Verve launched the ‘Knitting Baby Clothes Appeal’ in March 2020, and the campaign was to ask if people in our communities would knit or crochet baby clothes during the first lockdown. The response was humbling as many generations came together, and thus, the Ladies who Knit’ began sharing their skills and time to inspire and support vulnerable new Mums in Salford.
We launched the ‘Knitting Baby Clothes Appeal‘ as Coronavirus was starting to make its effects felt. Sadly, the message from the Government was we should go into lockdown. However, a lockdown would mean that Charity shops, usually the source of cheap and warm clothes for babies by Mum on a budget, would be closed. The wool would typically be from an old jumper and, unravelled and re-used, would be gone; thus, for many new Mums,’ it was often the way they kept babies warm in their first months.
My gut instinct was right; we were in for the long haul with COVID.
We thought it would be okay, it was getting warmer, and there was no panic if the campaign were slow to take off. However, that was one worry we needn’t have worried about; knitters came forward, and we soon had plenty of clothes for our babies.
Even though the sun had come out and summer was nearing, instinct kicked in with me to keep going. More importantly, I felt we were heading for an exceptionally long and cold winter, and I ‘doubted’ the information on COVID-19 coming through; it didn’t make sense.
Never assume; it makes an ass of you and me!
Experts told us that ‘Coronavirus does not like heat, and thrives in the cold’. The heat would destroy the virus, and as the numbers went down, it seemed possible this might be the case. I didn’t believe this explanation, and I couldn’t see its logic; maybe we didn’t know enough about the virus at the time. Fortunately, summer was ahead; if the ‘experts’ were right, perhaps we need not worry.
Maybe experts’ assumptions were based on this strain’s evidence; was it possible this virus was smarter than assumed? I believe that you never ‘assume.’ ‘Assume’ make an ass of you and me! This phrase was a mantra of my Nana’s many life terms; I felt she was right.
Women of her generation often had a mantra for every occasion; they were inspiring, honest, and direct, just like we want our experts to be.
Women in lockdown began to follow the rules.
Now we were heading into summer; we were happy, and even though we couldn’t be with our families, the sun on our heads made us feel good.
The ‘experts’ message was evident; firstly, they said, ‘Wear your masks, wash your hands, stay 2 metres away from everyone, and don’t see your family... Harsh! Secondly, ‘Keep shopping; keep the economy going and clap on Thursday at 8.00 o clock to say thank you to the people who are saving your lives.’
And finally, the one that sealed the deal for me. ‘Being apart is worth it; the sacrifice you make now will make the future better,’ and the best one yet, ‘Follow the rules and trust us.’
Like me, many women recognised reality as ‘Live for now, pay later, but keep the tills ringing no matter what.’ I chose to ignore this. I’m not foolish; it was becoming evident that women needed to unite and share their skills to survive future lockdowns.
Stockpiling became the obvious thing to do…
The mentality of ‘Living for now’ has never sat well with me; consequently, I carried on. I didn’t trust the information we were getting, and the women who came forward to knit loved knitting for us.
For many women in lockdown, knitting gave them a sense of purpose and a feeling of helping; indeed, the beautiful garments they continue to donate are a testament to how inspirational and creative they are. I stockpiled, and everything donated was stored; parcels kept on arriving.
We had clothes for children and adults, toys, and selection boxes at Christmas; I even managed to get gifts for the Mums at the Food Banks to make their Christmas special.
The women who help and share their skills are inspirational; their kindness and generosity are extraordinary to our ‘Knitting Baby Clothes Appeal’; Thank you!
Verve Ambassadors are inspirational women.
Verve Ambassador Maxine Casey is a student NHS nurse. Maxine has over 16 years of experience working for her beloved NHS providing nursing to our community. My pride for Maxine isn’t because I’m her Mum; it’s because Maxine, like every daughter alive, comes with her rule book and has had her hands firmly clenched in tiny fists from the day she joined us. My pride is deep within me; I know many other women feel this with their daughters.
However, Maxine reminds me of many strong and inspirational women I knew and whom she never got to meet; these women would have loved her; more importantly, I am sure she would have loved them back.
My pride in my daughter is as a woman in her own right.
This pride resonates in my memories of those strong and determined women, some of whom she resembles in appearance and attitude.
These women had a phrase for every occasion; words often quoted today reflect a simplistic life attitude. The combination of wisdom nurtured by family and the academic learning levels now accessible to all is promising and inspiring. This eclectic mix of strengths and skills shared is a blend of kindness, humility, and inherent empathy. This mix makes me realise change is amongst us; it has always been here for generations and is in our genes.
Maxine is the first woman in my family to go to university; unlike me, she chose to get married and have her baby first while working in Salford as part of the Palliative care team. Thus, as a Mum, I adore her, and she inspires me as a woman in her own right.
Generations of women inspire new Mums and babies.
Maxine delivered the ‘Knitting Baby Clothes Appeal’ items kindly sent to us to one of the Not-for-Profit Charities, Women with Wings CIC, that we are proud to support. Women with Wings CIC runs food banks over Greater Manchester, and they put together Baby boxes for their ladies who have new babies.
Jasmin Bhakra, who runs Women with Wings, told me that one Mum recently gave birth to her baby and delivered a parcel to her. Many generations of ladies donated to the boxes, all with one desire, to share their skills and help young Mums and their babies to keep warm.
The ‘Knitting for Baby Clothes Appeal’ brought ‘the Ladies Who Knit together.’
The Knitting Baby Clothes appeal brought women of all ages together; the purpose was to keep babies warm in the way women have been doing for generations. Together we share skills of the past, and The Ladies Who Knit, crochet, rag-wool; anything to keep doing what we set out to do; keep babies and vulnerable children warm.
When I created the Knitting Baby Clothes Appeal, I made a tagline; (whoever thought of that phrase needs a good talking to.). For me, every baby deserves a new outfit.
This statement is accurate; however, I should have said, ‘Every woman deserves new clothes for her baby’. She also deserves a roof over her head, with food in her children’s bellies and the heating on. It is not enough to live and survive, nor is it a rite of passage or a lucky dip of the postcode in which you live.
Change does not always mean progress…
I believe the need for change comes from changing attitudes, especially among women. Many people had adopted an air of enormous self-importance that without them being in control, many would flounder. The reality is that Coronavirus has stripped away our security, and for many people, it has left a vulnerability in our lives that we think we can’t live beyond.
As a result, we experience anxiety and mental health issues that we do not understand and non-existent support networks. We need progress, and for me, the women who walked before us lived through adversity and are now the women whose skills we shared and adopted in our everyday lives.
The proof is in the pudding!
My Nan was a fantastic cook, and I would sneak around to her house; I knew where our secret stash of biscuits was. She used to say, ‘the proof is in the pudding, our Val.’ Being a literal thinker, I thought I would have to eat a lot of puddings.
Also, my Nan was exceptionally good at robbing ‘Peter to pay Paul’. I never knew who either of these two gentlemen was, but I knew that my Nana would never do anything terrible; therefore, either Peter was awful, or maybe it was Paul. Now I get it because I one day had no choice. We put things in order of importance, and if we have to do without one thing to have the other, then that is what we must do.
Women watched each other’s backs.
Sadly, we had what many people don’t have today; we had a family to watch after us. Our families had our backs, and no matter what, our kids had everything they needed; therefore, we felt safe, warm, and loved. However, I do not look at life through rosy glasses because life is much harder, and children’s discipline is often cruel.
My generation came from the reality of physical punishment with Dad’s strap/ belt on a wall or over the fireplace. Subsequently, a lingering threat of ‘wait until your Dad/ Mum hears about this, or ‘you will not sit down for a week after I have finished with you was, for many children, sadly, a way of life.
Sadly, these threats were real; they left physical and mental scars that, for some children, never healed. For many, the healing process was the kindness of strangers, women who took you in and cared for you with tea, biscuits, and lots of cuddles.
Women helped to get each other straight.
We never questioned if a child had a black eye or was suddenly not allowed to play out. I would watch the faces of the Mums on my estate when this happened; you could see the pain and tears in their eyes while keeping up the pretence that everything was okay.
I knew they were lying; they had an inherent sadness indicative of the times. Over time, I challenged this and began to love these women even more; I saw how women rallied together because they sorted her out if a woman was in trouble. ‘Sorting her out’ usually meant slipping money after the ‘man of the house was out; while gently whispering, ‘get yourself straight.’
Children had clothes knitted and crocheted from ‘a spare ball of wool’; often, wool came from a jumper bought from a jumble sale for a few pennies. My Nana’s mates often deployed me to lean over and ‘get that green thing for me at the back of the table;’ they could never reach the back of the tables at jumble sales.
Every Friday night, I was always there; you could spot me a mile off. I was very tall; they were tiny; I came in handy, and I would never dare say no; also, I had the best teachers in the world who shared their skills in turning an old dress into something for me!
Women who ‘just know’ come together through our ‘Knitting Baby Clothes’ Appeal.
Now my porch resembles a jumble sale; my dining room is often bursting with knitted baby and children’s clothes from women who ‘understand’.
Women from all generations come together to keep babies safe and warm. More importantly, we make women feel a sense of pride for their families while they are safe in the knowledge; we have each other’s backs.
In short, kindness and the desire to help others override everything else; this kindness is shining through Coronavirus, and our children are watching with pride.
Coronavirus makes people vulnerable, and vulnerability, together with a lack of support networks, often becomes toxic. Families have separated, vulnerable children are in care, and mental health problems, especially in women, have reached epidemic rates. We need to address this, and we begin by talking, sharing skills and ideas, communicating away from social media, getting out and learning to trust, as our ancestors did before us.
Thank you to the ladies who walked before us.
‘Thank you to the ladies who had walked before us and shared their skills. The ladies who walk with us now and the generations of young ladies with clenched fists will walk with us. And when we leave, they will carry on the walk and share these skills with their children.‘
Can you knit, crochet, or donate clothing items for children and vulnerable families?
If you need support, please send your details, and I will connect you to a not-for-profit charity in your community to help you. Alternatively, if you would like to offer support to our ‘Knitting Baby Clothes Appeal‘; or work with Verve and the Charities we work with, please get in touch.
Together, we can all make a difference in the lives of families and children in our community.