Monday 14 December 2009

How ‘Wollywings’ came to be. By Mia Foley and Jennifer Lienhard.

We first met when our young children were attending the same Steiner-based kindergarten in East Clare. One evening a number of parents got together for a gnome-making craft evening. This was our first, very brief encounter with the felting needle. Though it was brief it sparked in us both an interest for creating figures from natural materials. We soon decided to buy some needles and wool and figured out for ourselves the mysterious process of needle-felting. An interest soon became a passion.

In April of this year, we decided to meet once a week to felt. It was the run up to Easter and, as a first, we thought we’d make some simple bunnies for our Easter tables. Four bunnies were created that night, the children fell in love with them, we were hooked and ‘Woolly Wings’ was born.

It became clear to us that with a length of wool and one of these barbed needles it is possible to sculpt just about anything. Wow. Endless possibilities.

Jenny originally trained as a kindergarten teacher in Germany, her native country. She had her first experiences in doing craftwork for and with children during her training. Later she worked in a Steiner kindergarten and the craft experience moved into the realm of natural materials. She moved to County Clare five years ago and has recently moved on to studying Landscape and Garden Design (see By some stroke of fate her path crossed with Mia Foley’s.

Mia trained in the Limerick School of Art and Design and specialized in Fine Art, Painting. She is a practising painter (see but these evening experiences in needle-felting proved to be a much more family friendly medium. There is no mess, no toxic materials and she can work right there in the home and her family love to witness the creative process. In the mornings her young son delights in discovering who or what has been brought to life as he slept!

We meet weekly to felt, share ideas, make new discoveries and discuss any business updates or plans. We delighted in joining Etsy in September, which has provided an ideal marketplace for our creations. We can constantly update our shop as new pieces are made. At present we are very busy selling at local craft fairs and meeting orders for special Christmas gifts, as we also work to commission. We had a great response at the recent Advent Fair at the Raheen Wood Steiner School. There was a lot of interest in the workshops which we will be running early next year, focusing on the creation of needle-felted figures.

What is needle felting? Simply put, a special barbed needle is used to shape wool by a continuous poking motion, which causes the fibres to interlock and eventually create a firm felt. You really have to watch out for your fingers as ouch! Those things can hurt. There is no sewing, gluing or following a pattern involved. The resulting piece is pure wool. This is one aspect to this craft we both find so compelling, it’s a totally organic process, and product. At the core of many of our pieces is sheep’s wool from a local biodynamic farm.

Our main inspiration comes from the natural world, especially our beautiful local woodlands, and the promise of the magical kingdom within, the mighty oak, the coloured carpet of autumn leaves underfoot. The books we read to our children also fuel our imagination. Recurring motifs in the felt pieces are the acorn, oak leaves, toadstools, birds and woodland folk families.

What we make is ideal for children’s imaginative play. We are aiming to provide a natural toy, which can be used for gentle play in the home or in kindergartens. They ca be used as central figures for puppet plays, story-telling and nature tables. The tactile experience of wool, soft yet strong is simply unique. We feel that it is important to create beauty using earthy colours. All our creations encourage a connection to nature.

The bigger figures lend themselves more to display, essentially pieces of folk art, made to create a heart-warming presence in a room. These soft sculptures are made to gaze upon, evocative and thought provoking.

See the section in our shop ‘Big needle felted figures’:

The Bird Lady watches and waits.

The Angel purposefully carries the Candle to her destination.

The Grandmother cradles the woodland babe.

Jenny is also developing a collection of hats. Warm and cosy and not itchy! Wool has self regulating heat properties; it insulates and protects the child from our cold winter spells.

We hope you will enjoy browsing through our shop. Feel free to get in touch with us with any enquiries or feedback. Thank you for reading our story so far…lots more to come.

Jenny & Mia


  1. We also wanted to say how glad we are to be part of the crafty ireland team, it's so great to be amongst the etsy ireland community(thanks tanya and sarah!) and to see all the inspiring work going on out there. We hope you all have a prosperous and cosy christmas :)Woollywings

  2. Hi girls,
    How wonderful to create such a range of lovely things with one hand-tool and one raw material!
    The woodland folk look as if they grew in the forest. Hope your craft fairs are going well and all the best for your etsy shop x

  3. Ah your creations are so amazing girls! well done! :)