Most people knit jumpers or scarves and the occasional set of booties for new arrivals in the family. But 90-year-old Margaret Seaman has always taken her hobby a step further.
After attracting national attention last year for her woollen version of Great Yarmouth seafront in the 1970s, the great-great grandmother set about recreating another Norfolk landmark with her needles – Sandringham House.
Margaret’s knitted model of the Queen’s much-loved country retreat will be on display for just over two weeks as part of Norfolk Makers Festival, running from February 8-23 at The Forum in Norwich.
A project in progress, Margaret was inspired to knit the royal residence after a visit with her grandson last spring.
She said: “I was trying to think of something else that would interest people. It’s really hard because I wanted to do Norwich market but because all of the stalls are on such a slant I thought it would be much too difficult.
“I had been thinking about it a lot and I suddenly hit on the idea of Sandringham. My grandson took me and my daughter there for my 90th birthday. We stayed a couple of days and it was so lovely – and everybody knows Sandringham House.”
She added: “I’m doing both sides of the main house, which is the entrance that the public use when they visit and then the other side which is the royal side. I’m also doing all the lawns, trees and paths, the lake with the little house on it, the entrance and the rhododendron walk which is about half a mile long I think – it seemed to take ages walking through that!”
Margaret started work on Sandringham last July and has been knitting around the clock to create her masterpiece. Her kitchen and dining room are currently filled with knitted chimney tops, windows and trees as she starts to bring it all together.
“We were in the process of moving at the same time I started so it wasn’t easy to do anything,” Margaret said.
“I usually knit for about eight or nine hours during the day and then I go to bed at 9pm and I knit for another three or four hours. I don’t normally go to sleep until about 1am…2am sometimes at the moment with so much to do!
“It’s all in my head normally, I don’t stop to write things down. I always think that’s a waste of time.
“I start on a piece, work so far on it and then if I get stuck and can’t think what to do next, I leave it and start on something else. Usually I’ve got five or six pieces on the go at the same time and I work on whichever one my brain tells me to do.”
Margaret lives in Caister-On-Sea with her daughter Tricia, 71, who also lends a hand with the knitting and constructing.
“I’ve got a friend who knits the model people for me,” Margaret said. “She has knitted the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and lots of characters to walk around the house including a gardener with his wheelbarrow.
“Another lady helps me with some of the flowers and of course I have my daughter who does anything she can to help.”
When it comes to wool, Margaret has boxes and boxes stored under her bed ready to work her magic with, and has spent time carefully studying photos of the estate to make sure all the colours are perfect.
“It’s amazing, I’ve got about 15 boxes of wool and sometimes I still haven’t got the colour that I need so I go and buy more,” she said. “But I do get wool donated to me as well which is very useful.
“I don’t use any particular make of wool, I just use whatever I can get which is the right colour. I use normal needles, usually a size eight, nine or 10, and crochet hooks anything from a size two to a size seven.”
Last year’s model of Great Yarmouth seafront attracted thousands of visitors to the Norfolk Makers Festival, with people eager to see Joyland’s famous snails and the historic Wellington and Britannia piers.
“I still can’t believe last year happened,” Margaret said. “It was such a surprise.”
“I don’t think I ever had any courage in what I was doing. It never seemed to me that it was going to be any good to raise money with, but I was wrong about it and it has raised a lot of money which I’m very pleased about.
“After the festival we took the seafront to different places. We went to Birmingham and various venues in London and it has been in Market Gates shopping centre in Great Yarmouth. I’ve raised about £13,000 so far.”
The money will go to the Louise Hamilton Centre, based at the James Paget University Hospital, where Margaret joined a knitting group following the death of her husband Fred seven years ago.
This year, Margaret is supporting Anna Poppy, a young girl who was diagnosed with aggressive brain and spinal cancer. Her family are raising money to allow her to access further treatment abroad.
For more information about all of the events at Norfolk Makers Festival, as well as the Fringe Festival with more workshops running around the county, visit norfolkmakersfestival.co.uk
The Norfolk Makers Festival is funded by The Forum Trust, the educational charity which runs The Forum.
To make a donation to support Anna Poppy, visit Margaret’s JustGiving fundraising page.
For further information, contact Amy Smith, Marketing and Communications Assistant at firstname.lastname@example.org