ARMED with advanced digital tools and itching to express ourselves, lockdown has unleashed a creativity trend. In the mess of bad news surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, it can be tricky to find a silver lining.

There have, however, been some positive outcomes. People are learning new skills, supporting once-anonymous neighbours, and connecting with their wider communities.

While millions were stuck at home during lockdown, many explored their creative side to unprecedented levels and shared their creations with the world in a similarly novel, and sometimes collaborative, ways.

The Pickering Morsbaggers have been creating fabric bags, to replace single use plastic bags, for more than 10 years.

Recently they have been joined by new stitchers and are going from strength to strength, meeting once a month at Middleton Village Hall. The group is rapidly approaching the 4,000-bag mark.

Members and keen stitchers Daryl Canteneo and Brenda Foot visit other groups across Ryedale showing them how to become a Morsbagger.

“All bags are given away completely free with the sole aim of offering a sustainable alternative to plastic,” said Brenda Foot, a member of the Pickering Morsbaggers.

“The Morsbag initiative was originally started by a lady in Kirkbymoorside, which morphed into the Pickering Morsbaggers.

“We started with four permanent members, with the group constantly expanding with keen stitchers and more creative ideas.

“We donate our Morsbags for free to Pickering Community Library, Pickering Food Share, Give or Take Day and Flower Power, based at Newburgh Priory Estate.

“Sometimes when I am waiting in a supermarket queue, and someone reaches for a plastic bag, I offer a spare Morsbag.

“People always offer a donation, but that isn’t the point.

“Every Morsbag is created and given away for free, with the intention of promoting ethically sourced and environmentally-friendly products.

“Although lockdown has prevented our monthly social gatherings, we have individually carried on by creating masks from home.

“We miss each other terribly; the social element is important, but we cannot wait to start creating Morsbag again.”

Morsbag is a worldwide, not for profit organisation started by Claire Morsman in 2008, after she witnessed the damage that plastic bags were doing to wildlife and the environment.

Globally, more than one million plastic bags are consumed per minute, which marine wildlife mistakes for food.

The Morsbag project is tackling this problem by creating reusable bags.

So, what is a Morsbag? A Morsbag is a recycled, reusable, fabric, washable and unique bag that is used instead of a plastic bag and is always given away for free.

Unlike new fabric bags being sold in supermarkets, Morsbags are sourced and made locally, so no air miles, and the material has already been produced, so no more pesticides and water pollution.

More than 391,268 morsbags have been made by over 2000 pods in 45 countries, replacing more than 100 million plastic bags.

Morsbagging groups come in all shapes and sizes, including school classes, prisoners, WI groups, nuns, students - but many are individuals who want to stitch as part of a community.

“Pickering Morsbaggers are an absolutely amazing pod - they really deserve a bit of spotlight,” said Claire Morsman, founder of Morsbag.

“The movement has taken on a life of its own, encouraging people to use their skills and resources to make a positive difference.

“I have been inundated with stories of friendships, new skills being taught, bereavements eased, mental health improvement, rehabilitation programmes, witness protection care, loneliness in the elderly, employment support, care packages for the homeless and so much more.

“There are so many heart-warming and unexpected stories, reaching people who we could never have imagined.

“Morsbags proves that small actions can make a difference to society, the environment and inspiring others to make a change.”

The Pickering Morsbaggers is encouraging donations of spare fabrics such as curtains, duvets and many more. To donate, phone Brenda Foot on 07899 943728 or Daryl Canteneo on 01751 476508.