Sunday, 26 April 2015

Do You Mind if I Knit? Blanket

It can be quite hard to explain to someone who doesn't write or read blogs, take part in Instagram or any of the other online platforms what it's really all about. I usually find people are polite but bewildered when I try and explain how I posted a picture of a ball of wool and then all these people I've never met have a good old chat about it with me.
In the main they're really not all that interested. No matter, it's my twilight world outside of the everyday where many exciting and wonderful things have happened over the past six years. One of the most amazing parts of this world is the networking and friendships that come from it. There are people to chat to who share your interests, people who are supportive and caring, people who inspire each other, people to have a blinking good laugh with while you're on your own in the bath drinking a beer and tapping out a conversation.
Invisible threads link us all so that was how I was given a lovely hug from Ellie of Jelly Jam down in Dorset via my friend Cat of Lulumama the other evening. Eleanor of Stitches and Seeds commented on my blog a while back so I followed the link to the island she was living on in the South Pacific. When her family returned back to Scotland she mentioned her neighbour was the artist Vanessa Cabban. I said "say hi to Vanessa for me please". Not adding I'd missed chatting to her since her life changed direction.
Reaching out in this way meant that when Vanessa died in December 2014 Eleanor emailed me and sent the announcement from her family. I remember how stunned I was and then I cried for this beautiful lady I'd never met, but who I'd talked to via emails and on the phone. This lady who was so gentle, amazingly talented, warm, funny, colourful and inspiring who I hoped I would meet one day. This lady who wrote the Do You Mind if I Knit? blog and illustrated children's books, painted, knitted and stitched, visited gardens and celebrated her joy in life as well as hinting at some of her lows.


I felt it important to share the news on my Instagram feed and blog as I knew Vanessa meant so much to a lot of people here too. As word of this sad news spread there was an overwhelming amount of love shown and shock at her death.
On the day of her funeral on the 30th December I started an Instagram memorial for Vanessa at 11am with the hashtag #vanessacabban. Each of us wrote under our chosen picture what she meant to us. It was understandably an emotional day reading all the tributes as they rolled in one after another on my feed and the private messages I received afterwards.

Although I'd read Vanessa's blog for a while and we'd chatted about this and that in emails, I got to know her a bit more in 2010 when she revealed a beautiful papier mâché of Emily and her piggy. She'd made this pair for herself, but was starting to make little teacups and such for sale.

It was a new direction for Vanessa and one that she felt anxious to ensure she developed in her own style.
I was blown away when I saw this pair and knew straight away that I'd love one of my sheep mad girl captured in this way. My girl who named all Sheep Betty after the Shirley Hughes poem about an elderly sheep.
I thought how on earth can I ask such a question? Surely it would seem cheeky. Turns out Vanessa was absolutely thrilled and honoured to be asked. She said being her first unasked for commission in papier mâché it really boosted her confidence. So by asking, the project got under way and by asking her Vanessa told me she felt thrilled to know she was creating something that others responded to.

We spoke a lot in the months it took to create this amazing piece, Millie and her Beautiful Betty. I answered Vanessa's questions, sent her photos and we just chatted, all in her quest to capture my girls essence in her 9th year.
Can you imagine my delight when the finished piece arrived in a large box in March 2011 just in time for Millie's birthday.

When Vanessa's life changed direction she withdrew from her blog, understandably finding it hard to find the same words and expression she once did. Her work changed in style, but thankfully she was still creating. I still sent her messages to say hello as I was concerned about her, as quite a few of us were I've since found out.
So this brings us back to what she meant to me and in the same vein how she touched so many others with her generous spirit and inspiring creativity.
After the online memorial I was asked if I'd thought of raising money for mental health by @dansnan by possibly making a blanket. I pondered for a day and chatted about it before putting the idea out on Instagram on New Years Eve. The response was a big YES.

In my head I saw a blanket made up of patchwork squares using Vanessa's striking signature colours. The Little Squares scarf she made influenced by Sophie Digard's work was my starting point. I spoke to my friend Penny at Planet Penny to chat over yarns and such and between us we agreed on a cost effective one with a good palette. Penny kindly sorted out the colour cards for me.
I asked my mate Jane of Teawagontales if she could make an identity badge for the project, so out came her paints.

Once the colour cards arrived I got down to the design and maths part, working out sizes, number of squares and how many of each colour were needed.

With this all done it was time to launch the project and see if it could work. I had emailed Vanessa's parents initially with our condolences. Later on I wrote again explaining the blanket and to ask if they were happy with this. I got a lovely reply from her mum Cherry saying "this is a Vanessa world! She so loved blogging" and that they were in support of our project. I chose Instagram as it's the easiest place to chat quickly back and forth to announce it all.. In early January of this year I wrote a post explaining it, describing what was needed and how to make a square. This was on a Saturday and by the Sunday all squares had been taken with requests for more coming in. I also asked a couple of people who I knew Vanessa meant a lot to, but were no longer on Instagram if they wanted to take part. I had to enlarge the blanket in the end so that everyone who wanted to could take part in a project that meant something personally to each and everyone involved. All of us have been touched by mental health issues in some way or other so it was a special thing to be part of.


My online friend Laetitia of The Bloggings of Mrs Bertimus was sad she can't crochet, but I found a way for her to be involved. She's a darned fabulous artist herself and creates stunning machine stitcheries so I asked her if she could create the date badge for the blanket.

As the weeks rolled by I received little parcels of coloured squares. Inside were hand written notes, cards, sometimes gifts and chocolate. Just as I'd started this fundraising project my own marriage completely fell apart. This was when the online community's friendship and these little parcels really came into their own. This project kept me busy in a good way and was just what I needed in one of the hardest parts of my life so far.

All the way though this project there have been offers to make extra squares if needed, to sew them together and to spread the word. Complete generosity and enthusiasm from this kind, supportive and caring place.
By Easter I'd received all of the squares and so it was time to get on with the next exciting part of all this. Penny of Planet Penny, Celia of Purple Podded Peas and Caroline of @granplumley and I set a date to meet and put the squares together before we stitched them up.

When I asked for help setting up a Just Giving page and Zoe of @Sweetpea.1 immediately put up her hand to offer to do it.
It was all written and ready and waiting to go by last Tuesday.
On theThursday the ladies arrived for the assemble and stitch. Sadly Caroline couldn't make it because of work, she'll still be stitching her squares once I've dropped them off.
It was truly exciting to start laying them out. We worked in quarters and moved the squares up and down until we were happy with the arrangement.

Walking out of the room and then back in to see it laid out made me behind happy. Having taken a leap into this project I then worried all along "what if they look awful together, what if I've got it wrong". Stupid really but that's caring about something for you and wanting it to work.

How could it fail really with all these amazing women giving their time and belief to it.
By early afternoon Celia, Penny and I had eaten all the cake, munched our lunch in the sun and were ready to start stitching our pile of squares.

Lots more stitching still needed and then we'll meet up to stitch all four pieces together and ta dah, there we will have one Do You Mind if I Knit? Blanket. Phew.


This week the Just Giving page will go live. I'll post the link here and on Instagram for you. All tickets for the raffle to have a chance of winning this beautiful and original blanket, plus most importantly give to an important cause will be priced at £2 each. We have opened it up so everyone from around this whole planet can take part.
Now that's not the end of the story.
@louloubone said she'd love to make a blanket like this as well as buy tickets. Well that got my brain whirring again yesterday as I watched Rosey playing her netball matches. I thought how about creating a pattern to sell as a PDF with more funds being raised for The Mental Health Foundation.
Once again I asked online and they said YES, plus offered help and ideas. So watch this space for more news on this too.
Right I tried this on Instagram and it turns out you can't mention lots of people in one post, but I can
here so I shall. These are all the wonderful people,in addition to the ones above, who made squares for this blanket. Some are bloggers, but I've used their Instagram names:

@bobbieanddave @relovedpreloved @dockandnettle @henpin @littleteawagon @ cupcakejojo @ coffeekisses @granplumley @melliemoo_xx @sweetpea.1 @louloubone @cuckoob @forgetmenotbluehome @janegoble @fondantfancy @stitchesandseeds @juliapblue @revampedvintage1 @tiddlesjim @frenchknotsjo @mumquarr @pinkmilk42 @planetpenny @sam71 @chippernelly @celiahartartist @sam_loves_vintage @attic24 @nelnanandnora @adabea @bobobun68 @penelopmakes @lollystitches @amandabloom2@lucy_milner @rabbitquilter @mrspip @mrs_bertimus @hellolouisa @yarnroundhook@justlaalaa_ @rebeccamaryjane and finally Vanessa of Coco Rose Diaries.
What more can you say to show how positive this online lark is.





25 comments:

  1. You've done an amazing job Lisa especially in light of what you're going through. Well done you. The blanket is going to be fantastic! Big hugs xxxxx

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  3. You my dear really are a star! X

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  4. This is a wonderful piece of work and a truly great tribute to your friend. I didn't know Vanessa in blogland, but I do know the mental health issues - which I assume from what you said where Vanessa's personal problems - are a terribly difficult thing to deal with and need everyones support just as much as physical illnesses do. So not only is this a tribute to your friend, I hope that it will raise awareness amongst others and be of some help to others struggling with these problems. You are a great person - and your team too! - to have done this, and especially more so with your own challenges that you have faced. Hugs and love to you. xx

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  5. Thank you so much for organising all this, the blanket is going to beautiful and hopefully raise lots of money too. x x x x x x x x x x

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  6. Oh Lisa, this has bought tears to my eyes, I feel so sad all over again for Vanessa, but oh so happy that positive things are blooming because of the sadness. You have such a kind heart xoxoxox twiggytoes

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  7. Thank you for all you have done in Vanessa's name, and for the wonderful words of this post.

    The news shocked me too when I read about it in an american blogger's post back in december, and when you read such a big thing and there is no-one to talk to it about (at midnight, alone, in a family that doesn't 'do' blogging) where do you turn? Well, you don't, you just sob and sniff and pray for another's pain, someone you have never met, but was inspired by her wonderful world.
    We all have a gorgeous, colourful, inspiring world here, this marvellous invention called Blogging and now Instagram. A positive, beautiful, thoughtful, caring world.
    Thank you, again, for all you (and the other helpers) have done for mental health awareness. (this is my world).
    Susan (dollyclothespeg) xx

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  8. What an amazing feat of friendship and kindness, love and talent this whole post is awash with. Well done to everyone who has taken part, and especially to you Lisa for bringing the project about in the first place.
    Lisa x

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  9. A truly amazing achievement from you all! I'm crying ... with happiness and sadness, and what a wonderful tribute to a lovely lady this blog post is xxx

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  10. Bless you Lisa, Penny and Celia for doing this, it must have been difficult and I am certain that we all appreciate your efforts.

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  11. What a lovely way to remember Vanessa.I bought three books she had illustrated for my grandchildren.She wrote a personal message in each one.What a lovely lady we will always remember.What a great job you have done when you were going through such a bad time.It shows what a lovely lady you are too.

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  12. It's great how this community rall when it's needed, there's so much love and care out there. A a great big thank you for starting the ball rolling, and I'm glad it's helped you in return! (I bloody hope I win it!!!) ;)

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  13. This is such a very touching post. I had seen pictures of the blanket laid out in your Instagram page but did not realise what it meant. It's going to be so beautiful.
    I'm so sorry too to hear about your marriage and selling your gorgeous house. I do hope that you keep finding some solace in your crochet and wonderful sewing and blogging to of course.
    Rosie xx

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  14. Dear Lisa, I felt such a plummet, a pang in my stomach as I scrolled down your post and read your words. I had NO IDEA about Vanessa's death, I feel quite shocked and tearful - and I knew her far far less than you, just exchanged comments at times and loved her work. I was so very sad when she blogged that she and Hugo were parting, it seemed all wrong - though of course I didn't really "know" them. And now this - and it all happened and I didn't know about it. How on earth can one feel so sad about someone one has never met, scarcely really knew? I - during one of my long bloggy absences - have missed your blog posts about all of this. Sorry, I am rambling now… just very very sad, and so pleased you have done something so good to celebrate Vanessa's life.L xxx

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  15. I can across your post via a link on Facebook by Pink Milk. I didn't know Vanessa in the blogging world, but have been reading her blog today with much interest and admiration. I envy and admire anyone who can crochet, I am a sewer instead (Hopscotch Handmade Gifts/The Vintage Bunting Hire Company/Poppy and Florence Vintage), and I think that the idea and the reality of the blanket are amazing, well done to all involved.....such an inspiration.

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  16. Such a beautiful and emotive post Lisa. You are such a shining star.....to do this in memory of such a wonderful lady......all whilst you have had your own plate filled to the brim. I still find it such a shock. I think what saddens me most, is maybe that she never realised JUST how much she was loved and admired by so many. I know we were all strangers to her, but in reality, she helped to shape so many creative lives. She sure did mine. I have so much to thank her for. I hope in some way, she sees this, and knows just how much we all want to say thank you to her for being, simply Vanessa Cabban. xxx

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  17. The hugest well done to all involved.

    As you know, I too have a papier mache piece that was commissioned from Vanessa, knew her a little, and miss her a lot - we bonded over not just yarny endeavours but also shared tales of our dachshunds antics. But I missed all your efforts in Vanessa's memory, not being active on Instagram, or a crocheter for that matter. I wish she could have known how much she meant to so many.

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  18. yay you! If I hadn't been working like a fool at the mo, and was more confident with my hooking I'd have gladly helped out but I knew from Instagram you weren't short of hands to help you. Am sure ticket sales will be vast xxx

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  19. I came to her blog late..........I never knew this lady, but she sounded really lovely
    Julie xxxxx

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  20. Dearest Lisa, and do you know what, I suspect it's not occurred to you but you mean the same to many of us xxx proud to be a tiny cog in this blankets journey. Much love xxxxx

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  21. i am buying my ticket now......

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