The new creative campaign sweeping the country – ‘Octopus For A Preemie’ – looks likely to gather more followers in Bristol thanks to a free beginners’ workshop at the New Room in Broadmead on Saturday 27 January.

Octopus for a Preemie UK is a nationwide initiative and independent charity that aims to supply every neonatal unit in the country with crocheted and knitted octopus comforters for premature babies and babies born requiring special care.

The ‘octopals’ are given to babies in incubators which are either born prematurely or are receiving special care, and are designed so that the tentacles replicate the curl and wave of the umbilical cord which the babies play with in the mother’s womb.

They are proving effective in providing something for them to hold, making them less likely to pull at the wires and tubes that are helping them. So far 60 UK hospitals have signed up to be supplied with octopuses, with more coming on board all the time.

Running from 1-4pm, the free beginners’ workshop at the New Room, also known as John Wesley’s Chapel, will teach anyone who would like to join the nationwide ‘makers’ team how to knit or crochet these special little buddies. Octopus starter packs will be available and beginners are welcome, with further monthly meet-ups scheduled to run throughout the year.

Liz Worthington, assistant manager of the New Room who also co-ordinates Octopus For A Preemie in Bristol, said: “We urgently need more knitters and crocheters to join us – the movement now has over 20,000 supporters across the UK, but only 400 of these are actually knitting or crocheting octopuses.

“You don’t need to be an expert knitter or crocheter – in fact since octopus-making requires an entirely new technique, it is possibly an advantage to start from scratch.

“The Bristol Octopus For A Preemie group was launched in October and we have just nine regulars so we’d love to welcome more people to join us and get busy making octopuses. There’s no need to book, just turn up on the day – the more the merrier.

“We meet in the friendly setting of the New Room café on the fourth Saturday of every month.”

If people require an octopus ‘starter kit,’ there is a small charge of £6 for this, but they are welcome to bring their own materials if they prefer. This should be 100 per cent cotton yarn – double knit or four-ply – plus 2mm crochet hook or knitting needles. The workshop and monthly meet-ups are free of charge.

The Octopus For A Preemie project started in Denmark and has spread across Europe and out to the USA, Canada and Australia, with babies appearing to be comforted and calmed by the presence of the octopus which helps promote an increase in their oxygen levels and a steadying of their heart rates, so promoting healthy development.

All the little octopuses are submitted to a network of dedicated coordinators and carefully checked to ensure they meet strict criteria before being delivered to hospitals’ neonatal units.

For further information see www.newroombristol.org.uk

The café at the New Room is open throughout each session, selling home-made cakes and Fairtrade drinks to refresh the busy octopus-makers.