GALLERY: A heart-to-heart with Donegal's caring crocheters

Unique ‘Hugs in Wool’ wrapped round North West

A big-hearted group of talented Donegal crocheters is “hugging” the North West, bringing comfort to many families during the days of coronavirus.

Speaking to Donegal Live, Johanna Kelly, who co-ordinates the 12-strong ‘Muff Yarners’ so called because, according to Johanna, they do “more yapping than crocheting”, explained the group’s ‘Twin Hearts’ project.

She said: “The ‘Twin Hearts’ was something one of the group saw on Facebook shortly after all the Covid-19 restrictions came in. We have now crocheted hundreds of them. We crochet two matching hearts and put them into a wee bag, marking the time so we can allow 72 hours so there is no contamination.

“We sent our first batch to Altnagelvin because the daughter of one of the ladies in our group is a doctor there. Well, Altnagelvin was very, very grateful and other people asked if we could do ‘Twin Hearts’ for them too.

“When a person was admitted to ICU or a Covid Ward and their family might not have been going to see them for a while or maybe never, they were given a wee heart and one was then sent to their family.

“They are ‘comfort’ hearts and, apparently people are getting great help from them because they know their family member has a wee heart too and there is a connection,” said Johanna.

It was not long before nursing homes were requesting ‘Twin Hearts’ too because their residents have not been able to receive family visits since March.

The ‘Muff Yarners’ are based in the Parish Hall in Muff. Johanna started the group five years ago, following her retirement.

The class took place every Monday night, from 6.00 pm to 8.00pm, until the introduction of the Covid-19 restrictions. Now they crochet and “chat away to one another” via WhatsApp.

Johanna said: “Initially ‘Muff Yarners’ was a learning group, but they are now all fantastic crocheters. There were girls who never lifted a crochet hook and now they are producing fantastic stuff. They are all so talented. The work they do is really lovely.

“It all started when someone in the group knew someone who was sick, so we crocheted a wee blanket.

“Our motto is a ‘Hug in Wool.’ Now, if someone knows someone who is not well or has, maybe, been diagnosed with cancer, we will crochet a blanket. All the girls get together. It is a joint thing. I say to them, ‘I want so many squares’ and they crochet away, all sticking to a certain size and certain colours and when I put them together, they are fantastic. It is a wee ‘Hug in Wool’ in case anyone is feeling down. Anybody who has received a blanket has been really appreciative,” said Johanna.

The ‘Muff Yarners’ also crochet items for the Neo Natal Units of Letterkenny University Hospital and Altnagelvin.

They crochet “tooty wee hats” and baby blankets.

Johanna said: “At Christmas, we always crochet a batch of Christmas hats and wee Christmas stocking. We put a present in the stockings for the mammies.

“Last Easter, we did we did wee Easter bonnets with wee bunny ears on them for the babies and wee baskets with a small Easter egg for the mammies, who really appreciate them.

“People got such pleasure out of the blankets, we approached the Donegal and Foyle Hospices and donated blankets to them too.

“About four or five years ago, we had a wee stall at the Muff Festival and got the idea of doing a Christmas Craft Fair in the Parish Hall. We all make and sell Christmas themed items and donate the proceeds Hall funds, with enough left over for a wee Christmas night out,” said Johanna.

The ‘Muff Yarners’ are also fond of their summer outing.

During the days of Coronavirus, the crocheters were also crafting ‘mask buttons’ for people who could not put the elastic fastenings behind their ears. Group member, Ellen, was liaising with the mask-makers on this endeavour.

“This has led to a button shortage such is the demand,” laughed Johanna.

She added: “Once Covid-19 is over, we are going to approach the Hospices, the hospitals and the nursing homes about leaving a basket of ‘Twin Hearts’ in each place. They could be used in emergency situations or if someone were going for surgery to bring a little comfort to patients and families.

“I personally love our wee Superhero Blankets, which we make specially for children undergoing cancer treatment. We put a superhero on them, or an ‘S’, or ‘You’re Brilliant, ‘You’re Super.’ We crochet out the letters and give them to the wanes that have recovered from certain treatments.

“’Muff Yarners’ is always open to requests. We have just sent a number of blankets down to Falcarragh Nursing Home. We also sent ‘Fidget Blankets’, a wee crocheted square that sits on a person’s knee and has beads, tassels, beads, buttons and zips attached that residents can play with. They are very calming and consoling. Falcarragh Nursing Home also got every patient a wee card to send out one of the ‘Twin Hearts’ out to a member of their family.

“People are more than welcome to join the ‘Muff Yarners.’ We also welcome any requests,” said Johanna, who can be contacted at: 07886530444.













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