Creating Centrepieces for Tsi IMPACT Awards

Our team in Elgin have been very busy over the past couple of months working on a project for TsiMoray. Several months ago TsiMoray approached In Stitches about the possibility of making centrepieces for their annual IMPACT awards this October.

After discussing the concept for the centrepieces the team started work on transforming glass bottles and jars into candle holders and vases to rest on wood slices.

We used a combination of paint, fabric and decorations to transform these simple jars! The trainees helped to paint thistles, attached tartan fabric and design our creations.

Everyone had a great time making the jars and we are all very excited about the final product, explained Shirley the Project Coordinator of In Stitches.

The tsiMoray’s IMPACT Awards were on Friday 6th October, and Moray Reach Out is very honoured to have been nominated in several categories and to have won the Community Impact Award!

A Year at Moray Reach Out: Digital Marketing Officer

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I started at Moray Reach Out! This year has gone by so quickly and I feel that we have all done so much!

I first encountered Moray Reach Out listed on the St Andrews job centre resource and after reading the description applied through ScotGrad. After researching the company and speaking with Shona, I was very excited at the opportunity of joining the team.

Coming in as a recent graduate I had no idea what to expect, but Moray Reach Out continues to surprise me everyday with how diverse, open and vibrant the company is!

I started my journey with the project of creating a Marketing Strategy Plan, that would lay out our where we were and where we wanted to go. Once this report was finished it was time to put all of this into action!

Over the next months we worked on the re-design of the website, and establishing this very blog to share all of the amazing stories that Moray Reach Out holds! New flyers were designed and printed, an e-newsletter was sent out every month and our Facebook pages were established and updated!

Marketing for such a diverse range of businesses and interests has been an amazing challenge, but it hasn’t stopped there. The team are always looking for new and greater opportunities to benefit trainees. For instance, I was lucky enough to be able to speak about MRO’s Your Choice Programme at a few different forums. This programme offers opportunities to those who have experienced a period of poor mental health and want to gain more confidence through working at one of our social enterprises.

I am so grateful to have been able to be involved in so many different projects over my year here and I have learned so much from staff members, volunteers and trainees! It has been so much fun to get to know everyone and show the amazing work we do to a greater audience!

Looking to the future, we hope to continue our push for a rebrand to help make each Moray Reach Out business more recognisable and connected! I am also looking forward to working with students from Moray College on some promotional videos for our businesses – watch this space!

Overall I couldn’t have wished for a better company to join! I want to thank all staff, volunteers, trainees and board members for welcoming me into Moray Reach Out. I want to especially thank Shona for teaching me so much over the past year!

Our new Embroidery Workshop and Show Room!

This week we have been showing off our new showroom and embroidery room at In Stitches! We made the decision that we should switch things around as we need a bit more space for the trainees to continue their training on the machines.

We started by clearing the back room which had previously been used for stock and as a meeting room. Then we invested in brand new stands for our embroidery machines. We (very carefully!) moved our machines to the back and setup shop!

Having the embroidery workshop in the back allows us to create a more structured day with trainees. Each trainee’s progress can be reviewed and monitored in greater detail.

With the machines moved to the back, our shop had a whole new free space in the front! We decided to use it to create a showroom where our customers can see the range of our stock and the quality of our garments!

We have been so happy with the results so far! Our trainees love the space and have been getting more and more involved in both the embroidery and the showroom!

Moray Reach Out’s Fundraising Week


We would like to thank everyone who supported our fundraising and awareness raising week!  We all thoroughly enjoyed it, and hope you did too!  Our hope was to promote awareness of what we are about – empowering individuals within the community through participating in our various business activities – Buckie Yarns wool and haberdashery shop, Waste Watchers Buckie recycling collections and processing and In Stitches embroidery service.

The week kicked off with Waste Watchers setting up our Thrift Shop.  As well as our own collections, the public gave generously and items of clothing, bric-a-brac, books, DVDs poured through the door!  So much so, we opened for 4 days instead of the planned 3 days and we are thinking of opening again soon so watch this space! Waste Watchers and Buckie Yarns trainees helped out in the shop and did us proud.




Saturday 19th August was a very busy day indeed with Buckie Yarns hosting a coffee morning, which was very well attended – we think around 150 people.   I haven’t seen so many delicious cakes and home bakes in a long time – we are overwhelmed by the generosity of people in and around Buckie.



Waste Watchers were also busy on Saturday.  They were doing a clean up in and around the skatepark in Buckie.  They collected 2 bags of aluminium, 3 of mixed plastic, 4 of rubbish, 1 of ground up dirt/glass and 3 of weeds.   For their hard work, the trainees and staff received a wee treat from ‘Czech This’ catering which was very tasty indeed.  Food made with love!

Ready for action!
Buckie Skatepark

Kevin and Alisdair

Alex and Shona collecting recyclates
The reward for their work!
Waste Watchers and Czech This 


Making over Mannequins

A few months ago a woman named Jacquelyn came in to In Stitches. Little did we know that we would both be able to help each other out!

Jacquelyn had spotted our mannequins in the shop front at In Stitches. She explained to Shirley, that she is a mature student doing a City and Guilds Textile Course and asked if they wouldn’t mind letting her borrow one to display a jacket she had made.

After being delighted by the loan of the mannequin Jacquilyn noticed that it could use a bit of a revamp. As a thank you to the store she offered to refurbish not just the one she used but all of our mannequins!

Silver is before and Beige is after!

As you can see she did an incredible job! She used paint to create an amazing and uniform effect. All of the trainees thought the mannequins look brilliant! You can see below that the trainees have been using all the mannequins to show off our stock! A big thank you to Jacquelyn for all of her hard work and In Stitches wants to wish her luck with the rest of her course!

Learning Trip to Stonehaven

Last month some of our staff from both In Stitches and Buckie Yarns took a trip to Woodview in Stonehaven with the aim to share good work practice and learn more about their commercial business.

Woodview, similar to Moray Reach Out, is a business with a social purpose: Woodview embroidery and Print Services. It is based in Stonehaven and specialises in shirt printing, workwear printing and embroidery of logos or names. The company provides training and employment opportunities to over 20 adults with learning disabilities.

The embroidery side of the business is very similar to In Stitches and they were kind enough to share some of the hints and tricks that they have learned. Shirley, Ruth, Anna and Sheila all had a great day looking at how they have set up their workshop and seeing how their trainees worked with the machines.

The main reason for this trip was to see how Woodview has set up their embroidery workshop. In Stitches is currently going through a transition where they are moving their workshop to the back of the shop and designing a showroom in the front!

All learned a lot from the trip and we want to thank Woodview for showing us around their lovely business!

My Week at Moray Reach Out: University Work Experience

For a week in July Moray Reach Out hosted a wonderful student from the University of St Andrews who wanted to learn more about the world of marketing for charities and social enterprises! We were all excited for Katie to come in and see what Moray Reach Out has to offer! We want to thank her for all of her hard work and enthusiasm while she was with us! Here are her thoughts on her busy week:

My Week at Moray Reach Out

Coming to Moray Reach Out on my first day, I was not sure what to expect. Of course I knew that it was a social enterprise and the main focus was to provide vulnerable adults with work experience, but what I didn’t expect was the inclusivity of it all.

I arrived on my first day to meet Julia Chatfield (the Digital Marketing Officer), who I would be shadowing for the next week. Smiling and chatting, we wandered down to the first of Moray Reach Out’s three sites; In Stitches on Elgin High Street. There to greet me were some friendly faces otherwise known as Ruth, Mo and Sandy who turned out to be just as wonderful as the first impression deemed them to be.

Shona Radojkovic (Business and Development Manager) talked me through the ins and outs of Moray Reach Out. Turns out there was some serious history behind it, but at the heart of it all was the inclusive nature I would learn to know and love.

Watching Shona and Julia in their first meeting and reading through some of their reports was a true testament to the mammoth effort every one of the staff at Moray Reach Out puts in. Then, it was my turn!

The afternoon was spent learning about some of the tools that are available to businesses when promoting or branding them on specific platforms. I began my first project of making flyers for Buckie Coffee Morning (August 19th at Buckie Episcopal Church if any of you readers are interested)! It’s fair to say that my creative streak was certainly put to the test, but the support given to me by Julia really encouraged me to dig deep and create some options I never would have imagined I was capable of.

The next day led us to Buckie’s Waste Watchers; one of Moray Reach Out’s Recycling Centres. Here, I was fortunate enough to meet some of the trainees who were upbeat and ready to crack a joke! From a little back office that smelt like candy, Julia and I continued to work on a few more projects. I learnt how to create blogs (yes, I figured out how to create this; WOO HOO!) and also how to make a campaign, advert and sponsor sheet. They were not shy about keeping me busy, for which I was very grateful! If there was one thing that I certainly learnt from Waste Watchers, it’s that you MUST rinse your recyclables!!

Wednesday took me back to Buckie, but this time to meet the lovely ladies of Buckie Yarns. It was a real pleasure to get to know all of the trainees. Watching them knit so skilfully and to be absorbed into such a positive atmosphere was something I will hold with me for a very long time.

The ladies were working on a selection of items (all beautifully crafted) but the ones that really stood out were the blankets for pre-mature babies and “twiddlemuffs” for people with dementia. For those of you similar to myself who are unaware as to the definition of a twiddlemuff, they are colourful knitted (essentially) sleeves made from different material with extra buttons and ribbons sewn inside and out in order to keep patient’s hands busy. A worthy cause working for another worthy cause.

Overall, Wednesday was far more of a colourful day (literally) as I learnt how to use a professional camera and create colour schemes for a possible re-branding of Moray Reach Out (watch this space)! The best part was definitely testing my colour skills; who knew there were so many shades!

Returning to Elgin on Thursday brought me back to In Stitches. Yet again, some more friendly faces otherwise known as Anna and then Tracy, one of the trainees, who popped in for a cuppa and a quick chat. This day brought on some more creativity; writing blogs and learning how to create surveys to gather a focus group’s opinion.

A visit from Shona enlightened me as to another job role within Moray Reach Out; Communications and Business Development. Suffice to say, such a career has a true range of activities whether that be networking with other social enterprises, working on grants and funding or the general management of MRO’s sites. Learning more about this non-profit has once more opened my eyes to just how much work goes in by everyone here.

Friday saw the final day with Moray Reach Out and a trip to Lossiemouth Waste Watchers. Once again a team of smiley people all up for a chat before heading to work. The last day entailed some brushing up before the weekend and testing my knowledge as to how to use the tools I had been taught about during the week as well as looking into some advertising ideas.

It is fair to say that this has been a great experience here at Moray Reach Out. I have taken away a wealth of knowledge and have met a group of people who are all working for a great cause. I wish them all of the best in their future endeavours and I am so appreciative of their generous hospitality throughout this week.

Knitting Up Twiddlemuffs at Buckie Yarns!

The last couple of months have been all about Twiddlemuffs in Buckie Yarns! A Twiddlemuff is a hand knitted garment that can be worn on the arms of dementia patients in order to keep their hands occupied. But why the name Twiddlemuff? Well, because of the wide selection of textures, buttons, and ribbon to twiddle!

As part of a community project, our team decided to start creating Twiddlemuffs with the aim of donating them to local organisations that care for dementia patients and the results have been fantastic. Just see for yourself!

The trainees have been working with chunky yarn of assorted colours and textures and following patterns they found online. When asked what their favourite part of the making process has been, the consensus was overwhelmingly the decorating! Each Twiddlemuff is unique and during the decorating stage you can really see everyone’s style and creativity!

If you are thinking of making your own Twiddlemuff then we have the know how to help you through it! All you need is some chunky yarn, buttons and ribbons all in a variety of colours and textures. This is the perfect project to use up any leftover material that you have lying around! There are also loads of different patterns that are easily accessible online.

The basic instructions are as follows:
1) Using chunky yarn and 6mm needles cast on 40 stitches.( Double knit yarn can be used 2 strands at a time!)
2) Work K1 P1 rib for 14 cm
3) Work in stocking stitch for the next 30 cm
4) Work K1 P1 rib for the next 14 cm
5) Cast off
6) Decorate the stocking stitch section with your buttons and ribbons collected earlier
7) With the right sides together, sew up along the length
8) Turn the cuff to the inside and stitch cast on and cast off edges together

And TA DA! Your very own Twiddlemuff!

Helping dementia patients is a very important cause to us here at Moray Reach Out, as we love to play our part in the community and show our support for other social enterprises in the area. We are hoping to deliver our twiddlemuffs to a local care home over the summer!

The trainees all loved creating their Twiddlemuffs, so much so that some decided to make two! We only hope that the people who receive them enjoy them as much as we enjoyed making them!

Did you know your recycled aluminium cans are back on the shelves within six weeks? Find out how!

Our Moray Reach Out recycling team works hard to sort, process and recycle Moray’s purple bins! Find out how our team helps the community stay healthy!

Laura Campbell, Waste Watchers Lossiemouth Team Leader, explains that a load of recycling arrives each morning, normally weighing about 5 to 6 Tonnes! The first step in the process is to use the forklift to place the loads of plastics and cans into a machine called the Hopper.

5-6 Tonnes of Recycling comes in to our site daily

After the recycling is placed in the Hopper the sorting process begins with the First Line. Our team removes objects like large plastics, glass, metals and anything else that shouldn’t be recycled and places them into the appropriate bin.

Above is the Hopper which starts the recycling into the sorting machines
The First Line sorts out recyclables from non-recyclables

The next stage is the Steel Picking Line where plastic is separated from steel cans. Laura explains that any metal that has made it past the First Line is taken out to put in the Metal Skip. Then the steel cans are squished into square bales by the Steel Baler. This requires the bale to be manually tied off which is done by staff and trainees.

Steel Picking Line
Steel Baler
Steel Bales

The plastics go through a similar process where they first go through the Plastic Picking line and then into the Plastic Baler. They are also pressed into a bale however these are automatically tied off by a computer system.

Plastic Picking Line
Plastic Baler
Plastic Baler Computer System

Finally the Aluminum Picking Line removes any plastics, foils or aerosols from the aluminium cans which are then placed in the Aluminium Baler. This system crushes the cans into aluminum biscuits which are stacked on a cradle to dry out for three days! They are loaded onto large pallets ready to go on to another site.

Aluminium Picking Line
Aluminium Biscuits out to dry
Aluminium Bales piled on to wooden pallets

After producing plastic, steel and aluminium bales the recycling is sent on to other sites. Our plastic bales go down to Perth and Aluminium to Winchester. Our team starts a process that gets recycled aluminium cans back on the shelves in as little as six weeks!

Plastic Bales Ready to go off to Perth

When asked why we do each stage, they answered that each stage is there to ensure that anything that comes through the line that shouldn’t is removed, to make sure our bales are as clean as possible from contamination and to ensure that the machines run smoothly.

Our team has to take precautions and safety measures very seriously in this industrial setting. Everyone wears PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) including high visibility vests, boiler suits, steel toe cap boots, gloves and ear defenders. All of the trainees help to prevent fire hazards by making sure fire exits are kept clear and brushes and scoops aren’t left lying on the floor.

Our team wearing their protective clothing

Our team feel that their jobs are important to the Moray community as recycling helps to minimise landfill and provide a healthier community free of pollution.

However our team face several challenges while they process. The most prominent being contamination from items that should not be in the purple bins. These can create breakdowns of the machinery which means that our trainees are unable to come into work until they are fixed!

Trainees working hard processing

All of our trainees love to work in the recycling centre! Many of them say that they love to be part of a team. They also explain that they like having staff that train them on the machines! Finally all of them agree that their favourite part is being able to work in a place that is important to the community!

Community Learning Exchange Visit: Northern Ireland

Moray Reach Out’s Business and Development Manager, Shona Radojkovic, went on a community learning exchange and here are her thoughts on the experience!

I recently took part in a community learning exchange visit to Northern Ireland with the Moray Social Enterprise Network (via tsiMORAY). At Moray Reach Out and Reboot’s request there was a real focus on enterprises involved with recycling and we were not left disappointed. The scale of some of the social enterprises was immense, some involved with international markets so it was very inspiring. It was also interesting to see that dirty nappies was an issue turning up in their recycling plants too!

Our hosts very kindly factored in time for some sightseeing, so I’ve shared photos of the Giant’s Causeway which was fascinating and any Game of Thrones fans might recognise the entrance to the King’s road film location.
Here is a short description of some of the enterprises we visited.

AEL Ltd – Acceptable Enterprises, Larne, BT40 3AW

A social enterprise which is about employment. They received funding to expand their business by taking up residence in a building previously used by the Northern College. They sublet part of the building to government agencies and the College still uses one floor (training rooms). This covers the rent of the building. They have several enterprises – services and manufacturing – these are simple ideas but on a very large scale, with some international via online sales. Their workforce is mixed abilities with able-bodied working alongside adults with learning disabilities or other health-related issues. With no overheads, their focus is on employment so all their trainees receive the minimum wage.

One part of the business sells envelopes and party bags online to the public and to organisations, purchasing these items themselves in bulk directly from China. The bags are weighed, packed and prepped for postage by AEL Ltd.

AEL Ltd has a small café, at which we had our lunch. Very reasonable prices, but the kitchen operates a Lunchbox service. Business people go online and order what they would like in their lunchbox. The staff at the kitchen receive the orders online, prepare and deliver the lunchboxes or they can be collected by the person.

Another operation fills up sample folders on behalf of a construction company. They make the samples at AEL Ltd to the company’s specifications – colours and size of sample and fill the folders which are supplied by the customer.

Large greenhouses are looked after as part of another project and supply fresh herbs, strawberries and other goodies to the café. This is an outdoor venture, on waste land recuperated from the council at the rear of their building. They are developing a men’s sheds here too.

Bryson Recycling, Mallusk

The recycling plant at Bryson is enormous! I took lots of photographs. Bryson operates a Materials Recovery Facility for 7 Council areas and also do kerbside recycling themselves for 170,000 homes. Their kerbside recycling is what impressed me most! They collect weekly and their staff check each bin prior to putting it in the designated area for that type of waste in their lorry.

Their 4 waste bins sit on a trolley, to make it easier for the elderly to wheel them about and all 4 make up the size of just 1 of our wheelie bins! Their own kerbside waste is so low in contamination that they are able to sell on in Northern Ireland. The MRF collection from the council areas is co-mingled and although they do a great job with some very expensive and clever machinery, this is still too highly contaminated to sell within the UK and is sent abroad for recycling once sorted and baled.

There are 7 arms to this organisation, these include Home Care, Energy Advice, Early Years, Recycling, Employability Training, Sports-led personal development and Intercultural projects. They are one of the largest social enterprises in Northern Ireland and started with the cash for cans in 1993 – read more about them on

USEL, Belfast

Another large social enterprise doing great things. They are actually a public body so also benefit from no overheads and other crown to crown privileges. They are the only organisation in the UK to recycle mattresses and carpets. Reboot staff and myself were very interested in this and are to meet up to discuss opportunities for something similar within Moray. There are possibilities of a follow-up visit from one of USEL’s staff to come to Moray. The Moray Council have been in touch with them in the past.

Amongst other things, they make and sell handbags, upcycle old furniture and sell on and they supply beds to the Northern Health organisation so work in wholesale too.

Before Upcycling
After Upcycling
Their amazing shredder that can shred metal in 45 seconds!

Compass Can Can, Ballymoney

This organisation is more the size of our Waste Watchers Buckie and they collect and sort textiles, clothing, bric-a-brac, old furniture which they upcycle. They also create some beautiful items from old crates. They have a baler and do some can crushing and baling too but on a small scale. The difference is they focus on the textiles collections and also have a charity shop in the High Street of Ballymoney where they sell on many of their items, as well as selling on bulk. They rent out shelves/areas in their shop to crafters as well as selling second hand items.

They use the same baler we do!

Other visits were to Credit Unions and a Traveller Support Organisation (Munia Tober). Overall the Community Learning Exchange was a great experience!