A knit and a natter

PUBLISHED: 05:18 29 December 2014 | UPDATED: 13:26 29 December 2014

NFK DEC 14 Norfolk knitters Teddies from North Elmham

NFK DEC 14 Norfolk knitters Teddies from North Elmham

Archant

Whether it is a hat and blanket for an orphaned baby in Africa or a cuddly toy for a child escaping domestic violence - the handiwork of the Norfolk Knitters is making a difference to those most in need all over the world.

NFK DEC 14 Norfolk knitters Members of the Norfolk Knitters gather for a special Christmas eventNFK DEC 14 Norfolk knitters Members of the Norfolk Knitters gather for a special Christmas event

Whether it is a hat and blanket for an orphaned baby in Africa or a cuddly toy for a child escaping domestic violence – the handiwork of the Norfolk Knitters is making a difference to those most in need all over the world.

In just six years, the organisation has grown from a handful of friends to having 1,800 members and more than 
60 different groups across the county hosting regular Knit and Natter sessions. Founder Linda Brown says the group is not only important to those who benefit from their donated goods, but for the knitters themselves.

“People say that they join us because they want to do something charitable and help others, but the reason they stay with us is very different. It is the friendship they find and the social interaction and support they gain personally. I have had people say it has literally saved their life.”

The group started quite by accident when Linda needed to fill a page in the village magazine she edited and decided to use a knitting pattern for a blanket square.

“Someone in the village was using it and asked me if I could pop round as she was stuck. She had also invited some friends round who needed help, and before we knew it we had made several blankets and didn’t know what to do with them, so I began doing research to find a charity.”

She started a group at her home in Weston Longville as they had enjoyed making the blankets so much. “I advertised it in a neighbouring village, asking if anyone was interested in joining, and it was so popular we began starting other groups. When I put an advert in the Aylsham town newsletter to see if anyone wanted to start a group there it just snowballed.”

The group works under the umbrella of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme which helps provide financial advice and support in applying for grants. The group themselves has a 15-strong action group, led by Linda, which runs the resource centre in Norwich, The Wool Loft, where everything is co-ordinated – from collecting knitting and sorting patterns to writing the newsletter for members and working with charities.

“We don’t charge a membership but we buy wool wholesale and give it to members for a minimum donation. We have also now extended into sewing. When someone wants to set up a new group we support them and provide a welcome pack with wool and patterns and assist with their start up costs. We also have those who are housebound and can’t physically attend a group but are still active members; we deliver wool and patterns to them. We are all volunteers and I am very proud of how hard everyone works, from the members of the action group to the group organisers at the knitters themselves.”

The group works closely with the International Aid Trust which has a warehouse in Great Yarmouth and helps those in desperate need in Eastern Europe and Asia. The knitters also provide vital clothing, blankets and 
toys for charities in Africa and much closer to home.

“The most important thing about our organisation is that we are very much in control of where our items are going and we respond to what our members are saying and where we think people need assistance,” says Linda. “We have knitted for the Dogs Trust in Snetterton, made jumpers for rescued battery hens and knit regularly locally for The Big C. We make gloves, hats and scarves and dolls to go to children via the shoe box appeals and have sent things recently to the refugee camps in Syria and Iraq. “We are also involved in a fantastic project with the safe refuges in Norfolk for woman and children escaping domestic violence. The children arrive with virtual nothing and we put a blanket on the bed and a knitted toy for each child, which are theirs to keep. It is a simple thing, but we know it makes a real difference in what are terribly difficult times.”

To find out more or join the group, see www.norfolkknitters.org.uk

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