Our Donation – Buttercups Sanctuary For Goats – Maidstone, Kent

For those of you who visited us at one of the Open Days last year, you will have seen we had been raising money for various causes. Three key members of ‘Team Will Work For Cake’ (my wonderful team of volunteers) chose Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats here in Kent as one of the recipients of a donation. The sanctuary is local to us all and we’re all animal lovers, so it seemed a perfect fit for our fundraising activities.

Buttercups care for between 130 and 150 goats at any one time, with a similar number of goats fostered out to approved carers. They rely solely on public donations. The goats in the care of Buttercups go to the sanctuary for a multitude of reasons. Some have been found abandoned and are taken to the sanctuary by organisations such as the RSPCA and the Police. Others have been privately owned pets but, as they grow up they need an environment with more space and the company of other goats, goats being highly social animals. Other residents of Buttercups have been used for scientific testing. Whatever their history, the goats at Buttercups are assured of warm, dry and clean stabling, a healthy and varied diet, and plenty of safe space for grazing and exercise.

So, in the pouring rain, we made the short journey to Buttercups for their Family Day last Sunday (3rd May). It was wellies and brollies aplenty, but we had a great time. Here are some images from our day.

You can follow Buttercups via their website or Facebook page.

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Tara Tuesdays – Part 50 – Secret Birthday Surprise

Congratulations Tara on reaching your 50th ‘Tara Tuesdays’ post! I particularly love this one with your mum! – Emma

A Secret Birthday Surprise

My dear Mum had a big birthday back in February and being the loving daughter that I am, I wanted to do something special with her. Unfortunately, my original plans didn’t quite work out, but determined as ever, I planned a secret surprise for her last weekend….woo ha ha!

My Mum loves flowers (well who doesn’t?!) and I thought it might be a nice idea to organise something floral for her with my fab friend Kerrie who also happens to be my local florist! You may remember my beautiful wreath that I made with the lovely Lois back in December? Well, amongst millions of other things, Kerrie also runs workshops and I asked her if we could do something for my Mum. She of course happily obliged, so it was all arranged for this Bank Holiday Saturday. We were hoping to hold the workshop in my garden, but of course the British weather being what it is didn’t let us, no matter.

My Dad was in on the secret ‘just popping over for a cuppa’ flying visit plan, but didn’t know anything about the workshop. I had a strict Japanese style schedule planned for the day which amazingly went like clockwork!

11.15 Arrive for meet and greet

11.20 Dad and Si disappear to local farm shop and try to buy their lake (!) whilst Mum and I frequent local charity shop for bargain purchases 

12.00 Brunch at the Courtyard

13.00 Secret Floral workshop

14.00 Mum and I frequent local antique shop where more purchases were made (spend up city me thinks!)

15.00 Mum and Dad depart feeling very gruntled (I hoped) after such a wonderful day!

Now down to the actual workshop…

Kerrie explained that we would be making a table display which, currently are hugely popular at the weddings she florists at. Mum and I each had a galvanised bucket and a large piece of oasis that Kerrie had already soaked for us. She showed us each step and I tried to photograph as she went along.

After cutting the excess oasis off (Mum and I nearly cut ourselves like Samurai warriors when we did this bit!), Kerrie first added her eucalyptus foliage to get her shape, starting at the bottom of the oasis.

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And here it is with the foliage stage complete including the top piece.

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We then starting adding our flowers. Kerrie used English Alstromeria (my absolute fav’s) and made a triangle shape and then worked on filling in the gaps. The main aim was not to see any of the oasis . She said that we need to avoid lines of flowers and that you would normally work with an odd number of flowers to achieve this look.

Kerrie then added some purple loveliness as a filler (the name of it escapes me!) and here is her display at the next stage.

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English roses were then added.

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And then more roses to fill the display out. The final flowers were carnations. How beautiful does this look! No pressure on Mum and me then!

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And then it was our turn! Kerrrie left her display on the table for us to use and helped us throughout each step. Concentration face!

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My tongue wasn’t quite out in this pic!

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Managing a chuckle whilst supping a cuppa!

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My display just starting to take shape! Tight lipped concentration on this one!

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And Mum’s too! 

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And here we both are for our Tad-ah moment! Looking good me thinks!

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It was a lovely way to spend our afternoon and I think doing something like this would make the perfect gift for anyone wanting to do something special with their Mum or friends or anyone really. Anything goes! What did make me ROAR was when my Mum asked if we were ALLOWED to take our displays home! Reminded me so much of the children that I work with at school! Bless her!

Enormous thanks to Kerrie for her time and for making my special treat for my Mum simply perfick!

For more details on workshops and any other floral loveliness, check out Kerrie’s official Facebook page here.

Orange, Purple and Green – A Great Colour Combination

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Purple, orange and green are a totally underrated colour combination in my eyes! I put this image together to show off the small and large ginghams, chevrons and ‘Shuffle’ prints from Riley Blake Designs after being inspired by some lilac in the garden. Looks good all together!

You can find the ginghams here, chevrons here and Shuffle here.

Tara Tuesdays – Part 49 – The Courtyard Supper Club

The Courtyard Supper Club Friday 24th April 2015

Celebrating “Everything English” in honour of Saint George

At very short notice I was lucky enough to secure a table for supper at our local Cafe that twice a month host a supper club. Since opening back in December, The Courtyard have held some wonderful events which have created a real energetic buzz in our village. Every time I am in, be it attending a workshop (who me?!), enjoying breakfast or a hot chocolate mountain, it is pretty much jam packed full of people!

This month’s Supper Club was to celebrate “Everything English” in honour of Saint George. When I made our reservation I couldn’t resist the opportunity to volunteer my beloved to be Saint George for the evening. Although we are in semi-retirement from our medieval re-enactment hobby, he jumped at the chance to tart in his full armour, well who wouldn’t!?

We arrived early just to make sure hubbins was actually able to sit down comfortably for his supper and were greeted by our lovely hostess Anne. Simon helped Anne to welcome her guests for the evening before we had our meal, and asked everyone to toast Simon for agreeing to wear his full harness for this special occasion.

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Hubby sampling a glass of our local vintage from Davenport Vineyards that WE actually contributed towards making when we picked the 37 tonnes of grapes last year!

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I was chief squire for the evening and decided NOT to wear my medieval gear as I wanted to don my frock instead! I also didn’t want to outdo Saint G! Anne and her team went to huge efforts to source local ingredients for our menu for the evening and we were not disappointed.

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Our first course was tea smoked trout with rocket and potato salad. This was made with trout from Yew Tree Fisheries in Rotherfield. The picture doesn’t do this dish justice, as it was absolutely delicious!

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Next up was steak, ale and mushroom pie with a stilton puff pastry crust with beef from Louise and her daughter Harriet from Horsegrove Farm. We buy our meat from these lovely ladies every month (the burgers, chops and braising steak are to die for!). All I can say about this dish is “OH MY GOODNESS, HEAVEN ON A PLATE” bold, underlined, font 72! It was served with Sussex churdles, new potatoes, spring greens and honeyed carrots made using honey from our local sign writer David Peacock.

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Our penultimate course was ‘Sparkling Rhubarb Syllabub’ made with rhubarb from David Harman (my good friend Kerrie’s gorgeous Daddy) and sparkling wine from our local vineyard – Davenport Vineyards. I LOVE rhubarb and am rather partial to sparkling wine too (ahem) and can safely say I devoured this course! I was hoping that hubbins wouldn’t be able to manage his, but of course he didn’t save me any!

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Last up was our cheese course where we sampled “a taste” of Sussex cheeses provided by Alsop and Walker our local cheesemakers in Five Ashes, near Rotherfield. We like to think of ourselves as Turophiles (connoisseurs of cheese for those not in the know! I did have to google this by the way!) and were very excited when we saw what we were about to sample:

  • Sussex Farmhouse – semi hard traditional cheese
  • Sussex Blue – mild blue cheese with edible rind (resultage!)
  • Mayfield – Creamy-sweet, nutty tasting cheese
  • Lord London – semi soft cheese also with edible skin (double resultage!)

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We are very familiar with three of these cheeses as they regularly feature on our cheese boards. To finish we enjoyed coffee and hubby then dragged himself away from our table to have some photos taken with some of the guests as well as Anne and her family who also wouldn’t let us leave without first trying on Simon’s sallet!

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We had a splendid evening at this Supper Club and were made to feel VERY welcome and special by Anne and her lovely family and team, so much so we have booked again for July (May and June are already fully booked!) for a Tapas Supper which no doubt will be just as delicious!

After walking the few yards home, our evening didn’t end there as we decided to have one for the road at our local where we met our new landlady and landlord that have recently taken over. 

We finally got home much later than we had planned and it was pure joy for hubbins to be released from his metal corset knowing that his work for the evening was indeed finally done!

I felt ever so proud of my knight in shining armour, he was brilliant! Not bad for a shy chap that didn’t ever really like much attention, too late for all that now!  

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Tara Tuesdays – Part 48 – NOT So Quiet On The Crafting Front

NOT so quiet on the crafting front…

Along with my shifts at school and at the expense of the housework (oh it can wait), I have realised that since December I have been on three workshops, helped construct a willow igloo in my village, made a tapestry hanging, a cushion cover, crocheted three cowls, a beret and a frilled neckerchief, how have I had the time I ask myself!

We have a gorgeous new Café “The Courtyard” recently opened in the village and they have been running lots of different craft workshops that I have been just dying to have a go at! I love trying out new things especially if I haven’t done them before. The first workshop was Baubles of Beauty and was run by the lovely Laura from Freckles and Fire. It was just her and me and we had a lovely evening drinking tea, eating cake, putting the world to rights and making these beautiful baubles. I managed to make this:

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It was very fiddly but looked stunning hanging on my tree at Christmas!

My next workshop (again led by Laura) was Decadent Decorations. I learnt how to make hearts and giant snowflakes using old music paper. These were VERY addictive – I made a huge one for Emma when she visited before Christmas.

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Photograph above taken from Freckles and Fire Facebook page.

My most recent workshop was felt making where I learnt how to make felt balls from dyed merino tops with the lovely Mollie. My arms were killing me with all that rolling but I was delighted with my efforts and made this jewellery:

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My friend Lois came to this workshop with me and made this beautiful necklace:

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We have since booked again for another felt workshop and plan to make a felt bowl this time, watch this space!

My cushion cover was a Christmas gift for Lois and I used Emma’s Essex Linen and some Liberty fabric that I had in my stash. This pattern was one of the very first things I learnt to sew on my sewing night classes. I haven’t done any sewing for ages and this was a real joy to make:

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I am not ashamed to admit that I have become addicted to crochet! I am still a newbie but really do love how quickly things make up. I borrowed a pattern from Lois for a Drops cowl and used some yarn I had been given to make this:

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Not the best picture but it gives you an idea. Not content with just the one, oh no, I went on to make the same cowl in a smaller and medium size!  When the latest issue of my Simply Crochet magazine arrived I couldn’t wait to try the beret and the frilled neckerchief. Here they both are.  Back of the beret and also the medium cowl!

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Me in said beret looking tired and old!

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This was worked in the round using the amigurumi method, I used stitch markers which were a great help!

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Here is my frilled neckerchief which I finished yesterday and absolutely love!

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And finally, here is the official blurb on the willow structure I helped to construct:

A new structure appeared on the Rotherfield Millennium Green on Saturday 10th January. Seven enthusiastic volunteers with help from basket maker, Dominic Parrette, constructed a 3 metre wide ‘igloo’ using freshly cut willow rods which will root when pushed into wet soil. The workshop was part of a Heritage Lottery funded project called Meadows in the Weald. In rather damp conditions Dominic explained how to mark out the base of the structure with mulch… matting. The volunteers then started the building process by inserting 6 rods about 20 cm into the ground at regular intervals around the circle – 2 rods vertical, 2 at 45 degrees to the right and 2 at 45 degrees to the left. With what seemed like magical art they were guided to inter-weave the rods and start to build the dome. In parallel, a 2 metre entrance tunnel was similarly created.

Being very whippy, the rods needed tying at each crossover point, so the ever resourceful Dominic used ties cut from an old car inner tube. Fighting the wind and rain showers, the first level of weaving was finished and an outline of the end result was beginning to be seen. With much head scratching the volunteers continued the weaving always remembering the mantra – ‘over then under’.

The final result was far better than we expected and, when the willow starts to grow in the Spring, the whole structure will green over and become a living sculpture for children to play in. Until then, it will be best to leave the structure alone so that it can establish itself and take root but it won’t be long before buds begin to appear and the whole community can enjoy the fruits of our labours.

And here it is in all it’s glory!

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After reading all that I think I need to have a nice cup of tea and a bit of a rest, phew!

PS. No pics available of the tapestry!

Tara Tuesdays – Part 47 – Christmas Wreath Workshop

I have always wanted to have a go at making my own Christmas wreath for my front door and decided this year to finally give it a go. I was very fortunate in receiving this workshop as a birthday gift and was beside myself with excitement when the workshop day finally came around!

My friend Lois, another lady (Jo) and me met at my friend Kerrie’s shop (Highgate Florist) and were welcomed with a lovely roaring fire, a beautifully scented Jingle Berry Christmas candle and Christmas music….I knew we would be in for a treat!

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Kerrie had already made up our wreath rings with moss and wired them all into place for us and had a “here’s one I made earlier” example for us to see.

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Kerrie started off by showing us how to arrange and tie the foliage, not as easy as you might think! We were using spruce, holly and ivy for our wreaths and worked our way around the ring making sure we didn’t have any gaps. I was surprised by how much foliage we got through and found myself rummaging through the ivy trying to find the bits with all the berries on! My wreath took a long time to take shape but once I had all of the foliage on I was really pleased with it!  

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Of course once we had all made our wreaths we had to have a daft picture taken! I was disappointed that my wreath hid my face in this shot!

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Next up was the adding the ribbon, we all chose different styles and had fun trying to make bows. My favourite part was adding the cones, chillies, oranges, cinnamon sticks and seed heads. These all really made the wreaths look beautiful and finished them off perfectly! We had different wire to use to attach all of our bits and I decided to use EVERYTHING!

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We were all delighted with our finished wreaths and I am now displaying mine proudly on my front door! Every time I go out and come home I keep thinking “I made that!” I can’t believe I actually made something so beautiful in the space of a few hours! If you have always wanted to make a wreath of your own I can highly recommend attending one of Kerrie’s workshops if you are in the East Sussex/Kent area as you won’t be disappointed! The atmosphere was very relaxed, we all worked at our own pace and had help throughout the whole workshop. Kerrie of course made it all look SO easy, but if I can make one, so can anyone!  

Jo and her beautiful wreath.

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Cheesy grin alert!

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Lois and her stunning wreath.

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Lois and me and our beauties!

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I MADE THAT!

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Tara Tuesdays – Part 45 – Emma’s Fabric Studio Open Day October 2014

Another superb day was enjoyed by all in attendance at Emma’s Autumn Open Day at Tithe Barn in Lenham a couple of weekends ago. Emma and her loyal team of family and friends outdid themselves AGAIN by making the barn look simply stunning. I took my time throughout the day taking in all of the little details which just made the whole day so perfect, that girl sure knows how to make an old barn look gorgeous!

I went along with my friend Lois and we had such fun looking at all of the lovely yarns and fabrics SEVERAL times before we made our purchase choices! Excited sweats and not being able to string proper sentences together were fairly evident especially when we decided it would be a good idea to have a trolley to help us ferry all of our chosen fabric bolts around the barn! Our arms are just not that strong! I was rather restrained and did put some of my original fabric choices back before we had our fabrics cut and measured at the cutting table…

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I was mightily impressed that Emma had (in addition to everything else) organised celebs to come along for the day! Becks was so patient and understanding with all that camera snapping and posed beautifully in his handmade crochet necklace! What a star he was! Such a professional!

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I was particularly drawn to all the pom pom loveliness that was on display all over the barn, the Christmas tree on the stage looked divine and I certainly came away with lots of inspiration for new ideas for Christmas.

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Hilly Billy was in my opinion the main attraction of the day and I felt so privileged to be able to ACTUALLY GET IN IT!

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Posing with my new fabric bundle that Emma has named after me was also a real highlight and I can’t wait to see the pictures and blog when that comes out!

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If you were unable to make this or any of Emma’s other Open Days, I would strongly urge you to really try and save the dates in your diaries for next year if you can. As much as on-line shopping is convenient for us all with our busy as ever lives, sometimes it is just so much nicer to meet your favourite fabric supplier in person and to see and stroke lovingly the beautiful fabrics and haberdashery goodies that are available in REAL LIFE!

Huge love, hugs and thanks again to Emma and her family and friends for making this Open Day such a delight for me, I am already VERY EXCITED for future Open Days planned for 2015…..

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SANDS (Stillbirth And Neonatal Death Charity) Knitted & Crochet Blankets

The following post has been written by my awesome friend Judi, who along with her mum Jan developed the crochet blanket pattern for the SANDS (Stillbirth And Neonatal Death charity) ‘Always Loved, Never Forgotten’ memory boxes. For more information on why we chose to become involved, please click to read THIS post about our friends Indi and Trevor, and how the loss of their daughter Alice spurred us into action.

You can find the pattern here on the SANDS website.

Over to Judi:

So, it all started like this, an innocent little message from Emma requesting some help with the SANDS knitting blanket pattern. She had asked for a crochet pattern but as one wasn’t available, she asked if we’d have a look at it.

‘We’ and ‘help’ – hmmmm, I could see where this might be going! We immediately took up the challenge after hearing why Emma wanted to get involved.

The first job was to send the knitting pattern off to someone that can actually knit! That is not a skill that I am blessed with, unless the pattern calls for a triangle of dubious tension, full of holes. Lucky for me, my mum (Jan) had just retired and had a bit of time on her hands. Voila! As though by magic, a beautiful knitted blanket appeared. Well done mum, that’s a lot of knitting to squeeze on your needles.

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Once the ‘royal we’ could see what the knitted blanket looked and felt like, it was time to break out some baby white yarn, 2 brand new balls of double knit (DK). I wanted the finished blanket to have a nice soft drape so chose a size 4.5 hook.

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I chose a textured stitch for the body of the blanket. I had used this one a few times for smaller projects and love the texture it gives. It also uses basic crochet stitches; just chain, double and treble crochet, but the results are really effective.

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To get started, chain 104, as per the pattern – so far so good, as long as you keep count.

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Row 1 is just as simple – double crochet in every other stitch with a chain in between. In row 2, you double crochet in the double crochets, and treble crochet into the chain spaces. I stalled here for the night as it was getting too dark for pictures!

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First thing the next morning and before breakfast had even been devoured, I was on to row 3. In this row you double crochet in the double crochets and chain 1 in between. Be sure to read the actual pattern to keep track of where you are!

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Then you just keep repeating rows 2 and 3 over and over until it’s square! In between other jobs (gardening, dog walking and cooking!) I got this far before bedtime!

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The next morning I whizzed along and before I knew it the blanket was square. About 19 inches square in fact, which is roughly 84 rows.

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I love the pretty edging and I continued with this on a rainy day…

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By Bank Holiday Monday, the edging was complete, 3 lovely lacy rows.

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This was quickly followed by the picot detailing. Once the ends were secured and woven in I had one complete memory blanket ready to be checked and approved by SANDS.

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From Emma: We thought a visual reference to assist you while you work through the pattern would be great for those of you (like me!) who prefer to view photos to see what your work ‘should’ look like. Thanks Judi and Jan for your help! 

SANDS Crochet Blankets – Alice’s Army & Our Involvement

At the Open Day in July, we had an ‘Alice’s Army’ area, you may have seen it in the photos:

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We chose to support a cause close to our hearts and we proudly became part of ‘Alice’s Army’, raising funds in memory of Alice Lawrence, who was born sleeping on 7th September 2013. Her parents, Indi and Trevor, are friends of mine and I was devastated to hear of their experience. Indi had experienced a textbook pregnancy and was in excellent health. The shock almost a year later is still evident. This is why we chose to raise funds using the umbrella term ‘Alice’s Army’ (which is not a charity itself). We raised £250 at the Open Day. Half has been donated to the British Wildlife Rescue Centre, the other half to SANDS (the Stillbirth And Neonatal Death charity).

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Whilst I researched how we could support SANDS in particular, I discovered that one way to get involved is to hand knit blankets, as part of their ‘Always Loved. Never Forgotten’ memory boxes. These bring much comfort to parents at such a difficult time. The knitting pattern has been available for some time, but there have been lots of requests for a crochet pattern also.

I got in touch with SANDS to ask if we could help develop a crochet pattern, something I felt we could help with. I asked Emma’s Fabric Studio woolly superstars Judi and Jan if they could help me with this. In typical fashion, they were amazing at translating the pattern from knitting to crochet. After making up a knitted version to get the size, feel and texture, they went about writing a crochet pattern.

We worked with SANDS to get the pattern produced and ensure they were happy with the finished blanket. At the Open Day in July we had a tremendous response from our visitors. So many people took patterns and I was stopped in the village (whilst walking my dog!) by a lovely lady who had taken a pattern and was half way through her blanket. We were quite overwhelmed at the interest and response.

So, for the next Open Day (5th October 2014 at Tithe Barn in Lenham), we will again be supporting SANDS with their cause. They put this urgent request for help on Facebook this week:

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You can see at the time of me posting this, 4,000 people had shared their plea for assistance. The crochet pattern has been released by SANDS and can be found HERE.

If you would like to come along to the Open Day and pick up a pattern, speak to Judi and Jan and see the knitted/crochet versions of the finished blankets, we would love to see you! They will also be hand to help with any parts of the SANDS blanket pattern you might be struggling with. On the day we will collate and send any completed blankets to SANDS for you. If you complete your blanket after the Open Day we will ensure you have the address to send it to.

So if you would like to join our mini ‘blanket drive’ to help SANDS please do! All the details of the Open Day are at the bottom of this post. For a walk through of the pattern, with photos too, please click THIS link to take you to the separate blog post.

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