The UK’s Handmade PLC today announced it is going into partnership with the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, as it trains its focus increasingly on the children’s market.

The company, which owns Handmade Films, is launching HandMade Kids, a children and family media business, in partnership with National Geographic Kids Entertainment (NGKE). Handmade will own 50.1% and will run the new company.

Through this new division, Handmade will develop Ferguson’s Tea For Ruby and Little Red children’s books. These properties, likely to be developed in the first instance as animated series, could eventually become feature films. Ferguson will be actively involved and will have a percentage share of future revenues and profits from the joint venture.

The move comes as Handmade today announced an ambitious plan to raise $28m ( £17m)  via the placing of 68 million shares at 10 pence per share and convertible loan stock.

Handmade has also acquired US animation studio Animation Collective for $12 million.

In June this year, shares in Handmade PLC, which were listed on the UK’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM), were suspended when it emerged that the company had not published its audited accounts for the year ended December 31 2008 by 30 June 2009. Shares in Handmade are expected to start trading again at the beginning of next week.

Handmade Films International is the company’s film finance, sales and distribution outfit. Its slate includes Jordan Scott’s Cracks, Menno Meyjes’s Manolete, animated project Planet 51 and such forthcoming features as Charles Shyer’s Eloise In Paris (to which Uma Thurman is attached), The Job (to which Harvey Keitel is attached) and Paul WS Anderson’s long-gestating remake of The Long Good Friday