The Hertfordshire village where everything looks a bit fuzzy

Gill Wood and Avril Herbert

Gill Wood and Avril Herbert

First published in Art
Last updated
by , Features Writer

A strange noise has taken over the village of Sandridge in recent months, drowning out the clink of cutlery, hum of televisions and murmur of voices.

It is the furious click clack of knitting needles.

Behind closed doors, and in a quiet corner of the Queen’s Head, a group of crafty villagers have been stealthily working on a project to create a new kind of village.

One where the front doors never have to be locked, the hanging baskets are always in bloom and the church is forever graced by a happily married couple.

One made entirely, and amazingly, of wool.

“I knew one or two people were good at knitting from things they have worn to meetings,“ says Sandridge WI member Jenny Roberts who came up with the idea in November 2013 to help mark the village church’s 900th anniversary in 2014 with a lasting memento.

“People knew it would be a big undertaking but we decided to give it a go.”

Watford Observer:

Watford Observer:

She persuaded fellow members to get involved by showing them a similar project by Purton villagers and soon volunteers were coming forward to cast on.

“The good thing has been that the age range of those involved goes from 80 to the girl who knitted the butchers, who is 18.

“There’s a real resurgence of young people having a go for the first time and keen to learn knitting.”

The close-knit team of ten has so far crafted 13 fuzzy replicas, including St Leonard’s Church, the pubs, village hall, sports hall, numerous homes and, wool you believe it, they have even gone so far as to knit a tractor, benches and a board with WI notices on it.

Jenny, who proudly went to see the Royal Weddding in Pall Mall with a knitted William and Kate on her hat, says the project has really stretched all their skills.

“There’s no pattern so you just have to use your own ideas and come up with ways to make it look like tiles or pebbledash,“ says the 61-year-old, who has lived on the Jersey Farm estate for 35 years.

“We have turned the knitting to the wrong side to make it look like the flint of the church.

“We have also got quite good at sticking and gluing and cutting and it’s quite a strange thing when you cut your knitting up, you think ‘oh my goodness’ but then you slap on a bit of glue and everything is OK.”

They have even managed to get some menfolk on board with Ian Wood creating polystyrene models for the knitting to cover.

Avril Herbert, who is working on a wedding party for outside the church, says: “When you start looking at things you realise they don’t look how you thought they did and you notice things you haven’t seen before. I have done a group of cottages and had to go and peek through a notch to try and work out what the back of them looked like.

“The hardest part has been getting the colours right. We travelled all over to get the wool.”

Watford Observer:

Jenny’s fingers are working overtime to finish a foot-long replica of Pound Farm before the village goes on display on August 30 and she hopes people will be impressed by their progress.

“It has generated so much interest and conversation,“ she says,“ and that gives us the impetus to keep going.

“Some WI ladies from Colney Heath saw it at the previous gala exhibition and said ‘this is great, we have got to do the same’ so knitted villages will be springing up all over the place.”

Jenny believes a perfect way to finish off their knitathon would be with a permanent display at the museum but says the project could keep going for years if people were willing.

“It will be up to Ian if he wants to keep on doing the models,” says Jenny, “but if people want to come forward with a house or cottage they want to do that would be terrific.”

She adds: “The whole point of Sandridge 900+ is to bring the community together and through this we have made friends and even gained some new WI members.

“Each time the village has gone on display the reaction from everyone has been how good it is.

“Many have been amazed as I know that there were plenty that thought it a mad idea.”

The Sandridge knitted village will be on display at the Village Hall on Saturday, August 30 from 10am until 3pm. If you would like to get involved as a knitter or otherwise, Jenny will be delighted to hear from you via jrobertsjermey@gmail.com

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