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Irene Li, the crocheting queen & Crafty Charity

“We have to talk about Irene LI and her group in our News Letter. She manages this small group which does such meaningful things through their interest in Knitting and Crocheting and helping those in need.” This was how Susan Nicholl, a Local Hood volunteer, introduced Irene LI and the group Crafty Charity to us at our Volunteers monthly meeting. We obviously wanted to know a bit more about this special group and its activities.

We got in touch with Irene and she straight away invited us to the upcoming Crafty Charity rendezvous at Starbucks, Central in Prosperity Tower.

At the lieu of the meeting, a friendly elegant English lady of Hong Kong origin greets us with a warm hello; all smiles in her 160 cm frame.

Irene is British born chinese, and grew up in London, UK. She first came to Hong Kong when she was 19 years old and has been living here on-and-off. In her latest stint she has been here for 6 years after living in Dubai for 7 years. She is a Wanchai resident, married to an Irish man and is a mother to two teenage girls. We get talking about her group Crafty Charity.

“I started learning to crochet 2 years ago in a crocheting group in Happy Valley started by a French lady. Over time some of the members of the group wanted to do more than just crocheting blankets. So, 7 of us from the group started Crafty Charity” to attract more crafty volunteers to make and sell.

Crafty Charity is an interest group, open to anybody who is creative with their hands or has skills which they want to share with others. We help charities raise money by making and then selling our beautiful products to friends / online or in market stalls. The group is mostly female but, Irene emphasizes, “The group would like to see more men participate! She tried by holding a workshop at the co-working space "TheDesk " but only 2 men showed up. Russell Crowe, Robert Downey Junior and other male Hollywood stars are known to be very adept to knitting/crocheting. So why not Hong Kong men?”. I can’t help but agree with a smile 😊.

Crafty Charity group has 2 Facebook sites: Crafty Charity HK is the public page which is also an on-line store. There is also Crafty Charity Volunteers which is a private group where the volunteers chit-chat and talk about their work. Today, the group has over 200 members out of which about 50 are active and meet twice a month- on the first Saturday for breakfast @ Café 8 (next to star ferry) and the third Tues or Wed @ Starbucks Prosperity tower in Central.

Beginners are of course welcome to join. Irene says, “We charge 150HKD to teach you how to crochet. Materials are all provided.”

“At our meeting we have people crocheting & knitting while others just come for the social get together or pass by to drop wool donations or their finished products.”

In Hong Kong, there are other Chinese groups and charities who do crochet and sewing. As far as Crafty Charity is concerned, they welcome all HK volunteers but we do tend to get more English speaking volunteers.

Irene continues, “Originally, we started off making blankets for the homeless by teaching the volunteers how to make Granny squares. Everybody contributed the squares which we crochetted together. We’ve made over 100 blankets, 200 beanies, mittens and scarves. We donated most of our blankets to the homeless through the charity ImpactHK. - We also made child blankets which are donated to Refugee Union. We have also sold our finished products at different Xmas and handmade fairs in Central, Stanley and D-Bay. So far, Crafty Charity has raised over 60,000HKD for ImpactHK. ”

Attending one of Crafty Charity meetings, I see some ladies working on a beautiful crocheted snake toy and ask who decides the patterns the volunteers work on. “We have diversified our work from making squares for blanket to making soap sacks for Soap recycling. We are also making children toys like the crocheted and knitted toy snakes, bunnies, penguins, unicorn, minions or turtles which we sell at our stalls.

Patterns are created by Anna Theodosis who develops the “Kits” like the snake kit which has the patterns, stuffing, wool etc… for the volunteers to take home to make and return with the finished snake. They sell very well actually for only 80 HKD.”

Irene is a busy lady. Along with taking care of the marketing, PR and administration of Crafty Charity, she is also a freelance massage therapist / aromatherapist and runs corporate healthy workshops at Balance Health, Central. As if all this was not enough, Irene has been running a Facebook group connecting Wan chai, Happy Valley, Causeway Bay crowd for 4 years now with 1,000+ members. ( This in addition of course to her principal role as a mother to 2 beautiful teenage girls.

After our meeting I say au revoir, feeling revitalised by the energy and determination packed into this lady..

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