If you’ve listened closely during lockdown, you might have heard the rhythmic clickety-clack of hundreds of knitting needles and the gentle hum of sewing machines. That’s the sound of our caring network of clever volunteer knitters, quilters and sewers; lovingly crafting beautiful items for our hospitals from their lockdown bubbles.
We received a staggering 8,000 knitted items for the 3,800 babies born in our hospitals last year, as well as the almost 1,000 other babies born prematurely in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “That’s many many hours sewn into every beanie, bootie, cardigan, blanket and singlet!” said Bill Day, Chair of Wellington Hospitals Foundation.
Having a supply of warm woollens is essential to the care of critically ill premature babies who struggle to regulate their body temperature, and we were extremely fortunate to receive MyLotto Funding last year which enabled us to buy pure merino wool for our volunteers, many of whom are retired. Frances Forsyth explained that when she initially started knitting for the Foundation there was only a limited choice of colours, “Now we have an amazing selection of colours, so when I go to select my new wool I never know what there will be.”
While only a tiny fraction of our big-hearted volunteer team is pictured here, every single knitter, sewer and quilter makes a huge contribution and an enormous difference to the comfort, care and wellbeing of our hospitals’ patients, and we are so appreciative of their time and talents. Sally Barton, Volunteer Manager said, “It’s like Christmas when I receive a package from one of them. I carefully open it and am often heard to be oohing and aaahing over the lovely little cardigans, singlets, blankets, toys, booties and beanies.”
Many of our dedicated volunteers have been knitting for Wellington Hospitals Foundation for many years, including Christine Kleingeld who has been making woollen toys and clothing for our hospitals for over decade – “It has become my ‘job’ since I retired and I love the feeling that I am giving something back to the hospital where I spent a lot of time as a child and an adult.”
Some volunteers like Mac MacMillan, also take their knitting on the open road! Although currently knitting from home in Mangakino – and raiding his wife’s decreasing stash of wool – he tells us that he’s looking forward to continuing their motorhome travels around the country as soon as they are able.
While the long lockdown days have been a challenge for many people in the last few weeks, particularly those living alone, many of our volunteers describe how knitting for such a good cause has helped them during this unprecedented and unusual time. Prolific knitter Margaret Lucas has been volunteering for our hospitals for more than 16 years, and explained that even though she has family in daily contact, knitting for those in need in our hospitals had helped her get through the solitude.
Raewyn Taylor observed that in many ways lockdown has meant a return to a simpler life, “In these pandemic times there’s been a move from everyone to get back to some basic life skills – home cooking, gardening and all sorts of DIY. Talents such as knitting are being seen as increasingly valuable.”
But it’s not only those good with yarn that have been busy – our talented teams of volunteer quilters and sewers have also been stitching up a storm during lockdown. Suzanne Day has been associated with the hospital volunteer service for the past 15 years, and as well as making precious items for her grandchildren, she’s also been busy working on a quilt for the New Children’s Hospital. She explained, “I love quilting and sewing, and as a proud grandmother making quilts for the Foundation and young patients at the hospital is a nice way of giving back. Like all the Foundation quilters I appreciate that our passion and hard work is also appreciated. And it’s fun!”
Among other items lovingly created for the Foundation by our caring and clever volunteers are IV jackets, heart bags, ANZAC poppies, twiddlemuffs, wheatbags, bedcapes, bedsocks, angels, toys and Christmas stockings – many special items that will be admired and treasured by those who are fortunate to receive them.
“We are incredibly grateful to all our volunteer knitters, quilters and sewers for their amazing generosity of time and talent, and we look forward to receiving their lockdown projects once we return to our offices,” Bill said. “With winter fast approaching their warm woollen clothes and blankets will be needed more than ever by some families facing a very difficult post Covid future.”