From Elvis to Harry Potter, Judith Crockford's crocheted donkeys, or 'Neddies', are a huge hit with donkey lovers across the world. Learn about what goes into making a Neddy!
Our wonderful volunteers and supporters are the true champions of The Donkey Sanctuary. Every contribution to our work is highly valued and makes a real difference to donkeys across the globe.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Judith, who helps supply us with lovely crocheted Neddies to give away to our supporters.
What inspires you to make Neddies?
"One of the things I find motivational is that the Donkey Sanctuary Community Fundraising staff always express their appreciation for volunteers' contributions. After sending off another parcel of Neddies in the post, there is always a few personal cheery sentences saying 'thank you' in return. It is such a feel-good factor to know that I am also doing something to help alleviate animals' suffering when I am crocheting. In this time of lockdowns and other restrictions, anything to lift the spirit is a bonus.
"I have been lucky enough to have some of my character Neddies appear on The Donkey Sanctuary social media pages or selected as prizes for online giveaways. It is a treat to see them photographed in paddocks with real donkeys or posed against donkey-themed backgrounds. But what really makes me smile is seeing the generosity of the fantastic supporters donating to the giveaways and reading all the positive accompanying comments.
"Besides supporting The Donkey Sanctuary with crochet Neddies, I try to support other charities by sourcing most of the yarn I use from local charity shops. The generosity of others donating to these shops has provided me with conventional yarns and some weird and wonderful varieties that have directly inspired Neddy Characters. For example, some multi-coloured ribbon yarn made a beautiful tatter-jacket for a Morris dancer Neddy, some fluorescent yellow made a high-vis vest for a cycling Neddy, and some hairy black made a perfect Busby for a Neddy Guardsman."
Where do you find your inspiration for Neddy characters?
"Over time I've adapted my designs, and now I find inspiration in lots of different places. I find that one idea leads to another, so having made the Guardsman Neddy, other nationalities soon followed, with a Scottish Neddy in a kilt and tam-o-shanter made from tartan ribbon, a Welsh lady, and a Leprechaun to represent the other British nations.
"Many ideas have come from friends and family. For example, my sister-in-law suggested the Statue of Liberty that made so much for The Donkey Sanctuary in a giveaway last summer. I keep a list on my phone, so when someone suggests a good idea, or I see something, such as a child fancy dress outfit in the supermarket, I quickly jot it down for the future."
How long does it take you to make a Neddy?
"One of the great things about crochet or knitting a familiar pattern is that after a while, you do not need to be 100% focused on what you are doing; just the occasional glance is all that is required. Therefore, I am always doing something else simultaneously, such as watching TV or chatting with friends down the pub (when not in lockdown!)
"I remember reading about the crofters on the Scottish islands who would knit complex Fair Isle patterns while walking in all weathers across rough ground, herding a donkey carrying peat for the fire. I thought, if they can do that, then surely, I could crochet a simple Neddy while walking by myself along a well-made English footpath on a sunny afternoon.
"Now I have a large shoulder bag that is perfect for holding a couple of yarn balls and some stuffing. The bag goes everywhere with me, and I can make a Neddy while on a lockdown walk, as a passenger in a car, or riding on the bus. So, I can support The Donkey Sanctuary without taking time away from what I would otherwise be doing.
Saying all that, a basic Neddy takes me about seven hours to complete. I could do it faster if I concentrated on crochet alone, but it would take longer as I do not have that much free time. A character Neddy can easily double or treble that time because I am a bit of a perfectionist. If a design does not look right, it gets unravelled and made again until I am happy with the result!"