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'Oxfam Makers Group' Skipton

Posted by Amelia Glynn Online Fashion Content Assistant

31st Oct 2013

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Our Oxfam Shop managers and volunteers are an incredibly innovative and creative bunch who we are endlessly grateful to have as part of the Oxfam team. Mary Arber-Smith, an especially inspired member of the Oxfam team, has come up with an ingenious method to inject some creativity and community into the Oxfam Skipton shop. 

Every month, Oxfam receives bags of wonderful donations to sell in their shops and sometimes they also receive odds and ends of materials which can't be sold. Mary came up with a plan to make better use of these bits and bobs by teaming up with Skipton's thriving yarning community in the creation of the Oxfam Makers Group or OMG! for short....

How was the idea for OMG! born?
Our shop receives lots of textile donations we can't easily sell, or only sell very cheaply eg odd/part balls of yarn, bits of fabric & ribbon, lace doilies, cushion inners etc. Nothing's ever wasted, thanks to Wastesaver, but ever since I started as shop manager 2 ½ years ago, I've been thinking it would be a much better use of these materials - and make lots more money for Oxfam - if they were 'up-cycled' into lovely products to sell in the shop. I kept meaning to do this myself in my spare time, but finally realised it was an impossible task alone and decided to set up a group. In early September this year I advertised locally for people to join our Oxfam Makers Group.  

The name came from my own notes about the project, where I always called it OMG. I thought it would be fun to use this as our 'brand', with 'Oh My Goodness!' as the longer tag. It taps in to the vintage feel of the products, and also all the good that Oxfam and its volunteers do. We've made our own labels in partnership with a local 'old school' print workshop - they're very cool : )

What quantity of donations of yarn have you received and have you received any from exciting people or places?
We often have wool in our backroom, donated in the 'usual' way. However, having just set up OMG!, we thought we might need more yarn, so asked Yarndale if we could have a yarn amnesty stall at their inaugural event. People attending were encouraged to bring along some of their own yarn to donate to Oxfam, leaving them more room for the new yarn they'd buy at Yarndale! Over the weekend, we received 50 sacks of donations, including wool brought specifically for Oxfam from Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada. More has been coming in direct to the shop ever since, including a box sent all the way from Virginia, USA!

Who is part of the OMG! group and how often do you intend to meet?
There were originally 15 OMG! makers, all local women who enjoy creative crafting. A couple were already Oxfam volunteers, but most are new to Oxfam (although several had previously volunteered at music festivals for me).  We plan to meet in the shop once each month, but do most of our making at home. 

Our numbers swelled after Yarndale, when 60 people left me their details and want to start making with us. Not all of these are local - one lady lives in Qatar! I haven't quite worked out how we will all meet yet - we don't have enough room in the shop for everyone! We're currently discussing this between us and may end up mostly meeting in smaller groups. We've also been contacted by several existing local makers groups who want to start making for us at their own meetings. 

OMG! is supported by attic24, a well-known crochet blog written by a friend of mine, Lucy. She is working on a pattern for an Oxfam heart decoration, which she'll promote on her blog and encourage her readers to make then send to us. It sometimes feels that everyone is an Oxfam maker!

What is the design process behind the new items created?
Rather than design specific items, we've set out broad parameters within which people are free to make what they like. For this first range, we're asking people to make fairly simple items ie blankets, cushions, bunting, bags, brooches, as I think that's what will make the most money for Oxfam and also get finished soonest, in time for us to launch the range in the first week of December. 

The design 'vision' could be described as colourful, vintage-y, patchwork. Within that, we're not being too prescriptive about pattern or shade, as I think people enjoy making most if they can choose colours, shape, size to suit them. Our shop has a lovely eclectic feel to it, and I want the OMG! range to reflect that. It will all sell, if people make something they love. 

We've got lots of ideas in the pipeline for future additions to the range, some of which are more abstract and 'arty'. Watch this space!

If you would like to get involved with OMG! then contact Mary on:

Blog post written by Amelia Glynn

Online Fashion Content Assistant

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Amelia Glynn