Jule Harries (left) and Lois Wolffe have been chosen as finalists in the creative category of the 2023 JustGiving awards (Jule Harries/Lois Wolffe/PA)
A woman who wore 100 crafted hats for 100 open water swims and another who embroidered memories into her mother’s fisherman’s smock have been selected as finalists for a fundraising awards ceremony.
The 2023 GoCardless JustGiving Awards take place on September 25 at London’s Roundhouse and for Jule Harries, who was chosen as a finalist in the creative fundraiser of the year category, the news filled her with excitement.
Ms Harries, 58, from Surrey, donned 100 different elaborate hats, the majority of which she has made, as she took on 100 open water swims over an 18-month period, ending on June 25.
Jule Harries in her Wimbledon hat (Jule Harries/PA)
“I thoroughly enjoyed my challenge. The swimming was difficult at times, especially in the winter because the water was very, very cold, but I had an absolute ball doing it,” Ms Harries, 58, who works in the science department of Reigate School, told the PA news agency.
“I loved researching the themes for each hat – I tried to match the hats to things that were happening in the world.”
Ms Harries’ colourful Rubik’s Cube hat (Jule Harries/PA)
She has made Spam and Rubik’s Cube hats, as well as a Meatloaf hat to pay homage to the late singer.
“When Meatloaf died, I wanted to do something because I was a fan of his when I was younger and I remember the album cover of Bat Out of Hell and just had this image in my head of this heart flying out, which is the end of the song,” she said.
“I had a fairly lifelike anatomical heart, so that was the first one I actually made.
Hat number 89 was a pot of tea (Jule Harries/PA)
“From there, it sort of took off and the hats progressively got more ridiculous and extravagant and bigger and heavier.”
She added that her spam hat started off as a “soggy mess” and some took multiple attempts to get right, but it was worth if for the “really nice” reactions from people who witnessed her swims.
Ms Harries in her summery ice cream hat (Jule Harries/PA)
This spurred her on to raise more than £3,000 for two charities – Surrey Young Carers and Alzheimer’s Research UK.
When asked if she plans to wear one of her unique creations to the awards ceremony, she coyly said: “I do have one in mind, but I’m not going to tell you what it is.”
The final extravagant hat marked Ms Harries’ 100th open water swim for charity (Jule Harries/PA)
Lois Wolffe, from Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, said she feels like an “absolute winner already” for just being selected as a finalist in the same category.
Ms Wolffe, 57, made the shortlist following her creative idea to embroider her mother Alexandra’s favourite memories into her fisherman’s smock after the latter’s dementia diagnosis in April 2021.
Ms Wolffe’s mother studied art at university and used to make ceramics wearing a fisherman’s smock, which she became almost synonymous with.
“I found my mum’s fisherman’s smock one day and I said to her, ‘can I have this?’ And she said, ‘of course, what are you going to do with it?'” Ms Wolffe told PA.
“Without thinking, I said I was going to embellish it with embroidery and mum was excited about it.”
Ms Wolffe said her mum “deteriorated very quickly” following her diagnosis.
Lois Wolffe’s mother used to make ceramics wearing a fisherman’s smock (Lois Wolffe/PA)
“This was a woman that used to be very sociable and communicative, very confident, very capable and very organised,” she said.
“She used to run the meals on wheels locally, she was provost of the local town and seeing that all change was on one level heartbreaking, and on another level, I just wanted to make sure she was safe.
“I think there’s also still a huge stigma around dementia and I wanted to break that.”
One of the most poignant memories which is part of the smock is of swallows.
Swallows embroidered into the smock spark memories for Lois Wolffe (Lois Wolffe/PA)
“My mum’s got a younger sister who’s still in South Africa and in previous years, mum would let her know when the swallows were leaving Scotland and she would let us know when they had arrived in South Africa,” she said.
“In her childhood and growing up into her 20s, she used to travel back and forth from Scotland to South Africa quite a lot, so I just feel like there’s a sort of affinity there.”
She has also sewn in ‘mumisms’ – phrases that her mother used to say to her, including “you can fly” and “use your head to save your legs” and still adds to the smock “here and there”.
Lois Wolffe continues to embroider the smock (Lois Wolffe/PA)
Ms Wolffe’s nephew Max also did a few designs, including of the swallows, to which Ms Wolffe added: “It’s almost like sewing part of him into it.
“It just feels like you’re sewing love into the cloth every time you put another stitch in,” she added.
Ms Wolffe has raised more than £1,000 for Alzheimer’s Scotland with her efforts and to raise hopefully more awareness for the cause, she plans on wearing the smock to the awards ceremony in September.
“I will feel very proud to be carrying this bit of mum with me.”
Flowers embroidered onto the smock (Lois Wolffe/PA)
Pascale Harvie, president and general manager at JustGiving said: “Our fundraisers and crowdfunders are amazing and while they don’t do what they do for praise and recognition, every single person like Jule and Lois deserve it.”