I first spotted Judith Miller's crocheted blanket masterpiece on the 'Handmade in Sedgefield' Facebook page, a social media platform dedicated to locally made products. It is an intricate work of art comprising of many different colours and stitches revolving around a central mandala. It is a labour of love, and one, I am told, that took many hours to complete. Although Judy was taught how to crochet by her aunt at the young age of nine, she hadn't picked up a crochet hook for many years – until now. “The career path I chose didn't really inspire much creativity”, says Judith, “ and it wasn't until I joined the Sedgefield Stitchers group that my passion for the craft truly blossomed. It appears she is not the only one hooked on crocheting.
The art of crocheting dates back to the 19th century and was originally practised by peasants in Scotland, with a small hooked needle called a Shepard's Hook. It derives it's name however, from the French word 'crochet', meaning crooked shape. In the last decade or so this age old craft has seen a massive revival and crocheting is now a big part of both urban street wear, high-end fashion collections and interior décor items around the world.
Crocheting is not the only activity enjoying a widespread renaissance. It seems more and more people are tapping into the spirit of using their hands to make things. Whether it is crocheting or vegetable gardening or baking bread, there is immense satisfaction in being able to stand back and admire something which we have physically produced ourselves. In a world that revolves on so much “virtual reality”, there is a growing desire for people wanting to live in the now, to connect with the real world and with each other and picking up a crooked hook and a ball of wool helps people do that.
The Sedgefield Stitchers is a perfect example of this. In September last year, Sedgefield local Tracy Chandler- Babst felt the urge to learn the art of crocheting and sent a message across a local Facebook page enquiring whether anyone would be interested in starting up a group. The response was overwhelming and 6 months later they have grown to be a group of 14 ladies. They meet once a week, where they share both ideas and skills, generally inspire and connect with one another. You wouldn’t believe it by looking at the incredible work that they are producing today, but many of the ladies were completely new to the craft of crocheting before joining the group.
The Sedgefield Stitchers have been so uplifted and inspired by this creative outlet that they have decided to give back to their local community. They have chosen to support the Living Cornerstone in Sedgefield, a public benefit and non-profit organization that cares for Alzheimer sufferers in a supportive home environment. The group is now very busy making crocheted items for the 22 residents of the home. Items such as blankets, hats, scarves, and also what is known as a“Twiddle Muff”, which is double thickness hand muff with bits and bobs attached inside and out. It is specifically designed to provide a stimulating activity for restless hands for patients suffering from dementia.
If anyone can perhaps spare wool, buttons, bells, beads or other 'bits and bobs' that you do not need or use, the group would be extremely grateful.
(The group is open to all, so if you want a great interactive learning experience feel free to join.)