Colourful imagination and a real feel for felt

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By YVONNE O’HARA

Textile artist McKenzie has always loved the smell of sheep wool.

It was therefore a natural progression to felting and creating garments and accessories.

She uses both pre-dyed and natural wool and silk, and has been known to use her husband’s compost for green, earthy colours, or tea for various delicate shades of brown.

She also uses shaving cream and glue to obtain a desired texture or look.

Mrs McKenzie has entered garments and accessories in several creative fibre competitions, exhibitions and fashion parades in the past and has won several awards for her work.

She has two pieces in this year’s Rural Women New Zealand WoolOn Awards, which are being held in Alexandra tomorrow and Saturday night.

She has a room set aside in her Alexandra home dedicated to felting, knitting and sewing and from there she has created her award-winning garments, some of which have been bought by clients from all over the world.

“I started knitting from a young age, which was a great hobby, and also hand sewed my own designs for dolls, and then my family,” Mrs McKenzie said.

She bought a knitting machine when her children were young and enjoyed sewing and knitting for them.

“I used unusual bright colours and different styles, which was fun.

“Baby pink and blue were never an option.”

Mrs McKenzie first learned to felt about 12 years ago and that has become her textile of choice.

She also designs her own garments, using the colour of the fibre or fabric “or whatever pops into my head” as inspiration.

“Working with tutors from four different countries helps trigger your inner creations.”

She also sells garments to clients under her Woollygrove Felt Studio.

“I get a lot of pleasure from clients who love what I create and have sent pieces all around the world.

“It is a real passion and I love it.”

fabrics and during the felting process it is combined into one piece.

“It is like putting together a jigsaw.”

She first began experimenting with felting when living in Balclutha and did a two-day course about the technique.

Since then, she has made jackets, floor mats, wraps and scarves, hats and accessories.

“It takes about three or four weeks for a large complicated garment,” she said.

Mrs McKenzie also belongs to a felting club in Cromwell which has about 30 members.

There are only a few tickets still available for the Rural Women New Zealand Wool Fashion Event on Saturday night, and the Alexandra New World First Look Event tomorrow.

Spokeswoman Anne Pullar said there were 26 designers and 38 entries in this year’s event.

She said three of the designers were from overseas, although two are studying fashion in New Zealand, while the third one was introduced to felting when in Wanaka 14 years ago.

“Judging will be completed on Friday,” she said.

The MC for this year’s event is actor Te Kohe Tuhaka.