The Story of Oakley Stitchers

It started with a global COVID19 outbreak

In February of 2020, the first case of the COVID19 virus was identified in the UK. The global outbreak had reached our shores and was spreading rapidly among the nation. Just a few weeks later the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak as a global pandemic, and the UK government were scrambling to come up with a plan - eventually deciding the best course of action was to lockdown the country with only critical infrastructure remaining open.

With the UK in complete lockdown, production and purchase lines disabled, along with an unprecedented increase in demand on the NHS, there were desperate cries for help around the country looking for scrubs to go under PPE as the pandemic started to grip the UK and the world. 

These lightweight, robust, washable and quick turnaround garments were needed... and needed fast. All the front-line care providers were desperately trying to keep themselves and their ever-growing patient numbers as safe and comfortable as possible in a fast-moving and totally unforeseeable situation. A perfect storm had arrived!

Our founding member, Caroline, identified that there was was something she could do to help. She has the skills to create these rare items that were so sought after. After buying some material and making a few sets she found this was an EXPENSIVE way to help!

It all started with an innocent post to her local Facebook group explaining what was happening, how she was trying to help and asking for any donations of fabric/bedding to help make this more affordable - WELL.... the post went MAD! 

The community were rallying to help in whatever way they could. There were offers of fabric, offers to sew, cut, crochet, donations and 'what can I do' from all angles. Our angel, Jill, stepped in and rescued the situation from certain Facebook chaos. This was the start of our production and distribution team for the 100s of local people desperate to help.

Oakley Stitchers was born

The Early Days

Oakley Stitchers were busy bees, during the first 6 months we organised, made and distributed:

  • 1500+ sets of scrubs
  • 2000+ masks
  • 1700+ wash bags
  • 1400+ other items and accessories

to over 200 organisations and individuals, FREE of charge, to support them during the COVID 19 pandemic.

The efforts by the team helped hundreds of people who needed it, giving them a well-earned boost knowing someone has created something especially for them. Everything sent with our love and good wishes. In addition, particularly over lockdown, the group provided many of our shielding, vulnerable or frustrated neighbours with a purpose – and a lifeline to a group of likeminded people, with a similar philosophy.

While lockdowns were in place we met up over Zoom once a week for a social evening which gave us all a chance to see each other and talk about the things we are doing, share information and support each other. Once we were able, we started meeting up once a month with our Craft group, sharing our knowledge and providing a social support environment. 

As things started to become more settled and the desperation for the items we have been creating slows down (at least for the time being) …

An inevitable thought crept in ... what next?

The overwhelming feedback received from Stitchers, Knitters, Crocheters, Cutters, Stickers, Peg-doll-decorators, and everyone else involved has remained consistent. No one wants it to stop! 

In response to this, and a cry for help from a cancer specialist nurse, we have been working behind the scenes talking to various organisations. Once the dementia trial in association with Frimley Park Hospital and mask rush were over, we embarked on new exciting ventures:

  • We became affiliated with, and joined the official Knitter Registry of, Knitted Knockers (an alternative prosthetic breast). We are now creating and distributing these alongside drain bags and pressure relief pillows for post-op use to surgical and cancer wards. 
  • We have a fantastic relationship with the lovely people at The Pink/Blue Place (a local cancer support network) and staff at the Basingstoke cancer units, working with them to support survivors with bandanas, headscarves, care packages and caps for those beginning their journeys. 
  • We created links with our local neonatal and maternity units and others further afield, providing knitted cannula covers, traffic light hats and blankets etc. for premature and poorly babies.
  • We have a relationship with many care homes to help them support their residents including comforters, bags for zimmer frames, lap blanket and twiddle muffs.

Head over to 'What we do' to find out more

 

2021 - 2023

In 21/22 we diversified and provided over 20,000 items to many other hospital wards, mental health organisations, animal rescue centres, nursing homes, community hubs etc:

  • Knitted Knockers have provided courage, confidence, curves and a way to move forward for those who wonder if this is possible any more.
  • Aquaknockers take the journey onto the next step as the confidence grows and the healing process of both mind and body makes users feel bold enough to brave the water or start becoming more active and need a water friendly prosthetic.
  • Providing lap blankets, zimmer frame bags and comforters to residents in care homes and wards has brought reassurance in the unprecedented situation.  The dementia lanyard badges have enabled understanding for those needing to support individuals be independent, as long as possible.
  • Worry creatures, twiddlers and our lanyard badges have helped many children including those with complex difficulties to refocus and help them and others understand the world around them.
  • Cancer and surgical wards in hospitals around the UK have been able to help their patients after surgery with the help of our pressure relief pillows, PICC line protectors and drain bags.
  • Neonatal and SCBU babies including those needing to stay in hospital after birth, and their families have been provided with traffic light hats, incubator blankets, bonding squares, cannula covers, socks, baby nests and a variety of other items
  • We have helped with dog coats, snuffle mats and beds for local rescue centres and hedgehog sleeping bags for injured or unwell hedgehogs.

In 22/23 we provided:

  • Over 3000 knockers around the UK 
  • 400 blankets were distributed to our local homeless organisations and to those needing them via our local community nurses. 
  • We started our Zip2PICC and Lucy gown projects with our volunteers standing at over 400.
  • Stitchers have provided 1000's of drain bags, pressure relief pillows and PICC line protectors to cancer, cardiac and general surcical wards, in over 12 hospitals around the UK. 
  • 15,000 hats, canular covers, blankets, premature cardigans etc.. to neonatal/ maternity wards in 9 hospitals around the UK

We have also provided many other items to help individuals and organisations to provide support to others along the way too.

With the group surpassing all expectations, we grew to over 190 fantastic Stitcher volunteers who are all active at different times to ensure a healthy hobby-life/work balance. Due to the increasing demand to help, we created 7 community open stitcher and craft groups across Basingstoke and Deane for people to get involved in what we do or just enjoy what they do with a bit of company.

Many local businesses supported us, providing us with donations and grants to fund the work we do. The community have continued to rally by providing materials and spreading the word.

Emma at Lucky Rainbow Boutique revamped our beautiful Stitcher logo to incorporate what we are about, some of the areas we support and to hopefully celebrate the waning effects of Covid in our world... 

2023 brought with it the incorporation of Oakley Stitchers as a Community Interest Company (C.I.C), providing all our beneficiaries with confidence in our professionalism.

 

What's New For 2024

With our organisation growing stronger and larger each year our aim is to continue with the amazing work we do, which continues to grow.

To enable this work to grow we are expanding our team to include project coordinators and group leaders. We hope that in turn, this will support stitchers to recognise the additional amazing skills and talents they have, provide additional purpose and progression and encourage self-worth of all involved.

Stitchers have started research and conversations with Stoke Mandeville Physiotherapists to initiate a stump cover project to support those who have had amputations... so watch this space.

We are hoping to open at least 3 more open stitcher/ craft groups around Basingstoke and Deane which support stitchers and other crafters to enjoy a meeting place, enjoy their hobby with company and a cuppa and feel a bigger part of the Stitcher family. 

After being approached by many members of the public, we have embarked on a series of Beginners Machine Sewing Workshops to support others to learn and feel more confident. These will be both during the day and in the evening and mostly based around Basingstoke and Deane and the Hampshire/ Berkshire area. If you are interested in attending or would like more information please see the current venues and dates in our Workshops section. All profits from these workshops funds the work of Stitchers.

 

Future Endeavours

Wouldn't that be telling!

Don't worry, we aren't done yet. There are lots of projects in the pipeline, many plans to come to fruition.

To keep up to date follow us on Facebook, or keep checking the website. 

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Oakley Stitchers is a Community Interest Company (CIC) limited by guarantee (14711617)

© Oakley Stitchers 2024

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