It's Dementia Awareness Week, and all across the UK the Alzheimer's Society have been working hard to encourage people to get talking about dementia and the suppport available. Today marks the main event of the week: thousands of forget-me-nots donated by kind-hearted knitters and crocheters, from all across the UK, displayed in one stunning floral display – check those posies out!
Once our eyes had adjusted to all that blue, we just had to know what started this blooming good idea off! We got chatting to the amazing Suzanne O'Neill [below], a Support Worker from the Alzheimer's Society, who runs weekly Make and Bake Support Groups for carers and patients. "We started making forget-me-nots at one of the Make and Bakes," says Suzanne. "We made a few, then a few more, and it all snowballed from there really."
The charity had originally set a target of 1,000 forget-me-nots, but after word of the new campaign spread through social media, that number quickly grew to 3,000. The new target represented the amount of people affected by the condition in the North Somerset region, but the donations were showing no signs of stopping and the charity quickly had more than 20,000 forget-me-nots on their hands. "At first we were getting small parcels sent in, with 10 or 20 forget-me-nots inside," says Suzanne. "But the numbers grew and grew. One lady made 91 forget-me-nots – one for each year of her mother's life."
Posters advertising the campaign were put up in local libraries and wool shops around North Somerset, with the only requirement being that the forget-me-nots were blue (to match the Society's logo). After spotting one of these posters, a group of determined year 5 pupils from a nearby school learned to crochet especially for the campaign. "They had their mothers and grandmothers teach them how to crochet so they could get involved," says Suzanne. "And they ended up sending in more than 700 absolutely perfect forget-me-nots!"
Not everyone had the knitting-knowledge or hooking-know-how to whip up a forget-me-not, but that didn't stop anyone. Cardiff Brownies sent in their beautifully coloured forget-me-nots, one lovely man donated a hanging pompom decoration for the event, visitors told dementia exactly what they thought of it, and Suzanne's own husband created some seriously stunning forget-me-not ceramic hearts!
All of the donated forget-me-nots were sewn on by members of the Society's North Somerset team, with a little extra help from volunteers on a Grand Sew-Up day, held at Badger House on May 4. Support Worker Kath Rycroft took it upon herself to sew up the fantastic panel seen below. "We had a package of tiny flowers come in and we didn't want them to get lost amongst all the other forget-me-nots," says Kath. "Because they were so tiny, I had to sew down every petal and then I tatted the five centre flowers on!"
Everyone was doing their bit this morning, with charity staff and volunteers ready to provide vital information about dementia and how to live well with the condition, the production of a giant knitted scarf to attract more visitors, expertly-made twiddlemuffs selling out fast, and a spot of forget-me-not fashion.
Unfortunately, we had to leave everyone to it, and dash back to the office (to work on your favourite knitting magazine!) before the arrival of the Mayor, the Singing for the Brain session or the chance to visit the Memory Cafe. But we had a fabulous morning and even brought back our very own forget-me-not to the office.
In case you were wondering what's going to happen to all those thousands of forget-me-nots, some of the panels will be sent off to centres around the UK to continue raising awareness about the condition. Other flowers will be sewn together and added to blankets, cushions and twiddlemuffs for dementia patients. To find out more about knitting a twiddlemuff (including a free pattern) and how they can help people with Alzheimer’s, arthritis and dementia, click here.
"We were overwhelmed by the response," said Hazel Tilman, the Services Manager for the Alzheimer’s Society in Weston. "So many people have generously given their time to make these beautiful flowers, with lots of lovely stories about why they want to support people with dementia. We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has joined in and helped us make the display."
The Alzheimer’s Society is there for anyone affected by dementia, and there are lots of ways they can help. Call your local office or visit www.alzheimers.org.uk for more information.
If your needles or hooks are twitching then you'll be happy to know that the Society are planning something even bigger for next year's Awareness Week.