These Dulwich knitters are keeping premature babies cosy this Christmas and need your help

Katherine Johnston (10 December, 2018) Community

'Some of the babies are only a few hundred grams when they're born'

26976L-R Knitters Peggy Ball, Jean Ball, Freda Neville, Gwen Hickman, and group founder Sheila Grantham with some of their handmade blankets, children’s clothing, and soft toys

A group of knitters from Dulwich who donate woollen clothes, blankets and toys for premature babies at King’s College Hospital are looking for new members.

The group, based at the Dulwich Almshouse Charity’s almshouse on College Road, knit, crochet, patchwork, embroider and sew, often working on projects together.

One of their most important pieces of work is making special clothes and tiny doll-sized blankets for babies at King’s College Hospital’s neonatal unit to help keep them warm in their incubators.

They also make soft knitted teddies keep to keep them company, and cushion their heads against their feeding tubes.

As the babies keep their clothes when they are well enough to go home, the unit needs regular donations so every little one is kept cosy.

As well as supporting the neonatal unit, the group also makes full-sized knee rugs for adult patients and also donates their knitted items to fundraising events held by local charities. They are currently looking for somewhere to display their work.

The group was set up by keen craftswoman Sheila Grantham, who started making blankets for King’s after she stayed there in 1998 and 2001 for two hip replacements.

“I wanted to give something back after the care I received,” she says, and started a weekly knitting group with friend Freda Neville.

Freda was recovering at home from leg injuries caused by a serious car crash when Sheila suggested knitting for the hospital as a way to keep her busy.

“I didn’t have anything to do and Sheila brought me needles, wool and some patterns.

“I could already knit but Sheila’s encouragement is what got me into it,” she says.

The group, which meets every Tuesday, has had many members over the years. The core group are Sheila, Freda and pals Gwen Hickman, Jean Ball and Peggy Ball.

All met each other while living at Dawson’s Heights in Each Dulwich.

Gwen, Peggy and Jean moved into Dawson’s Heights in 1972 when it was first built, with Freda and Sheila joining in 1980.

At the time apart from Sheila, who had lived in the area since 1950, they were all new to Dulwich.

Sheila now lives in the almshouse and Freda and Gwen are also in the process of moving in too.

“It’s sociable”, says Peggy, “I like coming to spend time with my friends each week.”

“It’s not just a knitting group, it’s a sanity group’, adds Freda. “We’re all friends and we’re there for each other if we need it.

She continues: “When the babies are born so early their parents aren’t always prepared for them, and they don’t have clothes small enough for them to wear.

“Some of the babies are only a few hundred grams when they’re born.

“The parents are so pleased to be able to take the clothes home too.”

Dr Ann Hickey, Neonatal Consultant at King’s College Hospital, said their efforts make a huge difference to the Neonatal unit.

“We’re incredibly lucky to have a dedicated group of local people who put such time and care into making hats, blankets and other items for our smallest patients.

“The babies’ families and hospital staff are very grateful for their kindness and continued support.”

If you would like to join, email Shelley Miles for more information: shelley.miles@dulwichalmshouse.org.uk

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