Mum’s heartache brings comfort to bereaved parents

Holt knitting group founder Mandy Veal with some of the 'Little Angel' bag items created by her memb

Holt knitting group founder Mandy Veal with some of the 'Little Angel' bag items created by her members for the parents of stillborn babies. Picture: KAREN BETHELL - Credit: Archant

Members of a north Norfolk knitting and stitching club are bringing comfort to bereaved parents, by using donated wool and unpicked wedding dresses to create tiny outfits for stillborn babies.

Set up as part of Holt Community Café, which runs every Thursday at the town community centre, the group was launched by single mum-of-three Mandy Veal shortly after she moved to Holt nearly a year ago.

'I knew absolutely nobody,' she said. 'And, because I was suffering from anxiety and depression after going through a really difficult divorce, I wanted to find a way of getting out of the house and meeting people.'

With her wedding dress now a painful reminder of a traumatic time in her life, Ms Veal was keen to dispose of it, but says she didn't want to just 'throw it away'.

'I wanted it to be cherished,' she explained. 'So, when I heard about a woman who had turned hers into gowns for stillborn babies, I knew immediately what I wanted to do with my dress.'

With her idea taking shape, Ms Veal approached community cafe founder Bishop John Mills, who suggested running knitting and stitching sessions before lunches were served and, within weeks, more than 20 people had signed up.

Pooling their talents, group members began putting together appliquéd 'Little Star' bags containing knitted and crocheted blankets, teddies, jackets, bootees, and gowns created from donated wedding and bridesmaid dresses unpicked by club member Adrian Sanders.

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'Some of the babies are so tiny they would fit in the palm of your hand, so it is very hard to find clothes to fit them,' Ms Veal said. 'To lose a baby must be the worst thing in the world, but I hope that the bags will bring the parents some comfort at a terribly sad time.'

Inspired by the support of group members and local people, who have donated wool and fabric, Ms Veal began running knitting and stitching sessions at residential homes, also taking bin bags full of knitted blankets to a Norfolk hostel for the homeless and putting together packs filled with sleeping bags, blankets and toiletries, which she hands out to people sleeping rough on the streets of Norwich.

'When you have nothing, even little things count,' she said. 'And, after having had to restart my own life, I know how empowering having the support of other people and knowing they care can be.'

The group meets at Holt Community Cafe on Thursdays from 10am-1pm.

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