Celebrate Volunteer Champions

Millions of people volunteer in some way in the UK, and CSV is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary by applauding volunteers and encouraging the next generation of volunteers to come through.


The volunteer champions campaign is encouraging people to tell everyone about their volunteering, and as someone who rarely says no when someone needs help, I’ve got a lot to say!

My main volunteering commitment is GirlguidingUK.   I enjoyed being a Guide so much, however when I joined Rangers afterwards, they eventually decided to merge with the Scouts and become a Venture Scouts unit.   I didn’t really want to spend my Fridays hanging out with my little brother’s mates so I left.   I had no idea that there were opportunities to become a Young Leader (14-18 year old volunteer) with a unit and then train to be an adult leader.

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As I lived a 2 hour commute away from University, I didn’t get involved with student life much (I only went to the union bar twice in 4 years!) and missed out on the Student Scout and Guide Organisation (SSAGO).   However, after Uni, I saw a small article in the local paper asking for helpers for a unit that would close without them.   I phoned the number and volunteered to help.   I was then put in charge of a unit with 6 girls in it and built it up until it was full (which would be repeated 16 years later in my current unit).   I have now been a leader for over 18 years, helped in all sections from Rainbows to Brownies to Guides to Senior Section (Rangers and Young Leaders), as well as being a District and Division Commissioner (area leader), Adviser, Mentor, and gained so much experience, and most importantly gained many dear friends.

Currently I have 6 girls on my waiting list who are already 10 who can’t have a place, plus more who will be old enough later this year.   The Rainbow unit I help with is in the same situation.   We need new units to open to take the extra potential Rainbows, Brownies and Guides.   Full training is given, and you will be supported by existing unit leaders.

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My website www.craftyguider.com is solely to raise money for my Guide unit.   I make cards, badges and gifts and all the profit goes to Guiding.   It is enjoyable to craft and try new things before selling them on for a good cause.

Now I’m a mum, I volunteer at my daughters’ school.   I help run the school craft club with other volunteer mums, I’m a standby on the walking bus (I got soaked this morning in my high vis!), I was a parent helper in the school until my back gave up, and I recently baked cakes for their fundraising stall at May Day.

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I then decided that after looking after 40 craft club members, 30 Guides, 20 Rainbows (plus my own two Craftyguidelets and husband!), I wanted to do something for me, so I contacted the Hertfordshire Federation Women’s Institute to see if there were any local “next generation” WI’s near me that I could join.   They suggested I start up one myself, so with some friends from Twitter, we started Puckeridge WI.

I turned down the chance to put my name forward for President (see, I can say no!), but I still volunteered to be on the committee and became Vice President and Assistant Treasurer.

Volunteering is a huge part of my life, and at times it drives me to despair with admin, teenage hormones, lack of support and temperamental websites, but it is also fulfilling, rewarding and enjoyable.

There are so many opportunities to volunteer to suit you.   Whether you can give an hour, five minutes or the equivalent of a full time job to pets, children, adults, the arts or even the preservation of a rare newt, it’s all worthwhile.


May Fair – Craft, fudge and lots of cake

Yesterday was the annual Standon May Fair.   As usual I had my Craftyguider stall to raise funds for my Guide group.   As well as this, I am a mum of two girls at a school that has a cake stall there every year that parents donate cakes to, a WI Vice President with our group running a stall with free cake and some sideshow games, and a Rainbow Guider of a unit which sells fudge.

I’ve been rebuilding my stocks of craft items that sell well at this event, so over the last few weeks I’ve been getting to grips with my hot melt glue gun, making badges and fabric mirrors, and getting some new greetings card designs made.   I’ve also got new point of sale materials, organised the float, and made sure the string and sellotape were packed.

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I think it turned out very well, and we definitely had a successful trading day.   Two of my Assistant Guiders helped me during the day, one staying from set up to shut down, and two of my 30 Guides helped sell at points during the day.   Other Guides passing the stall were made to come and spend money!

The WI were doing a Guess the Weight of the Cake, Guess the Number of Buttons in the Jar (one of our secretaries counted over 3000 buttons into a jar!), and Guess Where Jess the Cat Is game for the kids.   They made a fabulous job of making the stall look gorgeous, talked to passers by and got quite a few women to sign up.   Members also contributed cake to be handed out free.

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As I love baking, I made a couple of tray bakes for the WI stall.   The other 4 cakes in the picture went to the school stall.   I had a text from a mum saying that they may be abandoning the stall as the number of cakes donated at school were really down.   I bought a few extra ingredients and doubled my donation to 4 cakes.   I hope they did well.

The 4th stall I contributed to was the Rainbow stall.   As the Rainbow leader couldn’t cut fudge this year, I organised some mums to come round to mine to chop it up and weigh it into individual 100g bags.

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After 2 hours, we had it all finished, and the fudge sold out in record time.

Thank goodness for the lovely British bank holiday weather!

Fabric Covered Mirrors

With craft fairs coming up, my next at the Standon May Day, East Herts on the 6th May, I need to get a move on and make sure my stall is ready.

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I think 7 handbag mirrors won’t last me very long so I opened up my freshly stuffed scrap bag and started cutting and assembling.   With so many fabrics that I love in there, I ended up with quite a few choices.

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My Russian doll fabric has been very popular and I’ve made 2 bags and a few mirrors in the past from the small piece I had.   I’ve managed to get three mirrors out of the rest and I think that’s my lot now.


And these are a few of my other favourites.

IMG_7702Everyone loves a nice polka dot!


IMG_7705I love this design.   It was a piece left over from some Christmas bunting but it’s gorgeous on it’s own.


IMG_7697This reminds me of a summery picnic.


The full selection of designs are on my website, and as always, all profits go directly to my Guide unit.

Which one is your favourite?



Pin Badges

One of my many sidelines on the craftyguider website is making pin badges on my badge machine.   I have three dies – 25mm, 38mm and 58mm – and I love upcycling pictures, maps and making my own designs.

These badges were made for my Rainbow unit as the leader had come up with the idea of having little groups for activities based on the Rainbow Magic fairies.   Rather than just have the colours, I copied some pictures from my daughter’s book and came up with these.

Recently I’ve been asked to produce some hen night badges for two different hens.

Hen party one was themed on the Miranda TV series.   The hen is a regular customer of mine from twitter for various badges and sewn items, so it was wonderful to play a part in her celebrations.

Each person on the hen do would be given 4 badges as a gift.   An evening in front of the TV pinging designs back and forth on twitter produced these designs.   One dodgy shoulder and 84 badges later, our hen had a bag of badges to dish out.

Hen party two found me on a craft stall at a local fete.   She had been a Guide at the unit I now run, and her friend was getting married.   As all the profits from my sales go to the Guide unit, she was happy to place an order with me.   She had even dreamed up the artwork which was fabulous.   It was a Guiding theme with all the participants in the hen’s patrol, and the hen had some interest badges to earn for her badge sash.

All I had to do was convert the artwork and produce the badges.   I wish I’d had this idea when I got married!

My badge machine gets a lot of use with name badges for my WI, a badge making activity at school craft club, business logo badges for people to use at craft fairs and trade shows, and badges for all 300 participants at school sports day, as well as making badges and fabric covered mirrors for sale at craft fairs.

What would you have on your personalised badge?

Puckeridge WI on the radio

Last year I wanted to join the new CamCity WI as many of my twitter friends went and it sounded like just the thing I needed – something for me rather than another volunteer activity where I looked after children for other people.   I was quite willing to commute there from where I live in Hertfordshire as my local WI’s are on the ‘traditional’ side.   However, my attempt was thwarted as they meet on a Wednesday which is one of the nights when I volunteer to look after other people’s children.

This led to a call to the Hertfordshire Federation WI to ask if there were any ‘next generation’ WI’s in the county I could join.   I said I would commute for the right one, but I couldn’t run it.   I was then told that there weren’t any (I think I was being sold a dud there!) but I could get some friends together to start my own.   Appeals on twitter, interviews in the local paper and a meeting down the pub later and Puckeridge WI was born.   Despite the assumption by others that I would become President, I was relieved when someone else stepped up, although I am now Vice President and Assistant Treasurer and a founder member of Puckeridge WI.

We are a small village WI with a membership of almost 30 aged in their 20’s through to their 70’s and are a mix of full and part time workers, mums and grans, and everything else in between.   We have a great programme of activities, add on clubs are starting up, and we are getting involved in our community.


We had a request from county to be interviewed on BBC 3 Counties Radio which covers Beds, Herts and Bucks.   They were doing a feature on the growth of WI membership and wanted to interview someone from a new WI to go with their pre-recorded feature on Royston WI.   A lot of messages later, I agreed to do it if I could.   So on a cold Monday at 8.25am in the car park of my doctor’s surgery, I called the switchboard.

I’d had lots of thoughts about what I would say (don’t mention bungee jumping, don’t mention bungee jumping), and while I was on hold, I could hear the show clearly down the phone.   Iain Lee, the normal presenter, had car trouble that morning, so a replacement presenter had taken his place.   Ruth Bond was being interviewed on the phone and I was told that the first thing I would be asked was about having men at WI’s, was it a terrible thing and do we sit and gossip about men all night?!!!   Hardly sticking to the theme of the new, younger WI’s!   In fact the whole interview seemed to try and reinforce the traditional ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ stereotype.   I stood my ground and tried to keep to the general theme of cake, friends, opportunities and fun.

Listening back, I caught an interview with two women from Luton who have started a new WI, and they were again battling against the interviewer’s stereotyping of the organisation.   The most disappointing bit was the pre-recorded segment at Royston WI which seemed to concentrate on one member’s 90th birthday, the opinion of a member that younger women should join so they can ‘learn how to behave’, and the repeated singing of Jerusalem.

Overall, I think it was a pretty poorly put together piece, although if people listened to the ladies from Luton and Ruth Bond, rather than the bias of the interviewer, they would’ve got the message of what the WI can actually offer nowadays.   I’m still pleased to have done it, and I hope my enthusiasm for the WI has come across.

Knitting Needle Rolls

On one of my recent crafting exploits into new things, I attempted cable knitting.   I got a bit stuck and the lovely @knittingvillage came to my aid and explained the pattern.   I’ve finished knitting the cushion front now and just need to sew the back on.   Another WIP on the list!

A few days ago, I had a tweet asking if I made knitting needle rolls as one of the customers in the shop had asked for them.   I didn’t have any in stock, but I had plans to make some for my website and craft fairs this year so I bit the bullet, cut some fabric (shock, horror!) and made three similar to this one I made for a swap some months ago.

This was the first one made with some fabric I bought for one of my ‘just in case’ projects.   I’m definitely making some things for me with the rest.

I also made one in pink

and this gorgeous blue combination

and all three were finished off and taken to Knitting Village in Buntingford to see if she could sell them.   I’ll also be starting crochet hook rolls and other accessories to sell (and perhaps a couple of bits for me!)

If anyone is interested, I’m selling them for £15, and as usual, all profits go to local Guiding.

A sad post

I know it’s been quiet on my blog.   It’s been quiet with all things Craftyguider recently too.

At the beginning of the school holidays, I was working flat out to get Guide camp organised.   There’s obviously lots to do if you are feeding and looking after other people’s kids and keeping them safe and entertained.

We all got to camp and had a great time.   The Craftyguidelets camped too which made things a lot different to all the previous camps I’ve done in my 17 years as a Guider.   I had three Guider friends from my former Division (area) to help me as I had no Guiders from my unit who could camp.   As the site was quiet, the Guides and other leaders got to watch the TV coverage of the opening of the Olympics on the first night with the site crew while I watched the Craftyguidelets sleep.   This was unplanned and was a fantastic opportunity for them.   The Guides then re-enacted it for me the next day using our art and craft box, some union flag plastic tablecloths, and lots of over-acting!   That evening, we held a campfire, shared songs, jumped around like silly things, and then headed back for soup and bed.

The next morning things changed.   The Guides served breakfast themselves as three of the Guiders had to deal with a tragedy.   An ambulance was called.   A paramedic confirmed what the three Guiders had already realised.   The parents were called to collect their daughters early.   The police and a coroner had to attend.     Our extended Guiding family came to support.   Only three Guiders went home that day.

Our friend had died in her sleep.   There was nothing we could have done although we still tried.   She was only in her early 50’s.   She had given up her weekend to help me at camp and was having a great camp like the rest of us.   Such a lovely person taken too soon.

It’s still strange.   This doesn’t happen at Guide camp.   This just doesn’t happen.   This shouldn’t happen.   Even after 2 weeks away on holiday, it’s still unbelievable.   This is why it’s not been ‘business as usual’.   This is why it’s been quiet.

Girlguiding UK’s Big Gig

On 31st March, I took 17 Guides, 2 leaders and a parent helper to Birmingham’s LG Arena for Girlguiding UK‘s Big Gig.   The Big Gig is a music event at a major venue exclusively for Guides which Girlguiding UK has been running for 12 years.   In the past, it’s also been held at Wembley Arena, Manchester’s MEN Arena and The Millenium Dome.

I’ve taken Guides to Wembley and Birmingham in the past, but it was the first time I’d gone to Birmingham on the train.   We come from Hertfordshire so it meant a 9am start to travel into London and out again.   9am on a Saturday is unknown to most 10-14 year olds, so they must have been keen.

Getting the tickets was a lottery to start with.   Leaders have to apply and send payment when no acts have been announced, and with no certainty of getting tickets.   Every week at Guides, the girls kept asking if we had tickets, and when I was able to tell them that we had them, I was the most popular person in the world!

And so we ended up in Birmingham with around 13,000 other Guides and leaders to see The Saturdays, Rizzle Kicks, Olly Murs, Matt Cardle, Alexandra Burke, Rita Ora, Conor Maynard, Charlene Soraia and presenter Helen Skelton.   The atmosphere in the arena was amazing.   Loads of flashing bunny ears and thousands of phones held up recording video and taking photos and looked amazing, and the sound of all the screams was deafening.

Even amongst that many people, I even managed a wave at fellow Guide tweeter @CazzyPie.   This is her image that she tweeted showing me somewhere!

The next event at the end of this year will be in Sheffield.   That’s probably a journey too far for us, but hopefully it will be back to Wembley in 2013 and I’ll be first in the queue to apply.

Thank you so much Girlguiding UK for organising another fabulous Big Gig.   It’s another showcase event to make Guiding relevant to today’s girls and something they can be proud to say they are a Guide for.