The most beautiful blanket


Rachel Plachcinski writes: I’m extremely impressed and inspired by the first completed #NCTyarns blanket.

This gorgeous creation was made by Brighton and Hove breastfeeding counsellor Sheila Smith.

Sheila found the pattern on Ravelry and says: “I like it for this project as it links the different colours into each other showing how the different aspects of NCT join together.

“I joined the squares using a single crochet through the back loops to make a flatter join, and I used the same colour throughout so as to have less ends to sew in.”

She then crocheted a border in light green (the colour for parents) to unite the blanket as, she added: “Parents being the fundamental aspect of NCT.”

Sheila is happy to pass on her skills and tips in both knitting and crochet to NCT members and volunteers in the Brighton and Hove area. You can contact her at



#NCTyarns knits knot for Nick

Nick tie1

Rachel Plachcinski writes: #NCTyarns is on the road again, this time for the ourNCTstory workshops being held around in the country in June.

I prevailed upon my Auntie Margaret, the family knitting queen, to get her needles clicking to create a tie for Nick Wilkie, NCT CEO, to wear for these special NCT get togethers.

I’m now labouring over a crochet tie for NCT trustee Elgan. In homage to his Welsh roots, I’m doing my best to produce a tie which looks like a leek.

Nick tie4

Elgan did ask for a Welsh dragon, which is beyond my skill level. If anyone would like to take up the challenge and create a baby blanket or tie, in the NCT colours and featuring other Welsh emblems (or Scots, or Northern Irish) I’d love to see your photos and hear all about it.

#NCTyarns squares can be handed in to any of the leadership team (Nick, Sarah McMullen, Sam Grimstone and Juliet Mountford) at ourNCTstory events. I’ll be at Preston on June 14 and Leeds on June 15 with my hook and yarn.

NCT Skillshare: a knitter’s tale


Karen Hall writes: I recently had the pleasure of knitting my way through a wonderful NCT skillshare weekend, with regional volunteers, PSAs (those amazing women who handle all our course bookings and arrangements), and senior practitioners. Plans were made in advance to offer ad hoc knitting and crochet tuition, and people were encouraged to bring their hooks and needles.

At some point on Friday evening, a basket appeared on the reception desk of Warwick Uni’s conference centre. This was full of balls of yarn when it arrived, and contained 60 knitted squares by Sunday afternoon.



We knitted and crocheted our way through the first evening as people arrived, and were at it again in the morning after breakfast. Some of us took a break from squares to fashion lanyards for our badges. We knitted and crocheted our way through Nick Wilkie’s opening remarks, through the Knowledge Team’s run through the Service Review project, and into our first workshops. More knitting happened at lunchtime and in the afternoon and again in the evening.

Don’t let it be said that we weren’t concentrating on the content of the weekend; I found that doing something with my hands was a great way not to be checking my phone.



In fact, I found that I made many more connections over the course of the weekend, just because I had my knitting in my hands. Nick challenged us to speak to six people we didn’t know, and I easily did that: casting on for one person, untangling a few extra stitches for someone else, agreeing with somebody that crochet is a mysterious dark art, encouraging a beginner, lending out my measuring tape, admiring the sparkly purple yarn.

Knitting (and that mysterious crochet) is a bridge, not a barrier, connecting us across our tribes and within our NCT family.


Tweeted by Alison

Making a contribution

NCTyarns pic3

Rachel Plachcinski writes: I’ve met many people who love our #NCTyarns project and lots of them dash off determined to dig out hooks or needles and have a go. Others want to support it but are too swamped with work and family responsibilities to find the time and headspace. Here’s one solution: crochet a square for them.

I started doing this when I was in the office one day. The recipients were so happy and insisted on giving me pound coins to pay for the yarn! Which is good for everyone – they get a square in the great #NCTyarns story (I’ve been adding little name tags to every commissioned square I make) and I get money to buy more yarn to hand out to those who want to try their hand at yarny crafts.



#NCTyarns lunch

Rachel Plachcinski writes: How are your squares coming along? I collected a bag full, plus lots of laughs and loopy antics, on my March trip to NCT head office in Euston Square.

We started small, with intense concentration from Beata (HR) and Elly (internal comms).

Beata was soon cracking on with her crochet, having rediscovered a childhood skill. Elly was a little more dubious until Tessa (Partnerships team) came to join us and got her knitting.

Then along came Karen (Knowledge team and branch volunteer) with a collection of knitted squares courtesy of her mum!

NCTyarns staff5

Things started to get a little riotous after that, with the entry of Yvonne (events team), Juliet and Sam (executive directors), but they did work hard on getting to grips with crochet chains and triple stitches. It was a fun way to spend our lunch hour!

The next London office staff gathering is on Tuesday 17 April, 1-2pm.

I’ll then be hosting #NCTyarns back at IKEA Leeds restaurant on Wednesday 25 April, 11am-1pm.

Bring your yarn and say hello

Got into a knitty knot, or hooked yourself into a crochet corner? Or maybe you’ve knocked out ten squares already and want to hand them in.

Members of Knitting NCT Together’s HILT group (that’s Holding It Loosely Together) will be at the following events to offer support. We will usually have some yarn available, please bring your own hooks or needles.


All welcome

  • Thursday February 22 and March 22 – IKEA Leeds restaurant, 9.30-11.30am
  • Friday April 27 to Sunday April 29 – Regional Weekend and Senior Practitioners’ Weekend, Warwick

Practitioner-only events

  • Thursday February 22 – Level 4 Facilitating Learning in Groups module day, Paddington
  • Monday March 5 – Regional Forum, Brixton
  • Thursday March 8 – Regional Practitioner Forum, Manchester
  • Wednesday March 21 – Assessor Update Day, St Pancras
  • Thursday May 10 – Breastfeeding for Non-BFCs study day, Birmingham (no demo but can collect squares)
  • Monday May 21 – Those Tricky Questions study day, London
  • Saturday September 22 – Breastfeeding for Non-BFCs study day, Manchester

Staff gatherings

  • Wednesday March 14 – Fourth floor lunch area, Euston office, London, 1-2pm
  • Tuesday April 17 – Fourth floor lunch area, Euston office, London, 1-2pm


More dates and events to follow, including Big Pushes. Let us know of any #NCTyarns get togethers you have planned.

Completed squares and/ or blankets can also be sent to Maggie Holman, NCT 30 Euston Square, London NW1 2FB.



Why #NCTyarns? Plus, finding a craft that fits

Rachel Plachcinski writes: The answer to the first question is simple – I firmly believe that the different strands of NCT don’t get together often enough in order to appreciate and celebrate what we all do to support parents and one another.

We haven’t had Babble Live this year, and that’s the main occasion for volunteers, practitioners and staff to get together. I’m one of the team who support Yvonne, our Events Manager, to put on this conference and, to be honest, when we first found out that it wasn’t running in 2017 I heaved a sigh of relief as it was one thing I could cross off my To Do list. But then, when it came round to the AGM in November, I was all “oh yes, of course I’m coming, I want to see everyone!”

I was in the Euston office the following week when there was a quick staff debrief on events at the AGM, and I found myself saying “we need more opportunities for the different strands of NCT to come together.” This was duly noted by Nick Wilkie, our CEO, and I wandered back to my desk to have another go at reducing my To Do list to manageable proportions. But my brain wasn’t letting go of ‘strands’, which it then transformed into ‘strands of yarn’, added in Bronwen’s comment at the AGM about green and purple being suffragette colours, and then shouted TA DAAAH! Time for an NCT knit and crochet project!

Was I being a bit bonkers? It’s not entirely unknown for my bright ideas to wither in the harsh light of day, so I emailed a few colleagues and practitioners for their thoughts. They all said YES!!! and started to knock my basic idea into shape. Fleur Parker added in the notion of craftivism and Karen Hall came up with the title – Knitting NCT Together. Val Willcox and Anne Kent-Taylor bravely volunteered to learn to crochet (and be filmed doing so). Knitting NCT Together is still very much a work in progress, with us all adding bits as we go along, so do keep checking this blog for more news.


Lovely idea – but I don’t know how to knit or crochet…

Believe me, I am not a crafty person. I’ve no particular skill when it comes to drawing and painting, or any of the other hands on activities we were introduced to at school.

I come from a family of knitters, with my Nanna and two aunties clacking away on their needles throughout my childhood, and knitting was also taught in school. But despite loving knitted items I never felt that love for the actual craft – too fiddly, what with two needles, the faff of dropped stitches and the exasperations of tension.

My mother preferred sewing to knitting and laboured over her machine creating outfits for myself and my sister, until we rebelled and insisted on shop bought items as we moved into our teens. I do possess a sewing machine and a fabric stash, due to a few gloriously tactile years spent working at the fabulous Fabworks Mill Shop. However, actually getting round to bringing machine and fabric together rarely happens due to the need to clear space in my cluttered home. Plus, I have to admit, there’s still an element of rebelling against things Mum wanted me to be interested in!

Basically, for most of my life I’d rather be outside (preferably with a horse) or inside reading a book.

However, in the year of my 40th birthday I went on a short holiday to the US to meet a group of online friends who love reading (and writing). It turned out that many of them also loved knitting and crochet and would work away with yarn as we sat around chatting. I was intrigued enough that one of them gave me a crochet hook and a ball of yarn and talked me through the basics.

First scarf.jpg

I came home with a rather lumpy scarf (above) and a newfound appreciation for hands-on hobbies, particularly those where there’s just one hook, a ball of yarn and no worries about dropped stitches. I then came across a book called The Happy Hooker which gives brilliantly clear explanations and patterns, and I was well and truly hooked (pun intended). My yarn stash has been growing steadily ever since, along with my collection of scarves (a much more accomplished example is below) and the baby blankets I’ve made for a few friends.

Second scarf.jpg

Bearing my experience in mind, we’re hoping to get together a network of more experienced crocheters and knitters who will run face-to-face demos, either at existing events or through organising #NCTyarns get togethers. That way, those of you who are new starters or not very confident can get instant answers to your queries. Plus, we’re making 10cm squares and they really don’t take very long.

If you’d like to be one of those organisers simply let us know at It shouldn’t involve any major outlay on your part – many squares can be made from just one ball of yarn, and the dk acrylics we’re using usually cost around £2 per ball. Encourage people coming along to buy or borrow crochet hooks or knitting needles. Metal hooks and needles are quite cheap from yarn shops, and you can sometimes find them at charity shops (ask staff, they are often kept by the counter).

We plan to publish the dates and times of any #NCTyarns events and gatherings on this blog.

Happy hooking!