A Community of Artisans Since 1975.
Born in Thunder Bay (Port Arthur) Marion is the mother of four daughters and grandmother of seven (including triplets), all of whom live in Calgary. Since retiring from her teaching career at Confederation College fifteen years ago, Marion has turned her lifelong love of knitting into a small business -- PURSE-NICKETY.
Using her own designs and techniques,she has produced over 400 original felted creations, each one unique. Some have embroidery or needle felted designs and most have one-of-a-kind buttons made of rare wood and created by her husband, James. Her products include handbags, purses, and evening bags. She has belonged to Artisans Northwest for four years and is presently selection chair for the organization.
In addition to preparing for the Arts and Fine Crafts Show at the Valhalla and the Rotary Christmas Dreams Show in November, Marion displays her products at Pneumaticity and Fireweed.
In addition to producing her purses, Marion enjoys playing her electronic accordian and the piano, and being a volunteer. During the winter Marion and James travel to the Carribean.
Most evenings, Marion Eastwood knits. And knits. And knits, all in pure Merino wool. Then, ignoring the laundry rule book, she tosses it in the washing machine - for the longest, hottest cycle it has. After a bit of tinkering and embellishment, the final result graces arms and shoulders across the continent.
Eastwood, a retired Confederation College instructor, is the one-woman show behind Purse-nickety, her accidental business making felted purses and evening bags. She's been a knitter since her mother taught her at the age of nine or 10. So when she retired and looked around for something to keep busy, she started knitting afghan blankets. But when family members all had one and begged no more, it was time to try something else. That's when she came across felted purses at Caryll's Yarn, where the owner got her started three years ago. "I've made 254 of them," she said. "My kids say I'm obsessed. I say I'm artistic."
At first, she gave the finished bags away. She sold some in private shows at her daughters' home. Then it was smaller Christmas craft fairs before moving up to the juried Artisans Northwest show at the Valhalla Inn. Today, her bags are in several shops around town and are regulars at the larger artisans' shows. Eastwood doesn't use patterns, so even when she casts onto her needles, she doesn't know exactly how the finished bag will look.
She has an enviable workshop. It's comfy, for one, close to the fireplace. And in theory, she could go to her office in her pajamas. "This is my workshop, right beside the TV," she says of her recliner. Unable to just sit, she knits in the evening with her film-buff husband, James, watching movies. Using round needles, she sticks with the pure Merino wool for the bag's base and handle, though she makes each unique by adding in strands of novelty yarns that have long fibres or uneven textures.
"I keep changing my techniques, mainly so I can stay interested," said Eastwood. Pointing to a furry-looking bag, she says, "And then I went into my hairy stage." With the long-fibred yarns, the finished bags look like they've grown a couple inches of silky hair.
Eastwood names each bag, and a particular grey and black one has the moniker of "hairy beast." A red, round one with similar long fibres - and bearing a resemblance to a Muppet - is "hedgehog." "Pepe Le Pew" is a black and white evening bag. She knits a cord for the handle and a bag roughly twice the size of the final purse, and bundles them up in a pillowcase to prevent her washing machine from being clogged with woolly bits. Through much experimenting, she's figured out how much the knitting shrinks. "All felting is, is shrinking," Eastwood says. "This is a good felting, when you can't see the stitching any more." The knitting cinches in on itself, leaving a thick fabric. It also hides any flaws in the knitting, Eastwood notes. She shapes the wet, shrunk knitting on a box or by tightly stuffing it with plastic bags. Once dry, she cuts holes to run the handle cord and does any necessary sewing. Then it's time to decorate, using sea shell buttons, beads, even Swarovski crystals. She's learned to do any needle felting embellishment before the knitted piece is tossed in the wash so it stays on. Taking a strand of yarn, she creates loops and patterns on the knitting, then "just pound the daylights out of it" with a multi-headed needle.
A couple years ago, her husband eyeballed her bags and decided they needed buttons for the closures. Downstairs he went to his tiny workshop and carved asymmetric, angular buttons the size of loonies, usually out of exotic woods from all over the planet. Other people get T-shirts as souvenirs from friends' trips abroad - he gets tiny pieces of wood called snakewood or zebrawood. A few buttons are made of the tagua nut from Honduras. Some isn't from so far off - the cherry buttons come from a branch he took off the tree in the front yard. At shows, some people ask if she just sells the buttons, said Eastwood. "Oh watch out, I'm going to get a big head," says James as he wanders by.
Figuring she's flooded the local market, Eastwood wavers between hanging up the purses or taking her business online. "I keep thinking I should quit," she said. "I'm getting too old for this. And then I go and buy more yarn."