Sunday, 26 December 2010

Thanks and Happy New Year from Northern Loops

One of the many good things to come out of Northern Loops has been the connections we have made along the way to launching the all age knit groups. This is a post to say thanks to all those who took part and invite you to join us in 2011.

First, thanks to NESTA, (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts)whose Age Unlimited funding and encouragement took Northern Loops from a little idea to a full fledged project.

Thanks to my fellow would-be social enterprisers: Poetry Net, Sing Away Snores, The Big Event, The Dragon's Tooth Thursday Club, The Hub Cafe, Third Age Computer Fun, and my friend of the Big Sing. I learned from your ideas and enthusiasm as an integral part of the NESTA journey (and continue to do so thanks to Michael's blog).

Thanks to my Coach in a Box, which NESTA made possible. When I felt as if I were alone, I had a coach to help me find my groove and help me reach out to others for their help and support.

Thanks to Owen Cook and Space Unlimited. When we ran up against the ideas that "young people" aren't interested or able to do things or that young people think of knitting as "boring, " Space Unlimited took up the challenge. They explored our concept and developed a survey and identified ways that would make the project more appealing to young people.

Thanks to Rom Art for graphic work that helped us spread the word--brochures, banners, and a how to sheet put together with little input and less time.

Thanks to United Reformed Church, Castlehill Heritage Centre, Caithness Horizons, and friend's kitchen tables and living rooms for hosting the groups and meetings and providing room for knitting. Thanks to Thurso high school for letting us take part in their classroom.

Thanks to local Council for letting us give away flowers on the pedestrian precinct (and to everyone who helped or stopped by) and to the cafe who welcomed us there.

Thanks to Project Linus for giving us a local project where knitting could make such a big difference in our community.

Thanks to Caithness Voluntary Group for support and encouragement and connections and answers to questions I did not even know to ask.

Thanks to those who donated wool and needles.

Thanks to those who knit a flower, stood on the precinct giving away leaflets and flowers, stitched a square, brought a friend, invited us into the high school classroom, cast on needles, suggested where to get kid size needles, made coffee, set up a display, told me what a domain name was and how to buy one, helped me sort out receipts, drove all the way from Edinburgh, responded to my frantic emails for information, or even offered a kind word when it felt as if we were up against insurmountable odds. Thanks. Every smile, stitch, needle, word made a difference.

Below is a collage of just a few of the people who were part of Northern Loops this year.

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Friday, 3 December 2010

Blankets--the Real Stars of the Term

We smiled gleefully into the camera yesterday at our luncheon and enjoyed laughing, talking, and talking about knitting, but the real stars of the term sat largely ignored in a large plastic box at the head of the table.

Northern Loops teamed up with Project Linus to make blankets for the Caithness and Sutherland ambulance service.

Today I tried arranging them to display the colours, the careful stitching, and the snowy backdrop symbolizing the comfort that we hope to give with our blankets.

I perched my unfinished squares at the top both to say "I'm working on it" and to represent all the stitches and all the squares made by those who did a square or a bit of one and someone else picked it up and finished it off or tucked it away for finishing in front of the fire.

Caithness has a reputation for looking after its own--in part because we have to and in part because we want to. These blankets are a part of that Caithness way of life.

Nearly a year ago Northern Loops began as a good idea without even a name. NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) offered funding as part of their Age Unlimited program. Their goal was to find and encourage would-be social change agents in their 50s and 60s to help reduce social isolation for older people.

A few fellow knitters and I filled out the application and the idea began. Along the way, it gained a name, a focus, and now we can wrap up the first term of charity knitting and look forward to the next steps--this blog is part of it, along with a proper web page, and in time a book of our own tips, tricks, and patterns.
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Thursday, 2 December 2010

Northern Loops End of Term Lunch Celebration

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Seven of us braved the snowy, icy roads to get together at Castletown Hotel for what Olive called an end of term celebration. I am insanely amused by Christmas Crackers ("What do you call an American drawing?" --"A Yankee Doodle") and any excuse for chocolate is welcome.

Although only 7 of us were able to attend, nonetheless folks from throughout the project were there. Angela and Margaret were part of the original application. Heather is part of the Edinburgh Three who went to Edinburgh to make the final pitch for funding. Olive was recruited from the pensioner lunch at Castletown Hotel and she has not slowed down since I first met her. It would embarrass her to single her out for too much attention, but let's just say that the majority of the blankets are hers.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

NESTA Age Unlimited Funding for Northern Loops

Dressing up in suits and going to the big city paid off for Northern Loops. Heather Millard, Ruan Peat and her daughter Rochelle and I went to Edinburgh with our development plan, our receipts for the work to date, and our hopes for launching Northern Loops Intergenerational Knitting. They said yes, so now the real hard work begins: we have to make it all happen.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Northern Loops goes Live: Knit in Public Day

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Knit in Public Day was our launch event for the Northern Loops Intergenerational Knitting Program.

When we asked the council for permission to set up on the pedestrian precinct for Knit in Public Day, they really only asked two things: were we selling something? No. Were we collecting money? No. In fact, we said we're giving away hand knitted flowers. They didn't seem to have any category for giving away things, and so they said yes.

Now knitting in public had seemed like a good idea until just a few minutes before I got to the precinct with table and baskets of knitted flowers. Stage fright nearly scuttled me, but friends soon arrived and it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to be doing after all.

At first folks passing by seemed to think like the council, but once they learned we were neither selling nor collecting (although a couple folks tried to buy the flower corsages), we attracted a lot of people who wanted to share their stories about knitting. We gave away a lot of flowers and collected several completed sign up sheets to test our idea of an all age knit group. That was the goal of the day for Northern Loops.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Knit in Public Day in Action

This is the kind of attention we got on the precinct. Lots of people collecting and stopping by. Looking back on it now, the success of Northern Loops is inherent in the generosity of folks who say,"Well, I can't be there all day, but I can come by and I can come knit some flowers for you."

Thanks to all the lovely people in and out of this photo who knitted flowers and shared their time, creativity, and good humour to make the day a success.

Especially thanks to Louise who said as long as we had the Education Room in Caithness Horizons reserved for rain, we should have display --and then the magic words, "and I'll do it..."

And she did.

She collected examples of knitting from craftswomen around the county, labelled them, displayed them, and set up a continuously running computer display of knitting, charity knitting, and celebrity knitting (Lady Gaga knits is one of my personal favourites.)

Inside it was easier to settle into some one on one teaching. One young woman learned to knit, purl, increase, decrease and cast on and off all within about an hour and a half. As a little girl she had watched her grandmother, but she had never picked up a pair of needles before. She was an especially apt pupil, but I learned also just how talented her teacher was.

Louise even took up knitting for the day--under the tutelage of her mother, an incredible needlewoman.

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