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2023. It’s a WRAP! Our Review of a Woolly Whirlwind!

Appropriately on one of the Chernobyl blankets, photo taken in Lublin.

We trust everyone is enjoying the rest from the woolly whirlwind that was 2023! We feel we are still processing the Poland trip with the Ukrainian children and families, we were still there (at time of writing) less than 2 weeks ago. However exhausting it was, we both feel inspired to do more, energised too, so glad we could be there. Feeling the message of HOPE is so central.  More of this project later…

So as the old year draws to an end, we love to pause and to reflect upon the Woolly year just gone. We are filled with awe at the response and enthusiasm to all our projects, yet again folk never fail to amaze, the Woolly Hug crew are full of spirit, compassion, generosity, LOVE and care, truly it feels boundless. Crafters and donors what you do is incredibly special and precious, giving woolly warmth comfort to others. Incredible. We never take any of this for granted. Ever. What a woolly journey we are all on together!

It was BEYOND WONDERFUL to meet so many of you at our 2023 Hugathons. Our Hugathons are a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow Woolly Huggers who share a love of crafting. They are friendly and inclusive. It is a great time for chatting with your fellow Woolly crew and sharing ideas. We work towards creating squares for a given project, it was Chernobs at our most recent meet up. Hugathons are always vibrant and joyful. (With somewhat bonkers games of Bingo) If you worry about not knowing anyone, just let us know in advance and we will link you up, you’ll be glad you came!

We had the most fabulous journey around the UK in 2023! We started with our first Hugathon in January 2023 at Manchester, inc such a beautiful venue in the the stunning Victorian Grade 2 listed Stretford Public Hall, Manchester, (we are back there for our Christmas event 2024!)

Then in March we were off to the glorious St Columba’s by the Castle Church Hall (with the BLUE DOOR!) which is in central Edinburgh, just off the Royal Mile, close to Edinburgh Castle. We absolutely love this place and are back there in September 24!

Onto Central London next in September! Holding our Hugathon at the stunning Friends House, Euston Road. Friends House is a Grade II listed building, completed in spring 1927, for which the architect, Hubert Lidbetter, won the RIBA bronze medal for “best building erected in London”. How lucky were we?! Except I had Covid and had to stay home <sob>  thank you to everyone for picking up the slack,  but I had at least visited the place so knew what it was like!

Still not done, we were away to Portsmouth Harbour in October! Click on the link for the film clip… Thank you to Alexsis for letting us join with her Destash event!

And finally to Oxford for our Christmas Hugathon in December. All absolutely enormous fun, and it won’t be long before we start our 2024 Hugathon travels with Brighton at the end of January! 2024 will see us run events in Brighton( SOLD OUT), York, Lulworth, Edinburgh and Manchester. Watch out on our social media for Hugathon promotions, or follow us on Eventbrite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2023 saw the continuation of our Ongoing projects. Each really is going from strength to strength. It is wonderful to have such a range because it allows crafters to pick the most appropriate/relevant/most interesting to them. From here in the UK to as far away as Ukraine and Poland, children and families feeling love, warmth, support and comfort through our crafting. Isn’t that just amazing?

We sent a RECORD BREAKING (get hold of Guinness someone!) number of beautifully knitted hat and scarf gift sets for Care Leavers. These are part of the Christmas Dinners’ project started by the inspirational poet Lemn Sissay. There are now 34 of these dinners held right across the country, the aim is to create a positive memory, and bring happiness and Christmas joy to this group of 18-25 year olds who can be terribly isolated and lonely, especially around Christmas time.  The entire collection below and a close up. Very much a gift set. Absolutely fabulous and this will run again in 2024. All info is here…. Thank you! 

Our Little Hug project continues apace. We send to Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow, which was our very first destination. This is a 256-bed hospital specialising in paediatric healthcare for children and young people up to the age of 16. When we first started of course it was Yorkhill. Our other destination is to Ward 2 at the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle. We do send on request to individuals too. It is a very special thing to be ale to do for the whole family. Knit, crochet, fabric – all equally welcomed here.

    

Just a sample, there have been hundreds and all glorious!

We are delighted to have sent big collections of teen sized Little Hugs to the teen ICUs at Great Ormond Street and to the teen and young person cancer ward and children’s cancer wards at the Royal Marsden this year, most recently to the Marsden just before Christmas. Thank you to lovely Lucy Jarvis for delivering again in person. We know how much effort goes into these single bed sized blankets and so are truly grateful, thank you – these are loved so much by the recipients and their families. Thank you. This project will continue in 2024, all crafting info is here….

This beautiful bronze sculpture of two children is just outside the entry to the teen cancer unit.

Our Christmas Cwtch project is a festive edition of the Little Hugs project and these go to the Great North Children’s Hospital. We make them as cheery and Christmassy as possible, to help children and families in hospital and away from home have a bit of colour and joy. It is ongoing in 2024, all crafting info here, thank you! 

Hi, i just wanted to say a massive thank you as my son Milo received one of your amazing blankets whilst critical in hospital over christmas… it made it feel like even though we couldnt be home as a family to celebrate xmas, we were able to wrap him up in christmas thank you to all involved xx

“Little Iris wanted to say thank you for the gorgeous blanket she was given on the children’s ward where we spent a good chunk of her first five weeks of life and also the special Christmas one she received as a gift on her first ever Christmas. They definitely brightened our time there and we still use our rainbow blanket every day. Thank you to the lovely talented people who made them! Xx”

And who can forget the Christmas Cwtch Flying Tortie production this year?!

Our Candy’s Hug project, now into its eighth year goes from strength to strength. Our aim there has always been to make comforting cosy blankets with love in every stitch for women going through treatment for breast and other cancers, at times forming part of palliative care. It’s a project of love and strength, of friendship,  of creativity, of coming together to show compassion, support and give and receive comfort. Its a wonderful collaborative project, folk sending individual squares. Each blanket comes from so many. We miss Candy but are so glad her legacy lives onNo photo description available.

Thinking too of all the families in Glasgow and the surrounds who have received our Angel Hugs and Teds in incredibly bleak and devastating times. Love in every stitch we say and it really is true. These blankets are so precious and beautiful inside and out. 

Our Snug collection 2023.

 

This has been the fifth year of our Snugs for Looked after children project, our aim is to make blankets for children and young people (0-16years) who are being looked after in the foster care system. We make these children something permanent, that they can take with them wherever they are.  As always it was a wonderful response. The Snugs going this year to Looked after children in the South coast area. Here we are dropping off in Waterlooville. It is almost exactly a replica of a photo taken five years ago, except it was sunny this year. AND FREEEEEEZING!

New to us this year was our project with the Transplant Team. We were delighted to be approached by the Lead Governor for the Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke who were desperately trying to find blankets (woolly and fabric) and 3D hanging hearts for their organ donation team to use with organ recipients their families and the families of those who are bravely donating loved ones organs. We jumped into action and have sent three deliveries so far, blankets and hearts. Just fabulous to be able to help. It is a lovely project and it will continue into 2024. All crafting info is here….

One of our first blankets for the Transplant team.

Our peony project has had a very successful first year, we are now sending both blankets and twiddlemuff/sensory toys etc. This project continues into next year, all info for both parts can be found here…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peonies on the way to the lovelies on elderly care at the RVI back in April.

 

And if this wasn’t enough folk together we very recently sent £500 to the Multiple Sclerosis society through our Christmas Craft Sale, with over £4300 going to support our ongoing projects, and earlier in the year held a wonderful Spring Sale, funds from which directly went into supporting our Chernobyl Project. We are eternally grateful to all who wave pompoms, craft, donate and buy THANK YOU!!!!!

Just the smallest sample!

A tiny sample from our Spring Sale 2023.
A tiny sample from our Christmas Sale 2023.

We were absolutely delighted to be back at Camp Bestival last summer. In our hearts we were headlining… We had the most wonderful and EXHAUSTING time sharing the woolly love, running pompom making workshops with hundreds of children and their families and selling the adorable Besties you had all made! It was epic, both on the spreading the word and fund-raising front. Thank you for sending all the kits and Besties!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly we aren’t able to make Camp Bestival in 2024, but have been invited to take part in the Carry on Crafting Festival at Ardingly Showground. All info is here... It is new to us, but has good reviews. Held between 20th and 21st July 2024 at the South of England Showground.We plan to run a sort of Hugathon with square making for a Snug, also pom moms too. Still planning. Please do join us, and obviously explore the whole experience too. We’d love to see some familiar faces!

Our Square Squad is now five years old! We couldn’t manage without them, it’s Facebook group made up of fabulous Woolly Hug folk (all welcome to join) who are able to make squares for specific Little Hugs or family blankets. It enables us to reach more people and families with personalised Hugs and kinship blankets. They are astonishing, and rally every single time there is a call. Thank you so much everyone. It’s been a hugely busy year in there, super successful. Awesome work everyone. Below are just a few examples, but do check it out and join us, link is here….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All hail the incredible Construction Crew AGAIN! What an astonishing bunch of folk. Truly extraordinary.  At times our requests (Cwtches, Candy’s, Kinship, Snugs, Refugee blankets, Chernobs) are relentless and often with short notice. For this and several other projects, we could not function without you. The sheer joyful enthusiasm our calls for help is met with makes us so teary and thankful. What wonders you are. And the SPEED OF RESPONSE! Its like having our own team of Woolly Avengers. Thank you! If you think this sounds like something you’d like to try, come and find us, all welcome.

  Our very special blankets for bereaved families have continued this year, each family’s loss is beyond measure, we hope our Woolly Hugs can give a little comfort, they are full of personalisations, memories, a true tribute to a life lived with love. They mean so much to the recipient families, thank you so much for all your help.

One of the absolute highlights again this year has been our social Facebook page, born from lockdown adversity, we wanted to have a safe, happy, supportive and chatty space. We couldn’t be happier with how it has worked. It’s a fabulous place to be, all we hoped for and more! Thank you so much to our wonderful admins, Agatha, Ali, Lisa, Steph, Jo, Jenny Alexsis without whom it wouldn’t be.  It’s called the Woolly Pack, do request to join, and do answer the questions. Can’t wait to see you in there. This is the profile pic!

OOOOOOOOOOOooooooo! And we’ve hit over 10,000 followers on our main Facebook page, are you one of them?!  Come and join us if not over there already. 

So back full circle to where we started this Review, with our Chernobyl project 2023. With your unfaltering love and support we made an epic 150 blankets to go to children. Then in the Autumn we received the most amazing invite to go with the CCLL and meet the children and hand out these blankets ourselves. We blogged throughout our time, the link is here, you’ll need to scroll back to reach day one. 

These children already have very little, still with the threats from the legacy of Chernobyl, made worse by the invasion of the area,  now with war looming all around and the impact that has on every part of daily life. Historically of course we used to make these blankets to give to children visiting the UK with the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline for a respite break. These children need support even more now. So on December,  children were driven out of Ukraine from their home town of Korosten, near Chernobyl and Kyiv to Lublin, just in Poland, and others came who are refugees in Lublin with their mothers. The time was full of food, games, activities, outings, fun and laughter. Children being children. And it was wonderful to see. These kids are now back in Ukraine with the uncertainty, dangers and chaos, or continuing in uncertain, unsettled life as a refugee with loved ones fighting in Ukraine, with all the fears and anxiety. But they’re all taking love and woolly warmth from us. It doesn’t fix anything but it’s a tangible sign of love and care.

Blanket giving was such a wonderful thing. Honestly your love shone from the blankets. Do visit the Blog for all the photos, This project will run again in 2024, we need all hands on deck for this, do check out the timings and crafting info, the link is here….

And a huge thank you for all those torches and power banks. Think that night we requested those really shows the generosity and empathy of the Woolly Hugs crew. Astonishing reponse.

                                     

 

The whole collection is here

And do watch this…..

Just reading this is exhausting, can you imagine how many stitches for Woolly Hugs there have been in 2023? We are absolutely thankful and grateful for every single one.We truly salute all the Woolly Hugs crew, proud to be in amongst the most awesome bunch of folk. We all do what we can do, we all fit in this in around families, busy lives, work commitments, a hundred and one other things, which truly makes it all so amazing. No one can do this alone. We just do our best, tis all we have. And if you are reading this thinking you’d like to jump in, PLEASE make 2024 the year you do, we’d love to have you with us, message us if you you’d like a chat about how. Our aim is always to be inclusive, no one should be excluded because they can’t afford to join in and we welcome all levels of ability, from someone keen to begin to learn to someone with a lot of experience.

2024 already looks exciting, we’d best be ready!

The most enormous love and thanks from us both xxxx

Thank you!

 

A Wonderful Postscript

“This trip feels like a Christmas miracle.”

From Masha, one of the wonderful Ukrainian children who’d come to Lublin, Poland for a respite holiday. One day we’ll meet in Ukraine. Next year? Wouldn’t THAT be a Christmas miracle?

Not all children could come to Poland, and we wanted to make sure we could send blankets back with the children and teachers, to reach as many from Korosten (home town) as possible.

So these lovely children are in their school in Korosten. This is approximately 100 miles NW of Kyiv., 70 ish from Chernobyl

Irina and the other teachers have been absolutely wonderful and the blankets already going out! You may even see a Bestie as we found a few left from Camp Bestival and took those with us. They loved them!

Enjoy these photos. Thank you so much everyone again for making this happen. Much love this Christmas time.


Home

We are home. And the children are safely back home with their families in Ukraine. They live at Korosten, near Kyiv.

After last night’s excitement and emotions, there was only one thing to do. Set up a VPN and watch the Strictly final on iPlayer! Excellent show. Worthy winners.

Sunday morning. Homeward bound.

Tortie is also home. He didn’t accidentally get on the Ukraine bound bus!

We have in our possession a powerful precious piece made by the children. They were given a Ukrainian flag and on this they wrote messages of peace, hope, love and anti war. It’s so incredibly moving. We were so deeply touched to have been given this and will bring it to Hugathons to share with you.

And we love our special pin badges as in the featured image. We are better together.

Our first thanks go to YOU. You the woolly hugs crafting community. 150 blankets were delivered. And we took a load of heart hearts which we gave to the mums, who were so touched and delighted. This is a huge amount of crafting hours and we are so grateful. It truly makes a difference in the lives of others. It’s a wonderful thing. So THANK YOU!

Huge thanks to the amazing CCLL’s CEO Dennis Vystavkin who was so well supported by lovely Galina, his wonderful mum. These two are driving the van home, and are the only ones not home yet. News soon we hope. Thanks too to Big Mike Lafferty from Ayrshire, Andy March of Bristol, all the wonderful, inspirational teachers from Korosten, the children who are a delight and an utter joy, and the staff at Hotel Regionalny for being so warm and welcoming. Also the teams at Eleon and Caritas, both doing wonderful work.

As we parted from our new friends last night we said ‘Next year in Ukraine.’Let us hope the war ends and this can become a reality.

G&G

Sunday 17th December 2023

If you are interested, this project is already underway for next year. All help gratefully received. Please read carefully for crafting info and time schedules. THANK YOU!

https://www.woollyhugs.org/2023/07/12/chernobyl-2024-reach-for-the-stars/

Saturday’s Christmas Party and more blanket giving!

On our way over to the children’s hotel. First time we’ll see it in the daylight!

The queue for the border is still 30 miles long. More fuel tankers today. At the moment Ukraine is importing all its fuel. So this really isn’t good.

It was such a joy to prepare party tables for all the children coming. These children and mums have left Ukraine and are living in Lublin as refugees. This is a tough experience. And their worries will be for their menfolk who have been called up. It was such a privilege to be able to do something lovely for them.

Blanket giving was such a wonderful thing. Honestly your love shone from the blankets.

These children today were younger than the ones we have been with on their respite break. And they loved choosing. Again some had an immediate connection with a blanket, others took an age. And each were lovely to see!

Again, not every blanket and child are shown, because in some cases it wasn’t right to push for a photo. So please celebrate each one. These children have very little. They are just like our own childrenLeaving the country would have been a very immediate process, with limited options to take stuff.

Love in every stitch we say. Always true.

And once the children had their blanket it was party lunch time. This was joyfully riotous! And something rather special happened. Lots of the kids gave their blankets to their mums to look after. And those mums all wrapped themselves up. These mums are young, isolated, away from home and worried for the men in their lives.

Have a look.

Wonderful pics aren’t they? These people have nothing. Our blankets gave love and joy at every turn. Thank you all so much for making this happen. It’s a truly astonishing thing.

Then it was time to party! games, dancing, confetti. Even a 6ft 4 Glaswegian elf arrived!

We were treated to a farewell concert on our last night. With songs and dances, this was truly beautiful. The children beautifully sang their hearts out on a Ukrainian folk song called Marigolds. Marigolds are resilient and grow even when you think they’ve gone, they grow back. Beautiful, haunting, poignant.

Saying goodbye ‘for now’ was incredibly tough. They ask that when they win the war that we visit them in Ukraine. Of course we will. Let’s all pray that this is sooner rather than later.

Beautiful traditional dress.

Friday

Friday started with a two hour walk around Lublin’s fabulous outdoor museum. Absolutely beautifully done, this museum chronicles the history of architecture and life in this part of Poland. For the Ukrainian children a lot seemed very familiar. It’s so important that we all look for things that are similar than always look for differences. Just a few pics. It was also wonderful to get these kids out walking freely.

The tiniest village style Catholic church. Very simple on the outside, highly ornate and filled with icons on the inside. such a beautiful nativity scene too.

Then onto an amazing centre, part eco part activity, community centre. They run activities for Ukrainian refugees. The kids were given a pizza making work shop. Then there were fabulous crafts, games, chess, challenges, music. All the kids were so busy and engaged. Marvellous

https://youtube.com/shorts/na30f_2BrbM?si=-jv5v0yPOsfvLkgE

Then back to the kids hotel for some very complex Angel making! It was a kind of foldy paper thing. Should have been east but OH MY!!

Wearing your Woolly Hug to do some Christmas craft. Priceless.

The kids were exhausted and bed time was calling. Then we were back in our van to our hotel.

It had been a wonderfully busy and productive day.

Minibus back to our hotel. This is a familiar view now!