Handmade crochet poppies at Cheltenham Town Hall

Ash Dykes © Jason Aspinall, via Flickr
Ash Dykes © Jason Aspinall, via Flickr

My husband, the in-laws and I recently went to Cheltenham Town Hall to hear a talk by adventurer and explorer Ash Dykes. Ash is a young man from Wales who, in 2014, became the first person to trek – solo and unsupported – across the width of Mongolia. In 2016 he became the first person to walk the length of Madagascar, while at the same time summiting its 8 highest mountains!

We go to see these “Speakers from the Edge” talks quite regularly – they’re so inspirational! Among others, we’ve heard Sir Ranulph Fiennes talk about his mountaineering and polar expeditions, Ed Stafford regale us with tales of his walk along the length of the Amazon River, and TV presenter Ben Fogle telling us all about the adventures he has had both on and off-screen.

It always strikes me just how normal these people are (with perhaps the exception of Ranulph Fiennes who, it must be said, is genuinely a bit bonkers!). There’s often nothing all that special about their upbringing or their every day lives, they just dared to do something different. Although I can’t necessarily see myself bagging an extreme “world first”, I do always come away from these talks full of enthusiasm and renewed commitment to try and make my own life as full as it possibly can be.

In fact, although it sounds a bit mundane, one of the best things I ever did was to quit my job working for “The Man” (well, actually “The Woman”, in my case) to become self-employed. It was very scary, quitting a stable, well-paid job to go it alone, but it wasn’t making me happy – far from it, in fact. I now work as a freelance science writer and editor, and of course make my handmade crochet poppies, flowers, and kusadama paper flowers too!

Anyway, I digress…

© GCHQ 2017
© GCHQ 2017

What does this all have to do with handmade flowers?! Well, while popping to loo at Cheltenham Town Hall, I was stunned to see a beautiful ‘waterfall’ of handmade crochet poppies on display in the lobby!

After a bit of research, I discovered that these handmade fabric and yarn flowers had originally been on display at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is based on the outskirts of Cheltenham. The display contains over 9000 handmade crochet poppies that were made by GCHQ friends and family, children, teachers and parents from local schools, village “stitch and bitch” groups and local branches of the Women’s Institute (WI).

© GCHQ 2017
© GCHQ 2017

The poppy waterfall, as well as the sale of a further 4000 handmade crochet poppies, has so far raised nearly £20,000 in aid of the Gloucestershire branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL). The RBL supports all generations of the military family to live on to a more hopeful future.

The poppies are only on display until mid-April, so they may have already gone. If you don’t get a chance to go and see them yourself, click here to find out how else you can make a donation to this worthwhile charity.

 

Purple crochet flowers for November wedding buttonholes

A trio of purple crochet flowers on their way to three little men in Derbyshire!

A bride-to-be called Charlotte contacted me back in July with an order for three handmade crochet buttonholes for her wedding. I absolutely loved the sound of her colour scheme – “Cadbury” purple crochet flowers with wooden button centres – gorgeous! Is she a chocolate lover, I wonder? Regardless, I knew I would enjoy making them! Read more

Modern monochrome ripple stripe baby blanket

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Sorry about the poor picture quality! © Lisa Benjamin

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I started this website right after my wedding, which was also during a time when it seemed like we were attending another wedding every other weekend! But now the wedding invitations seem to be drying up, and we’re shopping for baby gifts rather than wedding gifts!

I recently attended my friend Lottie’s baby shower and – hot off of the success of the awesome ‘Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket‘ that I made for my friend Leonie’s baby – I decided to make a blanket for Lottie’s baby too. I knew that cutesy wouldn’t cut it for Lottie as she’s a classy girl, so instead of bright rainbow colours I chose a black and white palette for this ripple stripe blanket . Read more

Yellow and grey for a first wedding anniversary present

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© Lisa Benjamin

Towards the end of last year I created some beautiful paper flowers for Emma, a very thoughtful maid-of-honour who wanted to gift her friend a posy of special flowers for a first wedding anniversary present.

I was delighted to hear from Emma again recently – she was so happy that her first friend was “blown away” by her paper flowers that she decided to commission a similar posy for another friend’s first wedding anniversary present. Read more

Red crochet wedding buttonholes

2016-01-15 10.39.14A Liverpool-based mother-of-the-bride-to-be contacted me towards the end of last year, asking if I could make the buttonholes for her daughter’s wedding in February. Now that the wedding date has passed, it’s safe to show you the fruits of my labour!

Val was looking for 10 red crocheted buttonholes with blue button centres and green leaves. What a lovely colour combination! I think these look really cheerful, and would certainly brighten up the suit of any member of the wedding party!  Read more

A thoughtful paper wedding anniversary gift

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© Lisa Benjamin

Emma from Somerset was a bridesmaid at her friend’s wedding in 2014, and with the couple’s first anniversary coming up towards the end of last year, she contacted me to commission a very special gift.

Traditionally, the first wedding anniversary is celebrated with paper – so what better present than a posy of beautiful handmade paper flowers! Read more

GAGA UK’s Remembering Tree

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© Tom Benjamin, Go Cotswolds. Used with permission.

Based in my hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, Goodwill and Growth for Africa UK (GAGA-UK) is a charity that works to “generate growth for African children and communities devastated by HIV-AIDS and poverty, through the goodwill of people in the UK and elsewhere”. It establishes and supports projects in southern Africa to provide a “hand up” not a “hand out” – in other words, working with communities to empower people to find ways out of poverty. Read more

Crochet Poppies 2015

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© Lisa Benjamin

Last year, when this site was still very new, I offered to make handmade crochet poppies for Remembrance Day. These poppies were free of charge, but so as not to detract from the official poppy-selling charity, I gave them away in exchange for proof of a donation to the Royal British Legion.

The Royal British Legion is a wonderful charity that does wonderful things to help men and women in the armed forces, and their families. In fact, did you know that the official paper poppies are handmade by disabled ex-service personnel?

But those paper poppies can be tricky to pin on, and I don’t know about you but I am forever losing mine! Official enamel poppy pins are now available via the Poppy Shop, but I wanted to try my hand at making a crochet poppy version.  Read more

Handmade wedding bunting for Kathleen & Jon

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Kathleen & Jon (and some rather fabulous handmade wedding bunting, if I do say so myself!) © Sara Lyndsey Photography, used with permission.

Kathleen and Jon were married in London back in April. As personal friends of mine, it was a privilege to attend this beautiful day for a fabulous couple – and an even greater privilege to see my handmade wedding bunting on display! Read more

Rainbow ripple baby blanket

Peggy on her rainbow ripple baby blanket, crocheted by yours truly :-) © Leonie Hinchliff
Peggy on her rainbow ripple baby blanket, crocheted by yours truly :-) © Leonie Hinchliff

When I started Handmade Flowers in 2014, it was right after my own wedding – one of the last, it seems, of a spate of weddings that summer and the previous few years. I guess I must be at that age now when all the weddings are starting to peter out…so next come the babies!!

My darling friend Leonie married her university sweetheart Rob in October 2012 (she had a paper flower bouquet too!), and they recently welcomed their first child into the world – a beautiful little girl called Peggy. Read more