

The Craft Warriors, part of the Bluebell Arts Project, pictured with some of their handiwork, at the Gasyard Centre on Thursday morning. From left, Noeleen McFadden, Mary Dobbins, Ursula Patterson, Helen Meenan, Hananja Vittlerdijk, Rosemary Cusack, Marie Coyle and Patti Quinn. 3003JM47
The Craft Warriors, part of the Bluebell Arts Project, pictured with some of their handiwork, at the Gasyard Centre on Thursday morning. From left, Noeleen McFadden, Mary Dobbins, Ursula Patterson, Helen Meenan, Hananja Vittlerdijk, Rosemary Cusack, Marie Coyle and Patti Quinn. 3003JM47

The sound of sewing machines and laughter can be heard at the end of the corridor.

Women from all over Derry are busy at work in the arts room in the Gasyard Centre in the Brandywell.

The woman are taking part in the Bluebell Arts Project’s Craft Circle course.

Hananja Uitterdigk is 23 years-old and is from Holland. Hananja now lives in Derry and says that taking part in the Craft Circle has helped her to learn new skills and make friends.

“It’s a really good scheme,” smiles Hananja. “I heard about the Craft Circle through our facilitator Maeve Gallagher and decided to give it a go - it’s been great so far.”

Since joining the Craft Circle Hananja has learned how to make quilts and bags as well as various other accessories.

“I am delighted with how everything has been going. I’ve made a few handbags and everything else is coming along nicely.

“Although there’s a bit of an age gap between myself and some of the other women it doesn’t stop us all from getting on - we have plenty of laughs.

“I’d definitely recommend the Craft Circle to other women my age. It’s a great way of not only learning new skills but it’s a fantastic way to meet other people.”

Marie Coyle is a retired sheltered housing scheme manager from Foyle Springs. Marie joined the Craft Circle last January and is one of the group’s regular members.

The first time Marie made a quilt or learned how to sew was when she joined the Craft Circle last year.

Marie says that she has learned so much in such a short space of time and she even made an Advent calendar for daughter who is a primary school teacher.

“Joining the Craft Circle is perhaps one of the best things I’ve done since retiring,” says Marie.

“Sewing and craft making was always something that I was passionate about but between work and family life I never had the chance.

“So, when I heard about the Craft Circle last year I decided that I wanted to give it a try - I haven’t looked back since.

“I’ve made many things and I am currently working on a new patchwork quilt.

“I’d say that one of my favourite pieces that I made would have to be the Advent calendar I made for my daughter. She’s a teacher in a local primary school and was able to take it in to the class so that the children could learn all about Advent.”

In the past, Marie has made others items such as handbags and placemats which are then sold at her daughter’s school’s annual fair.

“I’ve become so hooked on craft making that I received a lovely new sewing machine as a present.

“I’ve made a few things for my daughter and she sells them at her school fair to raise money for the school. It’s nice when you hear that someone has paid good money for something that you spent a lot of time and energy on making.”

Maeve Gallagher is the Craft Circle’s facilitator. Maeve, who has been at the scheme’s helm since January 2011 says that the standard of work on show is getting better every week.

“The women in the Craft Circle are a pleasure to work with. They are all really enthusiastic and listen to everything they are told.

“I can’t believe the skill and talent on show here this year. I am always pleasantly surprised when I see what the women have been doing every week.

“Not only are the women great at sewing and craft making but they are great company - we always have a bit of craic too.”

Fiona McGonagle is the Gasyard Centre’s new Arts Development officer.

Fiona, who comes from an artistic background, says that although she has experience of working with textiles she has learned a few new techniques from the women in the Craft Circle.

“I am in my element with this kind of work,” says Fiona. “But I have been so impressed with what I have seen and I have even picked up a few tips too. The Craft Circle is a great scheme and I am just glad that I am able to help to deliver something that it is of such benefit to both the local and wider community.”

The Craft Circle is part of the Bluebell Arts Project and is funded by the Arts Council for Northern Ireland. For further information on the Craft Cirlce contact Fiona on 028 7126 2812.