Kids take up knitting

Longboard surfers at the La Muse Longboard Classic held on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 August at Muizenberg Corner kept the chilly weather at bay when they wore beanies knitted by the Young Knitters’ Club in Lavender Hill.

“I approached Learning in Reach looking for a supplier of beanies for the La Muse Classic and placed an order and helped to raise much-needed funds for the club. We learned that the ages of the members range from six to pensioners and in a community where violence is rampant, the Young Knitters’ Club offers a refuge for children to find some peace and calm,” says Charmaine Bunting, organiser of the La Muse Classic.

The club was established by Connie Abrahams, affectionately known as Aunty Connie, in her community in June 2016 with 10 children in a container.

Leanne Reid, project director of Learning in Reach, helped the club with donations of wool and knitting needles.Reid says that Aunty Connie wanted to teach the children in the community to knit, after her grandchildren asked her to knit their squares for them for Mandela Day.

“Knitting is no longer taught in schools and she felt it was a skill the children would enjoy and benefit from. In 2017 she expanded with her team of five pensioner-volunteers to each of the four primary schools in the area. They are Prince George Primary School in Lavender Hill, Zerilda Park Primary School in Seawinds, and Hillwood and Levana primary schools, both in Lavender Hill,” Reid says.

Each of the five volunteers visit the schools where approximately 20 learners per school attend the knitting classes.

The classes are from Mondays to Thursdays after school and on Saturday afternoons, and each term approximately 100 children participate Other knitters come from Montague Village and Overcome.

“Aunty Connie is a retired domestic worker with a heart of gold and a calm, quiet demeanour. She cares for the children in the club and finds that they often open up to her about their problems.

“Learning in Reach have also gathered secondhand clothing and items to sell to raise funds for wool and to feed the children at the classes. The beanies were the club’s first order and helped raise much-needed funds for the Young Knitters’ Club,” Reid says.

The club is dependent on sponsors or donors and needs opportunities to produce items at market-related prices, as well as donations of wool and financial support so they can buy food when they have celebrations with the children, and to assist their pensioner-volunteers with food parcels at the end of each term.

Learning in Reach became involved with the club because they seek to empower community-owned initiatives that benefit children.

“The club enriches the current school curriculum as an after-school activity. We see this as an important intervention to close the learning gap and provide the children with something other than academics to keep their interest in school,” she says.

“Through the knitting the children are also taught skills that benefit them in a multitude of ways,” Reid says.

Knitting is calming, it teaches pattern recognition, improves hand-eye coordination, and gives the children the opportunity to make something they can be proud of.

Last year the classes completed blankets which were donated to a local old age home.

“This shows the children that even they have the power to make a difference in their community. It instills a sense of pride and accomplishment. Aunty Connie’s team of volunteers also offer a place for children to belong, where they feel safe and can share their fears and concerns with a caring adult who listens,” she says.

Most of the items made to date have been donated to people in need, including pensioners in old age homes and babies.

“The club welcomed the opportunity to raise funds for their club while contributing to a local event. It’s been a good learning experience and we look forward to producing more items for sale in the future.

“We particularly love that there are many boys who join the club, breaking down gender stereotypes. One boy wants to own his own knitting shop one day where he can sell items he knits. He has been with the club from inception and loves knitting. We also love the tranquillity created by the knitting club,” Reid says.

Contact Connie at youngknittersclub@gmail.com or Learning in Reach at hell@learninginreach.org.za.