Margaret Crabtree, Keep Her Knit (left) with Caroline Green, Foyleside Shopping Centre. 

The stars of Derry’s crochet circles will make their television debut tonight (Wednesday) when BBC’s ‘The One Show’ features local group Keep Her Knit’s spectacular Easter display. Many of the pieces have been dedicated to individual key workers in the city as a thank-you for all their tireless efforts throughout the pandemic.

Recent visitors to Foyleside Shopping Centre will definitely feel that Spring is in the air with the installation of the colourful handiwork which is aptly entitled ‘New Beginnings’.

Three-year-old Sophie with the crochet animals on display at Foyleside Shopping Centre.

Beautiful bunnies and charming chicks are just some of the cute characters featured in the vibrant craft masterpieces together with an assortment of intricately stitched throws guaranteed to bring smiles to the faces of visitors of all ages.

The seasonal installation will reach an audience of millions after award-winning local production company, Alleycats TV, produced a short film in celebration of the women whose devotion to crochet has helped them overcome the challenges of lockdown.

The queen of crochet is Margaret Crabtree who has been teaching the craft for almost three decades after volunteering for a fundraiser at her daughter’s nursery school in the 1990s.

Coming from a family of crafters, Margaret now loves to share her expertise and see other women thrive with their new-found skills. Through her business, ‘Keep Her Knit’, she teaches more than a dozen classes in Derry city as well as in Counties Derry, Tyrone and Donegal. Classes have moved online during lockdown, providing a lifeline for her students, many of whom are older and/or living alone.

Margaret said:“We wanted to do something to show that we’re together, even though we’re apart. The crochet groups I take are like a family. I’ve been taking classes by Zoom during the pandemic, but we all really miss the social aspect of meeting up.

“Working on the ‘New Beginnings’ pieces gave us something to focus on and it’s fantastic to see them all up in Foyleside,they are a mix of ability levels and some of them are real masterpieces but it’s so good for everyone’s self-esteem, regardless of the level.“

All the ladies in my groups keep saying to one another, ‘what would we have done all day if we hadn’t been crocheting?’ so it’s good to know that it’s helped them get through the boredom and isolation of the lockdowns. They are a real community, stitching the city together; the skill level is phenomenal and a tribute to our heritage of sewing which is in the genes and it’s just great to be able to showcase it. I’m always striving to bring these talents to a wider audience.”

The project was funded by Bluebell Arts Derry through the Department for Communities. Two of Margaret’s students, Mary Walsh and Theresa McSwiney, are both interviewed for tonight’s programme.

Niamh Minihan from Alleycats TV said: “I have been aware of the fantastic talent amongst the Keep Her Knit members for a long time. Some of my own family love to crochet and have been taught by Margaret Crabtree. It has been a real pleasure for me to direct this film and shine a light on such a positive story for our city. Alleycats are a Derry-based company and we are passionate about telling stories from our hometown.”

Fergal Rafferty, Manager of Foyleside Shopping Centre, is delighted to see its spacious mall transformed for Spring. He said: “Foyleside always loves to support and showcase the skills of local people and the communities we serve. The New Beginnings display is really eye-catching, the level of talent in our city is remarkable and the colours and theme will be so uplifting for all of our valued customers and staff coming into the Centre over Easter.We have no doubt that viewers of ‘The One Show’ will love it just as much as we do too.”

Caroline Green from Foyleside Shopping Centre (top right) with Margaret Crabtree, Keep Her Knit (top left) and Mary Walsh, Theresa McSwiney, Maeve Gallagher and Linda McKinney from the Gasyard.

Tune in to ‘The One Show’ on BBC One this evening, 31st March at 7pm, to see Margaret, Theresa and Mary from the Gasyard classes and Foyleside in all its Easter glory!