“I feel closer to my dad than ever”

FREDDIE Matthews has made lasting ties with her dad who died last year by using his climbing ropes to launch jewellery business, Hanging by a Fred.

Not only has she created a thriving enterprise but after being unemployed for three years she now also has part-time job as an instructor at the same outdoor centre in Northumberland where her beloved father used to work.

“I feel closer to my dad than ever. Not only have I handled the same ropes that he did, but I have now got a job in the same outdoor centre as he did and I’m working with some of the people who knew him.”

Accessories from beautiful necklaces, bracelets and earrings to woven mats, coiled rope bowls, mug cosies and pet accessories are handmade from upcycled, retired climbing ropes and sold online, at craft fairs and shops across the North-East.

Freddie could never have imagined she’d now be a successful entrepreneur after a plunging to the depths of despair.

“She was struggling to find employment since taking voluntary redundancy from her post in the museums service when her beloved dad, Dave, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma and she cared for him until his death six months later in February 2015.

Hanging by a Fred: Freddie Matthews with her beloved dad, David Frederick Matthews, known as Dave.

Hanging by a Fred: Freddie Matthews with her beloved dad, David Frederick Matthews, known as Dave.

“My dad was a climber, a lifelong, committed, dedicated and rather talented climber and mountaineer,” said the 38-year-old who lives in Northumberland. “I grew up watching him and his passion for this sport, but never quite brave enough to join him until sadly it was too late.

“It was his life blood, his true love and his source of happiness. Climbing embodied everything about him, he even requested his favourite mug which said “I’d rather be climbing” and book of routes in Northumberland, where we live placed on his coffin, and be cremated with him.”

“After he died, I suffered a deep period of grief. I had already suffered a great loss and was trying to deal with that, then I lost my dad, my friend, my confidante.

“I had been so strong for so long, trying to look after my mum and sort out all of the legalities. I felt so alone and utterly bereft. The grief took hold, and I became a shell of my former self. Friends said I’d lost my sparkle and looked dead behind the eyes.”

Isolated at home in her bedroom, a friend suggested they spend a day together at a craft workshop but the £50 pricetag was out of reach. Freddie’s ‘Eureka’ moment happened when they discussed what craft materials they already owned – the friend a stash of wool and she had her dad’s climbing ropes, and lots of them.

“We never did have that craft day, but by the end of the week I had put together a PowerPoint presentation with ideas, competition assessment, sources of equipment, materials needed, outlets for sales and much more,” she explained.

Among the places you can find Hanging by a Fred:

  • Newcastle Quayside on Sundays
  • Loveartnortheast at their First Friday Steamer at Central Station
  • Gibside on the first Saturday of the month
  • Grainger Market and Jesmond Dene Arts market all on alternate Saturdays

“My idea was to upcycle retired climbing rope into the beautiful and useful ‘for him, for her and for the home’ to quote my business strap line. I took this to my unemployment advisor, who referred me to the Pinetree Trust, who support new business start-ups and those who have experienced particular difficulties.

“It was his life blood, his true love and his source of happiness. Climbing embodied everything about him, he even requested his favourite mug which said “I’d rather be climbing” and book of routes in Northumberland, where we live placed on his coffin, and be cremated with him.”

“Paul Redpath came into my life, saw my ideas and the few products I had made and the information I had gathered, straight away he loved the unique idea and my journey really began.”

Hanging by a Fred: Freddie Matthews now has a job as an outdoor instructor in the same place as her father worked.

Hanging by a Fred: Freddie Matthews now has a job as an outdoor instructor in the same place as her father worked.

After using up all of her dad’s ropes she appealed to the climbers and groups who knew him who replenished her stock but she is always grateful for donations of retired ropes to realise her creativity.

Hanging by a Fred is now sold via an online Etsy shop, at craft fairs and retailers including Maison Royale in Darlington, Keeper’s Cafe in Stanley, Elements in Rothbury and coming soon to Crafter’s Emporium in Stocksfield.

Freddie also collaborated with SamSpaces, a mentoring service offering support to patients as they near the end of their cancer treatment, by designing it a bracelet as a positive reminder of strength through adversity and she supports the charity Climbers Against Cancer.

She added: “I feel closer to my dad than ever. Not only have I handled the same ropes that he did, but I have now got a job in the same outdoor centre as he did and I’m working with some of the people who knew him.

“I cried a little bit when I sold the last piece of his rope which was made into a coiled rope bowl and I told the woman who bought it to take extra special care of it.

“I’m sure I’ve made him proud, he’ll be looking down now and chuckling to himself.”

CONTACT:

Website: Hanging by a Fred

Instagram and Twitter: @hangingbyafred

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