We’ve enjoyed and learned so much from our partnership project with CARAS which has been running since spring 2015.
Here’s Update #2 on one more of the project strands – this one involving the CARAS Women’s Group for refugees and asylum-seekers. We shared Update #1 a fortnight ago – read it here.
The knitted honeybees of Tooting
It’s not often you can ask “what’s happening in the world of Tooting’s knitted & crocheted bees?” We’ve been busy since spring 2018 on a fascinating quest that started with our beekeeper friend Richard who is Chair of the London Beekepers Association asking “Do you know anyone who could make some model bees as teaching aids? Toy bees available online are all hopelessly inaccurate…we need about 50…”
I immediately said “yes!” and a new project was born…which has developed to include the CARAS Family Day and Women’s Group, a wonderful local group of knitters, beekepers and TTT.
It’s been so moving to us all that this novel partnership has come together: local craftspeople with experience and skill plus refugee women with skills and desire to create plus our own TTT colleagues. We’ve got together for the interest and challenge, in order to work with a London-wide group’s own fascinating project in an imaginative way.
|Attaching wings and legs at the CARAS Women’s Group|
Richard and the LBKA are developing participative classes for schools. The bee models would need to have the correct number of legs (6), eyes (5) and wings (4), with antennae (2) in just the right place on their heads (“not like antlers and not like whiskers”), triangular downward-facing heads, a waist: all giving the general look of a honeybee with correct details while also being imaginative prompts for LBKA workshops. The bees should definitely not have cartoon smiles.
We chatted: Jane suggested crochet or knitting rather than sewing; Nicola knew just the right people – a group of Knitters and Natterers including Margaret, Dora, Joan and Mandie who regularly make dozens of stuffed textile toys for local charities. Co-ordinated by Margaret, we settled on finger puppet bees and over 50 bee bodies were knitted and crocheted. Margaret created patterns and templates for the bee parts – a first for her (maybe a first in London?).
Samples were made and adjusted and tried out in LBKA pilot school workshops where children took on the diverse roles of honeybees: exploring, doing the waggle-dance, foraging & more.
Richard visited a CARAS Family Day session in the Tooting Community Garden where many of the Women’s Group participants were present with their families. He took along an observation bee hive, local honey to sample and talked about individuals’ own experience of bees.
|Margaret & Nicola|
The final phase of making took place this month in the CARAS Women’s Group where Margaret facilitated 50+ bee puppets having their wings and legs cut out of gauze or felt and sewn on by the refugee and asylum-seekers at the group. One woman said that she was pleased to be ‘helping educate about bees and honey’. Many of the women would like to do more knitting and crochet. (And so could the CARAS Youth Club. Our session a year ago making macrame plant pot holders was very popular with young men and women both).
At one level when we have been occupied in the project we take it for granted – this is how we do things, how TTT promotes community participation, creativity, fun and problem-solving.
Then, perhaps when we’re explaining this to someone new, we realise “Wow! This is an amazing experience…all this sharing for the love of it, sustained over 10 months. That’s a world I like to be part of!”
Plus we know we are all contributing to people of all ages learning about honeybees, pollination and the value of protecting habitats and growing bee-forage plants in the city. LBKA’s tagline is ‘What’s good for bees is good for people’.
Thinking about bee puppet materials: most materials used have been ‘in stock’ in the makers’ sewing boxes and cupboards. Margaret produced mosquito netting for bees’ wings that she had saved since working in Africa 40 years ago. Ditto her vintage Shamrock brand Irish linen carpet thread. We found wool and more at the Work & Play Scrapstore.
Nothing new has been purchased. The bee puppets have been created out of the love of making and sharing.
If you are inspired to take part the CARAS + TTT projects – perhaps offering good ideas or simply your time, sharing specialist skills, as a donor in kind, as a partner group – you are very welcome to contact Chuck at TTT by email here.
Over 40 individuals and 15 local organisations locally have contributed to the partnership in many ways over the past 4 years.
Thanks to everyone involved so far! – Chuck