8.15 am: we go through the checklist - soap, towels, bubble wrap, chiffon, merino wool tops, scissors, plastic milk bottles, plastic bags ... all ticked off. Melanie would provide the bamboo blinds for us.
8.55 am: Off we go on a beautiful November morning. We find our way through Birmingham to Lichfield and to the school arriving with about 10 mins to spare.
Jenny talks about Japan and their way of wrapping gifts in fabric. The fabric is then returned to the giver. There are websites to show you how to wrap and tie the cloth. www.evergreenwrap.com and www.ichiroya.com. A beautiful environmentally-sound idea - and they've done it for centuries!
Jenny's idea is to make nuno felted cloths for wrapping.
In reality I feel I might not be able to give it away and if I did the recipient might not want to give it back! Deborah had a really lovely idea: her cloth has the initials of every member of her family (herself, husband, daughter and two sons) so that the cloth will rotate between them.
I think everyone else there is quite experienced and away they go busily laying out their designs with merino wool tops. Deborah and I look at each other and slowly pluck up the courage to lay our first piece on the silk. We are soon absorbed in our projects and with the kind and calm attention of Jenny we are, it appears (though in reality it is 2 hours later), soon laying out our borders and then eating lunch!
The image of a group of women sitting around eating their packed lunches reminds Deborah of the film Made in Dagenham. Then there follows an interesting discussion about the role of women in society and we hear about different people's experiences and those of their parents.
Back to work: wetting, turning, laying out the reverse side, wetting again, tidying the edges and then rolling - hundreds of times, this way and that.
Jenny's quiet presence is constantly reassuring and she tells us not to worry: felt is very giving and forgiving and everything can be rectified.
At a rather mystical point we are ready to lay the cloth on the bubble wrap and, with soapy hands, rub the design until it starts to shrink more. Then we bundle the cloth and bang it on the table, rub it some more, more banging, rinsing in hot water, bang and rub some more and suddenly it all shrinks and we look in amazement at our nuno felted chiffon. The results are very pleasing and we are happy! We still need to pull the piece into shape to bring it back to a square: it has shrunk from 100cm to 68cm.
We walk around the room looking at everyone else's projects: it is always interesting to see how people's imaginations and creativity varies. Ursula from Switzerland has made a very striking symmetrical piece on black chiffon using dark green, bright green and red pre-felted circles and a beautifully neat black border. Ursula from UK made a piece like a tangle of climbing roses with bright pink buds. Angela created a geometrical pattern using bright yellow on black chiffon. Others made patterns of flowers using pinks and greens; pinks, blues and purples; and autumn colours.
We are very touched by the friendliness, kindness and generosity of the group who provide us with cups of tea and coffee, pieces of chocolate cake and a mop to clear up our puddles. We leave at the end of a very enjoyable and rewarding day with our nuno-felted chiffon cloths tucked carefully into the basket.
Report by Deborah and Maggie