Ryman’s recent partnership with the Peggy & Friends knitting network is already having amazing ripple effects at Bert Sutcliffe, which was the first village to set up a group.
Since starting up in February, the group now boasts 32 members, many of whom regularly meet in the village lounge on Thursday afternoons.
It’s a lovely, social occasion where everyone chats, knits or crochets together. It’s such a no-pressure environment, that residents come and go throughout the afternoon, or even just bring their creations along after making them in their apartments.
Max is the first man to join the group and he has taken on the task of producing pom poms for all the bobble hats. He has persuaded his wife Val to get involved too and the group has welcomed them into the fold.
Sue Harvey is the group’s convenor, a role she shares with Jill Muir, and the pair marvel at the group’s success.
“Lynn Dawson, who coordinates the Peggy & Friends network nationally, has been to visit us a couple of times and she has commented that we’re a particularly vibrant group,” says Sue proudly.
The idea of the network is to encourage groups of knitters to make blankets for vulnerable children in their local community.
All you need to be able to do is knit a basic square – these can be joined together into strips to become blankets, or, for the more adventurous, they can become fish and chip jumpers or booties.
Everyone gets a starter pack including a ball of yarn, bamboo knitting needles and the pattern to follow.
One of the great things about the group is that you don’t need to be an experienced knitter to join. Any novice is welcome to get involved and with so many knitters at Bert Sutcliffe there are plenty of people to ask if you get stuck.
Says Jill: “We had three ladies join who didn’t know how to knit and they’ve already made their first jumpers and their confidence has really grown.”
It’s not just knitting either. One resident, Priscilla, explained to newbie Elaine how she made a stunning cushion using scraps of leftover yarn which she cut into lengths, knotted together and then crocheted into a cushion cover.
A talented quilter, Priscilla even uses the slivers of material she trims off her quilting squares which she knots into the yarn length as well to give the cover a multitude of colours and textures.
Priscilla also scours op shops looking for old duvet inners which she washes before dismantling them to make into quilts, cushion stuffing and baby muslins.
“Absolutely nothing goes to waste!” says Priscilla. “I get a real buzz from that and also knowing that it’s going to give a child their very own quilt or blanket to cuddle when they may have very little else gives me an absolute thrill too.”
Different members have different skills that they bring to the group. Beryl, who is a former seamstress, happily stitches all the strips of knitted squares together to form a blanket while another lady, Joy, crochets a beautiful shell stitch around the edges, giving the blankets a really professional finish.
To the non-crafty types, the ladies' creations are things of beauty, but their creators often down play their efforts. Take Alison, who held up a beautiful striped jumper to show the group.
"It's just made from scraps," she says modestly, while the rest of the group marvel at it.
Sue says the various items they have made include baby capes, beanies, blankets, booties, cardigans, dolls, fish and chip jumpers, gloves and mittens, jumpers, mobile toys, muslin wraps, ponchos, quilts, sleeveless vests, slippers and waistcoats!
“To date we have delivered 452 of these items to our chosen charities, Plunket and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren who were delighted to receive them,” says Sue.
With the next pile of donations rapidly growing, and a healthy supply of donated yarn building up in the village’s activity room cupboard, this is a real Ryman success story which shows no signs of slowing down.