Second World War veteran shares her weaving skills with Blind Veterans UK this festive season

20 November 2015

A Second World War veteran who spent fifty years travelling the country teaching weaving and spinning is sharing her craft skills with Blind Veterans UK this Christmas.

Blind Veteran Brenda Byron in Brighton Centre

Brenda Bryon, 91, has taught other blind and vision-impaired veterans at the Blind Veterans UK Brighton Centre how to weave without a loom. Her late husband, who had poor vision, inspired her to learn techniques for weaving shawls and scarves with sight loss.

She says, "I couldn't bear to part with my weaving and spinning equipment, so I brought it into the centre. I teach how to weave by touch - by alternating thin and thick strands of wool - and I use contrasting blocks of colour that are easier to see."

Brenda met her husband in 1943 while she was serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. He and Brenda were working in the Army pay office in Bournemouth as his bad eyesight meant he couldn't join the Forces. She was demobbed in 1944 after getting married and becoming pregnant.

Later she joined a guild of weavers and spinners. And, as a hobby, Brenda and her husband taught weaving and spinning at country fayres. That ended when, around ten years ago, she began to lose her sight due to age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), a leading cause of blindness in older people.

She says, "It's the centre of my vision that's gone. If I drop something on the floor, I can see it, but I've got to tilt my head."

Brenda started receiving help and support from Blind Veterans UK in 2012. She has received various equipment including a talking computer to help her live independently with sight loss. She says, "It's thanks to the scanner I've been able to start weaving again. When you lose your sight, you think you're finished, but - thanks to Blind Veterans UK - I've found there are lots of things I can do."

This Christmas, Brenda has been hand painting silk scarves and making floral felt brooches to raise funds for Blind Veterans UK. She says, "A lot of it you do by feel and it's amazing what your fingers will do, if you let them."

When she went to Buckingham Palace in June for a special garden party to celebrate the centenary year of Blind Veterans UK, she says, "I wore one of my brooches on my outfit and was surprised how many people wanted to know where I got it from. I was pleased to say that I made it."

The floral felt brooches and silk scarves are in red, white and blue to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the founding of Blind Veterans UK. These and many other items are now available to buy for Christmas 2015 from the Blind Veterans UK website.

As beautiful handmade items, they are only available in limited numbers. Most of the felt brooches are made by Brenda herself. She says, "The money raised from these items helps blind veterans like me.. And I hope you get as much pleasure wearing my brooches as I did at Buckingham Palace. I was so proud.

Brenda visits the Brighton Centre arts & craft workshop every Tuesday and Friday. Among her other craft projects is this lovely trug of vegetables made of paper except for the cauliflower leaves.