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Interview: The Secret Society of Hertford Crafters

PUBLISHED: 10:38 17 December 2018

A yarn-bombed post box in Hertford (photo: Sharon Kaplan)

A yarn-bombed post box in Hertford (photo: Sharon Kaplan)

Sharon Kaplan

We spoke to Jo Baily, founder member of the secret group who create unexpected crafty installments

Can you tell us about your secret society, or will we meet a grizzly end?

The Secret Society of Hertford Crafters was formed in January last year as a yarn bombing group – originally around 20 ladies and one man, who have a wide range of crafting skills from natty knitters to crotchety crocheters.

We can now call on hundreds of volunteers.

What is yarn bombing?

Anne Haworth, one of our founder members and organisers, informed us that yarn bombing means ‘secretly covering things in woollen objects in order to create surprise, delight and joy to those who view it’.

Princesses made by the Secret Society of Hertford Crafters, part of a children’s trail for Hertford Town Council (photo: Anne Haworth)Princesses made by the Secret Society of Hertford Crafters, part of a children’s trail for Hertford Town Council (photo: Anne Haworth)

Why is it secret?

When we recruited members to our society we asked them three questions: can you knit or crochet? Do you enjoy knitting and crocheting? Can you keep a secret? We trusted our group to keep the secret to ensure the town was genuinely taken by surprise.

Our first project was to decorate all 27 free-standing post boxes in Hertford during Christmas 2017. We had to measure every post box individually and now know there are roughly three different sizes. One passer-by spotted us with a tape measure and said ‘You’ll never get that in your car, love!’ Even Royal Mail knew nothing about our project. I wrote to Mark Griffiths, the manager of the Hertford Royal Mail delivery office, asking him to meet me on the Monday morning following the yarn bombing which took place in the dark. Amazingly he took a leap of faith and agreed to meet me. By the time we met at 11am, he and his team of postmen and women were already talking about their post boxes being yarn bombed and Mark was incredibly supportive of our project, thank goodness!

It’s clearly fun but is there a serious side to the street art?

We’ve raised £14,000 for Isabel Hospice in Welwyn Garden City. We couldn’t believe the support from Hertford residents and beyond who made donations to our charity page online.

What else have you done, and what’s next?

Our major project for 2018 was to commemorate the centenary of Armistice Day by knitting, crocheting and crafting 15,000 water-resistant poppies. We invited the wider Hertford community to help us achieve this and 420 women and 1,661 children from seven junior schools joined in. The poppies were displayed at Hertford Castle. We have also completed smaller yarn bomb projects, including two children’s trails for Hertford Town Council to find Easter bunnies and pirates and princesses.

Many people have asked us what our plans are for this Christmas, but we smile sweetly and say ‘I’m so sorry, we’re unable to say anything, as we’re a secret society...’

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