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Stitching community cheer together for Christmas

Christmas tree creators: Sara Uruski (standing left), Petra Stevens, Kelly Warriner-Simpson, Taralee Freeman, and Mary Bennett (sitting on the plank). Absent: Sally Johnson. PHOTOS/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

Tree brings people together

Hayley Gastmeier

Community spirit is alive and well in Featherston where the textile upcycling group have erected a bright and cheerful 2.5-metre Christmas tree in the centre of town for residents to enjoy.

The tree is made of hundreds of crocheted Granny squares that members from the WORN Featherston Cloth Collective have spent the past six months creating.

The squares have all been stitched together into the shape of a festive sapling and decorated in crocheted snowflakes and flowers, with the eye-catching structure now the centrepiece of the Featherston Town Square on Fitzherbert St.

WORN’s Sara Uruski said the tree was designed to withstand Featherston’s famous wind and its purpose was to bring joy.

“We’ve used an old tractor tyre at the bottom filled up with sandbags … there’s a wooden pole down the middle and chicken wire creating the shape and a wooden frame at the base.”

The inspiration for the project was a six-metre tall Christmas tree made from 1300 crocheted granny squares in Trivento, Italy.

“It’s absolutely stunning and ours is slightly smaller but since there’s only half-a-dozen of us we decided to do the same on a smaller scale,” said Sara, whose husband Chris was responsible for building the structure.

“We’d just like to give people a smile.”

WORN members were unable to calculate how many hours they had put into making the tree, but Petra Stevens said she sat in front of the television crocheting for about 1.5 hours each night for three months solid.

Petra worked out that it took her “40 minutes of Vikings” to complete one of the small squares.

“We want people to walk past and get a smile on their face with the bright colours and maybe get inspired to try unusual things.”

Kelly Warriner-Simpson said her home was one of those affected in the major flooding event in early December 2018.

“I’m giving back to the community because I got flooded and I had a lot of people coming forward to help me out.”

The women said knitting the granny squares had been a nostalgic experience, with Taralee Freeman saying she incorporated a Kiwiana feel to some of her squares, drawing inspiration from childhood memories such as eating Neapolitan ice-cream.

The Christmas tree is made up of 120 large crocheted squares and hundreds more baby ones.

Taralee said members of WORN specialised in a diverse range of crafts, from hide tanning to tailoring, and spinning and weaving,

Taralee is a full-time artist, who this year had an outfit feature in the White Section at WOW, the World of WearableArt.

Community group Fab Feathy spokesman Jack Sheppard said it was fantastic to see the tree project bringing people together.

“It’s great to see different people from the community come together and build something for the community and display and exhibit it in the ‘Squircle’ – this is what real community spirit is about.”

Featherston Community Board gave WORN a $500 grant to put towards material costs and the South Wairarapa District Council gave the group permission to put the tree in the town square.

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said he thought the tree was fabulous.

“Love it. It’s yet another great attraction for Featherston and shows what can be achieved when people work together.

“Well done to all those involved.”

FCB chairman Mark Shepherd said the tree was unique and it was “very cool” that residents of the town had made it.

“It’s definitely very eye-catching. People will stop and have a look and it will hopefully attract people driving through to pull over, have a look and maybe grab coffee or lunch at the same time.”

Mark said it was great to see a community group leading its own initiative that enhanced Featherston.

WORN member Mary Bennett said getting creative with other people was good for well-being.

“Craft is another alternative to sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself – get creative.”

WORN Featherston Cloth Collective meet 10am-2pm every Friday at the Featherston Community Centre. New members are welcome.

The group’s moto is: Sewing, sharing skills, upcycling fabric – one garment at a time.

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