On 16th February this year, the Sheffield-based fabric store Happy Hare celebrated its first anniversary. Many of us would stick to just baking a cake and bringing in some bubbly, but owner Lisa Birkett had something really special in mind.
“We have a charity craft group which meets in our workshop space once a month to make knitted and stitched items for a variety of different causes,” Lisa explains. “It was our first birthday and I wanted to give something back to the community by organising a whole day of charity crafting with a specific focus.”
The cause that Lisa chose was the Sheffield Hospitals Charity, which asks stitchers to make bonding hearts for babies receiving specialist care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Jessop Wing. These hearts are pieces of cotton fabric – a mother wears one next to her skin and another is placed on or near her baby. This transfers their scents onto the fabric, after which the hearts are swapped so each has the heart worn by the other. Doing this regularly helps parents and babies get used to each other’s scents during the times when they can’t hold each other, and allows the natural bond to develop. It can also help produce the hormones needed to aid breast feeding.
“We had previously made these bonding hearts for Jessops in October 2016 as part of our celebrations for Sew Saturday,” Lisa continues. “We set sewing machines up in our workshop space, put out some pre-cut hearts and the instructions for the customers and managed to get 100 made in that day!” It was such a success that she and her team decided that repeating this would be the perfect anniversary celebration.
“We donated a variety of yarns and 10 metres of fabric to start people off, sorted out the appropriate knitting needles and crochet hooks, then set up all of our sewing machines,” Lisa says. “We cut the fabric into squares for quilts and bonding hearts, so that people could just crack on with sewing. Some just popped in for an hour or so, but others brought sandwiches and stayed all day. We made sure that there was plenty of home-made cake and coffee for everyone too! In total, we made 242 bonding hearts, plus 22 patchwork incubator quilts and 65 preemie hats.”
It was such a success that the Happy Hare team have decided to continue these crafting sessions for the Jessop Wing on an ongoing basis. “Almost every day someone will bring in some hearts, preemie hats or a quilt,” Lisa smiles. “When it comes to quilts, most people are happy to make the tops from scraps. We held a tombola on the day, so we have a little in the kitty to pay for wadding and backing. We have also suggested that people can donate spare materials if they have them, or buy some for the charity crafting. For example, for £1.50 you can buy a fat quarter, which makes six patchwork squares and one bonding heart – 12 squares will make an incubator quilt.”
Lisa is also planning to schedule another full crafting day for Jessop Wing later this year. “We found that people could really get on and make things when they had dedicated time to do so,” she reveals. “The feedback from customers has been really positive as well. One older lady had been struggling with low moods, but has really been enjoying making hats, as it has made her feel useful.”
If you live in Sheffield and would like to get involved, Happy Hare can provide knitting patterns for the preemie hats. “Incubator quilts are three squares by four squares, starting with six 6.5” squares,” Lisa adds. “Both the squares and backing MUST be made out of 100% cotton and also have cotton wadding due to fire regulations. If anyone contacts us, we would be happy to go through any details with them.”
Even if you’re not local to the area, you can still take part by sending your finished items directly to Happy Hare as Sheffield Hospitals Charity collects from them regularly. “Alternatively, you could look for similar projects in your area – it’s a great way to meet people and get involved in the local community,” Lisa suggests. “Find out what is needed – individual charities may have very specific rules about what they are able to accept, and you really need to look into that before you start. There is no point in making polycotton quilts if they can’t be accepted. To some extent, the charity is your customer, and you need to understand their requirements in order to be helpful to them.”
Get in touch with Happy Hare at handmadehappyhare.com
Find out more about Sheffield Hospitals Charity and Jessops Wing at sheffieldhospitalscharity.org.uk
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