The art of knitting, crocheting and smocking won’t be lost if Merle Sheean and her friends have their way.
The Sale group of eight, aged from 65 to 90 years, spend most days busy with their knitting needles and crochet hooks, producing hundreds of garments to sell with all proceeds going to the Central Gippsland Health Service Auxiliary.
The handmade craft stall is a familiar site in the Gippsland Centre Sale three days a week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“We don’t have grandchildren to knit for anymore because they have all grown up,” Merle said. “Now we have a purpose and we love doing it.”
And just as important is the fact they’re passing their knowledge on to younger generations. The women are often asked how to knit and crochet, especially by children.
“We tell them to bring along their crochet hook or needles to the stall and they sit with us to learn,” Merle said.
Most group members have strong connections with the Sale Hospital, either as former staff or patients. Merle had her children there and was a board member for some time while another member, now in her 90s, is a former nurse.
The stall is a colourful display of knitted items- there are baby clothes and rugs of all sizes and designs. Some members sew clothes, blankets, dolls and other knick-knacks while you will also see examples of the age-old craft of smocking. The only male member makes and paints wooden toys.
As well as the regular local customers, people come from as far away as the Latrobe Valley and South Gippsland to purchase the handmade items. While a small amount of the stall’s income goes to covering material costs and stall space rental, the remainder goes to the CGHS Auxiliary. A recent donation of $1000 has brought the total donated in the past four years to more than $4500.
“My doctor thinks what we are doing is marvellous,” Merle said. “He says it’s keeping old people out of hospital and giving them an incentive to wake up every morning.
Pictured above left is Lynne Williams knitting some socks while manning the craft stall in the Gippsland Centre, Sale and right, a christening doll with finely knitted pearl and woollen clothes.