FREE Needle Felting and Felting Soap kits are available from Caraboo Arts Therapy near Crediton.

Back in 2015, Judi Binks of Kennerleigh was struck by widespread rural isolation which many residents felt and which adversely affected their sense of health and well-being.

Because of this, she set up a support group called "Caraboo Arts Therapy in Rural Devon" in order to run free community arts and crafts workshops to get people mixing together creatively in the villages.

Judi explained: "’Recovery Devon’ helped fund a free Art Journaling course in a barn in East Village as well as a Silk Painting workshop and a Batik painting workshop in Kennerleigh.

“’Drink Wise, Age Well’ funded a professional natural voice singing coach for six weeks to start a choir called the ’Tree Fishers’ in Sandford.

"I ran three wet felting workshops in Morchard Bishop and two in Sandford, as well as running a monthly community art group at the London Inn coach house in Morchard Bishop.

“Workshops stopped in March 2020, so instead I started making free crafting kits to give out with online tutorials, including the popular Felting a Rainbow and Felted Soaps kits."

In December 2020, CATRD applied to Crediton Hospital League of Friends for a grant towards providing needle felting kits and soap felting kits to people affected in one way or another by Covid-19 in rural Crediton.

Judi continued: "With this generous grant, I’ve bought some lovely kits from ’The Makers’.

“I have also made 50 felting soap kits for people who enjoy crafting, but prefer wet felting to needle felting.

“To help with this, Crediton Hospital League of Friends funded some lovely needle felting kits.

“In addition, Andrew Drayton, Crediton Tesco Community Champion donated 70 bars of soap towards the Felting Soaps kits and Devon County Council has helped towards printing.

Simon and Jane Hallett of Woolfardisworthy have offered practical support to this community initiative with a generous gift that has enabled Judi to make and buy even more craft kits, especially those suitable for children, such as: making and painting model Dinosaurs, Harry Potter crochet kits, PomPom Garlands, Felted Hearts and Cross Stitch embroidery projects for children. These kits are welcomed by parents with children to educate and entertain at home. During the pandemic there has been a rise in creative crafting as a positive and therapeutic antidote to lockdown blues and boredom, amongst all age groups.

Judi is keen to develop this project over the next few months by partnering with community health groups, particularly Crediton Hospital Community Nursing Team and local GP surgeries and parish councils.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions have affected us all and we don’t yet know what the long-term consequences will be on the residents of our town and rural villages. Not being able to work or socialise normally has made our world smaller, poorer and greyer.

“Sometimes I think I can’t do much to help on my own, but if we all do a little something to help, it will make a huge difference. I am profoundly grateful to everyone who has helped get this project off the ground.Thank you!

"I firmly believe that being creative and crafty is a joyful and colourful pursuit, best done together of course, but still good to do on your own.

"Contact me if you know someone who likes crafting and needs cheering up in these dark and anxious times. I will send them a kit. Please note that I will need to know their age or age range (child or adult), name and address for posting the kits.

“All information will be treated in confidence and not exchanged with others.  These kits are meant for any age group from 5+, family settings, lonely, bereaved, rurally and socially isolated individuals and those in care home settings.

“Email me in complete confidence at: [email protected] with details.

“Each kit contains all the materials and instructions needed.”