High Peak sewing school to lead nationwide fundraising day of making pants for cervical cancer charity
A pair of High Peak sewing enthusiasts have set out to launch a nationwide initiative this summer which will see volunteers knock up knickers and boxer shorts from recycled fabric in support of a women’s health charity.
Julie Isles, who owns the Thread Mill sewing studio in Hayfield, and Chapel blogger Lara Mulryan, hope that Funderwear can help raise funds and awareness for Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust and its campaign to promote regular screening for the disease.
On Saturday, September 18, the Thread Mill will host a day-long event where people can come along, make some underwear from an old t-shirt or shirt, and enjoy a sense of sisterly solidarity, cake and a second-hand book sale.
The pair hope the idea will catch on with sewers all over the country in the way the World's Biggest Coffee Morning has done for Macmillan in recent years.
Julie, 53, said: “As well as hosting people here, we’re trying to involve other local craft businesses and encouraging people to stage their own get-togethers or just take part from home. We thought knickers and boxer shorts would be a fun way to sew and raise money.
“Lara and I were talking about how to get people back to craft clubs after Covid and we realised that September was Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, and then it just snowballed. We’ve all seen some very dark times, and in dark times a little bit of kindness goes a long way.”
She added: “We’ll be doing sewing sessions here for a set number of people in the morning and afternoon but anyone can turn up during the day and enjoy the atmosphere.
“We’ll be sending out a free pattern for how to make the garments at home, so people can do it whenever they want and make a donation to Jo’s Trust. If you want to stage your own event we can send you posters. We only ask that you register it so we can track how much we raise.”
Sessions have already been confirmed at Wiseheart & Wild in New Mills and Patchworks and More in Chapel-en-le-Frith.
Each of the venues has been collecting donated garments for recycling but participants can bring their own t-shirts or shirts if they want to use those. They can then either take their underwear home or donate it to a local charity shop.
Julie said: “We already have quite a few people booked in, and everyone we speak to loves the idea. The national craft media have been really supportive so far and we’ve had a lot of attention on Instagram.”
“We’ve been asking the general public to donate good condition t-shirts and shirts. We’re reusing and recycling materials to do our bit for the environment, and raise as much money as possible. The main thing we’re missing now is elastic and threads. We’re hoping that one of the local textile businesses might be willing to make a donation.”
She added: “We are also looking for businesses who may wish to help by donating a prize for the raffle or the prize draw.”
Jo’s Trust is the UK's leading cervical cancer charity, funding research, services and campaign work on behalf of people affected.
In September, it will be working alongside organisations focused on ovarian, vaginal, vulval and womb cancers to highlight the signs, symptoms and support available for anyone diagnosed.
Julie said: “Most of our sewing groups are full of women and its a perfect environment to bring up taboo subjects like this. It’s something that will probably touch all our lives at some point.
“I think people get a bit embarrassed and that has to stop. It’s so important to get tested, and all it takes is a couple of minutes of discomfort.”
There are around 3,200 new cases of cervical cancer in the UK every year and, alongside the HPV vaccine, screening offers the greatest protection with smear tests preventing 75 per cent of cases before they can develop into cancer.
The death rate from cervical cancer has dropped significantly in the last 40 years – almost 65 per cent people diagnosed will now survive for ten years or more – and that is most likely due to improved treatment and early detection through the cervical screening programme
In the UK, you are automatically invited for regular cervical screening if you are between the ages of 25 to 64 and registered as female with a GP surgery.
NHS data suggests that 72.2 per cent of eligible women were screened in 2019-20, but uptake is traditionally lower among younger women and increases with age.
Julie said: “I’m 53 and Lara’s in her thirties, so we’re an age when it is especially important to go for a smear, but we both know of women who have developed cancer in their 20s without ever going for a test. Younger women just don’t think about it as much.
“So many women we know have put off their cervical screening and the cost of that is probably not yet known. I’ve had so many people get in touch saying they had a personal reason to take part in the event.
“Too many of us know the devastation of what terminal illness can do to friends and family, and the pain that is felt from losing loved ones.”
To find out how you can get involved in the event or take part from home, go to funder-wear.co.uk.