WHEN Aspley Guise Lower School announced it needed to find £80,000 for a replacement school building, Lorraine Hearn knew exactly what to do. Spin a yarn!
Lorraine – whose seven-year old daughter Beth is a pupil, decided to fulfill a personal ambition while simultaneously swelling the coffers for the school, and readied her knitting needles.
Lorraine, of Woburn Sands, is a whizz at producing knitting patterns. She took up the hobby as a little girl and in recent years has turned that pastime into a career, producing e-books: “...but I’d always wanted to do a hardback book, and I thought what a great idea it would be to get the children involved modelling the designs, and have the proceeds go to the cause.
“Aspley Guise Lower School is so lovely and it is becoming so difficult to raise this sort of money for causes.”
Lorraine began making calls asking for help and has been overwhelmed by the response.
“It has been amazing. Cascade Yarns and Rico Design offered free yarn support... I have lost count of the amount of balls of wool that have turned up at my door.” she laughed.
The book is being set in four areas close to the school – in the woodland area, on the allotments, at Radwell Farm, and the Duke and Duchess of Bedford have agreed to Woburn Abbey being used as a backdrop.
“I grew up in the area, and these were all places I used to enjoy when I was young.
“I want the children to be able to explore what I did, and to get across that while this is a knitting book, it’s not just a knitting book – it is also about the area, about the children, and about the school.”
And about a pug puppy called Gladys who has modelled a fetching leaf design jacket.
The designs are funky, modern and cool, and this novel fundraising idea comes at a time when knitting is enjoying a resurgence of interest. Knitting is cool again, isn’t it?
“It’s a big thing,” Lorraine agrees. “Yarns have changed so much and there are a lot of catwalk designs out there too.
It’s not just about the knitting either. You have to consider pattern writing, colours, logistics...”
Lorraine has been joined in her mission by photographer Karen Parker who was so taken by the idea that she agreed to shoot the pictures for free.
“To make the book a success, I knew Lorraine would need really great images, and combining children with beautiful hand designed knitwear was an opportunity too good to miss,” Karen said.
Interest in the book has reached far beyond the Aspley Guise boundaries – and across the pond to America, with offers and interest flooding in from companies and individuals. James Frost, from the Frost gardening empire has offered his services in marketing and distribution, and Lord Wolfeson, chief executive of Next has stated interest following Lorriane’s enquiries.
Closer to home, celebrated singer Jacqui Dankworth has modelled with the youngsters.
“I wanted to produce designs that are adaptable and can be altered as children grow, so they are all cost effective and eco friendly,” she says.
With 50 designs being included in the page-turner, we imagine that our queen knitter must go to bed dreaming of crochet hooks and such things.
“There is a lot of knitting involved,” she says, obviously.
“I have knitted nearly every day since we came up with the idea a year or so ago, and sometimes I’ve been caught doing it into the early hours. It’s tiring, but fulfilling.
“My body clock has gone haywire.”
And what started as a slightly woolly idea has surpassed all expectations: “People have been so supportive, and the children who have never modelled before have worked really, really hard,” she added, before getting back to the knitty-gritty.
> It is hoped the book, working title ‘The Aspley Collection Part 1’ will be out as e-book in June with the hardback and Kindle versions to follow.
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> For further examples of Karen Parker’s work visit www.karenparkerphotography.co.uk