#rainbowsforresearch

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Today I’m excited to launch my new fundraising campaign #rainbowsforresearch, raising money for The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund as part of Brain Tumour Awareness Month coming up in March. I’ve been working on this in secret for a little while so I’m very excited to tell you all about it!

As some of you may remember from last year, March is Brain Tumour Awareness month, and it all starts on Friday 2 March (just 3 weeks from now) when The Brain Tumour Charity are asking everyone to don a bandana and, this year, to also get baking to help raise funds and awareness and show your support for the charity. (You can read more about the charity’s Big Bandana Bake campaign for 2018 here)

This is a statistic I often quote – brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and under 40s, but in the UK less than 2% of cancer research funding is spent on research into brain tumours. For the 10,600 people diagnosed each year, this isn’t good enough. You can help us change this. The Brain Tumour Charity aims to raise £150k throughout Brain Tumour Awareness Month in March, which could fund a life saving research project for over two years.

I decided to give my fundraising for The Michael Barry Fund a rainbow spin this year, so I’ve come up with products and ideas which all link in with the bandana campaign, but with lots of rainbow colours! And since the aim of the fundraising is to raise money for brain tumour research, I’ve decided to call it #rainbowsforresearch

Why rainbows?

So why choose a rainbow theme? Well, first and foremost, I love colour, as much of it as I can get, and Michael was just the same. You might also have noticed that rainbows are very “on trend” at the moment – over the past year or so the internet has been going wild for anything rainbow themed, and I think it’s such a great expression of colour, creativity and happiness.

Rainbows can also stand for many things, and I love that rainbows are a symbol of hope, which it’s a perfect theme for the fundraising campaign. Setting up The Michael Barry Fund and getting involved with The Brain Tumour Charity have been my beacons of hope since losing Michael. I recently read a quote on Pinterest which summed up exactly what I mean by this, which I have paraphrased slightly below:

When a rainbow appears, it doesn’t mean that the storm didn’t happen. What it means is that something beautiful has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds

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And if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that Michael was a truly colourful character, as you can see from these pictures! Both of which were taken while he was going through chemo. It makes me so proud to see how happy and full of life he was, and that never changed. So all in all, rainbows seemed to be the perfect theme for this year’s fundraising – full of happiness and colour. Just like my Michael.

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Fundraising Products

I’ve put together a new collection of rainbow inspired fundraising products to tie in with the campaign, which are all available to buy now in my pop up online rainbow shop! 100% of the profits from each item will go to Michael’s fund – I have donated all of my time and most of the materials in making these rainbow goodies! All of the items are limited edition and have been made in small runs, and I have priced them affordably to sell so that we can try and raise as much as possible during brain tumour awareness month. So please go and fill your baskets with rainbow goodies, and wear them with me on Friday 2 March!

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My favourite new product is the bandana necklace. I’m a big fan of novelty acrylic jewellery, and I had the idea of making a necklace version of a bandana as a fun new take on the concept. I came up with a simple design based on a bandana tied around your neck, and worked with the lovely folks at Yeah Laser to turn my idea into an amazing acrylic necklace! I’ve made the necklace in a range of colours, including this bright rainbow combo, plus a pastel rainbow version, and red and aqua colour ways to be in keeping with the colours of The Brain Tumour Charity. I’m so happy with how they turned out, and I think they look fab with stripey tops! You can buy the necklaces here.

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I’ve also made a range of wired bandanas (like last year) which you can twist in your hair, in a selection of fun rainbow and cloud themed fabrics! You can buy the bandanas here.

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I stitched up a range of rainbow hued cross stitch embroidery hoop necklaces too, including this slice of rainbow cake – yum! As I mentioned above, The Brain Tumour Charity’s theme for the bandana campaign this year is the Big Bandana Bake, and they are encouraging people to don a bandana and host a bake sale to raise money, so a rainbow cake necklace seemed like the perfect idea! There are a few other rainbow designs to choose from, plus pastel alternatives of each design, which you can buy here.

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I’ve also put together some craft kits so you can make your very own rainbow collar! I thought this might be a fun idea for those of you who love sewing and might want to make something yourself rather than buying a ready made product, and I think the collar is a fun alternative to the bandana. You can buy the craft kits here (and if you’re not much of a sewist, I have popped one ready made version of the collar in the shop here too).

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And to round off the rainbow collection, I whipped up some purses and zip pouches in rainbow themed fabrics, with super pretty iridescent cloud zip charms! I do love a good finishing detail! You can buy the purses here.

I’ll also be continuing to make donations from the rest of my Smile & Make product sales and adding these donations to the #rainbowsforresearch fundraising total. All of my pins and patches are all currently on sale here if you fancy a bargain, and £1 from the sale of each goes to Michael’s fund.

Rainbow Craft Day & Bake Sale

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To kick off brain tumour awareness month and to tie in with the charity’s Big Bandana Bake, Mum and I will be hosting a Rainbow Bake Sale and Craft Day at our workshop in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and we’d love to see you there!

There are two elements to the day. First up, we will be hosting a small rainbow themed bake sale at our workshop, and you can call in anytime from 12pm – 2pm for cake and a chat!

Following on from the bake sale, we’ve put together a rainbowtastic craft session which will run from 2pm to 5pm, and places must be booked in advance. You will have the opportunity to make three fabulous rainbow inspired projects: rainbow bunting embellished with all manner of pretty papercraft, a cloud hanger with colourful raindrops, and an embroidered pennant featuring a colourful house floating away on balloons (just like in the movie Up!). You can find out more details and book your place here.

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Rainbow Raffle

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And finally, I’ve also put together a raffle to win the ultimate handmade rainbow outfit – you could win a Smile & Make handmade rainbow dress and clutch bag, and entry is just £3!

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I’ve been thinking of holding a raffle to win a handmade dress for a while, and it seemed the perfect opportunity to offer the chance to win a rainbow dress as part of #rainbowsforresearch. I first came up with the rainbow dress design last year for a colour walk with In Colourful Company, and it was a big hit! I was asked if I would make the rainbow dress to sell, and I did for a short time, but the design is quite time consuming to sew as the skirt is made up of lots of rainbow panels, so I only ever made a few. But in honour of #rainbowsforresearch and Brain Tumour Awareness Month, for one last time I’m bringing back the rainbow dress, plus a super jazzy rainbow clutch bag to make it a complete rainbow outfit. You can find out more and enter the raffle on the Just Giving page I have set up here.

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That was a bit of an epic post as I wanted to document all of my different fundraising plans in one place, so thank you for reading and sticking with me if you’ve made it this far!!

I should also add that if you’d like to make your own bandana or bandana inspired project to wear on Friday 2 March and support Brain Tumour Awareness Month, you are very welcome to (and very much encouraged!). I shared a few tutorials on the blog as part of the campaign last year to give you some ideas which you can find here and here. And if none of these products take your fancy but you’d still like to make a donation to Michael’s fund, you can do so here, or through Just Giving here.

Lucy x

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DIY Tutorial: Knitted Bandana for #WearItOut

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Following my DIY tutorial last week to sew your own bandana to wear on Friday 3 March for the Bandanas For Brain Tumours #WearItOut campaign in support of The Brain Tumour Charity, tonight I have another tutorial for a different take on the bandana! My lovely Mum Bev, aka Spotty Daisy, designed and knitted this beautiful collar with a ribbon edge effect which you could wear as a bandana on Friday 3 March. Isn’t it pretty? And she very kindly put together the instructions for you to make your own! It’s very easy to wear as one end slips through the other to secure it, and super snuggly too!

How to Make Your Own Ribbon Edge Effect Slip Through Collar

You will require:

  • 1 x 50g ball of DK yarn (more if larger collar required)
  • 4mm knitting needles
  • Stitch holder
  • Darning needle

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Instructions:

Cast on 3 stitches

Row 1. Knit 2 slip last stitch purlwise

Row 2. Knit 1 increase 1 knit to last stitch, slip last stitch purlwise

Row 3. Knit to last stitch, slip last stitch purlwise

Row 4. Knit 1 increase 1, knit to last stitch, slip last stitch purlwise

Repeat rows 3 and 4 until you have 12 stitches

Place these 12 stitches onto a stitch holder

Cast on 3 stitches

Repeat above instructions until you have 12 stitches

Rejoin the first section you knitted (12 stitches) onto your needle, ensuring that the two straight edges are on the outside of your knitting (i.e. the edges where you have increased should both point inwards to create a cut ribbon effect (see photo below) 24 stitches in total

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Knit across the 24 stitches for 30 rows, remembering to always slip your last stitch purlwise on every row

Now rib (K1 P1) to last stitch, then slip last stitch purlwise

Repeat this for a total of 8 rows

Rib 8, cast off 8 stitches, rib 7, slip last stitch purlwise

Rib 8, cast on 8 stitches, rib 7, slip last stitch purlwise (24 stitches in total) (this creates the hole for your collar to thread through, it’s the same procedure as when making a button hole)

Rib for 8 more rows, remembering to always slip last stitch purlwise

Now knit every row (always slipping last stitch purlwise) for approximately 15 inches (or however long you need the collar to be, check your neck measurement as you knit to ensure a comfy fit!)

Rib (K1 P1) for 18 rows, always remembering to slip last stitch purlwise

Knit 30 rows, again remembering to slip last stitch purlwise

Knit 11, slip next stitch purlwise, slip remaining 12 stitches onto a stitch holder

Working on the 12 stitches left on your needle:

Knit 1, knit 2 together, knit to last stitch, slip last stitch purlwise

Knit to last stitch, slip last stitch purlwise

Repeat the above two rows until you have 2 stitches remaining

Cast off

Pick up 12 stitches from stitch holder

Knit 11, slip last stitch purlwise

Knit 9, Knit 2 together, slip last stitch purlwise

Repeat these two rows until you have 2 stitches remaining

Cast off

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If you do knit your own bandana to wear on Friday 3 March, don’t forget to share a picture using the hashtag #WearItOut, and why not text TMBF81 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 to The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund, or make a donation here.

Thanks for your support!

Lucy x

DIY Tutorial: Twist Tie Bandana for #WearItOut

In two weeks time on Friday 3 March I’ll be asking you all to grab a bandana and #WearItOut in support of The Brain Tumour Charity (which you can read more about in my last post). This year, the theme of the campaign is to Make your own bandana, Buy one or Use one you already have, so I’ve put together a simple tutorial to encourage you to Make your own wired bandana to wear on the day. I made 30 of these bandanas to sell in my Etsy shop in support of the campaign and they proved to be extremely popular, selling out in less than 12 hours!

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I personally love to wear wired bandanas since I find them easy to style, and much better at staying put in my fine slippy hair. You can just twist the bandana in your hair and you’re ready to roll! If you’d prefer a bandana without a wire, I’ve explained how to adapt the pattern at the end of the post. And if sewing isn’t your thing, I’ll be posting another tutorial to make a very pretty knitted bandana in a few days, put together by my lovely Mum, Bev of Spotty Daisy.

The weather hasn’t been great here and some of the pictures are a little darker than I would like, but hopefully you can still get the idea!

How To Make Your Own Wired Bandana

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Supplies:

  • Fabric of your choice – you will need a piece measuring 88cm x 13cm (see later in the post for tips on how to make the bandana from just a fat quarter, or how to make the bandana reversible)
  • Matching thread
  • Craft wire 2mm thickness – you will need a 95cm piece
  • Washi tape (optional)

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Fabric scissors
  • Pins
  • Ruler
  • Fabric marker if you have one, or a pencil will do!
  • Point turner – you can use a knitting needle, or anything with a blunt point

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STEP 1: draw the bandana shape & cut out your fabric. Take your ruler and draw a rectangle measuring 88cm x 13cm on your fabric, using an erasable fabric marker if you have one. Just a pencil will do if not, as the lines you draw will not be seen when the bandana is finished.

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Once you have drawn out the rectangle, you need to taper in the short edges of the rectangle to create a pointed shape at the ends of your bandana. Measure in and mark 3cm from each corner along the long edges of the rectangle. Then mark the halfway point (6.5cm) of each short edge. Using a ruler, join these marks together, as shown below.

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Cut out the rectangle and cut around the pointed edges you have drawn, which should give you a shape as below.

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STEP 2: Fold in half, then pin and stitch the sides. Fold your bandana in half along the longest width, so the right sides of the fabric are facing together. Pin the raw edges together.

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Make sure to leave an opening in the centre of about 6cm so that you can turn your bandana inside out and thread in the wire once you have sewn it. Use 2 pins to mark each side of this gap to remind you to stop sewing here!

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Sew along the raw edges using a 1.5cm seam allowance, and make sure to back tack at the beginning and end of each seam. Start from the pointed edge and sew towards the middle.

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Once you reach the edge of the opening which you have marked with two pins, pivot and sew off the edge of the fabric at 90 degrees as shown below. This will help to keep the opening neatly tucked inside when you turn the bandana the right side out. Repeat from the other pointed edge.

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STEP 3: Trim your seam allowances & turn the right way out. Trim your seam allowances down to about 1 cm. Cut diagonally across the corners, but be careful not to cut too close to the stitching line.

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Turn the bandana the right way out. Use a point turner to poke out the pointed corners and keep them sharp. I use a bamboo point turner, but you can use anything with a blunt point, like a knitting needle. Be gentle and make sure not to poke a hole through the seam!

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STEP 4: Press! Give the bandana a really good press with your iron.

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STEP 5: Make and insert the wire. Take your craft wire and cut a length measuring 95cm. Fold each end in by 5 cm, then twist together as below. This will prevent having a sharp end to the wire which could poke through the fabric and worse, poke you!

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If you have some washi tape to hand, you could cut a strip and wrap it around the edge of the wire as below, just to be extra careful.

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Now carefully insert the wire through the opening. Once the wire is in place, try to grip each end of the wire in each corner of the bandana and give it a good pull to straighten the wire out, as it can get a little twisted as you thread it in through the opening.

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STEP 6: Topstitch the opening. The last step is to sew up the opening you have just inserted the wire through. Use thread in the same colour as your fabric, and stitch close to the edge as shown above. Back tack at the beginning and end of the seam to secure it.

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And ta-da – you have a fabulous new bandana to wear! Now for the final and most important step…

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STEP 7: Wear It Out! On Friday 3 March, wear your handmade bandana proudly in support of The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund, take a picture of yourself wearing it and post it to social media using the tag #WearItOut, and text TMBF81 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 to The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund, or make a donation here.

Wired Bandana from a Fat Quarter

If you don’t have a wide enough piece of fabric to cut out your bandana, you can easily make one from a fat quarter! My lovely friend Daisy of Make Thrift London recently gifted me a set of fat quarters cut from vintage bedding, which I thought would be perfect for making bandanas.

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To cut a bandana from a fat quarter, you will basically need to cut it in two halves and sew these together along the middle, and the rest of the construction is then the same as above. So, you will need to draw out two rectangles measuring 45.5cm x 13cm, and then taper one end of each rectangle as shown in Step 1 above. This should give you two pointed rectangles as below.

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Pin the two rectangles together along the flat short edge, right sides of the fabric together.

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Sew along this edge using a 1.5cm seam allowance, and back tack at the ends. Then press the seam open as below.

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Now follow on from Step 2 above, and make sure to pay particular attention to Step 7!

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Reversible Wired Bandana

If you’d like to make your bandana more versatile, why not use a different fabric for each side and make it reversible? You’ll need to cut a rectangle measuring 88cm x 8 cm from two different fabrics, as illustrated below.

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Then taper the ends of each rectangle to create a pointed edge by measuring in 3 cm from each corner along the top of each rectangle, then use a ruler to draw a line from this mark to the bottom corner.

Or, if you don’t have wide enough pieces of fabric to hand, you could use 2 fat quarters and cut out 2 rectangles measuring 45.5cm x 8cm from each fabric, as below.

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You’ll then need to taper the ends as below.

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Next, pin the matching rectangles along the straight edges.

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Sew along this edge using a 1.5cm seam allowance, and press open.

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Pin the two rectangles together all along the raw edges, right sides facing. Make sure to leave a gap in the centre of about 6cm so that you can turn your bandana inside out once you have sewn it. Use 2 pins to mark each side of this gap to remind you to stop sewing.

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Sew all around the raw edges using a 1.5cm seam allowance, and make sure to back tack at the beginning and end of the seam. Then, follow on from Step 3 above, and you’ll have a nifty reversible bandana!

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Making a Bandana Without A Wire

If you would prefer to make a bandana without a wire so you can simply tie it in your hair or around your neck, it’s very simple to adapt the instructions above. The main change you will need to make is to cut out a longer piece of fabric, as the bandana will need to be longer so that you can tie a knot to secure it in your hair or around your neck. Ideally, you’ll need to cut a piece of fabric measuring at least 110cm x 13cm. Then follow the instructions as above, but don’t insert the wire!

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To make a non-wired bandana out of a fat quarter, you’ll need to cut two rectangles measuring at least 56.5 x 13cm, and follow the instructions as above, skipping the step where you insert the wire.

Or to make it double sided, you’ll either need to cut a rectangle measuring at least 110 cm x 8 cm from two different fabrics, or cut 2 rectangles each measuring at least 56.5cm x 8cm from two different fabrics, and again follow the instructions as above, skipping the step where you insert the wire.

I look forward to seeing your makes on Friday 3 March! And don’t forget to take a picture of yourself on the day wearing your bandana and post it to social media using the tag #WearItOut, and text TMBF81 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 to The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund, or make a donation here.

Hopefully you can follow my explanations above, but do let me know if you need any help! Happy sewing!

Lucy x

#WearItOut

On Friday 3 March, exactly one month today, will you wear a bandana and join me in supporting The Brain Tumour Charity’s #WearItOut campaign? Our united community will come together to raise awareness and vital funds for research into brain tumours – all while rocking a bandana! It’s especially poignant for me this year as the date falls just after the first anniversary of losing Michael, and I’d love it if everyone who knew and loved Michael, or who has come to know our story from my blog or Instagram, will don a bandana and make a stand with me on 3 March.

This is a statistic I often quote, but in the UK less than 2% of cancer research funding is spent on research into brain tumours. For the 10,600 people diagnosed each year, this isn’t good enough. You can help us change this. The Brain Tumour Charity aims to raise £150k throughout Brain Tumour Awareness Month in March, which could fund 600 days of research.

This year, the theme of the campaign is to Make your own bandana, Buy one or Use one you already have, so it couldn’t be easier to join in! I’ve been making a mountain of bandanas which I will be selling in my Etsy shop to support the campaign, and donating 100% of profits to The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund. I’ll also be encouraging all of my creative pals to make your own or style up something you already have! Read on for more ideas of how you can get involved later in this post.

Whatever you do, make sure to wear your bandana loud and proud on the 3 March and get people talking about brain tumours. Post a selfie on social media using the hashtag #WearItOut, or wear one to work, to the post office or the supermarket and tell everyone about the campaign! Keep your eye on my Instagram feed as on 3 March I’ll be giving away a few Tip Top prizes for the best bandana pictures you share!

If you choose to make your own bandana or style something you already have, I’d love it if you could make a small donation to support the campaign by texting TMBF81 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 to The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund, or make a donation here.

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To kick things off, with a bit of digging I’ve managed to find an excellent snap of Michael in a bandana to inspire us all. So here he is rocking a bandana at a festival! I think this was taken the summer before I met Michael, so I’m guessing it was at Truck or Reading? Always with his polo shirt buttoned up!

Buy it

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I’ve made a whole batch of fun and colourful bandanas which are now up for sale in my Etsy shop. I’ve made two varieties, either with a wire to easily twist and wear in your hair, or without a wire so you can tie it in your hair, around your neck, on your bag, around the brim of your hat, around your wrist – whatever you can think of! They are a slim design, equivalent to a traditional square bandana which has been rolled up, as I find this easy to style!

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I’ve used bright colours and bold prints, all in crisp 100% cotton, and every bandana is a one off. Each bandana is finished with a woven label reading #WEARITOUT in support of the campaign. I’ve made some in shades of red and turquoise, which are the colours of The Brain Tumour Charity. I even managed to find a beautiful Liberty Tana Lawn in a print named after the Olympic Diver Tom Daley, who is a patron of the Charity, which is available in the Charity’s colours, so I had to use it!

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You could also head to The Brain Tumour Charity’s online shop to buy one of the Charity’s bandanas. There are two designs to choose from!

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Make it

Why not unlock your creative talent and design your own bandana? The possibilities are endless! I’ll be posting tutorials here in the coming weeks for how to make a simple square bandana, or how to make a wired twist tie bandana like the ones I have for sale in my Etsy shop. And I’d love to see how you guys interpret the concept. Basically, as long as it’s something you can tie around your hair or your neck, anything goes in my book! So why not knit your own, crochet something, make one out of pom poms, upcycle an old tea towel or cushion cover? Here’s one I whipped up by making a patchwork out of scraps of fabric from each of the dresses I have made!

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You could take a bandana or scarf you already have and jazz it up, maybe add a fun trim like the pom pom border below, or cover it in glitter! You could even just take a plain bandana, handkerchief or square of fabric, grab a sharpie and use your design skills to doodle something fun!

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And if you’re looking for more inspiration, there are fun tutorials on The Brain Tumour Charity’s website to make the designs below, or you can apply for a free fundraising pack which includes stencils and other ideas of how to make your own!

If you do make your own, don’t forget to share a picture using the hashtag #WearItOut, and text TMBF81 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 to The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund, or make a donation here.

Use it

Why not look in the back of your wardrobe and wear a bandana that you already have? It’s the perfect way to get involved this Brain Tumour Awareness Month and look great doing it! If you’re anything like me and have a hoarded collection of vintage scarves, now’s the perfect time to show them off, and I’d love to see how you style yours! I tried styling a quirky lipstick print scarf Michael gave me for Christmas a few years ago.

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If you choose to wear your own, don’t forget to share a picture using the hashtag #WearItOut, and why not text TMBF81 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 to The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund, or make a donation here.

I’m really excited about this campaign as it’s so easy to get involved. I can’t wait to see how everyone rocks their bandanas! Thank you for your support!

Lucy x

Why I Hate January

January is a difficult month for most people, yet it used to be a time of year I looked forward to as Michael’s birthday falls at the end of the month. While everyone else was fed up with the cold weather, dark days and depleted bank balances, I would spend January happily choosing and wrapping gifts and planning a birthday celebration for my love.

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But in recent years January has bought nothing but devastating news, and so now it is a month full of dates and reminders which I have come to dread.  In January 2014, Michael had a seizure out of the blue which led to the discovery of a brain tumour, and a week later he bravely faced brain surgery on his birthday to remove as much of the tumour as possible. In January 2015, we were told that the tumour had started to grow back despite an intensive course of radiotherapy, and he had to face surgery again. In January 2016, after waking up with a crippling headache and being rushed into A&E, an emergency scan revealed that the tumour had returned and was aggressively growing and there was nothing more that could be done. It was already pressing on the vital parts of the brain which control breathing and heart rate, and it was unlikely he would survive the night. After responding well to a huge dose of steroids, Michael made it through those treacherous 24 hours and we were able to take him home. He died 7 weeks later, just a few weeks after his 35th birthday. The picture above is the last photo I have of Michael taken on a day out with my parents to Gladstone Pottery Museum, which was the day before he was rushed into hospital last January. Despite how poorly he had already become we had a truly lovely day, and I’m glad to have captured that moment and his cheeky smile before everything changed.

I can’t possibly describe to you what it felt like to be told that my 34 year old husband, the centre of my universe, was dying and there was nothing anyone could do to make him better. For the first few months after we lost Michael I battled with an intense guilt over this, as I just couldn’t get my head around the fact that I had known I was going to lose him but was powerless to stop it. If I’m completely honest, I still don’t believe it now, and I don’t think I ever will. I cannot comprehend it. To have found the other half of my whole and shared the kind of love some people spend their entire lives searching for, but lose him before we had even celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary, is beyond words.

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The only feeling I can describe is the anger and the fire it ignited within me to keep fighting for a better chance. I can’t bear knowing that every day, people all over the world are given the same devastating news. That no matter how hard they have fought, how brave they have been, how much they are loved, in the end cancer will take them anyway. A beautiful, kind and brave young friend has just been given the same devastating news and my heart is broken for her and her wonderful Mum, who I have come to know and admire.

I read a report recently from Cancer Research UK which predicts that survival from brain tumours will remain virtually unchanged over the next 20 years, despite an expected fall of 15% overall in the number of cancer deaths by 2035. This has to change, and I will keep fighting. I will keep raising money for more research to give those diagnosed with a brain tumour a fair chance. I will always, always talk about Michael and the cruel illness that took him from me, and raise awareness of this hidden killer.

I’m gearing up to join in with The Brain Tumour Charity’s upcoming awareness day on 3 March, when everyone is encouraged to grab a bandana and #wearitout to raise awareness and funds to help find a cure. I’ve been busy making a mountain of bandanas and planning fun ways to get involved with the appeal which I will share more of in the coming week, once I’ve taken a few days to celebrate my Michael’s birthday and claim back some of the happiness January used to bring. I hope you will join me on 3 March in making a stand against brain tumours, because a cure can’t wait.

Blanket of Hugs Raffle

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I am delighted to launch a raffle in aid of The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund to win one of the beautiful #jennysblanketofhugs blankets!

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The Blanket of Hugs measures approximately 1.35m x 1.55m and is made up of handmade squares in a mix of pinks, reds and oranges, all joined together with bright green yarn. The squares are a mix of plain, striped and bobble stitches, decorated with a scattering of handmade flowers, hearts and butterflies. The blanket is finished with a bobble stitched edge and a fabulous giant pom pom in each corner.

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Raffle tickets are only £3 each and can be bought by making a donation on Just Giving. Multiple tickets can be bought by making donations in multiples of £3, e.g. 2 tickets for a donation of £6. The winner will be drawn at 9pm on Wednesday 9 November 2016 and announced on Facebook and Instagram. PLEASE NOTE this raffle is open to UK entrants only. Sorry to any international friends, I’m afraid the blanket is just too big to justify international postage.

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The story behind this blanket is truly wonderful. The Blanket of Hugs is the result of a wonderful appeal to the crochet community to create a blanket of hugs for our friend Jenny, made up of squares (or mini “hugs”!) handmade by people all around the world. The response was so incredible that as well as a blanket for Jenny and her wonderful Mum Amanda, an extra 5 blankets were created, and Jenny selected 5 charities to donate the extra blankets to. I was delighted when Jenny chose Michael’s fund, and we decided to raffle our blanket.

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Jenny’s lovely Mum Amanda is the creator of the fabulous crochet subscription box, Little Box of Crochet. Amanda began her business not only from her love of crochet and creativity but also from personal need, as her beautiful daughter Jenny had recently been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. When Jenny’s cancer returned for a third time, and with so many friends following their story, Amanda and Jenny’s friend Kate (of Just Pootling) wanted to find a way for the crochet community to show their support. Jenny needed a blanket, a blanket of hugs, that she could wrap herself in to feel all the positivity and love that everyone was sending from all corners of the world. And so the idea for #jennysblanketofhugs was born.

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Kate put out a call on Instagram and her blog and was immediately inundated with responses. She set to work choosing yarn in Jenny’s favourite colours and designing three different styles of squares to make up the blanket. People from all around the world wanted to take part and send Jenny their love, and the demand was so high that suppliers quickly started to sell out of yarn in the chosen colours! Over the next few weeks parcels started to arrive from Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, France, Germany, America and so many more countries  – literally all the corners of the globe! By the closing date Kate had received over 1,000 squares! To use Kate’s words, it was “TOTALLY AMAZINGLY FABULOUS!”

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After weeks of sorting through all of the squares and pinning them up into blankets (using no less than 3,000 safety pins!), Kate, Amanda, Jenny and a group of 20 crochet friends who volunteered to help arranged a gathering to join all of the squares up into blankets. Our blanket was then finished off by Clare, who added a fabulous bobble trim and huge pom poms on each corner!

So not only is this blanket a work of art, it is more importantly a global expression of love and support. I can’t quite describe how overwhelmingly wonderful the blanket is knowing just how much love and countless hours of work from people all around the world has gone into it. Now you have the opportunity to call it your own and wrap yourself up in hugs, whilst helping to support an incredibly important cause.

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Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killers of children and under 40s yet receive less than 2% of the national spend on cancer research in the UK and so funding for this research is vitally needed. All proceeds from the raffle will be used to fund research into high grade brain tumours in the hope that we might reduce the harm caused by brain tumours, improve survival and one day find a cure.

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I feel incredibly privileged to be part of this and I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to my dear new friends Jenny and Amanda for choosing Michael’s fund to receive one of the blankets, to Kate for organising #jennysblanketofhugs, to everyone who contributed a square, to the fabulous ladies who helped join the blankets together and to Clare for finishing this blanket off so beautifully!

So head over to Just Giving to buy your ticket now! Thank you for your support!

Lucy x

(If you would like to learn more about #jennysblanketof hugs, you can read the full story here or scroll the instagram hashtag here)

Finding my feet

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If grief is the negative image of love and if it hurts just as much as it was worth then pain is a form of remembering” – author Julian Barnes, in conversation with Robert Peston.

This is a post I’ve been wanting to share for some time but I wasn’t quite sure how, or even if, I should write it. I hesitated as although I have written about loss and grief before, I have tried to do so in a positive voice, because I believe that is the best way I can honour Michael. This is a lot more honest and personal than anything else I have written and I’m not sure if this is something anyone will want to read, but I feel it is important for me to write this now, partly because I find writing so therapeutic and also because I am learning that modern society is horrendous at dealing with bereavement, especially in younger people, and if we don’t talk about it that will never change. I also often worry that I’ve become so used to being strong and putting on my brave face that I make all this seem easier than it is, or as if I’m coping better than I really am.

Something I am still finding incredibly difficult is having to speak from my perspective alone. Talking about what I feel and what I have lost seems insignificant when the biggest loss of all is Michael’s – the life he should have lived, the years he should have filled with his infectious personality and immense capacity for love. But I know I have to learn to talk in these terms, so here goes.

It’s been just over 7 months since Michael died and somehow I am surviving the days and tentatively taking steps into this new world without him. For anyone, the loss of a partner is life altering. Your entire future disappears; not just the love and companionship of the partner you have lost but also the hopes and dreams for the life you planned together. As we were at a very particular point in our lives when Michael was taken ill where everything we had been planning for was just about to happen, the extent of the loss was magnified.

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Before Michael became ill, we were a young married couple and life was full of possibility. We met in Oxford, fell in love, moved to London together, got married, left London for new jobs in Nottingham, and were desperately saving to buy our first house and move back to my hometown of Newcastle-under-Lyme ready to start a family. Then in January 2014, the day before we were due to sign contracts for the purchase of our first house, Michael had a seizure which led to the discovery of a Grade 3 cancerous brain tumour, and our world was turned upside down.

Above all else Michael needed me and I had to be by his side, and so from that day I did not go back to work. We had to let go of the house we were buying while he focused on getting through surgery, and so we put our dreams on hold. At first we hoped it might just be for a few months while he recovered from the surgery and got through a gruelling course of radiotherapy. Michael and I both loved to plan, and had so far approached our life together with endless enthusiasm and ideas for how to make the most out of each chapter. This was to become an important coping mechanism for us, and so we began to adjust.

We took the leap of moving Michael’s care from Nottingham to Newcastle-under-Lyme so that we could still relocate as planned. We moved into a small rental property close to the hospital so we could easily walk to his treatment sessions each day. We unpacked our new home, filling it with happiness and colour. We embraced all of the extra time we now had together, even if it was mostly spent either at home while Michael rested or on tentative trips venturing little further than our own postcode. We scaled back our dreams and looked at smaller houses we might buy once he got through the treatment and we could both gradually go back to work. We talked about new careers and options, trying to embrace the silver lining of this life altering change, and we clung on to hope.

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But the treatment didn’t work and the side effects made Michael incredibly poorly, so a few months turned into a year, with more surgery and chemotherapy planned. Again we tried to adapt to the change. We moved to another rental house within walking distance of my parents, family and oldest friends so we had the support we needed on our doorstep. We stopped talking about buying houses or trying new careers because it all seemed too painful, but the dreams were still there in our hearts and our secret shared Pinterest boards. We cherished every moment and tried to continue making the best of the time we had. And we hoped.

At the beginning of 2016 Michael became more unwell and we were told there was nothing more we could do. Seven weeks later I lost the love of my life, the other half of my whole. Suddenly there was no more hope because we couldn’t save him, and there was never going to be a silver lining.

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I moved out of our rented house and back home with my parents, not just out of necessity but also choice. I am fortunate to be incredibly close with my parents and they were by our side every step of the way from the moment Michael was first taken ill, so it was a natural decision. I don’t want to live alone now and I couldn’t function without my Mum and Dad’s love and support, and their loss was just as significant as they loved Michael deeply, so now we look after each other while we find our way in these dark days. I decided to take some time out rather than trying to go back to my previous career, largely because I was a Solicitor specialising in preparing Wills and dealing with the administration of estates when someone dies, which I obviously couldn’t face now. My job also feels like part of a life that doesn’t really belong to me anymore.

Despite not working, in the months that have passed I have kept myself busy. I packed up and moved out of our house, dealt with all of the painful practicalities of loss and decorated and settled into my bedroom at my new/old home with my Mum & Dad. I discovered some artists’ studios available in Stoke and, feeling like trying something new, I signed up for a creative space to share with my Mum. I set up our beautiful studio with the hope that once I feel ready we might start hosting fun creative workshops in the space, but until then as a place to take time out from the world and heal. I’ve learned dressmaking and made 36 dresses and 2 jumpsuits, and started to learn pattern drafting with a view to potentially selling the dresses I make.

Most significantly, I have set up a fund with The Brain Tumour Charity in Michael’s name to raise money for brain tumour research which is drastically underfunded and has little public awareness, then created and launched a range of fundraising products inspired by my Michael, organised a fundraising auction, and took part in two wonderfully successful fundraising events organised by Michael’s friends, so that in total we have already raised over £10,000. So you could say I’ve been busy, and all at a time when I am in the murky depths of grief and it takes most of my energy just to get out of bed each morning.

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I’m not saying any of this to blow my own trumpet, but more as a small acknowledgement of what I have achieved at the hardest time in my life, and I guess a justification for why I haven’t just gone back to work. I know that my life is different to most people my age (29, in case you were wondering). I knew it would be from the moment a doctor in A&E took me into a side room to show me the MRI scan revealing a brain tumour. I’ve experienced the extremes of life in a way most people will, fortunately, never understand and I am a very different person because of it. To borrow from the brilliant writer Nora McInerny Purmort (who I have raved about before as everything she has written about her own loss has helped me immensely):

Yes you are thankful that you had it at all, that you were loved and seen, that you lived your vows fully, that you witnessed life and suffering and death while all your peers were like, I don’t know what you were doing but probably just something more normal and sometimes hi I hate you for that I can’t help it I’m sorry I’m in therapy. Sad isn’t the right word. It’s bigger than that, so much bigger.

So now I’m trying to learn how to acknowledge the difference, and try to cope with the anger and jealousy I often feel for anyone who gets to live the life I should have had. What I wanted was a calm but happy life, with a husband and a family, a decent job, a nice house. That is not going to be my life now. There are no more rules to follow and it’s time for me to tentatively start treading my own path. I am determined that Michael’s legacy will be what shapes my life rather than ruins it. I am fighting every day to try and establish an existence holding on to what I can from our plans for our life together, in so far as is possible now I have to go it alone. And most importantly I have a huge responsibility of living for the both of us now. That’s what helps me to take on each day even when it all feels too much.

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Whilst I am starting to rebuild my life, I am not trying to “move on”. I am learning that Michael’s death isn’t something I will ever get over, and nor should I, and that grief for the loss of my soulmate will become part of who I am just as much as his love is.

When you lose someone, you are often routinely offered platitudes and clichéd phrases about time being a healer and how someday you will move on. In most cases such comments are well meaning and really no-one’s fault – as a society we are terrible at talking about grief, and most of us instinctively want to say something cheering and positive in the face of sadness. Yet I have found this approach to be unhelpful and incredibly difficult when you are talking to someone who is bereaved. You cannot fix the problem or cure their grief and chances are they don’t want you to. Michael and I loved each other so intensely that it would be completely wrong for me to do anything other than feel this pain. What I need is for people to just be there experiencing it with me, and trusting me to let it shape the type of person I want to become. You don’t have to make it better. You just have to be there, and not look away. The best anyone can do is to show up, sometimes to help me to escape it or other times to just be at my side in the darkness. As Megan Devine wrote in the Huffington Post, “when we don’t see grief as a problem to be solved, but instead as an experience to be supported, loved, and witnessed — then we can really talk about what helps.

So what comes next? Right now, I’m just trying to take my time, and every day is still a challenge. I know that I can’t yet give all of my creative ideas for the future quite the attention they deserve, so for now our studio will continue to be a place to while away a calm and peaceful afternoon at the sewing machine, and hope that perhaps next year I might be ready to give it a go. I’m also having a bit of a love/hate relationship with the internet at times. You all know how much I love the Instagram community as I’ve gained so much friendship and support from it, but it can be intense, overwhelming and hard to keep up with, so I’m working on finding a better balance.

I’m also  going to be taking a little bit of a slower pace with fundraising for The Michael Barry Fund over the next few months. Setting everything up and turning my initial fundraising ideas into a reality has taken a lot of energy. Whilst the charity work is incredibly important to me and something I am making a lifelong commitment to, and a huge part of what has saved me these past few months, I’m realising that I also need to take a little more time to figure out my own life in the midst of it all. But I have so many more ideas up my sleeve once I’ve had a little rest, and I know our friends and family will be keeping up the sterling fundraising in the meantime. I’ll also be continuing to sell my Tip Top wares through Etsy and occasionally in real life too.

I’m sure this has been an incredibly heavy going read, and I know that my little blog is usually a place where people might like to stumble upon pretty pictures of dresses I’ve made. But writing about Michael and our story, both the magnificence of the love we shared and the horror of the illness which took him from me, is really an inseparable part of all this. It’s the reason I’m writing this blog and trying something new rather than sitting behind a desk in my old life, and I hope this gives a little more context and understanding, so please indulge the interruption.

Lucy x