Kara Richards, facilitator of The Athlone Family Resource Centre (AFRC) Community Wellness Blanket project with the main blanket made by participants during the lockdown. It is currently on display in Athlone Library.

Colourful crochet lockdown project lights up library window

There's been a whole lot of crochet going on in and around Athlone over the last few months as part of an innovative lockdown project, the results of which can now be seen in full multicolour hanging in the window of Athlone Library and in other areas of the town.

“It's gorgeous. The uptake from people has been fantastic,” Kara Richards, facilitator of The Athlone Family Resource Centre (AFRC) Community Wellness Blanket project, commented as she put up the main blanket for public view which has taken her two months to put together.

“It's a total riot of colour and it's very heavy,” enthused Kara of the largest blanket, adding that really all five are beautiful art pieces and will go for auction following the display.

It was originally hoped to make one large blanket from squares of crochet and flowers sent in by participants but the response was so great that there was enough for five.

Now, she has created a trail with clues to encourage people to start at the library, view the main wellness blanket, and then follow the clues to see the others and take selfies to spread the word about the project using the hashtag #AFRCblankets.

Initially envisaged as a run of four in-person workshops, Covid- 19 restrictions made it necessary to take the project online, and Kara said she was unsure if this would work.

However, in January she started a Facebook group to look for people to take part, beginners and experienced, and within a few days, there was already nearly 100 members of the group.

Kara Richards putting the final touches to the blanket now hanging in the window of Athlone Library.

Athlone Family Resource handed out over 50 starter packs for those taking up the craft for the first time, and this was not easy due to the lockdown, but Kara paid tribute to organic grocers Lowe & Co, who played a pivotal role serving as a pick-up point and later a collection point for finished squares and flowers

The Facebook group served as a place to post tutorials as many participants of the project were starting from scratch. There were also plenty of experienced crocheters in the group and the support for each other was brilliant.

“A lot of people told us that the project made lockdown bearable because of the connection and having something to do. Many had never crocheted before,” explained Kara, who said the project really surpassed all expectations they had at the start.

By the end of February finished squares flowers and leaves started arriving via post, drop off and collection into Athlone Family Resource Centre, and it was soon fairly obvious that there would easily be enough squares to make a blanket, and so it was decided to make a really big blanket.

The brief was that squares could be any size, any style and any colour, and Kara’s idea was working along the lines that no matter how different we are - if we just be ourselves then together, something excellent will be made.

Sewing all the different size squares together was a real challenge but the results are gorgeous, Kara, who worked on the big blanket said, thanking Michelle Dowling Lynch and Delores Crerar who took on the job of sewing the remaining squares into what turned out to be four more blankets.

The aptly named 'Big Blanket' will be on display in the window of Athlone Library for the first week of May from where there is a clue to where the next one is.

This Athlone Family Resource Centre initiative was funded by Westmeath County Council and The Switch Off initiative.