Johnny Shiels - Heritage Experts | Heritage in Schools

Johnny Shiels

Johnny  Shiels 1
Johnny  Shiels  Tractor  Making
Johnny  Shiels  Bird  Box
Johnny  Shiels  Glen  Mac Quin  Mural
Johnny  Shiels  Weaving 2
Johnny  Shiels  Weaving1
Curriculum Strands:
Continuity and change over time (History)
Counties catered for:
Classes catered for:
3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th

Book in-person visit

My name is Johnny Shiels, I am a third generation spinning wheel maker here in Donegal. I regularly demonstrate the traditional crafts of spinning and weaving throughout the country. I find that given the opportunity people in general and school children are very taken with the craft and all enjoy the hands-on experience of seeing the wheel turn and how wool can be turned into a thread.

In-person school visits

Choose from the list below or contact Johnny for further information:

In the school grounds, pupils will look at extending/developing a sensory garden. Pupils will design and make various wooden items for the school grounds/sensory garden. This could include bird/bat boxes for a wildlife habitat. In a sensory garden pupils will be divided into groups and explore the five senses, sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Using their spinning, weaving and woodworking skills that they have learned, they can design and build structures in the garden to demonstrate an experience of these senses.

Children will learn about the traditional craft of spinning and weaving. They will learn how the wheel is made and about the wood used. Children help to assemble the wheel, see how it works and have a turn treadling the wheel themselves. The children will get hands-on with various fibers, wool, flax and other material. Each pupil makes their own drop spindle (tool used for spinning fiber). Pupils partner up and with good teamwork make a thread. One pupil spinning and the other drawing out the thread.

Pupils have a look at a table loom and learn how it works including the parts and terms used in weaving e.g.: heddle bar, reed, warp and weft and different weaves/patterns e.g.: herringbone, houndstooth. Using a board loom pupils put on their own warp and using a variety of weft fiber weave a piece of material e.g.: a wall hanging or headband.


  • "Very worthwhile, informative and enjoyable day for the children."
  • "It was great for our children to experience weaving and learn about its history."
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  • "Johnny is an expert in his field and keeps children and staff intrigued with his abundance of knowledge and great communication skills." - Scoil an Aingil Choimheádaí, Donegal
  • "Children loved working independently." - Scoil Cholmcille, Drumman, Ramelton, Donegal
  • "Johnny Shiels was very flexible. He demonstrated the tools of his trade to the junior students. It was a great chance to look at the value of wood in our lives and how people weaved years ago, from wool on a sheep to the finished garment. It was linked to literacy and drama in the Junior end of the school. The children in all classes really embraced the weaving experience." - Scoil Naomh Treasa Tiernasligo NS, Donegal
  • "Children all really enjoyed the visit. Johnny has a very nice way with the kids - very patient and giving of his time. They are delighted with their woven piece." - Scoil Mhuire, Glenties, Donegal
  • "A great day, pupils loved weaving!" - Brownknowe NS, Donegal

Additional Information

  • Provides in-person visits
  • Caters for special needs
  • Provides practical/hands-on activities

Contact Details

Phone (Home):
074 937 4769
086 161 8715