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Red kites photographed at Agarty : photo credit Blue Noun

Hello English language learners and friends of Blue Noun Language Hub

 

This blog post is to congratulate the amazing small town of Crieff and the region Strathearn, on having such big hearts and talented people.

 

This blog documents the time when our independent English language School mobilised for the Australian animal emergency and turned part of our open plan teaching space into a community-wide drop-in sewing hub.

Read on for a practice English language question at the end. 
 

 

independent English language School Aussie Critters sewing workshop
Crieff Critters was a three week-long rolling sewing workshop taking place in our principle language teaching space: photo credit Blue Noun
independent English language School Aussie Critters sewing icon  sewing machine

Why on Earth did an Independent Language School Start Sewing?

We did this because we could.

 

  • Firstly because we are an independent English language school we can move and react quickly to our times.
  • Secondly, of course, we were motivated by wanting to help. The images coming from Australia were heartbreaking and we needed to act.

     

  • Thirdly, January is a quiet time of year for us. We had the space and time and we knew we could do this without compromising any of our student’s expereinces.
  • Lastly, our English language school is an English language hubWe are all about getting people together and making things happen – with our English language learners joining in for the breadth of experience this brings. We don’t really do classrooms. We show you real life.

That’s why our motto is Live language learning. 

 

independent English language School Aussie Critters sewing workshop

Socal Action | How to Administer a Facebook Page

In this post, I thought it could be interesting to look back specifically at editing our temporary Facebook page, Crieff for Aussie Critters, which helped bring so many local people together so quickly.

The majority of our English learners are creatives – artists, designers and makers – and marketing your own work or your collectives’ work is a large part of the tasks of an early career artist/designer. 

Global Action 

What was remarkable about the time of the Australian Wildfires is the speed of which decisions had to be made and action taken.

All around the world the social media platform Facebook was uniting new communities of craft groups – and spreading vital information straight from the ARCCG (Animal Rescue Collective Craft Guild) about patterns, requirements and instructional videos both instantly and internationally.
 

It is the first time that I’ve been involved in any global movement like it, and I was impressed how social media played a vital role.”

Ruth, Blue Noun, 2020

independent English language School Aussie Critters sewing icon needles

Step 1. Starting a Facebook Group

It is one month since we turned our English language School Blue Noun into a pop-up drop-in workshop, inviting people to come to sew, knit and craft the bedding urgently needed for the animal victims of the Australian bushfires.

 

We began the Facebook group to share information (many of us had initial difficulties in following the patterns and instructions, and, to save time, we wanted to quickly get advice and information both from and to other group members).
 

Our header image was taken from elsewhere on Facebook. It melted my heart when I first saw it, and it still does.

 

Amongst so many dramatic images of the fires raging, this baby koala made me feel like I could do something – and must do something.
independent English language School Aussie Critters Facebook cover
Facebook cover for Crieff for Aussie Critters pop up workshop : photo credit unknown
independent English language School Aussie Critters sewing icon needle
Creating a Facebook group page is easy: click and add a header image (optional), add a description and then invite people in your own contacts to become administrators if you want some help. Here’s our description.
independent English language School Aussie Critters Facebook description
Facebook description for Crieff for Aussie Critters pop up workshop.
independent English language School Aussie Critters sewing icon  wool

Step 2: Running a Facebook Group

It was quickly clear that running the group would take up a lot of time – and personally, I was better serving the project running the Facebook group than trying to master a French seam on a sewing machine.

I posted images of the first workshop in the drive to encourage other people to get involved.

I then shared these post (which was on the Crieff Critters page) around onto local community group pages to make it as visible as possible.

 

Tip 1: if you share from your group page, it is easy for people to click the link and get onto your Facebook page. In contrast, if you just post directly onto the group without leaving a link, it is much less effective.

Tip 2: Facebook is not keen on sharing external links. This is fine in. agroup. If you are linking to something external to Facebook then delete the image associated with the link, then add an image. Facebook reads this as an image rather than a link and its algorithm shares it more widely. 
independent English language School Aussie Critters Facebook posts
Crieff for Aussie Critters Facebook page

Once people requested to join the group – and (of course) were accepted, they got all new updates immediately into their own news feed.

 

Information sharing made easy!
 
Many people contributed to the Crieff for Aussie Critters Facebook group, posting links to useful information such as video tutorials, or posting messages of encouragement or sadness. People even used it to book a spot on the sewing machines we had managed to borrow and set up in our space.
independent English language School Aussie Critters Facebook posts
Crieff for Aussie Critters Facebook page

Step 3: Use Facebook to Reach People not on Facebook

We were very aware that many of the members of our community with traditional sewing and knitting and crochet skills were not necessarily on Facebook. 


We asked our audience to reach out and tell people they knew. 

Local journalist, Lynn MacGregor saw what our group were up to online and ran a print article in the Strathearn Herald about us.

This helped get the word out about what we were doing to any non-social media users.
 
From the morning of the article’s publication, we were busy.
independent English language School Aussie Critters newspaper article
Strathearn Herald press coverage
independent English language School Aussie Critters sewing icon thread

“All around us in our small Scottish town, people were feeling moved and helpless by the news coming from Australia.

Now people who perhaps didn’t have extra money to give could donate time and skills to this cause, and make an impact.”

independent English language School Aussie Critters Canva poster

Step 4: Love Canva | About Graphics

For anyone who doesn’t already know, there is a great website called Canva which makes it really simple to create adverts for different online platforms. A few years ago an advert this basic (below) would have taken about an hour to produce on Photoshop software – (assuming you have both access to and expertise in the software).
 
Thanks to Canva anyone can drag and drop images and arrange both graphics and font over the top.
Canva offers a basic (free) service (which we used – we have subsequently upgraded), or a monthly / annual subscription, which includes superior graphics and templates. and the ability to resize files (useful if you are on different social media).
 
Incidentally, Canva is an Australian company, and currently, if you do buy one of their graphics, that money is donated to Australian bushfire relief charities. They’ve also got a set of free fundraising graphic templates.
 
Thanks to Canva, our group was able to quickly thank local companies who supported our project, which in turn generated more local public awareness and validity in our project – social proof is just essential in marketing.
Our project began to feel like the actions of our whole town, rather than just a few crafters.

independent English language School Aussie Critters thank you sponsors
Thank you posts to reward commercial supporters with publicity
independent English language School Aussie Critters sewing icon sewing machine

Step 5: Use a Variety of Media

After 4 days of cutting and sewing and handing out wool and materials, it was a real treat when things started taking shape in our workshop (we had decided on an efficient factory-style production line, rather than one person sewing each item from start to finish).
 
We posted a video of the very first item getting assembled.

Step 6: Keep Momentum High

 

From this point on, the doorbell rang regularly, with people handing in beautifully made finished objects.

It was such a joy to be receiving these donations, that I decided to take photos and share them on Facebook as they came in. Perhaps some more people would be inspired.

Ultimately I hoped anyone already beavering away in isolation would share the buzz from seeing these remarkable pieces, and feel part of a larger community – both local and global.

independent English language School Aussie Critters Facebook posts
I photographed all the items as they got handed in and posted the photographs onto the Crieff for Aussie Critters Facebook page.

For the sake of a good photo, sometimes we added our little assistant in to help model the work.

You need to know what will motivate as many people as possible and use it. 
independent English language School Aussie Critters Facebook koala pouches
The little koala got big results : photo credit Blue Noun

Step 7: Be Reactive and Flexible

An unforeseen aspect of our independent English language school turning into a pop-up sewing workshop for Australian animal wildfire victims was that we also attracted children to our cause.

 

Of course we did. We were shouting into the community that everyone could help.  It shouldn’t have been a surprise that kids wanted to get involved.

 

And of course we had to let them – although to be quite frank, it did slow the production line down a bit. At one point we moved experienced sewers off the sewing machines to let kids have a shot, which involved giving sewing lessons and rethreading a few needles and not much making..

It was a bit of a frustration, but we’re not going to disempower anyone and we are here to share information and get diverse people working together. Anyway, experienced sewers are also skilled cutters and the production line continued.

We gave the kids special shout outs on social media too and this attracted families from as far away as Glasgow to send stuff to us.

In the end, inclusivity got results (of course it did) and things worked out better than I’d planned.
independent English language School Aussie Critters Facebook posts
independent English language School Aussie Critters Facebook posts
independent English language School Aussie Critters Facebook kid sewing lesson
Our own team member having a shot : photo credit Blue Noun

Step 8: Have a Clear Project End & Outcome

Know what you want to achieve and have a deadline to get it done. 

Out last workshop day was spent labelling and packing all the different items.

All together the town of Crieff (and region) made around 200 items, which were collected up at Blue Noun and delivered, by Mo and Kath, of the wonderful Moka Pottery, to a collection hub in Falkirk, where they were part of an international stocktake that oversaw the distribution of all UK produced items, getting them straight to the parts of Australia in most need.
independent English language School Aussie Critters delivery
All packed up and ready to ship: photo credit Blue Noun

Step 9: Communicate Results

Share what you have all achieved together and leave everyone in your project empowered – and with a follow on activity should they wish one (a lot of our group went on to make small teddy bears for children in crisis around the world).

independent English language School Aussie Critters Facebook posts

We are extremely proud of our lead role in this project. 

 

Our independent English language School united a community &  made people feel useful

 

All around us in our small Scottish town, people were feeling moved and helpless by the news coming from Australia.


Because of  Blue Noun Language Hub, people who perhaps didn’t have extra money to give could donate time and skills to this cause and make an impact in the horror.

 

Not everyone who showed up knew how to sew – or even how to cut fabric, but there were always people with more experience on hand to show them how they could be useful  – even for half an hour. Local businesses showed support – especially MoKa, who sewed for weeks. 

 

THIS is what our English language Hub is all about!
 

I love to know that somewhere, in Australia, there are young orphaned marsupials sleeping in tartan pouches, produced by the wonderful community around Crieff, Scotland.

It’s equally wonderful that towns and communities around the whole world came together to craft for this cause. People have such kind hearts.

 
Crieff & Strathearn: WELL DONE and THANK YOU to everyone involved!
 
Special thanks to Moka Pottery, who made it all happen.

The Big Picture

Although the immediate need for crafted bedding has been satiated, we can’t forget the continuing horrific damage to people’s homes and livelihoods – and across the ecosystems and habitats as bushfires still burn. Please donate financially if you can.

About The Blue Noun English Immersion Holiday Experience

At Blue Noun we want to give more than just English language skills, we want you to have fabulous experiences of Scotland to take away with you and remember.

A good immersion holiday should leave you in love with the country, wanting to stay in touch with the people and culture you were introduced to – and planning to travel again to explore further.

This is how you will stay interested in language learning and put effort and time into developing your English skills once you have left us.

Books for Learning English icon
swift in flight Logie Kirk by Blue Noun English language school
swift in flight Logie Kirk by Blue Noun English language school

At Blue Noun we love chatting about all things art and celebrate having excellent, talented people all around us to do it with. We facilitate real cultural and creative exchanges happening, whether it’s in our language learning space – the Blue Noun Hub – or out and about visiting studios and workshops and places of cultural interest.

We also love showing off the beauty of our region and the food and craft produce that is making it world-famous. Our whisky tastings are legendary!

Our business is also intended to be of benefit to the artist/maker economy of Perthshire. We bring our international creative guests into studios for a genuine exchange of cultures and art-making. Yes it’s an English lesson, but it is so much more!  (Plus we pay all our artists and guest speakers for their time)

Come and join us for an English language learning holiday and grab a taste of Perthshire! 

Link to donate to the WWF Bushfire Appeal here
Find out more about Canva here.
Find out more about MoKa here.

 

 

independent English language School Aussie Critters sewing icon needles
Tips for English learners in Scotland further reading red text

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about when Blue Noun English Language Hub turned into a community sewing workshop for Australian animals. Love sewing? You may want to read this:

 

Sew What? | Crieff Tartan Scraps Find New Life in New Zealand | Crafting, Recycling & COP26

 

Your English Language Challenge

We offer you a practice conversation opportunity with every blog. Today, it’s all about sewing.

 

‘Do you sew?’

How good are you? What can you make/do and what cant you make or do?  Simple questions this week, but linguistically invaluable for creative collaboration!

As usual, if you want us to correct any sentences, just write CP (correct please at the end of your comment).

‘Do you sew?’