Deck the halls with something really special

As Christmas fast approaches, if you’re looking for a unique and locally produced decoration or gift, you can now buy the most beautifully handcrafted Christmas birds, stars and bells – created by a community group in a Gloucester sewing studio – exclusively at Gloucester Services and Tebay Services.

It’s a project that’s been in the making since March, when we took some Gloucester Services producers, along with colleagues from the Westmorland Lifestyle team to meet some of our amazing community partners. Whilst at The Friendship Café to see Fair Shares, we also arranged to call in to the Emma Willis Sewing Studio, run by Aysha Randera, and that’s where the story begins…

Watch our short film: this year’s Christmas story, as a community group handcrafts decorations for Westmorland, to be sold at Gloucester Services and Tebay Services

The Westmorland Lifestyle team instantly loved what was being produced in the sewing studio and saw a fantastic opportunity, and conversations began about commissioning Christmas decorations to be sold in the Farmshops at Gloucester Services.

“I’d been looking for the perfect opportunity to introduce the sewing studio to Westmorland as I knew it could be a great connection. We’re always keen to bring in local producers, especially those in the communities we work alongside. Even better that this is a community group of women who all support each other and produce such unique handcrafted pieces. We were over the moon when they were commissioned for the Christmas decorations!”

Clare Skivington, GGT’s Community Support Manager

Work started immediately, and Aysha had a fantastic idea to use fabric from donated saris to create Christmas birds, each one unique and special, crafted from fabric that had been on its own special journey. Aysha also asked Sue, a retired teacher and keen crochet artisan, to create designs for two more decorations, and the bells and stars were born.

Aysha Randera who runs the Emma Willis Sewing Studio shows Tracey Clowes from Westmorland some of the bears they had produced for a project to support Ukraine

“When I first met Aysha and the sewing room group I was blown away by their creativity, their community, and their ability to make beautiful individual pieces each with its own personality. Having the gorgeous Christmas decorations that they have made on our shelves at the services feels like a fabulous first step towards us being able to both celebrate their skills and make commercial products that customers can also enjoy.”

Tracey Clowes, Head of Lifestyle at Westmorland

Commissioning over 600 decorations in total and each bird, bell and star individually crafted by hand, the women of the sewing studio had a huge job in front of them, but they pulled together with everyone finding a task and wow did they exceed our expectations!

Emma, who suffered a serious car accident a few years ago, played a huge role in supporting the project and helping the other women to develop their own skills and confidence. She said: “I’ve gone a long time, and lots of years thinking that I can’t do things. Now I’m part of something really big and I can do it, and I’ve just enjoyed it so much.”

Some of the women who created the Christmas decorations at the sewing studio in Gloucester

As part of the opportunity, Aysha created the Amanah Community CIC. Aysha said: “In my heart I always knew this would be something special. It’s given people a sense of belonging. Thank you to Westmorland Family for this incredible opportunity, and to Gloucestershire Gateway Trust for supporting us throughout this process.”

You can now purchase these fantastic and unique Christmas decorations in the Farmshops at Gloucester Services and Tebay Services.

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