This, the final newsletter for 2012 Games Woolsack, is from Sue & Jane, but it's Jane writing it so I'm going to say some things about Sue as well.
Congratulations to you all and many thanks for the part you each have played in getting ALL the British Wool cushions to Olympic and Paralympic Teams and Athletes from around the world.
At the end of August we had 58 cushions left that we wanted to get to Paralympic athletes. As those of you who follow Woolsack on social media will already know, the Paralympics GB Chef de Mission, Craig Hunter, arranged for the last 58 Woolsack cushions to be delivered to the Logistics Manager, Andy Cooper, at the main Stratford Village so they could be given to the remaining GB Paralympians who didn't yet have a cushion but would like one.
Those of us who have been responsible for the distribution of cushions were very grateful to Paralympics GB for arranging this for their athletes and enabling us to know at the very start of the Paralympic Games that we'd succeeded completely with the full distribution of your amazing cushions.
This project started well over 2 years ago when Sue Blacker had the vision of making gifts available to Olympic and Paralympic athletes that were not only completely made from wool grown on British soil, so they would literally be taking home a 'little bit of Britain' with them, but that also encompassed the wealth of design and crafting talent within the UK and the generosity of the British in volunteering and giving.
A lot of the early work was done by Sue alone, then gradually a team of volunteers developed to help her organise and run the project. Many of you will know or have had contact with your Local Contact and then there are the organisers of the stuffing events, all of whom have given their time and resources to enable the project to succeed.
Special thanks must go to Liz Alcock and the Finchley Finishers, Irene Watson who played such a vital role in the sorting and distribution of the donated yarn helped by Jill and Hilary, Alison Castle who started off as NE Local Contact and ended up doing a lot of background admin and Nicky Butler who took over the NE and helped with social media & distribution. Jan Ellison is the person behind the huge Bedfordshire distribution and the Maldives Olympians' visit to a Fibre Festival.
As things became increasingly London based after Fibre-East Irene & Liz took on the distribution of the final cushions, including the massive delivery of 200 for the Olympic Gymnasts at Greenwich, all of which were taken home by them.
There are also a group of people it wouldn't be appropriate to name, but who have enabled some athletes to get their cushions despite restrictions placed on us by LOCOG, including a hand over in a car-park outside Loughborough. These are coaches & sports officials who were prepared to put the wishes of their athletes first and we thank them.
There is another group we can't name under LOCOG rules. The companies and individuals who donated materials and services to the project. Knowing you can't be named makes your generosity even more special and we thank you.
To all of you, those mentioned above and everyone who has made or stuffed or finished cushions or helped in any other way, THANK YOU and we hope you can feel proud of your contribution to this special project.
I, Jane, would personally like to thank my local spinning and knitting friends who have kept me going through the more challenging aspects of the project and have performed miracles with the few cushions that needed work or alteration before they could go to athletes.
Then there is my husband, Paul, who set up the website, sends out the email newsletters and has been so supportive of the way Woolsack has taken over our household over the past 2 years.
So what can we say to try and sum up the project?
We underestimated what the athletes would feel about the cushions. For those who had the opportunity to choose one of the nearly 3000 cushions, many more than we had expected wanted to have one. They have expressed their astonishment and deep gratitude that people who didn't know them would put so much time, effort and talent into making such a wonderful personal gift for them to take home. Perhaps because of the many hours of training that lie behind their seconds or minutes of competition they seemed to fully appreciate the hours of work behind each cushion. These cushions are treasured by the athletes lucky enough to have one.
We also underestimated the strength of the personal connections that were made between some makers & athletes and how much more special the 2012 Games have been for many makers. A number of makers were even able to meet GB and International Olympic and Paralympic athletes, something we'd never anticipated.
I also found out that it can require some searching to find stockists of certain British wools and finding out information to do with any British wool products, events, news etc can be a bit hit and miss. Some fantastic events are only advertised in their immediate area - and did anyone else know there is a Welsh museum of wool?
British wool fabric proved to be a real problem to source at the beginning of the project.
There are some fantastic websites out there, but if you don’t know about them you can miss out on all the amazing information they have to offer.
For some time now I’ve been thinking out these issues and the solution has seemed pretty obvious.
I’m going to keep the Woolsack website going as a sort of ‘reference library’ listing and linking to everything and anything to do with British wool and British wool products from raw fleeces through to finished items & fashion garments.
I’ll do this on a voluntary basis. Just in case anyone hasn’t realised I’m a bit of an enthusiast when it comes to British wool and I think this is the most productive use of my time to help promote and support every level of the British wool industry, as well as it being a really useful resource for a wide range of people.
The website will be free to use and free to be listed on.
I’m not planning to introduce any advertising at the moment. I’m not going to rule it out for the future, but if it were to happen it would only be for products associated with British wool and be appropriately discrete.
I’m not going to go the charity route, but set up a Community Interest Company. I’ve already had an offer of sponsorship to cover the cost of hosting the website and being a CIC will enable me to ensure proper records are kept.
Everything on the website that is already there will remain there but under a single index entry, 2012 Games, so anyone can easily find it in future. There are still some photos I need to add and general tidying up to do.
The group on FB will continue for anyone who has any interest in British wool and so people can post about stockists, events, places, news etc to do with British wool so I can add them to the website. Self-promotion as long as it’s to do with British wool and British wool products will be encouraged!
The twitter feed will continue although it will become more wool and less sports based, and the Ravelry group will continue.
Now that the Games are over I'll be tweeting for athletes who previously felt constrained by TeamGB rules regarding their photographs to send us photos of them with their cushions. I've also had some incredibly moving emails from makers. I'm going to share, anonymously, some of the content of those emails on a special page on the website because I feel it's important that side of the project can be recorded and archived by National Archives and British Library. If anyone would like to contribute to that page on the website then please just email me, or if you're blogging then send me the url to that section of your blog.