Sewing is believing - See The Future’s new creative group
Charity founder Leanne Herrett has created a sewing group. The Resident caught up with her to find out what inspired the idea.
Leanne Herrett has become quite well known in East Devon and further afield, for her work in developing the See the Future charity.
The inspiration behind it was her mother Jacqueline, who was diagnosed with cancer as a result of an appointment with her optician.
Although Jacqueline died in 2014, after the cancer returned some years later, she is still inspiring Leanne to give more back to the community with her latest venture - a sewing group.
Sewing is Believing is a group of women who meet up on the first Tuesday of the month to make to make sensory blankets for blind and partially-sighted babies and children.
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The name is derived from the phrase seeing is believing.
Leanne explained how the children benefit from the blankets.
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She said: "Sensory play with these blankets can help the development of a baby or child and the activities on these blankets can help them explore and in doing this, they develop experiences of moving their head, hands, feet and body.
"They understand how to make something happen again (for example, by rattling that part of the blanket it will make that noise again).
"The vision-impaired can try to focus on an object which helps with concentration and for a baby or child with very little sight, they may rely more on how objects feel and sound rather than look as a comfort."
The link between the sensory blankets and the charity is clear as See The Future aims to raise awareness of the importance of going to the opticians, not just for vision but other health issues that can be detected, for example, diabetes, mini strokes, glaucoma, brain tumours, macular degeneration and even rare eye cancers.
Money raised goes to non-government funded eye care units and local after-care projects.
Leanne said: "My mum inspired me to set up See The Future, and like the majority of charities, it was set up because it personally affected me.
"My mum went to her opticians' appointment and they found high pressure on her right eye, so they sent her straight down to accident and emergency to be told after tests she had a rare eye cancer called ocular melanoma.
"Within two weeks my mum had her eye removed.
"Then, the worst thing happened in my life five years ago and that was the cancer returned and I had to say goodnight to her.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do! My mum is the reason I keep going with this charity, as it keeps her alive."
Over the years, Leanne has organised a range of different events including football tournaments, skydiving and the annual summer charity ball.
But with Sewing is Believing, she said: "The reason for this group is I wanted to give something back to the community and for people to meet like-minded people."
Jacqueline was another inspiration behind the group has she had been a keen seamstress and Leanne now uses her mum's sewing machine.
Leanne said: "The story behind using Mum's sewing machine is because the charity is about her and Mum was a very keen, experienced, creative sewer.
"For my uncle and aunties' wedding, she made seven bridesmaid dresses, all the dance costumes for me and my sister and all the curtains in all our family's homes.
"My dad brought Mum this machine 35 years ago for a Christmas present and now Mum isn't here, I'd hate for it not to be used."
Leanne also said her Auntie Jackie gave her inspiration for the group.
She said: "She is very creative with her sewing, just like Mum, she makes knitted items for hospitals, premature babies, cancer patients and showed me images of dementia blankets which gave me the idea of the sensory blankets for blind or vision-impaired babies and children."
Although the group is still relatively new, it already has 15 members.
Leanne said: "Some of the ladies have a lot of experience, while others have only a little but want to learn.
"It's a great group where some can only knit, some can only use a sewing machine so all the skills complement each other."
One thing that Leanne is very clear on is that she could not have achieved all she has without a lot of support.
She said: "I just want to thank everyone for supporting See The Future. I have just celebrated six years as a registered charity and I couldn't have done that without the support from the local community.
"I would also like to say a special thank you to the team at Rio Recycling Centre in Ottery St Mary as they have donated so many items for the blankets, as well as Jeanette and Martin Parker, the owners of Stitched Up in Honiton, as they have donated fabrics and other materials for the blankets as well."
For anyone who wants to get involved in Sewing is Believing, they would need to register their interest through the See The Future website and parents, guardians and carers wishing to receive a sensory blanket, which will be donated on request, can register their interest online as well.
To read more features from East Devon Resident, click here.